On Friday January 10, 2020 an unlikely tourist attraction came to Lancaster: The Cartoon Network Hotel. This new family-friendly hotel features not only classic Cartoon Network shows like “Adventure Time,” “Ben 10,” and “The Powerpuff Girls,” but also newer shows like “Steven Universe,” and “We Bare Bears.”
Palace Entertainment owns and operates the hotel. They also oversee about 22 family entertainment centers, water parks and amusement parks around the country, including Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster. All of the branding work is done in conjunction with Cartoon Network. Members of the Cartoon Network team even came to view the location before the action was made to start the production of this one-of-a-kind hotel.
Many people not living in Lancaster county question why Lancaster was chosen for this hotel. “This county very much still has the perception of being only Amish attractions and cornfields, but those who live here, work here, know certainly that heritage is a big part of this place, but there’s so much more,” Jeffrey Eisenberg, Director of Marketing, explains why Lancaster is such a fit.
He continues, “Lancaster as a whole, is really a family-friendly destination.When we were talking with Cartoon Network we saw that, and I think that they saw that it was a great fit.” Especially in the summer, Lancaster is visited by so many families from New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. These are huge markets that visit Lancaster in the summer.
For decades before the Cartoon Network Hotel was built, the structure of the building once held a Continental Inn. When Palace Entertainment purchased the property, they knew that they wanted this to be a themed, immersive experience, not just any old, regular hotel. When the parent company first approached Cartoon Network, they immediately were looking for a more location-based entertainment like what the hotel currently features.
Eisenberg explains that both teams liked the building structure, “Ultimately everybody decided that this building, the former Continental Inn, had good bones so to speak. If a hotel was built from the ground up, you wouldn’t have the big, sweeping staircases. The lobby would not look like this. The architecture would be different. Everybody liked what they thought this building could become, and it very much fit the vision.”
The renovation process began in late 2018 and took over a year to gut the building from top to bottom.
The original structure remains, but everything else is new.
The Cartoon Network Hotel features the Cartoon Kitchen, the Cartoon Network Store, the Bearista Cafe, an outdoor and indoor pool, as well as multiple play areas that bring the cartoons to life.
Unique food and drinks
The main restaurant, the Cartoon Kitchen, goes beyond a basic burger and fries meal. Eisenberg talks about the unique menu, “I think people are really going to be blown away by the food offerings, many of which are straight out of the Adventure Time Cookbook from Cartoon Network itself. We have Bacon Pancakes, we have the Together Breakfast, we have a lot of favorites that people will recognize from Cartoon Network shows.”
They created the kitchen in a way that guests can see animations on screens to “see into the kitchen” and watch the characters cooking your food, making a mess, and washing dishes. The tv shows inspired many of the dishes, either the entire plate itself or elements of it like “Powerpuff Girl” colored sprinkles on your pancakes or desserts.
A “We Bare Bears” themed spot for drinks: the Bearista Cafe can be located next to the kitchen. This coffee shop features classic drinks like coffees, frappes, smoothies, and homemade lemonade, as well as themed drinks such as the Ice Bear Vanilla Bean Frappe.
The cafe doubles as a bar after 11 a.m. Bartenders create fun, inventive drinks like the Rock Pop Martini, which comes with an entire stick of rock candy in it. The hotel tries to have features that will be fun for adults and parents, not just the kids.
On the other side of the lobby are multiple gaming opportunities for fans of all Cartoon Network Shows. In the Toon Room, kids can color and scan their own creations here, which will animate their drawing and put it on a large screen on the wall. Guests also have the option to make yourself a Powerpuff Girl and the design can then be emailed to you.
The Director of Marketing talks about the original vision of the immersive designs of the hotel, “We knew from the get go that there had to be some kind of play area, and we wanted to make it as interactive and unique as possible. That was one of the big pieces when designing this hotel: we wanted it to be more than seeing characters on tv screen or on walls. You can do that at home. We wanted kids and families to have moments where they were actually interacting with the characters, seeing the characters coming to life, doing fun, whimsical things.”
Next to the “Ben 10” themed arcade, The Omnicade, there are two virtual reality games. In the “Ben 10” VR game, you become one of the aliens, fighting other aliens while meteors are being thrown at you. The “We Bare Bears” game is based off an episode where the characters start their own food truck. This is a continuation of that concept. “You become one of the bears, you are in the food truck driving around town, taking orders from people. When I played it, I set the grille on fire many times. They are very convincing experiences,” Eisenberg jokes.
Themed rooms from different shows
The hotel rooms vary in size and theme, but all of them have characters from “Adventure Time,” “Ben 10,” “The Powerpuff Girls,” “The Amazing World of Gumball,” “Steven Universe,” and “We Bare Bears.” The most popular rooms are the ones that have a bunk bed with a tv at the foot of each bed, featuring Cartoon Network shows. While the hotel can’t guarantee that you’ll get a certain room theme, if you give them an advanced heads up then they will try and accommodate your choice of room theme.
The indoor and outdoor pool can be found outside of the rooms. Disconnected from the main building, the heated indoor pool is open all year. The resort-style outdoor pool is zero depth, which means you can walk into it from all sides. The zero depth entry pool is nice from an enjoyment standpoint, but also for accessibility needs. A “Powerpuff Girl” splash pad and an “Adventure Time” concession stand are also featured in the outdoor space.
Starting summer 2020, an outdoor movie screen shaped as Finn’s head from “Adventure Time” will be up. Eisenberg touches on this, “There will be screenings of shows, cartoons, and every once in a while there will be a premier of a new episode of a show, and perhaps even a new show too, so we’ll see.”
Inside the hotel, unique works of art decorate the walls. Real drawings from Cartoon Network designers reside on some of the walls and in certain Dream Suites—large, multi-room suites in the main building. Some are framed show storyboards and conceptual drawings, but none are reproductions. They are all original and from Cartoon Network itself. Line art decorates the hotel and outside areas that are exclusionary to this hotel only; Cartoon Network designed it solely for the Cartoon Network Hotel.
The same line art can be found on exclusive mugs found in the lobby gift shop. The Cartoon Network Hotel sells merchandise from the shows, but most of the unique items sold here can’t be found anywhere else.
Jeffrey Eisenbery mentions the excitement that surrounds the Cartoon Network Hotel, “We’re thrilled to have it open. It is something that is so unique for not just this town and not just this county, but really this whole region. There are so many great lodging and entertainment options here but there’s not this kind of themed lodging experience.We’re very very proud to open it in Lancaster.”
Although this hotel is aimed towards kids who love Cartoon Network, a widespread number of people have shown excitement for this hotel who are in their twenties and thirties. The Cartoon Network Hotel is the only one of its kind in the world and it can be found right here in Central PA. This hotel will be another unique spot that sets Lancaster apart from the rest of the country.