The thought of getting locked in an unusual place for a night is a common one. People dream about it, The O.C. did an episode about it, and churches/schools turned the phrase ‘slumber party’ to the more terrifying yet somehow PC friendly ‘lock-in’. I’d go as far as to say that this is the most common outlandish dream outside of showing up to school or work in your underwear. The dilemma of getting locked in a mall or school overnight is an easy case to solve – take out your phone, call someone and say “Hey, I’m locked in a mall can someone get me out of here?” But, what happens if you want to get locked in somewhere? More specifically, most of us Disney fans have thought at the end of the night about wanting to just stay inside the park instead of trudging back to our car/bus/hotel. I’d go as far as to say that if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably would be excited about staying the night inside of the parks. Now, there are many things to consider in developing a plan of getting locked in the parks once they close (don’t get any ideas, it won’t work). Since most of those plans would be illegal, to an extent, we’ll just keep up the pretense of ‘accidentally’ getting locked in there.
As I said, there are many things to consider once locked inside of the parks for the night but I’m a simple man. A founding father once said, “Give me food, give me drink, but most of all give me sleep.” (I don’t know what founding father to credit for that quote.) I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment as I thoroughly enjoy sleeping and would want a pleasant, relaxing night once locked inside a theme park. It’s with that in mind that I bring you ‘Top Ten Disney Park Buildings To Stay The Night In’.
Now, there are rules. We want this night to be comfortable but not overly so. With that in mind, no staying in suites or hotel rooms. Yes, staying in Walt’s room in Disneyland would undoubtedly be incredible. We all know that staying in the Cinderella Castle Dream Suite would be priceless. Basically any place that was made for staying the night in is outlawed from this top-ten list.
While we’re at it, let’s just assume that riding attractions isn’t a priority at night. We don’t want to draw suspicion to ourselves and this list is strictly about staying the night in a place you aren’t supposed to stay the night in.
In these rankings, buildings is a loose term. I’m considering restaurants, theaters, shops and attractions of any kind. I don’t actually care if these places are actual buildings or are outside. Also, you can explore parts of these buildings that aren’t customarily open to guests. Want to sleep on that boat in the finale of Splash Mountain? Great, but beware of all those audio-animatronics staring at you. Want to stay on the top floor of Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror by all of those creepy figurines on the side of the track? Fine, but that’s an absolutely terrible choice. While we’re on this subject, let’s pretend that the attractions do turn on once in a while. I’m sure that cast members need to do some testing and such so this isn’t that big of a stretch. It’ll make it more fun!
The last rule (until I think of more) is that I’m just using America’s Disney Parks. Once I visit the international parks I will update this sure-to-be-famous post. That was a joke.
Now that we’re through the rules, let’s get to how I’ll judge and put together my top-ten. Here are the categories with which I will judge:
Comfort – Everyone wants to sleep in the most comfortable place possible. Waking up with a back and neck ache is no one’s idea of a good time so let’s just try to avoid that.
‘X Factor’ – Yeah, sleeping in a restaurants booth may be comfortable but no one should be bragging about sleeping in the booth of some restaurant. All of these other places to sleep and you choose a booth in a restaurant? Imagine the ridicule you’d receive from friends and family with that decision! Choose a cool place to sleep for goodness sake.
Safety – This issue is two-fold. First, you don’t want to die. Sleeping on top of Expedition Everest is great until you roll over and slide down 200 feet to your death. Second, no one wants to be caught by the cleaning crew. In this instance, we’ll just say the cleaning crew is doing a quick run through of the park instead of sweeping every corner. If we go that route, this becomes a lot easier for the writer.
Practicality – This could go in with safety but I view this category as an overview. Sleeping on Tom Sawyer Island would be fun, but how would you get there? Like I said, sleeping outside is fair game but will you be able to stay warm or dry? This category is here to balance those questions out.
