The Disneyland Resort Hotels
LAST UPDATE: 9/9/13
The high-rise Paradise Pier Hotel is very comfortable, with fabulous views of Disney California Adventure from many rooms and even from some of the hallways. The building is pretty old and used to be owned by another company, but Disney has done a nice job of renovating it and keeping it up.
The guest rooms are quite large, very nicely furnished with one king bed or two queen beds. Some also have a pull-out that converts to a single bed, giving them a capacity of up to 5 people. Rooms are well-equipped, with a flat-screen TV, safe, hair dryer, ironing board and iron, and coffee maker.
All of the rooms include a mini-fridge. The bathrooms are fairly large, with a granite countertop and single sink.
While Paradise Pier lacks any significant theming, it does offer decent amenities, including a rooftop pool with water slide and a fitness center.
There is a “Surf’s Up” buffet character breakfast at PCH Grill.
The Disneyland Hotel, which originally opened in the 1950s under private ownership and was later purchased by Disney, was completely renovated in 2011. The hotel has some great kid-oriented amenities, including Goofy’s Kitchen (daily character buffets) and the Monorail Pool and water play area.
The newly-renovated rooms are really nicely done, with very attractive theming, new furnishings and “fireworks” lighting effects in the headboards. While the rooms are not huge, they are comfortable. Rooms have either two queen beds or one king bed. Most rooms sleep 2 or 4; some can sleep 5 people. Rooms are well-equipped, with a flat-screen TV, safe, hair dryer, ironing board and iron, and coffee maker.
All of the rooms include a mini-fridge. The bathrooms are fairly large, with a granite countertop and single or double sinks, depending on the room configuration. In some rooms, the toilet and tub/shower are separated from the sink area by a door; in others the tub/shower is in the same room with the sink(s).
The hotel has rooms in three separate towers: Fantasy Tower (formerly Marina Tower and then Magic Tower), where the main lobby is located, with two of the shops and many of the services; Adventure Tower (formerly Sierra Tower and then Dream Tower), where the concierge lounge is located; and Frontier Tower (formerly Bonita Tower and then Wonder Tower). These towers are arranged in a U-shape around the perimeter of the resort grounds, which are extensive and beautifully landscaped.
Keep In Mind
The Disneyland Hotel is the least convenient of the Disney resort hotels in terms of getting to the parks. There is no shuttle service, and the Monorail no longer runs through the hotel, as it did in the old days. To get to Disneyland Park, you now have to walk a fair distance through Downtown Disney to get to the resort Monorail station, which only serves Disneyland’s Tomorrowland station. If you are going to Disney California Adventure, which is not served by the Monorail, you will be walking a long way to that park’s entrance, fighting the crowds in Downtown Disney the entire time. Believe it or not, you will walk a lot less distance if you stay off-site and take the ART shuttle or park in the Mickey & Friends parking structure, because the shuttles drop you right near the front gates of the two parks.
Frontier Tower is located at the extreme southern edge of the hotel property. While the surroundings are just as attractive as those at the other towers, there are some significant downsides to staying in Frontier Tower. For one thing, that tower has the longest walk to the parks of any building at any of the Disneyland resorts (yes, including the less-expensive Paradise Pier hotel!) Staying in Fantasy Tower or Adventure Tower will save you quite a few steps. Frontier Tower is also furthest from all of the major resort amenities, including the restaurants, the main lobby services, and the pools.
Pools and Water Play Area
The new Monorail Pool and water play area are excitingly new, yet retro. With a nod to the iconic original park signage, “Disneyland” is spelled out in familiar blocks atop a platform supporting two thrilling water slides. Reminiscent of the original Monorail station at the Disneyland Hotel, at each slide’s entrance sits a replica Monorail Car that guests glide through as they twist and turn their way to the water below. The larger of the two main slides sits 26 feet high and stretches 187 feet until it plunges into a splash pool. The second slide is 13 feet high and 112 feet long. For younger guests, the area includes a third two-lane mini slide that sits just 3 1/2 feet high and is 19 feet long, as well as a series of small bubble jets in which to play.
Two new pools, (D-Ticket and E-Ticket) have been added. There are also two hot tubs (Mickey and Minnie, naturally) in the pool area. A footbridge connects both sides of the courtyard area, allowing guests easy access across the property without having to enter the sprawling gated pool area. There are six new pool cabanas, each featuring a flat screen TV, refrigerator, safe, phone, and ceiling fan. Cabanas cost $185 for a full day, or $115 for a four-hour time block. Each cabana can accommodate up to six guests.
Dining and Drinking
For full service dining at the Disneyland Hotel you can enjoy Steakhouse 55, which is very good, offering high-end steakhouse fare. It has a bar/lounge. The theming is low-key Old Hollywood, with comfy booths and blown-up photos of Hollywood stars from the old days. The service is “Old Hollywood,” too, in a good way, with very professional wait staff. We like to get an appetizer each, split one of the large steaks (there is a $5 charge for splitting a plate) and share a couple of side orders. That leaves us enough room to share one of their huge slices of 24-layer chocolate cake, which is delicious.
