The Force is returning to Disneyland January 14 – 17 for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend. I’ve done several runDisney races at Disneyland now and I’ve learned about the “big” decisions – what to take, what to wear, but my biggest decision has now become one of my easiest decisions, where to stay.
For most of our Disneyland trips, we rent a house through VRBO.com and this can be a great option for race weekend as well. I love having our own full kitchen so I can prepare my own food ensuring I have the nutrition I need for the race and can easily ensure I’m hydrated as well. Plus, I have plenty of space to get ready. Even better, many homes come with a pool or even a hot tub in the backyard. For me, this is a big plus. My own private pool and hot tub to soothe sore muscles? Yes! These homes are also generally in a quiet, residential neighborhood so if I need to take a nap (getting up at 3:30am will do that to me), I don’t have to worry about people going up and down the hall in a hotel. It can also be a very affordable option, especially if splitting the rental with a few friends AND they are often owned by Disney fans so are decorated in varying Disney themes. The biggest drawback to one of these homes, though, is distance to the race. Some are within walking distance to the starting line, but it can be quite a walk. Personally, the last thing I want to do after finishing a half marathon is walk another mile home. Driving is not really a good option, either, as many of the roads around Disneyland are closed and parking can be difficult.
So what about a Good Neighbor hotel? There are many great options there and if money is tight, that may be a racer’s best bet.
For me, though, there is nothing like staying at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels on race weekend. First, they are close. Really close. When the race is over, I can simply take a short walk and be right in my room. It is also way more convenient. With roads closed, walking is the easiest way to get around. I once tried to take a cab to the Expo and even that was difficult! Second, in my experience, they are prepared for race weekend. Restaurants are open longer hours and Cast Members are on hand early on race mornings to direct racers to the starting line. So far, I have only found one issue with staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel. During last year’s Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, I ran the 5K and the 10K, but I did not run the Half. I was so looking forward to sleeping in, but our balcony at the Disneyland Hotel faced the finish line. The marching bands that I love so much when I’m in the race, I didn’t love so much as an early morning wakeup call. If you’re running, though, that shouldn’t be an issue and you’ll love them chEARing you on as much as I do, I’m sure!
For the ultimate place to stay, I highly recommend Club Level access at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. I stayed there for the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend and loved every minute of it. After running the 10K, I headed up to the lounge for a snack. Fruit and pastries were available along with juice, milk, coffee, and soft drinks. As I was getting my snack, Jeff Galloway walked up and congratulated me on my 10K finish (I was still wearing my medal). After running the half the next day, Jeff Galloway was again there talking to everyone. In addition, Sean Astin showed up a little while later. I don’t know that they are there for every race, but they were then. Even if not, having access to the lounge for drinks and snacks as well as the fabulous service and peace and quiet of the rooms makes it worth the extra money it costs. In addition, there is nothing like the convenience of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa for going into the parks. One day, my son and I simply went into the park for lunch and then headed back to the room.
There are many great places to stay in and around Disneyland and I’ve stayed in a large number of them. At any other time, I might tell you that it doesn’t really matter where you stay as long as it has everything you need (although there certainly are perks that I love at the Disneyland Resort Hotels). During race weekend, though, is one time I feel the extra money to stay in a Disneyland Resort Hotel is worth it. I cannot stress enough how difficult it can be to drive around the area and an extra ½ mile walk may not seem like much on paper, but for me, doesn’t feel so great after a long race.
Have you run any races at Disneyland? What is your favorite place to stay during race weekend?