Have you ever wondered about the super secret space above Pirates of the Caribbean which was originally intended to be Walt Disney’s private suite at Disneyland? Well, we have a treat for you today. Join us for a special look inside the Disneyland Dream Suite with our newest contributor, Joe Flowers…
One Magic Day in the Disneyland Dream Suite
Hello to all you Disney fans! First let me say how excited I am to be sharing a few of my stories with you. When Dusty asked if I’d be interested in writing some articles for the front page of Micechat I was grinning from ear to ear! If you’ve read the Micechat forums, you might already recognize me from my in-depth trip reports. My crew of Disney-loving friends and I are always on the lookout for special and unique aspects of Disney.
And if I’m going to be sharing some amazing things with you, why not lead off with one of the biggest and most incredible things I’ve been able to experience. Here’s the story of how I was able to stay overnight in the Disneyland Dream Suite! Our cast of characters for this adventure are Jacob, Ruston, Theresa, and myself.
All the way back in 2006 to 2008, during the Year of a Million Dreams, Disneyland and Disney World were giving out over a million prizes randomly to guests throughout the park. Starting in 2008, the Grand Prize Winner of the Day would be given an exclusive stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite! Every other trip to Disneyland, and definitely every time we were in the Pirates of the Caribbean queue, our minds would always ponder “What if….”
But still, despite visiting the parks dozens of times during that promotion, Theresa and I didn’t win a single thing. Not an ear hat, a pin lanyard, or even a free fast pass. Nothing. Just bad luck I guess.
Fast forward to 2012. The Year of a Million Dreams promotion is long gone and all thoughts of ever getting to stay in the Dream Suite have passed. But just when you least expect it, sometimes a little Disney magic comes your way.
If you’ve got Disney friends who love the parks as much as you do, and get excited for the same kinds of things you do, you’re truly blessed. For Theresa and I, we have those friends in Ruston and Jacob. Many of those Disney things are going to be the topics of future articles, but as a group, we’ve traveled internationally and visited every Disney Park in the world, participated in Disney Scavenger Hunts, explored the Disney Studios, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and more.
In April of 2012, Ruston gathered the group on the phone. Disney’s Administrative Assistant’s Day celebration was the day before. They give out hundreds of prizes throughout the night: beach towels, tickets to a movie, cooking lessons, etc. In all his years working for Disney, Ruston had never won anything. But this year was different. This year Ruston won the grand prize, An Overnight Stay at the Disneyland Dream Suite! And he invited Jacob, Theresa, and I to join him! Let’s just say, we were floored.
Ruston actually left the Administrative Assistant’s Day celebration early and didn’t have his phone on. When they called his name for the Grand Prize winner everyone was looking around for him, calling and texting him, with Minnie Mouse waiting up on stage to give him his prize. It wasn’t until he got home later that he saw his phone was blowing up with messages about how he was the winner. Good thing he didn’t have to be there in person to claim it! Can you imagine?
July 14th, the day of our overnight stay finally arrived! Our excitement had been building for the past few months and it’s finally time! The four of us had our overnight bags packed and met our Disneyland Guides in the lobby of the Grand Californian. From there, they walked us over to the Disneyland Main Gates, where we boarded the Main Street Railroad to New Orleans Square.
As we walked through New Orleans Square, down Royal Street, we passed 33 Royal Street (home of the famed Club 33), until we got to 21 Royal Street. Actually 21 Royal Street is the address of the back entrance to the Dream Suite (and today the location of another special dining experience called 21 Royal).
21 Royal was originally going to be Walt Disney’s Royal Suite, a step up from his apartment over the Firehouse on Main Street. After Walt’s death, those plans were put on hold, and this address has gone through some changes, including the Disney Gallery showcasing artwork and props from Disney History. But on January 31st, 2008, it opened for the first time as the Disneyland Dream Suite, a recreation of what Walt’s Disney’s Royal Suite might have looked like. And now it’s time for us to ascend those stairs and experience it all!
Let’s go inside!
Full disclosure: Chelle and Karen didn’t realize I was recording this, but 9 years later they were good sports when I shared this article with them.
The rooms themselves were immaculate. There was detail and meaning behind everything. Little Disney touches would appear throughout the night, but I’m already getting ahead of myself.
