One of my most vivid early childhood memories happened when my brother and I were four or so. My parents said to us one evening, “Let’s go for a drive!” I remember this being especially cool because we were driving at night, and usually when it was dark out, bedtime was near. Despite the fact that we drove for over an hour, I don’t remember it feeling like we were in the car for very long. We arrived at a building that looked like a castle, and my dad said, “Hey, let’s go in and check it out!” When we realized it was a hotel, my dad said, “Let’s see if they’ll let us look at a room!” My brother and I were explorers at heart, so this sounded great. It was only when we were in the room that my parents dropped two bombs. The first, “We’re not just looking at this hotel room, we’re actually staying in it.” That was cool enough for my brother and me, but they’d saved the best for last, “And when we wake up in the morning, we’re going to Disneyland!” Disneyland, it turns out, was just half a block away. I think Kyle and I woke up the entire hotel with our shrieks of excitement.
Thirty-one years later and I still remember that trip like it was yesterday. I adore surprises and I’ve always wanted to do something similar for my own kids. This last weekend, Mike and I had the opportunity. We were invited to attend Disneyland’s Halloween Party, and Mike and I decided to splurge and stay at a Disneyland Hotel. I’ve lived in Southern California my entire life and I’ve never stayed at an actual Disneyland hotel before. In fact, that time my parents surprised us is the only time I’ve stayed at a hotel near Disneyland ever – we’ve always lived close enough to drive home after a day at the park. We decided that since we would be at the park potentially until midnight, and we’d have James with us, having the option to walk across the street to the hotel was a good idea.
Annie and James knew we were going to Disneyland for the Halloween Party, but that was the extent of their knowledge. We played it just like my parents did back in the day, “Hey Annie, before we go to Disneyland, we thought we’d look at a hotel room here! We know how much you like hotel rooms.” She was excited about that, and when she said, “Why do we have suitcases?” I thought quickly and said, “Oh, that’s where I packed our costumes for the Halloween Party.” Whoops! But she bought it. When we got to the room, Annie was really blown away by the Disney details at every turn (I was, too). It was only after she’d explored every nook and cranny that we finally told her the news.
She squealed with glee (and James squealed because his sister squealed) and she kept saying, “I can’t believe it! It’s what I’ve always wanted! Thank you! Thank you!” Surprise. Success.
The view from our room was so cool:
But we didn’t look at it for long, as we had a Halloween Party to attend. Annie and James went as Anna and Kristoff from Frozen:
Disneyland at Halloween is so cool, everything is spooky in that perfect non-threatening Disney way. There’s Halloween music, trick-or-treating, and all the characters are in costumes. We got a tip that anyone dressed up as a character from Frozen would be able to join the parade behind the Frozen float. Annie and her friend Delilah (who was dressed as Elsa) went crazy when they saw Anna, Elsa, and Olaf “float” by, and when a woman from the parade asked them if they wanted to walk behind the float, they didn’t hesitate.
I still can’t believe she walked in a Disneyland Parade.
James had fun at the park, too. He was able to go on It’s A Small World with Mike and the Carousel with me, and he squealed with delight the whole time.
Our time at Disneyland flew by, and the next thing we knew, it was time to leave. I was SO THANKFUL to have that hotel room, we were all tired.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, where we got to meet the main mouse himself (and James’ personal hero):
After breakfast it was off to the pool, which was a good choice because almost everyone else was across the street at the amusement parks. We practically had the place to ourselves.
When we’d had enough of the pool, we walked across the parking lot to the large movie theater and saw The Boxtrolls (cute, I love stop-motion). And then, as if that weren’t enough, we had a special dinner planned (but I’ll talk about that tomorrow because it was hilarious).
In all, we were on Disney property for about 24 hours and I can’t believe everything we managed to squeeze in. It was so much fun, not just for the kids but for me and Mike as well. I feel so lucky that we can do this sort of thing. It might not be something my kids remember thirty-one years from now, but I will never forget those happy smiles and delighted squeals.
Patty Smith says:
How absolutely wonderful!! I can hardly wait to read about the dinner!
Squeel! Disneyland! I saw your pictures on Twitter and I LOVE James’ Kristoff. So cute! I love taking small kids to Disney!
I would LOVE to go to a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party! Sadly, being in the middle of the country with a husband who refuses to let my oldest skip school- it’s probably out of the question for a while.
OMG I live Disney surprises!!
My husband and I went to Disney world this summer, and while the trip wasn’t a surprise for him, it was his first time and I had do surprise him somehow!
I ended up hiding a gift bag in my luggage, and when we were at the airport, just before boarding, I went to the bathroom and got it all out and set up. Came back with Disney goodies and fun stuff for our trip, and he was so surprised!
I would love to do something like this with kids someday!
Casey @Waffling says:
This reminds of the time when I was 12 years old and my dad picked me up from soccer and said we better hurry because we were going to disneyworld! Now, I live up in Canada, so that is a pretty big trip! He had packed my bags for me and after a quick shower and change we were on our way to the airport!!
Sweet, lovely idea!
What a fun trip! I’ve been to Disneyworld three times already but I would LOVE to see Disneyland. And I’m over 40! It’s a good thing you have this blog. It will help your kids to remember their childhood.
I’m so jealous you can just drive home after a day at Disneyland! My husband has never been to California and we’re saving up to go… but I told him that we’ll need to stay at the Grand California. Disneyland hotels are expensive but SO magical!
fabulous memories made are always the best! and i LOVED annie and james’ costumes..too cute!
The best part of bring a parent is seeing their faces light up! Sounds like a wonderful time!
I went to Disney in FL for the first time 3 or 4 years ago with Hubby and the kids. Best time ever!!!!
We surprised our kids last year with a trip to Disney. They didn’t know we were going until we were at Disneyland. My husband is originally from Anaheim, so we told them we were visiting friends for the weekend. (We live in Arizona) We got an awesome suite not too far away. I asked them if they wanted to see Disneyland and told them I would love it if we could take them inside someday, but it would be expensive for 7 people. We walked up and I told them to sit for a picture out front before we left. Instead of taking a picture, I turned on the video and told them we were there because we already had tickets and we were going in. It was the best. moment. ever. Their faces and screams were priceless. It was hard not to spill the beans beforehand since it was a couple of months of planning, but we did it. My kids are 8-18 so they will remember this.
Thanks for the GREAT reminder that (happy) surprises, for young and old alike, are just the ticket to help keep life interesting and FUN at any age!!
What lucky kiddos (and lucky YOU!!)
MUCH LOVE from Ohiooooooo!!
That sounds like so much fun! I love how you did Annie’s hair. My daughter will also be dressing up like Anna for Halloween, any chance you can do a hair tutorial?
I’ve lived in so cal for 45 years and have yet to stay at a Disneyland hotel — it’s on my bucket list, if you can believe that.
Sounds so fun! I think Annie will definitely remember it – not so sure James will :-).