There will also be 2 bonus points to be had if the building is a common favorite among Disney fans. Tie-breakers are judged by how cool I think they are. That seems fair. All of these categories will be judged out of 10 points and end up with a total of 40. Shout-out to boats here, I probably didn’t give them enough credit. Here are some other honorable mentions:
A (Bad) Room With A View
The Hub (Magic Kingdom) 21/40
Island Mercantile (Animal Kingdom) 18/40
Radiator Springs Racers (DCA) 21/40
Discovery Island Trails (Animal Kingdom) 20/40
Katsura Grill (Epcot) 19/40
These are all great places to sit down and look at something, but a dumb place to spend the whole night. The Hub is supposed to feel like an actual park and mostly accomplishes that. The grass areas would surely be comfortable to lay around in and you’d wake to a wonderful view. But if you were to spend the night here, you’d be out in the open and surely caught. You’d also be completely uncovered. In other words, The Hub ranks highly in comfort and pretty high in ‘X Factor’ but falls off considerably in practicality and safety. If I was to rank the honorable mentions, this would end up around 11 or 12 though.
Speaking of sleeping outdoors, the Discovery Island Trails offer basically what The Hub does but instead with a view of the Tree of Life. An added X Factor here is that there are some animals sleeping right by you. Sadly, you’d either have to sleep on concrete or a bench. Also, you’re still outside. The animals add a nice element of excitement and danger, but the sleeping would not come easy being outside and uncomfortable.
The same could be said for Radiator Springs Racers. I like this option due to the sleeping under the stars element. There is less light pollution in this area so sleeping outside in desert part of RSR is appealing. This is also a nice hybrid option where you can sneak inside for a while and warm up if you get cold. Still, I can’t get past the fact that either you’re sleeping really close to a track (don’t get run over!) or sleeping in dirt, sand or rock. Ever fall asleep on the beach without a towel under you? Me neither but it sounds terribly unpleasant.
Katsura Grill’s outdoor seating is one of the most peaceful areas in a Disney Theme Park during the day, so who wouldn’t want to stay the night there? Well, it wouldn’t work out well for a number of reasons. The restaurant isn’t very comfortable in their seating, so if you stayed indoors there are limited and uncomfortable options. Outside is even more uncomfortable and I saw snake crawling around there last time I was sitting outside. Just a little snake but no one wants that scaling around while sleeping. We run into that sleeping outside with little cover issue. If you slept inside it takes away a large portion of the X-factor. As a hybrid indoor-outdoor option, this is decent but we can do better.
The last of this list is basically any store that faces a park icon. I picked Island Mercantile as the leader of this pack as I love the Tree of Life and this store offers a pretty good view of it. Casey’s Corner would be a castle park equivalent of this store if you’d rather. Still, I can’t get over the feeling that sleeping in a store would be pretty uncomfortable and kind of lame. With that being said, you could cover yourself and stay warm with whatever the store is selling (hopefully clothes). I’m starting to talk myself into this option, so I think it would fall just outside of the top-ten.
Nice Room But No One Cares
Reflections of China Lobby(Epcot) 20/40
Heritage House (MK) 18/40
Goofy’s Playhouse (DL) 20/40
This category of honorable mentions is buildings that are cool or comfortable but no one would care about hearing how you spent the night there. Sure, your parents or best friend might fake some interest in your story but once you left they’d question why in the world you decided to sleep there.
The first of these buildings is the lobby to Reflections of China in Epcot. The true name for this building is The Temple of Heaven. Sweet place to sleep, right? There are long benches here so that would be decently comfortable. You’d be somewhat out in the open but not outside and there is plenty of space in the building if one area isn’t working for you. The Temple of Heaven scores high in practicality but otherwise earns average scores. No one recognizes this building outside of Disney nerds and there isn’t really anything that exciting inside.
The Heritage House gets honorable mentioned because it houses The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History. I like the idea of just hanging out on the second floor (bonus points, second floor is cool) next to Kermit and the gang. With that said, I doubt the floor is too comfortable and there really isn’t anything else exciting about the building aside from the chance that there will be muppets lying around.
Goofy’s Playhouse might be the most comfortable place I mention on this list Goofy’s Playhouse is a comfortable option. The floor is pretty bouncy and sleeping here would be like sleeping on a water-bed that’s filled just a little bit too much. That’s good relative to all the other choices in this insane post. Unfortunately, Goofy’s Playhouse doesn’t have much else going for it. Located in ToonTown, there isn’t anything special about the place. Also, a bunch of 3-6 year olds all bounced around in this area. Good grief, you don’t know what’s happened on that floor. It’s staying off the list.
You’ll Be Waking Up A Lot
Sci-Fi Dine Inn Theater (DHS) 21/40
Country Bear Jamboree (MK) 21/40
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (MK) 18/40
Spaceship Earth (Epcot) 18/40
This section is devoted to those that missed the cut because of sleeping distractions.