The Suite is comprised of three main rooms. The Parlor, the Adventureland Master Bedroom with Master Bathroom, and the Frontierland Bedroom. There’s also the back Courtyard.
As a special treat, please enjoy these 360 photos I took of each of those rooms! (Use your finger on a touch device or track pad on a laptop to spin the images a full 360º)
Dream Suite Parlor
Let’s enter the main room or Parlor.
Parlor view from the back
The fancy fireplace in the Parlor was fake, but that meant there could be some magic Disney touches. Every once in a while, firework embers would launch from behind the castle and then burst in the air. I’m not going to give away all the magic just yet. But don’t worry, by the time you are done with this article, you’ll feel like you stayed in the Dream Suite too!
Dream Suite Adventureland Bedroom
The main bedroom in the suite has European elegance, and extra magic too. At the press of a button, Mermaids swim in the painted lagoon above the headboard. (360º photos below)
Adventureland Bathroom: Be sure to scroll on this one to see the stunning tub, (keep reading below for even more magic in this incredible space).
There’s all sorts of magic in the kids suite. Dual twin beds are the focal of the room, but if you look up, you’ll find all sorts of treasures near the ceiling. A train chugs along a track around the ceiling of the room, as it passes through it activates all sorts of little effects.
Dream Suite Courtyard
Some of you will remember this space from the days when this was the Disney Gallery. This patio was a great escape from the park and an out-of-the-way spot to relax away from the crowds in New Orleans Square. Today, it’s the back patio of the Dream Suite, rarely to be seen by guests.
Party in the Disneyland Dream Suite!
After our guided tour of the suite, we were left to explore the suite on our own. My one regret this day was leaving the Dream Suite for dinner. The Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney’s California Adventure had just opened in June 2012 and I was able to get reservations. While the food was delicious, our time would have been better spent enjoying the Dream Suite. Going up and down these stairs never got old.
When we arrived back at the Dream Suite after dinner, a little bit of Disney magic had transpired. Our hosts had been taking photos of us, and now, right beside the guestbook there were photos of our group. It was like we’d returned home.
Even the TV remote was personalized saying, “Disneyland Dream Suite Welcomes The Harker Family”
There was also new food on the small table in the parlor. An awesome clock made entirely of chocolate, a fruit tray, nuts, apple crisps, and other tasty treats.
Along with the overnight stay, Ruston was allowed to host an open house and invite friends to join! It’s going to be a fun party! Ruston had to keep the guest list small, but he made sure to invite his Disney friends who would really enjoy it for the special place it was. And in keeping with the special Disney touch details, Ruston gave each set of friends a personalized invitation.
Starting at 7pm, all of Ruston’s guests began to arrive. We walked new arrivals through the rooms, showing off the things we had just learned about hours before.
Once the final guests had arrived, everyone gathered here in the parlor, and it was time for introductions. All of us knew Ruston and maybe a few other people, but it was great to hear how Ruston knew everyone and a little story about each person.
Our guide Chelle came out to meet the group and answer any questions we had about the Disneyland Dream Suite, but it just so happened that Ruston had a story about her as well.
Every year, Ruston sings in the Disneyland Candlelight Processional at Christmastime on Main Street (that’ll be a story for another time). Chelle also sings each year and as I looked through my photos, I happened to find her multiple times in my photos. In the photo below, you can see another one of Ruston’s guests, Paula, just a couple people to the left from Chelle. It’s a small world, isn’t it?
With Chelle as our guide once again, it was time to start exploring the suite with everyone.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was exploring the Dream Suite and seeing everyone’s reactions to the rooms, the surprises, and just being in the Dream Suite in general. It was obvious that Chelle and all the Disney Guides love their jobs bringing the magic to people.
About 15 minutes before 9, everyone gathered back into the parlor. The main room lights dimmed, the clock chimed and we saw Tiki room birds behind the clock face. “Let’s all sing like the birdies sing” starts playing, and the animatronic bird on the fireplace starts singing. It was great to have everyone there in the room, and we all started singing “Let’s all sing like the birdies sing” along with the music. Pretty fun!
