Review Of Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance Hotel & Waterpark




Last year my family and I decided to banish the back-to-school blues with a fun-filled staycation at the brand new Marriott Courtyard Theme Park Entrance in Anaheim. What makes this hotel so unique is that it built from the ground up with families in mind. The hotel is located directly across the street from Disneyland and California Adventure and is just a 5-minute walk to the turnstiles. That is a shorter walk to the entrance of the Disney parks than TWO of three Disney hotels. The hotel also features a 20,000 square foot waterpark called Surfside with several water slides, pools, fountains and more.  Those are just a few of the reasons to stay at this fantastic hotel but there is oh so much more! Allow me to show you just how beautiful this resort is.

Courtyard Lobby

PicMonkey Collagecourt

The lobby of the Courtyard Anaheim is absolutely gorgeous! Dark rich wood floors sprawl throughout the entire first floor and the furniture is splashed with vibrant colors of blues, yellows, reds and orange.

There is also a library full of an array of Disney books as well as a mini business center with computers so you can access anything you need.

Diners will love the full-service Bistro Cafe as well as the ever popular Starbucks coffee shop.

Courtyard Rooms


All rooms in the hotel are 500+ square feet and can accommodate up to 6 people. This was perfect for our large family of 5. There are twin bunkbeds  in every room and the family bathrooms are designed with 2 sinks and separate Walk-In shower and a tub/shower. It was nice to have the kids shower at the same time, yet separately.

There is also a small table with booth style seating, a microwave , a fridge and a safe. At night, we popped popcorn in the microwave and had the kids sit at the table and eat it while they watched a movie.

Speaking of movies did you know that all rooms in the hotel have access to Netflix? We were so happy about that. As long as you have an account you just sign in like normal and you are set for the rest of your stay.

We only stayed for one night but we planned ahead and packed a cooler with deli meats for sandwiches by the pool and bagels and cream cheese for our morning breakfast.  Everything fit perfectly into the mini fridge and the kids had plenty to snack on during the day.

PicMonkey Collage3

Courtyard Views

Another perk about this hotel is that it is aligned for viewing fireworks and the monorail. For those guests whose rooms do not face in that direction, there is a 2nd level observation deck for optimal fireworks viewing. Our hotel had prime viewing and we looked straight at Matterhorn Mountain and Space Mountain  and the monorail regularly passed by us.



Surfside Waterpark

This waterpark incredible! You would never believe you were staying at a hotel when you are at this waterpark. It’s huge and has amazing views. The water temperature is very comfortable and there is a bunch of seating and umbrellas. I even watched one dad take a nice long nap in one of the recliners.


PicMonkey Collage5


Night Time Fireworks off the balcony

My favorite part of this staycation was watching the fireworks from our balcony. You can hear the music and it was just such a special 15 minutes  that I shared with my family.

So let’s recap. The top 5 reasons you should stay at the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance  are as follows:

  1. It’s located right across the street from Disneyland and CA Adventure
  2. It has an awesome waterpark that is included in your stay
  3. The rooms fit up to 6 people and have bunk beds. Way bigger than the standard hotel room.
  4. You can view the fireworks and the monorail from off your balcony
  5. Netflix in every room.

Local Places to eat

If you want to try some local non-chain restaurants I highly recommend these two:

We are Lifetime Platinum members of Marriott Rewards and I have to say that Marriott knocked it out of the park with this hotel. I can’t wait to see what is next for Marriott.


Hotel Irvine is Fun for a Family Staycation



Hotel Irvine stands out as an icon for business travel due to the high-quality amenities, central location, and proximity to the airport. However, Hotel Irvine also found a proper balance to attract families who want a special travel experience. I recently did a mini staycation with my 9-year-old at this hotel and we had a weekend full of memories that I know my son will cherish forever.

The Lobby


The Lobby of Hotel Irvine is gorgeous and really grabs you from the minute you walk in. It has almost a retro feel to it with contemporary furniture dressed in oranges, reds, and yellows. The artwork in the hotel is unique and leaves a lot open to the imagination.