Sci-Fi Dine Inn offers a nice place to kick back and relax. I enjoy falling asleep to a movie and this restaurant in Hollywood Studios offers that option. Yes, we are just assuming that the movie never shuts off. The nice thing about falling asleep to a movie is you can wake up, shut it off and then fall back to sleep. No such luck here and that’s why it misses the cut even with decent scores in most categories.
Country Bear Jamboree has the same issue. Obviously those bears are going to want to play most of the night and even if they aren’t you’re going to wake up, forget where you fell asleep and be terrified that bears are staring at you. With all that beings said, I’d love to fall asleep on the stage here, maybe cuddled up next to Big Al. I just don’t think I could last the night.
The TTA is a really comfortable ride, maybe more so than any other Disney attraction. As you’re zipping through Tomorrowland in the ride vehicle, it’s nice to put your feet up and relax. This isn’t a great option for staying the night though because the constant moving and wind blowing against your face would be distracting and cold. You also couldn’t fully lay down here and laying down is great.
My idea for Spaceship Earth was crawling off the ride into one of the scenes (Rome Burning would be my choice) and hunkering down for the night. The distraction here would be the ride vehicles passing by and the weird lighting. I’m also not sure that it would be comfortable. But, this is your best and most unusual option for sleeping in one of the park icons. (I don’t know why I’m so against sleeping in one of the restaurants but it feels too easy to me and not unique enough.)
For the two people who have read this far, we’re finally to the top-ten!
10. Animation Building (DCA)
Comfort – One of the best places to take a nap in a Disney Park cracks the top-ten. It’s a finalist mainly due to the comfort of the building. Animation Academy is a huge building with no shortage of places to lounge around. I’d probably choose to sleep in the lobby of this building. I think the floor is pretty comfortable and carpeted, as I’ve laid there from time to time. The soundtrack in the building is nice and pretty soft but the screens may be distracting so I can’t max out the comfort rating. 8/10
X-Factor – The Animation Building is somewhat boring and you can sleep in it during the day. This isn’t very unique at all. Simon Cowell isn’t impressed. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to make a Simon Cowell/X Factor joke. 1/10
Safety – You may get caught here, but there are plenty of places to hide. There also isn’t a place to really hurt yourself in this building. You’re pretty safe here. 7/10
Practicality – This is probably the most practical place to stay. Getting in the building shouldn’t be hard. It’s fairly dark in there already. The floor is comfortable. The screens could wake you up but otherwise I don’t see many problems that you’d run into. 7/10
Bonus Points – No way.
Total – A pretty bland 23/40
9. Those buildings in Kilimanjaro Safaris (DAK)
Comfort – I have no idea… I’m guessing these are storage and food buildings. Maybe you could find some hay to sleep on. That’d be comfortable! Maybe there’d be an animal in there, waiting to eat you. A real wild card here, it deserves an average score. 5/10
X-Factor – This probably should be higher than a 10. Kilimanjaro Safaris is Animal Kingdom’s flagship attraction so it’s already rating high. Then you have the adventure of getting there, which detracts from practicality but absolutely boosts this category and the bonus points. You would literally have to run through a savannah filled with wild animals to get to this building. It’d be terrifying but that’s the kind of X-Factor I’d watch, as opposed to that one TV show. Is it still on? 10/10
Safety – You’re not going to get caught in the building by a cast member who’s cleaning. On the other hand, you might die. Give and take. If you stick to the driving path, you should be okay but this is dangerous. 3/10
Practicality – I mean, you’re sleeping in a building and you’re covered from weather. It’s probably dark in there, so as long as you can get past the fear of hundreds of wild animals waiting outside for you, after they chased you for a mile, you should be able to sleep in there. Unfortunately, the journey there is not going to be easy. 3/10
Bonus Points – A well-earned +2
Total – An absolutely insane 23/40
8. Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland)