Near the pool, new dining and lounge experiences have introduced in the old location of Hook’s Pointe, Croc’s Bits ‘n’ Bites, the Wine Cellar and Lost Bar, which have all closed permanently. There is now a fast casual (counter service) dining area, Tangaroa Terrace, which takes its architectural cue from the original Tahitian Terrace restaurant in Disneyland Park and the Polynesian architecture that was popularized during the early era of the hotel. We found the food at Tangaroa Terrace just okay, nothing special. There isn’t a huge amount of variety offered, and the quality is so-so. If you just want a quick bite near the pool, it gets the job done. If you want a light meal that is tastier and more adventurous, try the bar snacks on the menu at Trader Sam’s next door.
The small Tiki bar, Trader Sam’s, features specialty drinks and some tasty bar snacks. We love, love, love Trader Sam’s! The drinks are good, the theming is outstanding, there are fun special effects built in, and the bartenders are a hoot. If you have ever visited the Adventurer’s Club in Walt Disney World (now sadly closed), Trader Sam’s is sort of a “mini” version of it.
For character meals, Disneyland Hotel has Goofy’s Kitchen. The buffet is excellent, and I’m not usually a buffet fan. Everything is fresh and tasty, and there is an outstanding selection of items. Our niece and nephew enjoyed visits from many characters, including Goofy (of course), Baloo from Jungle Book and a princess or two. By the way, when I called for reservations the day before, I was told they were booked solid for the next week, but we could try walking in. We decided to try, and arrived at 8:30 am. We were seated within just a few minutes, and the restaurant didn’t get really busy until at least 9:00. By the time we left, there was a crowd waiting to get in. So if you want to try Goofy’s Kitchen on a walk-in basis, just get there as early as possible.
There is also The Coffee House, where you can pick up coffee and baked goods for a quick breakfast. It is pretty generic and has no indoor seating. The espresso-based drinks (lattes, etc) are acceptable but not great.
Concierge Level at the Disneyland Hotel
We have added Concierge Level to our stay once. Concierge check-in was swift and friendly. The experience was not extremely different from the “regular” service I’ve had when staying in a standard Disney resort room, but I would describe the attitude of the Cast Members at the concierge desk as sort of “Disney plus” — they made inquiries into any extra services we might require, asked if we needed any dining reservations, and that sort of thing.
The concierge lounge is located in Adventure Tower. Since we were in Frontier Tower, it was very inconvenient for us to use the lounge, because to do so would involve taking the elevator downstairs, walking over to Adventure Tower, and then taking another elevator up to the lounge. Consequently I was the only one who used the lounge at all, and that was just to take a quick look and grab a bottle of water. If you choose to stay in concierge accommodations at the Disneyland Hotel, I strongly recommend requesting Adventure Tower, with second choice Fantasy Tower.
The concierge lounge is very nice and has a lovely view of Downtown Disney and the parks, including a great view of the fireworks. It serves Continental breakfast and various snacks during the day and evening. There is also a desk where they will arrange dining reservations and accommodate other requests.
Overall, however, I felt the concierge service at Disneyland Hotel was pretty minimal. The first afternoon I pressed the concierge button to have some dining reservations made, and was told I needed to call Dining Reservations, though they did connect me. Normally a concierge does this sort of thing for you.
Be aware that suites do not automatically include access to the concierge lounge. You have to specifically request and pay for concierge service, regardless of the room type you book.
Signature Suites at the Disneyland Hotel
If you’re a real high-roller, there are some amazing themed suites located on the 11th floor of the Adventure Tower at the Disneyland Hotel, including the Mickey Mouse Penthouse, the Big Thunder Suite, Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, Fairy Tale Suite and Adventureland Suite. These suites cost thousands of dollars per night. It’s nice to dream, though, right?
I have been lucky enough to tour the Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, and it is fabulous — staying there would be a once-in-a-lifetime, memorable experience! If you’re interested in splurging, contact a Disney specialist travel agency to book these suites.
I can still remember my first visit to the Grand Californian. One look at the lobby and I was in love! “Stunning” is the only word for this hotel. Gorgeous woodwork, inlaid stone floors, a huge fireplace… a visit to the Grand Californian should be part of every trip to Disneyland!
The Grand Californian is by far the newest of the Disneyland Resort hotels and the only one created by Disney (the other two hotels were originally built by other companies and then eventually taken over and remodeled by Disney). While the rooms are not huge, they are comfortable, with gorgeous furnishings in an early 1900s Arts & Crafts/Frank Lloyd Wright style. There are many lovely details in the room decor, including wallpaper with a ceiling border that looks like stenciling.
Rooms have either two queen beds, one king bed or a queen bed plus bunk beds. Most rooms sleep 2 or 4; some can sleep 5 people. Rooms are well-equipped, with a flat-screen TV, safe, hair dryer, ironing board and iron, and coffee maker. Bed linens are top-quality. In the closet you’ll find bathrobes for your use while at the hotel.