The Rooms


This Hotel used to be a Hyatt so all of the rooms have been updated within the last couple of years. The new rooms are clean and crisp with modern style furniture. We had a small balcony in our room and the views were breathtaking! The showers are a bit odd because the glass stops halfway to the wall but the shower pressure was fine and there were plenty of towels for everyone.

All of the shampoo and conditioners and soaps were top of the line and the mirror in the bathroom is huge with great lighting.

All rooms also are equipped with Netflix Streaming, so if you have an account you are all set to go. My son and I watched Edward Scissorhands!

hi7View from 15th floor Balcony

hi8View from 15th floor Balcony

The hotel has a GIANT backyard with tons of astroturf so it is the perfect place for a wedding or simply for kids to play in. We brought Balloon rockets to play with and we also saw a bunch of girls practicing gymnastics! It’s a great place to play after a swim when the sun goes down.


The Pool


Hotel Irvine’s pool area is like an Oasis. There are free private cabanas lined up along the pool deck and it’s a first come first serve basis. My son and I had a blast playing in the water and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

The cabanas have plush sofa beds with comfy pillows and plenty of shade. We  hung out  in one after our swim and munched on some snacks we picked up from the Marketplace.


They also had some fun games for kids like Corn Hole and a giant Connect 4 games. It was fun to watch my son play with other kids at the hotel.


Evenings at Hotel Irvine


After our swim, my son and I headed back up to our room to change before dinner. We were lucky enough to catch a beautiful sunset that had us oohing and ahhing. After the sun goes down the city turns black and sparkles with city lights everywhere.


We ate an awesome dinner at Eats Kitchen and Bar, which you can read about on my other site

Red Bar and Lounge


On our way to dinner, we passed by the Red bar and Lounge, a hip and happening place in the center of the hotel. They have a massive, nine-panel, multi-screen TV—plus more flat screens at the bar that will guarantee you front row and center access for every game, match and event.

The Marketplace


If you aren’t up for a full sit down dinner, the hotel has The Marketplace as an alternative option. Their stylish, multi-functional spot is the perfect place to enjoy a bite or take one to go. It’s one part farmer’s market, one part gift shop and 100% inviting. This oasis of freshness is bursting 24/7 with locally-sourced food and drinks that provide a refreshing escape from the ordinary. If you would rather not leave your room you can simply text them your order and they will deliver it ASAP. TEXT: “IRVINE” to (949) 537-2828

The prices here are so reasonable that we even came down for a midnight snack.

Complimentary Bike Rentals


But perhaps the highlight of our whole staycation was the next day when the Hotel offered us some complimentary bikes and we took a relaxing ride along the bike trails. Helmets were provided and the seats on the bikes adjust according to your height. My son and I had a blast checking out all the scenery and saying hi to all of the friendly people along the bike trail. We got some exercise and some fresh air and it really was a great start to our day. I highly recommend doing this if you book a stay at Hotel Irvine.

For more information visit Hotel Irvine on Facebook.

Great Wolf Lodge Coming To Garden Grove


Last week I wrote an article about the top 5 hotel waterparks in Anaheim/Garden Grove, and The Great Wolf Lodge was one of them. I feel very lucky to live so close to an area where tourism is booming and will continue to boom for the next several years.

Recently I was invited to go on a hard hat tour of The Great Wolf Lodge which is set to debut in February of 2016. It is an enormous property with an enormous amount of amenities and families are going to absolutely love it!

Wiley in Front of Crowd

The official Mascot for the resort is Wiley the wolf and he was there to greet us upon arrival.  Due to it being an open construction site all of us were required to wear hard hats, including Wiley.

We even did a Great Wolf Lodge Howl to start off the day!

Great Wolf Lodge External View

The exterior of the resort is gorgeous. It looks and feels exactly like a lodge with its high pointed roofs and beautiful stone work. A carved wolf in the front really sets the tone for this place.