Comfort – Pirates of the Caribbean is iconic but hardly a comfortable ride while sitting on those wooden benches in a boat. Sure, you could sleep there but I’m proposing something else. Take a step off the boat when it comes close to the bank (I’m thinking the prison scene here). Explore the grounds that the pirates have taken and find a moderately good place to sleep. It won’t be a soft mattress but it can be pretty dark and relaxing. 4/10
X-Factor – This is one of the most iconic theme park attractions in the world. It’d also be an adventure getting there, which hurts in practicality but helps here. This is a perfect ten. 10/10
Safety – This one gets tricky. Getting to a sleeping location isn’t safe, although the water isn’t deep even if you do fall in. No one wants to fall asleep with wet clothes. But once in the location you won’t be found and, unless you are totally clueless on where to fall asleep, you won’t fall in the water. This is a complicated situation but we’ll stick to more of a sleeping spot, which seems pretty safe to me. 5/10
Practicality – Okay, this isn’t very practical. It is super cool and might be the best choice if you are a thrill seeker, but not many people are jumping off a boat to sleep by a bunch of crazy animatronics. 4/10
Bonus Point – Yeah, this is a classic. +2
Total – A strong but not incredible 25/40
7. Coral Reef (Epcot)
Comfort – This restaurant in Epcot probably has a decent booth to sleep in. Nothing exciting, but somewhat comfortable! If booths aren’t your thing then the floor is probably okay. 8/10
X-Factor – This is basically falling asleep in an empty aquarium. Wake up and see sharks! Cool. Fall asleep in an empty restaurant! Not as cool. I thought this was unique when I first put it on the list, but compared to other options on this list I won’t rave about sleeping in the Coral Reef. 3/10
Safety – Again, they probably clean these restaurants and it’d be hard not to get caught unless you were into some Home Alone type antics. If you don’t get caught then you’re safe. Unless the glass in the aquarium breaks. Then you’d wake up swimming with sharks! Yeah, you’re pretty safe here. 8/10
Practicality – Get in the building and find a place to sleep. It would be fairly dark although the fish may be somewhat distracting. Sleeping here and getting here isn’t a big issue. 7/10
Bonus Points – It already has too many points, so no.
Total – A lucky (to be here) number seven. 26/40
6. Omnibus (DL)
Comfort – A surprising addition to the list, the omnibus thrives in comfort and safety. Climb up to the top floor of the omnibus and sprawl out on a bench. They’re pretty long and fairly comfortable. There won’t be any perfect tens in this category but this is close. 8/10
X Factor – Well this isn’t great. On one hand, how many people have spent the night on the omnibus? On the other hand, I’m guessing it’s probably parked in a garage and the view isn’t great. I like these more than most people but even I know it’s limited. 3/10
Safety – If you’re staying here, I’m guessing that you’ll be spending the night in the garage. Nobody is coming to find you in there and there is little that can go wrong, even if you fall off the seat in the middle of the night. 10/10
Practicality – Go find the omnibus, sleep there. Not much will distract from this plan and it will also be pretty dark in there. Getting into the garage might not be easy but otherwise this scores well. 7/10
Bonus Points – I love them, but no.
Total – A very surprising 28/40
5. Nomad Lounge (DAK)
Comfort – One of the most comfortable lounges (and places) around. The Nomad Lounge has couches throughout it and might be the most comfortable place on the list. The lounge would be dark and a great place to sleep. 9/10
X-Factor – Nomad is a great lounge but it’s not a place that you brag about sleeping in. On the plus side, it has a nice view of the water and will soon have a great view of World of Pandora. While the building itself isn’t an icon, it is a nice room with a nice view. 5/10
Safety – I’m guessing that they clean this place. Being in a small space it might be hard to avoid those people who are cleaning. Otherwise, you are safe. Unless you routinely hurt yourself while sleeping on a couch. 7/10
Practicality – It’s dark, relaxing, and with no distractions. Sure, you have to get in there but once you are, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble. Not to mention, free drinks! (That is stealing and I don’t condone that…) 8/10
Bonus Points – Naw.