All of the rooms include a refrigerator (a mini-fridge in the hotel rooms and studios; a full-size fridge in the villas). The bathrooms are fairly large, with a granite countertop and double sinks. The toilet and tub/shower are separated from the sink area by a door.
“Theme park view” rooms have views of Disney California Adventure (some much better than others). Rooms often have spacious balconies. The hotel offers twice-daily maid service, including evening turn-down service.
There are two full-sized pools, plus a kiddie pool and an outdoor whirlpool spa. Other than the beautiful ironwork on the fence around the pools and a pool slide made to look like the stump of a sequoia tree, there is no major theming. You can rent cabanas by one of the pools for a substantial fee.
A unique feature of the Grand Californian is its private entrance into Disney California Adventure, through a gate near the pool area, between Napa Rose and the Mandara Spa. This entrance is reserved only for the use of hotel guests during peak periods (i.e., first thing in the morning). It saves you some walking and waiting in line.
A lot of people pay the extra cost for valet parking because the self-parking is inconveniently far away and across a busy street.
The Grand Californian has two restaurants (Storyteller Cafe and Napa Rose), two bars and a snack bar/small food court, White Water Snacks. White Water Snacks is near the pool and offers some hot food items as well as cold snacks and sandwiches.
The very pretty Storyteller Cafe offers a character breakfast with Chip and Dale. You have a choice of a buffet or a la carte items. The food is best described as “glorified coffee shop” fare. You pay a premium for the character interaction.
The food at the elegant, award-winning Napa Rose restaurant is usually very good and attractively presented. Prices are very high (the wine markups are an outrage, even compared with other high-end restaurants) and service can be somewhat sketchy. I think the open kitchen at Napa Rose was an unfortunate choice for this restaurant, as it creates a very noisy environment, which clashes with the soothing decor.
Concierge Level at Grand Californian
I have stayed on the concierge level at Grand Californian a couple of times. It is quite expensive and frankly I think it’s questionable whether it’s worth the money. If you feel like a big splurge, go for it.
Ostensibly you are supposed to be met in the lobby when you arrive for expedited concierge check-in. On both of my stays this didn’t actually happen, and I waited in line with everyone else. So don’t expect this service, but you might be pleasantly surprised.
Concierge level rooms are a deluxe version of the already very nice standard rooms. I would estimate that they are about four feet wider than a standard room, which gives them a more spacious feeling. Some rooms have a king bed plus a pull-out sofa, while others have two double beds.
The concierge desk can arrange dining reservations and accommodate other requests. The concierge lounge is pretty big (though not as big as the one at Disneyland Hotel) and attractively furnished in keeping with the hotel’s Craftsman theming. You can see the Disneyland fireworks from the lounge, though the view is of a courtyard and the fireworks are seen over a rooftop.
A basic Continental breakfast (hot beverages, juice, pastries, bagels, yogurt, cereal and fresh fruit) is offered in the lounge each morning and various snacks are offered throughout the day. For instance, during certain hours you can enjoy “afternoon tea” with urns of hot beverages, tiny sandwiches and a few sweets; in the evenings you may find milk and cookies available. A list of the current offerings is provided at check-in.
Tips and Tricks at Grand Californian
The hotel has a sprawling, somewhat confusing layout, and rooms in some of the wings are a bit of a hike from the Great Hall (lobby). Below are some step-saving tips. In the examples below, X312 would mean room 312 on any floor of the hotel, with X standing in for the floor number.
- If you are staying in the wing furthest from the lobby (which includes many of the Downtown Disney and theme park view rooms – roughly rooms X419 through X454), the fastest way to get out to Downtown Disney and/or to the Disneyland front gate is to use the fire exit stairs located across the hall from rooms X447 and X449. You will come out right next to La Brea Bakery. You can’t come back in through that door (unfortunately there is no room key reader on the outside) but it can save you a lot of back-tracking to go out that way.
- The most obvious elevator bank is on the opposite side of the lobby from the fireplace, but there are actually two other elevator banks. One is near the intersection of the two furthest wings from the Great Hall, approximately across the hall from room X331. On the main level that elevator bank is just around the corner from the private entrance into Disney California Adventure, making it extra convenient if that’s the direction you’re heading. The other elevator bank is in the Disney Vacation Club wing, roughly across from room X502. From that elevator bank you can cut through the pool area to the private entrance into Disney California Adventure.
There is a “secret” outdoor fireplace at Grand Californian. I stayed there multiple times without ever discovering it! To get to the outdoor fireplace, face the indoor fireplace in the lobby. Walk around to the left of that fireplace and out the doors. (Hearthstone Lounge will be on your left as you go out.) Once outside, walk around to the right. The outdoor fireplace is basically a mirror image of the indoor fireplace. You’ll seldom find anyone out there, making it a pleasantly quiet spot. (Note that the outdoor fireplace is a smoking area; however, so few people ever find it that I’ve never seen a smoker out there.)
The Mandara Spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is fabulous, combining a touch of Bali with the hotel’s classic Arts & Crafts decor. The spa offers a wide variety of massages, body wraps, pedicures and more. There is also a fitness center.
- For deals at the Grand Californian’s Mandara Spa, click here.