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One thing you cannot miss on the exterior of the resort is the massive “Howlin Tornado”, which is a 6-story funnel slide that drops you off into a huge whirlpool.

Indoor Waterpark

Water Park 2

The Indoor Waterpark is 105,000 square feet and is exclusive to resort guests. There are 16 water play areas for kids to enjoy.

Dunkin Donuts On Site


Guests will love the on-site Dunkin Donuts. Afterall, it is America’s favorite all-day stop for coffee and baked goods.



There is a room to accommodate any sized family! Below is a list of the rooms they offer:

Family Suite – Sleeps up to 6 guests. The Family Suite features two queen beds and a full sofa sleeper. Double Queen Suite – Sleeps up to 4 guests. The Double Queen Suite features two queen beds.

Wolf Den Suite® – Sleeps up to 6 guests. The Wolf Den features a queen bed, full sofa sleeper and a themed Wolf Den, complete with a set of bunk beds.

KidCabin® Suite – Sleeps up to 7 guests. The KidCabin suite features a queen bed, full sofa sleeper and a Great Wolf Kids-themed KidCabin complete with bunk beds and a twin bed.

Grizzly Bear Suite – Sleeps up to 8 guests. The Grizzly Bear Suite features two private bedrooms, one with a private master bedroom with a king bed and full bathroom and a second bedroom with two queen beds. The main area includes a full sleeper sofa and a second bathroom.

Grand Bear Suite – Sleeps up to 8 guests. The Grand Bear Suite features a private master bedroom with a king bed and a full bathroom. The main area includes two queen beds, a full sofa sleeper and second bathroom.

Great Bear Suite – Sleeps up to 6 guests. The Great Bear Suite features two queen beds and a semi-private living room complete with a private master bedroom with queen bed.

Great Bear King – Sleeps up to 6 guests. The Great Bear King Suite features two queen beds and a semi-private living room complete with a private master bedroom with king bed.

Attractions & Entertainment

Kids will be occupied all hours of the day! Below are the events ongoing throughout the resort:

Character Appearances – Daily appearances with Wiley® the Wolf and Violet® the Wolf.
Story Time – The entire family gathers in the Grand Lobby each evening to hear a story about the Great Wolf Kids

characters before bedtime.

Wolf WalkTM – Learn about the many animals and wildlife living in the Northwoods, and make an origami wolf to take home.

MagiQuest® – Battle dragons, befriend a pixie and wave a magic wand in this live-action adventure game throughout the resort. The games features three unique chapters, each with their own challenges and quests.

The Great Wolf Kids® Program – Daily activities for kids that take place around the resort, including dance parties, face painting and games such as Wiley bingo, character floor memory and character trivia.

Howly Wood® XD Theater – This motion thrill ride transports riders directly into the movie action with every effect amplified creating an unforgettable experience.

Howl at the MoonTM Mini Golf – 9-hole themed indoor miniature golf course.
Northern LightsTM Arcade – More than 100 interactive video and redemption games that allow guests to redeem

Scooops® Kid Spa – A unique spa created just for kids complete with ice cream-themed manicures, pedicures and more. Each service also includes a real ice cream treat.

Ten Paw AlleyTM – Family-style bowling with pint-sized bowling balls.
Clubhouse Crew – Interactive scavenger hunt through the resort starring the Great Wolf Kids characters.

Perfect experience for the resort’s youngest guests.

Lazer Frenzy – Exciting arcade-style game with the latest in touch and LED technology. Players can see who is fastest as they dart between the “laser beams.”

How to Make a reservation

Great Wolf Lodge, Southern California will officially open to the public in early 2016, and guests who book their stay between now and Sept. 30, 2015 can enjoy a special introductory offer of 25 percent off the best available rates with promo code “SOCAL”. All reservations include all-access pass to the indoor waterpark and guests can reserve their room any date from Feb. 29 – Oct. 15, 2016. Rates for family suites are available starting at $259.99 per night. For more information or to make a reservation, visit


Celebrate your teen’s birthday with a hotel sleepover



The Anaheim Marriott Sleepover

My oldest son turned 13 this week. I can’t believe it, but I guess I have to accept it anyway. We celebrated his birthday with the best kind of teen party this weekend – We had a fun hotel sleepover with his best friend! It was such a hit that I know I will have to do something similar for my middle child next year. Being that we live so close to Disneyland and Anaheim has so much to do, it was an easy choice to pick the hotel. We are very loyal Marriott fans so we chose the Anaheim Marriott. I have never had a bad experience at a Marriott and this weekends sleepover only further solidified that.