Ruston – While I wanted to share this experience with as many people as possible, I did have to make some tough decisions. I invited those people in my life who I knew would appreciate this experience for precisely what it was and not just a party in a fancy hotel room. As the evening rolled along and my guests arrived, I’d see the pure amazement in their eyes as they stepped into the suite. And as each ‘magical moment’ occurred, my guests would shout excitedly for everyone to come watch. But when the Tiki Birds “sang like the birdies do” and everyone joined in without abandon or embarrassment, I knew my guest list was the right one.
The evening was passing more quickly than we would have liked. It was already close to 9pm and time for Fantasmic. We headed out to the balcony where there were chairs personalized just for the Dream Suite guests.
Watching Fantasmic! from the banks of the Rivers of America is great, but from up here, the entire river is within your field of view, and you can truly see everything.
It was pretty awesome to think that here we were sitting on the balcony of the Dream Suite watching the Disneyland Fireworks.
Disneyland Dream Suite Magic Moments
There’s one bit of magic in each of the rooms that we’ve been saving. In each of the bedrooms, there is a Good Night Kiss button. It’s just a little bit of Disney Magic that Walt wanted guests to be able to end their night with. Our Dream Suite hosts said that these buttons would only work three times throughout our stay, so we had to use them wisely. There were a couple times during the night when Ruston’s guests were wandering through the Suite and pushed the button. When that happened, someone would yell, “They pushed the button!!!” and everyone in the suite would run to whatever room it was. It made for some good laughs.
After Fantasmic, it was finally time to push the Good Night Kiss buttons in each room on purpose. We started in the Frontierland Bedroom then finished in the Adventureland Bedroom.
After getting to press the Good Night Kiss buttons in each of the rooms, everyone gathered in the Parlor and started digging into the treats. With non-alcoholic sparkling cider, We toasted Walt Disney and the amazing park and company we’ve all come to love. And we also toasted Ruston for inviting us all to share this special night with him.
The rest of the night, leading up to midnight, everyone was in an excited, giddy, mood. We spent the time chatting with old friends, meeting new friends, and just appreciating being able to hang out together in a place as cool as this.
But all good things must ultimately come to an end, and at midnight all the party guests would have to leave. Everyone was so thankful that Ruston shared this special experience with them.
Theresa, Ruston, Jacob, and I were asked to leave the Dream Suite for a little bit while our Disney Hosts prepped for the next part of our stay. When we returned, all the beds were turned down, robes were laid out, and everything was prepped for us to go to bed. But… that’s not what we’re doing just yet.
After-Hours Tour of Disneyland . . . In Our Bathrobes
Just getting to stay in the Dream Suite would have been more than enough, but as a special bit of magic, we were going to get a 2 hour guided tour through the park after dark! I had seen other Dream Suite winners posting coordinating outfits from their stay in the Dream Suite. We decided to dress in our bedtime robes and wear Disney Year of a Million Dreams ear hats that I had purchased off eBay.
Hostesses Michelle and Leandra invited us to join them on a wonderful after-hours tour. As a bit of fun, we were given a choice of weapons to arm ourselves with. Ruston got a light-up sword, Jacob took a pirate saber, Theresa chose a Magic Wand, and I grabbed a whip.
We started our journey in New Orleans Square. It was weird seeing the park so empty.
We continued towards Haunted Mansion and paused for a quick photo. Michelle told us to try to push on the gate. It was open! Go ahead on in!
Pardon me, we’re your neighbors just up the street. Can we borrow a cup of sugar?
You don’t usually find this area very empty. And I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen it with the lights on. Ruston is trying to pull off the Haunted Mansion Butler look.
But then changes into normal Ruston again.
The Mark Twain was lit up beautifully and parked right at the dock for us.
At this point, Michelle ran off and we wandered through Frontierland with Leandra for a couple minutes. Michelle came back and told us to follow her, she’d just arranged for us to go see something special.
She led us into the Golden Horseshoe that was completely empty except for us. “Would you like to sit in Walt’s box?” she asked. “Um, yes please.”
“Would you like to go up on stage?” “Uh, yes!” Striking a dramatic pose.
It was really strange seeing the castle area completely empty.
We posed for photos, and even got our Hostesses to join us.
We continued our walking tour into Fantasyland, trying our luck at pulling the Sword from the Stone, squeezing four adults into one teacup, and getting a photo in front of the King Arthur Carrousel. As we lined up, the ride turned on and at this point, I’m thinking they’re starting up all these rides, and keeping all these lights on just for us.