Total – 29/40
4. DVC Lounge in the Imagination Pavilion (Epcot)
Comfort – This lounge sits on the second floor of the Imagination building and is part of Disney folklore. About a year ago it was remodeled to a lounge, which isn’t all good news but it is good news when it comes to staying the night somewhere. This is the other place on this list that has couches and comfortable seating. No back or neck aches here, especially compared to most on this list. 9/10
X Factor – This building is great and people who knew Epcot Center are incredibly nostalgic about the Imagination Pavilion. It is not known as much among your average Disney fan and I can’t give it the score that other classic attractions received. 7/10
Safety – A common theme, avoid the cleaners and you’re good! That shouldn’t be a big deal here. 7/10
Practicality – This should be easy to get to just like all the other buildings. There is a big glass ceiling so the sun will wake you up early in the morning, that’s a bummer. Otherwise I think this is pretty practical. 7/10
Bonus points – This used to be a great attraction but not anymore, so +1
Total – A surprising 4th place finish and top non-attraction honors. 31/40
3. Swiss Family Tree House (MK)
Comfort – This is unique. A place that is actually designed for living and sleeping. Unfortunately, the humans that lived here seem to be very small. I don’t know if you can get to the bed in the treehouse but if you can then we’re in solid shape! Either way, there are some pretty comfortable places to sleep here, albeit pretty hard. 7/10
X-Factor – This is a classic attraction. Not in the like of Pirates of the Caribbean (among others) but still pretty cool. You tell people that you spent the night there and they will think pretty highly of you. 7/10
Safety – I don’t think you’ll be found. I mean, if you’re lying on the top floor and roll over, you might fall to your death. I don’t think that’s very likely though. I definitely do not question the structural integrity of the tree. 8/10
Practicality – You’re outside and that’s the only negative here. If you check the weather forecast and don’t see rain, I think this is a really good move. If it’s going to rain, then you can find places in the tree that are covered but it’s not as easy. I also think this is the easiest place to get into on the list. 8/10
Bonus Points – I think this counts as a classic. +2
Total – The practical man’s number one, but an honest to come by bronze medal. 32/40
2. Haunted Mansion (MK)
Comfort – There’s no shortage of options in places to sleep here. You can curl up in the graveyard, where there’s probably some cushion from props. Sleeping in the ballroom would be fantastic but you’re probably relegated to the table in that case. Whatever you choose, there will be plenty of space but the bed will likely be hard. 6/10
X-Factor – (A conversation with a friend) You – “I slept in the Haunted Mansion.” Your Friend – “…” (Silence because their jaw has dropped so low that they look like the ghosts you slept by). 10/10
Safety – This one is tricky. You won’t be caught once inside the building. You won’t die unless you do something really stupid. But, is the Haunted Mansion actually haunted? Do ghosts actually hurt people? Are ghosts even real? I’m not the man to answer those questions, I’m just the man who writes this blog post and I give this category an 8/10.
Practicality – The building shouldn’t be terribly hard to get into. It’s also dark. But, I don’t think the sleeping would be so good. The graveyard is actually the most childlike scene in Haunted Mansion and less spooky so that would seem a good spot to sleep until you realize that it’s also the most well-lit and there are animatronics all over the place. I’m not sure a good night’s sleep is going to happen here, unless you have nerves of steel. Still, it’s a building that’s easy to sleep in. 6/10
Bonus Points – Absolutely. +2
Total – Spookily creeps up to number 2 on the list. 32/40
1. Inside the Matterhorn (DL)
Comfort – We’ve all heard about the basketball court inside of the Matterhorn. That’s what we’re aiming for here. You probably haven’t slept on a basketball court before but trust me, it’s not comfortable. I’m guessing this is more of a cabin style feel to the floor though instead of an actual basketball court. That makes it slightly better and pretty comparable to most other options. 5/10
X Factor – Just like Pirates of the Caribbean, this place is iconic. This might be even more memorable because the basketball court is such a big part of Disney folklore. An easy 10 here. 10/10
Safety – This is one of our more safe options even though it’s near the top of the mountain. The building has to pass safety checks and I’m guessing this isn’t cleaned very often. No one is going to find you up here and you aren’t going to fall off. There may be an issue in getting to the basketball court but I think it’s doable as long as you have a flashlight or phone. All in all, a safe option. 8/10
Practicality – Again, it might be hard to get to. But we know where it is and that it exists. There shouldn’t be many distractions once up there aside from a few sounds that accompany a roller coaster. The court is also covered and probably warm enough. 8/10
Bonus Points – No doubt. +2
Total – A winning 33/40
There you have it, the best place to sleep if you get locked in a U.S. Disney Theme Park is on the floor of the Matterhorn’s mini basketball court. I’m sure no one could argue with the science behind my thoughts, but I’d love to hear a few other buildings that you may think are good options. And if you’ve never read this blog before, most other posts are way less ridiculous and approximately 37 times more helpful to you planning a Disney vacation. Thank you for reading, this is our 300th post on the site and we’re honored by your support.
Categories: Top 10 Lists