One of the great things about this hotel is it’s proximity to Disneyland. The Anaheim Marriott Hotel is conveniently located in the heart of the city, directly across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center. Everything from parking to valet is a breeze and there are signs everywhere directing you where to do. There is even a beautiful courtyard in the middle where receptions can be held.

Prior to our arrival at the hotel I took my son to a late lunch at Bubba Gumps. We had an amazing meal and walked around the Garden Walk after. His friend was being dropped off that evening so we headed back to check in.



While my son was checking out the property I got us all checked-in. I couldn’t believe how easy and seamless it was. The staff was super friendly and efficient. They were also very accomadating. I had mentioned that it was my my 13-year-olds birthday and asked if there was place nearby to grab some balloons. She told me not to worry and that she would take care of it. I got the feeling like she really wanted to make our stay special and I appreciated the genuine interest she took in us. My husband and I are Marriott Rewards Platinum members and they really go out of their way to make their elite members, as well as all of their guests, feel welcome.

Technology and an upgrade

The Anaheim Marriott hotel recently finished a $15 million renovation of its 1,300 guest rooms and suites, using lighter paints, pretty carpeting, new desks and mattresses, plenty of outlets and pretty photography on the walls. They also added some state of the art technology such as high-tech elevators.  You enter the floor number that you want on a key pad in the elevator lobby and it tells you which elevator door to go to.  Then you go to the elevator door and it opens right away to take you to your floor.  There aren’t any buttons inside the elevator and it seems a little strange at first, but it is faster than a regular elevator.  Also, your room keys do not get inserted into the door. They are Radio Frequency IDentification cards so you just hold them up to the white box next to the door handle and it opens that way. Below is a video of how the elevator works:



I reserved two adjoining rooms (a double and a king) so that my son and his buddy could have their own space. Plus I got my own room all to myself (hello bathtub and robe)!!! We did not go straight to our room after check in, rather we went to the gym to check out all of the equipment and have a look at the pool. When we finally did come back to our room we were happily surprised to see they had brought 13 balloons to the room. Not only did they bring balloons but they also brought a tub of popcorn filled with sodas, waters, candy and a voucher for a complimentary movie and pint of haagen dazs.



The 2 rooms were identical and had a beautiful balcony with endless views overlooking the pool. There was a huge TV and the room was spacious and clean.

PicMonkey Collageroom

PicMonkey Collageview

But before I go any further let me take a moment and preach to you about Marriott beds.  Sleeping on a Marriott bed is an unforgettable experience. Seriously, in my opinion you have not lived until you have slept on one. These pillowy, fluffy clouds are so comfortable and the linens are always bright, crisp and pure. I believe Marriott beds are the best thing in any hotel worldwide. Tell me you don’t want to just plop down in one right now? I know I do. Actually, you can buy one of their beds online here. I just sent that link to my husband (I’ll let you know what he says).


The Pool


The boys had a blast swimming in the outdoor pool. The water temperature was perfect and there is a section of the pool that is covered which is great if you want to stay out of the sun. I sat in one of the plush lounge chairs while they played. The amount of laughter coming from those two was infectious!

After they dried off we got dressed and headed out to Downtown Disney for some Dinner and games at the ESPN Zone.  When we got back the boys dug into the ice cream they had left for us. Plus they sucked the helium out of a few balloons and cracked themselves up with their high pitched voices. They also had a pop corn toss, worked out in the gym, ran around the room like banshee’s, had a pillow fight, told dumb jokes, stayed up til 2am and acted like teenage boys having a good time.

ice cream

If you are really ambitious you can have a hotel scavenger hunt. I found this scavenger hunt from Moms and Munchkins and although we never got around to it, I think it would be really fun!