Our tour continued into Toon Town where we boarded the Jolly Trolley and since it was after dark, they let Theresa drive us up and down the street. We only parked it right here to get a good photo… really…..
Okay, that’s not true. It’s stationary like always.
We asked if we could visit Mickey in his house, but were told he was sleeping.
A quick shot in front of Space Mountain.
We marveled at how empty the whole area was. Usually Tomorrowland is so crowded.
Just as we started to walk by, the Astro Orbiter started spinning. I swear they’re doing this on purpose for us now.
Next, we headed over to the Partners Statue. Thank you, Walt Disney and all the other cast members who make Disneyland such a special place for us!
Just as we turned to start going down Main Street, all the lights turn off and the utility lights turn on. Aww. No cool empty Main Street pictures. We even tried waving our wand and swords at it, but still no luck. Then Michelle said, “Hold on.” and walked away talking on her radio.
We continued to Main Street to get some photos anyway.
And our very next step after the photo above, the lights came on. Magical!
It was so amazing being all alone in the park.
Ruston – At one point during the after-hours tour we were told of a story about when Walt’s grandchildren would stay overnight in the park, and ask him about the different feel of the park during these hours. I also noticed, and commented that most of these areas felt so much smaller when we were alone in them. I guess Walt would tell his grandchildren that the difference is the people. Disneyland really only comes to life when there are people enjoying it and appreciating the magic. The same held with my stay within the suite. Certainly, it was the most beautiful hotel room I’ve ever seen, but being able to share it with my friends was what put this experience over the top for me.
We walked to Adventureland and grabbed a photo. While we were here, Michelle said, “I’ll be right back.” A few minutes later, “Follow me.” Michelle said. We’re going to head inside the Tiki Room. Sweet!
No music was playing or anything, but all the lights were on so we just sat and took in the detail. We even sang a little “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing” while we were there.
We wandered through an empty Adventureland, listening to the noises still coming from the Jungle Cruise and Tarzan’s Treehouse, finally arriving back at the stairs to the Dream Suite.
And with that, our 2 hour around the park tour was over. In one word: Amazing.
It’s 2:30am and it’s time to head inside.
As a special treat, Michelle asked if we’d like to use the back entrance that Walt Disney would have used. The original entrance to 21 Royal is just behind the Pieces of Eight gift shop. (photo from a later visit)
We said goodnight to Michelle and Leandra and headed inside. So the plan was to not go to sleep the whole night… We’ll see how that works out. Previously I had thoughts of just sitting out on the balcony and watching all the goings-on of Disneyland at night. Sadly though, the balcony is locked and won’t be opened until morning.
Spending the Night in the Disneyland Dream Suite
We’ll have to just enjoy the inside of the suite, and of course, we had to experience the amazing master bathroom. Theresa and I drew a bubble bath and soaked in the hot water, enjoying the jets, and loving the ambiance of the room. Just gazing up at the stars and listening to the calming music was wonderful.
We were able to get the bubbles up pretty high. And with the tub lights glowing and the lights off, the whole room just looks magical.
When I originally wrote this up in 2012, one of the commenters mentioned how they would love to have that bathtub clip on a loop. I made this 1-minute bathtub experience a 10-minute experience in the clip below.
Ruston was ready to go to bed and took his leave. Jacob, T and I sat up a little longer, and read books for a while, but it was getting late and it was hard to focus. Time to do something more active! We pulled out some card games. I was wondering if anyone else has played Uno or Phase 10 here. If not, then let it be known, Jacob is the Uno champion of the Disney Dream Suite.
And let it be known that Theresa is the Phase 10 champion.
So after a few games, it was just getting to be too much. We were still super stoked to be here, but after a full day of excitement, we had to get a few zzzs.
I think we ended up turning the lights out around 5am. I don’t think the lights were out for more than a couple minutes before we were both asleep. The bed was amazingly comfortable and we both slept sound. That jungle music that plays in Adventureland and Tarzan’s treehouse, continued all night, but I don’t mean to make that sound like a complaint. The constant background noise reminded us exactly where we were sleeping tonight.
The next morning, we had a special wake-up call at 7am. We were all fast asleep when the Tiki birds started singing.