Concierge Lounge

After we woke up for the morning we headed to the Concierge lounge for a delicious complimentary breakfast. That is one of the perks of being a Platinum member. The concierge lounge also provides snack and beverages throughout the day. The breakfast buffet had pastries, bagels, toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, oatmeal, pancakes and all the toppings you could ask for. There was also a refrigerator with juices, milk, water, and soda.

The concierge Lounge is on the top floor so the view from the room is breathtaking. There is also a business desk with computers, a fax machine and more in case you need to get some work done.


For those that are not Marriott rewards member, the hotel has a great restaurant called nfuse where kids 12 and under can eat for free with each paying adult.



My son loved celebrating his birthday this way as it was unique and different and he enjoyed a change of scenery from the typical laser quest, trampoline party.  I also found this type of party to be much more simple and cheaper.

Here are some Tips for when you have your own Hotel Sleepover:

Tips for a fun party

  • Make a trip to the grocery store beforehand  to pick up some snacks for the room.
  • Ask upon check-in or even before then if there is anything special the hotel can do to make your overnight memorable
  • Bring some board games
  • Have a frank discussion with them about behavior and respect. A  hotel stay is SO much fun, but they need to be respectful of other guests in the hotel.
  • If you do not want to go out for dinner order pizza in the room (The Anaheim Marriott has a Pizza Hut and a Starbucks on their grounds)
  • I recommend no more than 2-3 kids. We only had 1

Have you ever had a fun sleepover in a hotel? Share with us.

For more information visit the Anaheim Marriott on Facebook and on Twitter.

Family Friendly Vacation At The Pacific Edge Hotel Laguna Beach




Nestled on a charming sandy beach with endless views of the pacific ocean and gorgeous scenery, lies a Joie de Vivre Boutique Hotel called Pacific Edge in Laguna Beach. This quaint, yet modern hotel fully embodies  the “beachy” old-school feel of the town. Recently Family Review Guide was asked to stay for an overnight in one of their connecting family suites and spend the day in one of their private oceanfront bungalows.

We live only about 15 minutes from the hotel so it didn’t take very long to get here and we had a view of the ocean for part of the drive. When we first arrived we valet parked our car and walked right up to the lobby. We couldn’t help but notice the cute wicker furniture set up outside. My husband and the kids sat here and played while I checked us in.


The decor in the lobby was just as adorable! Calm beachy colors with sea life accents like coral and seashells, sprawl though out the bright and airy lobby. I loved the “shabby chic” vibe they were going for. It made me feel so relaxed when I entered.


The photography on the wall was particularly eye capturing. It was one of the first things I noticed because the pictures were crisp, clear and breathtaking. They even had a full-size surf board mounted at the front desk! I couldn’t wait to get on the sand after seeing this.


Attention to color is something The Pacific Edge Hotel put a lot of thought into. Several sections of the hotel were lined with bright, vibrant yellow Adirondack chairs including some of the hotel room balconies. There’s just something that makes a person smile when they see yellow. Or maybe it’s just me? But it certainly put me in a great mood.


Rooms are not typically ready until 4 pm on check in day and since we arrived at 11:30 am we decided to head straight to our bungalow.  If you are wondering what a bungalow is, allow me to tell you.  A bungalow at The Pacific Edge Hotel is  a prime oceanfront hotel room that has been transformed into an indoor/outdoor, day-use luxurious  living space for your family. There are 5 of these awesome bungalows and each bungalow includes includes a comfortable living room that overlooks the ocean, a VIP Bungalow Host, a private bathroom with a shower, a bar area, valet parking, catered food and beverages, and a private oceanfront deck area.  The Bungalows have been designed by Billabong, Fox Head, Inc., The Sleepy Hollow Group, Hobie and Tuvalu, and gorjana & griffin.

We happened to have the Hobie Bungalow and fell in love immediately. If I was going to re-decorate my home this is exactly how I would do it. Funny enough there are actual price tags on all of the furniture since it is all locally sourced.



We were starving when we arrived and luckily enough there was a huge tray of mini sliders waiting for us from The Deck restaurant. These delightful little  appetizers sure had quite a kick to them too and our entire party devoured them in minutes.


This was the view from the deck of our bungalow. Seriously? Does it get any better than this? 80 degrees in November and my boys could play in the sand and go in the ocean!


And this was the view of the front of the hotel. The staff on the beach were amazing. The guys set up all of our chairs and our umbrellas and constantly checked on us to make sure we were comfortable.


Eventually, it was time to eat so we decided to order lunch from “The Deck”. The onsite restaurant of the Pacific Edge Hotel. You can find their menu here. This little but mighty menu serves some of the freshest food around. Our friends started with a Charcuterie platter and it was amazing. They also got the cheese board that came with domestic and imported cheese.


I had the guacamole which came with stone ground blue corn tortilla chips and queso fresco.


My husband had the Ahi Poke and it was really tasty. Even the presentation was appetizing. The daikon sprouts and crushed wasabi peas were a perfect addition to this plate.


My kids all shared a grilled cheese sandwich. It was so good.  The bacon and the onion gave it so much flavor and the cheese made it ooey gooey which the kids loved!


We also had several desserts including cheesecake and chocolate cake and we could barely move when we were finished. Everything was so delicious.

Finally, the sun started to set and we saw the most amazing colors on the horizon. The reflection of the sun of the water was incredible. If you look closely you can still see a swimmer or two in the water.


But perhaps the best part of the evening came when we saw a man propose to his girlfriend on the beach right below us.  It was so surreal watching this event play out right in front of us. With the help of the hotel, he smoothed out a huge section of sand and asked his girlfriend to marry him complete with rose petals and a camera crew. Nearly everyone on the deck with us was almost in tears because his fiance had no idea it was coming. She was so  shocked. What a great way to end the evening.


After our guests left it was time to head to our hotel room. It was right above our bungalow so we did not have to walk far. Upon entering, we were greeted with more of the eclectic modern decor I had come to love in the lobby. Our bed was spacious and comfortable and I just adore the headboard. The kids had their own adjoining room off the side of ours and it was so nice to have 2 bathrooms so we did not have to share.


The showers were big and roomy with new tile and a window that we could open. We loved the cute touch that the housekeepers do to the toilet paper.  My boys were laughing saying they had a flower for toilet paper.


Here is another photo similar to the one in the lobby. My son pointed out if you look through the barrel of the wave you can see Laguna Beach.


The furniture on our balcony seemed a little outdated, but we still enjoyed having dinner out there and listening to the waves crash while we inhaled the fresh salty air.


That evening I decided to take the kids down to the pool for a night swim and a dip in the jacuzzi. We were excited to find out that they also had a recreation room.  So the boys played ping pong while my husband and I and our daughter relaxed in the huge jacuzzi. No doubt I’d say 10-15 people could fit in it.


The next morning after a wonderful nights sleep we awoke to this beautiful sight. I cannot recommend this hotel enough. We all got along great because everyone was relaxed and I just felt so at peace while I was here. I am already planing our next party just so we can rent a private bungalow again. I’d love to share some tips about the hotel with you so I will list them below.



  • Prepare to do a bit of walking. This hotel is large and spread out so the lobby isn’t super close to the ocean front rooms.
  • If you want to venture out for food outside of the hotel there are plenty of options very close by. Some options for breakfast are The Orange Inn Cafe which serves amazing breakfast food. For dinner, there is a great Taco Stand called Taco Loco across from the Hotel.
  • There is a refrigerator in every room so if you need groceries there is a Ralph’s grocery store across the street.
  • Valet Parking is the only parking available. Self-parking is not an option.  The cost for valet is $24 per day.
  • Rollaway beds are $20 extra.


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