For breakfast, we enjoyed snacks and Hot Chocolate, and our hostess Karen suggested we could even put in some of the chocolate clock pieces we had left to make it extra chocolatey. Great suggestion! It was like drinking melted chocolate bars, which is just how I liked it! Karen opened the balcony for us so we could sit and reflect on our visit. We were gazing over the empty park and marveling at how people just add a whole dimension to it.
I love this picture of all of us.
Our time in the Dream Suite is coming to an end. But before we leave, we have to sign the guest book. It was all too much to express in just a few sentences.
Our entry. We decided to leave an invitation. No one else who had signed the book left any mementos, so we thought this would make ours extra special.
Before we left, Ruston said there’s one more thing he had to do!
Ruston – I have to go make snow angels in the carpet of our room!
At the Dream Suite, the earliest you can check in is 2:30 pm and you’re supposed to check out by 9am. With the exception of dinner, we stayed in the suite as long as we possibly could.
We all organized our luggage in the hallway to be delivered to the Grand Californian after we left.
Ruston’s Duffy, a reminder of our Tokyo Disneyland trip together, was sitting by the door, ready to go.
No! Don’t make us leave!
Ruston, you have to leave!!!
After leaving the suite, we enjoyed a breakfast with Minnie at the Plaza Inn. Then we spent the rest of the morning exploring the parks.
When we were ready to leave, we met up with Karen in the lobby of the Grand Californian. Karen was the only one of our hostesses who was with us when we left, but from all of us to everyone who made our stay magical, we really want to say thank you so much for everything you did. The park itself is beautiful, but it’s the people who make it truly special. You are the ones who show the true Disney spirit every day that make us all love this place so much. You’ve given all of us something we’ll never forget. And so to Chelle and Karen (our daytime hostesses), Michelle and Leandra (our nighttime hostesses), Dave (who helped book our stay, answered every single question we had before we came, and fueled our excitement every time we heard from him), and Toni (who helped organize the Admin Day and gave Ruston this prize), from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
My final thoughts on the Dream Suite
Joe – Describing our experience in detail hasn’t been too hard, but explaining my feelings about this day in words is more difficult. Visiting the Suite was something I wouldn’t have ever thought possible in my wildest dreams. Being able to stay in it overnight just threw everything completely over the top. It was everything I could have imagined and more. Disney outdid themselves when they created this space and everything about it was amazing. Hopefully you can see my feelings about the room itself well enough throughout all my posts.
Our hostesses were incredible. They were always smiling, cheerful and seemed as excited as we were about going around with us. They embodied the Disney spirit and always made us feel special.
Thinking back about just being able to experience this with friends gets me choked up. My eyes are literally misting up as I’m typing this. The Dream Suite was beautiful, but it’s the experiences with people that I’ll have the fondest memories of. From entering the Dream Suite for the first time with 3 of my best friends, watching Fantasmic! and fireworks with an amazing group of friends, our amazing after hours tour through the park, taking a bubble bath in the beautiful master bathroom, and finally just relaxing on the balcony, taking a quiet moment with the people who mean so much to me.
All totaled up, I took over 2800 photos in less than 24 hours, and filled up over 65GB of memory cards with photos and videos. Sorting through photos, organizing it all into something intelligible, and writing it all up has been a total labor of love. If you’d like to see even more pictures, videos, or stories behind this night, my original write-up spanned 14 different posts! You can find it on my website at Flowerstales.com.
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Let’s Hear From You
And with that, I’ll end this completely epic look back at the time that I got to stay overnight in the Disneyland Dream Suite. I hope you all enjoyed reading it. And I look forward to the next time I can share a few of the ways that my friends and I have been able to experience the magic of Disney!
Did you get a chance to view the videos above of the special moments in the various rooms of the suite? Which was most magical to you? And what’s the most special moment you’ve had at Disneyland?
While the Year of a Million Dreams is long gone, Disney does still make the suite available from time to time as a prize or as part of a VIP tour. But your best bet to experience it for yourself is to book at Dinner at 21 Royal. But save up your Disney dollars, because it’s a $15,000 dollar experience! Viewing the photos above is free. You’re welcome!
Thanks for reading everyone. More magic coming soon . . .
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please help us give Joe a warm welcome. Be sure to leave him a comment below and/or share this article on social.