While visiting Disneyland we spent our five nights at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. After my previous posts, if you didn’t already know, you likely now know that there are two parks in Disneyland – Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The entire resort is extremely walkable from one end clear to the other. There are three official Disney resorts – Paradise Pier (think of it as a value in WDW terms), Disneyland Hotel (moderate) and Grand Californian (deluxe).
We were originally booked to stay at Disneyland Hotel when I received an email saying the pool would be closed throughout our stay. Bummer! So, I moved us to Grand Californian ($400 more in total for the 5 nights) about six weeks before our trip. From pictures, I just really loved the look of Disneyland Hotel and felt like Grand Californian was a carbon copy (er… rather the original) of Wilderness Lodge. And it definitely was.
The arts and craft style Grand Californian is Disneyland’s flagship resort. The cast members are highly trained and efficient, and the resort is lovely and well maintained.
If you’ve been to Wilderness Lodge, I’m sure you can immediately see the similarities. It is a grand lobby, with wood beams, a grand pianist, a massive fireplace and loads of comfy seating that really makes you feel at home. I didn’t see the little tucked away, cozy fireplace lounge spots and rocking chair nooks here that we love at Wilderness Lodge.
Like most Disney Deluxe Resorts, there are shops, a counter serve restaurant (White Water Snacks), a pool bar, a signature restaurant (Napa Rose), another restaurant (Storyteller Cafe), a kids club (Pinocchio’s Workshop) and a lounge (Hearthstone Lounge). There is also a private and very direct entrance into Disney California Adventure park, and a gate leading directly to Downtown Disney that takes about a two minute walk from the lobby. These two things alone make the resort worth taking a second look at!
The resort is truly lovely and the grounds were immaculate. I loved all of the stunning rose bushes and lush foliage.
We love to use Disney’s Kids Club when possible for a night out, especially when trying a signature restaurant. The littles always have a wonderful night and we feel completely comfortable that they are receiving outstanding care. When we dined at Napa Rose and visited Trader Sam’s, they both went to Pinocchio’s Workshop. They had such a great time that Whit opted to go back another night in lieu of heading back for an evening in Disneyland! They even took the kids up to a private viewing balcony for the Disneyland Forever fireworks and fed him dinner!!
There was a heated porch off of the lobby with rocking chairs and a huge fireplace.
And we found the pool to be extremely nice! The lounge chairs by far had the best cushions of any pool I’ve been too. Now, our entire week in CA as cool and breezy so I didn’t so much as dip a toe into the water. Honey and I were pretty much bundled up using towels as blankets. But, our littles didn’t seem to notice. They swam daily!
As far as the accommodations, I had put in a request for bunk beds, but didn’t land one. We had a garden view room and had a view of the front of the resort. No big deal… we weren’t in here much. The room itself was a bit blah. I’ll be the first to admit that Disney resort rooms are all dated, and this one was no exception. It would have improved the aesthetic ten-fold to just paint over the stenciled rose border. There was plenty of room for the four of us, the balcony was usable, the beds were fantastic and everything was perfectly clean. They did have a turn-down service, which my littles loved for the chocolates alone.
We enjoyed the Critter Breakfast at Storytellers Cafe on the last morning of our stay. The food was outstanding!!! We had a late breakfast and were super disappointed that they only had Meeko, Chip and Dale still out. We walked by here most days and had been peering in… we saw Brother Bears Kenai and Koda and Brer Fox but none of them were out for ours :-( I guess the lesson to be learned here is don’t book your character meal at the end of the time frame. They were switching over to lunch while we ate and there aren’t characters at lunch.
As mentioned, Honey and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Napa Rose. Everything was so fresh and yummy!!
On our very first night, the Disney Vacation Club hosted a movie night for members at the resort. We were happy to attend and were pleasantly surprised by how lovely the event was. They brought in hot cocoa from Napa Rose that was completely divine, had infused waters, popcorn and desserts and we watched The Little Mermaid for the first time in a while.
The Hearthstone Lounge is located off the lobby and is a great little respite from the craziness of the parks. We decompressed here a few times and even hooked up with Casey from DLR Prep School one afternoon!! She calls this her office :-)
I really can’t reiterate enough just how easy it is to get around Disneyland! With the kids at Pinocchio’s for our date night, we popped by the Disneyland Hotel to try the original Trader Sam’s. We walked around the resort and I really loved it! It is just as convenient to Downtown Disney and is also a short walk to the parks. I’d say the main disadvantage over Grand Californian is that it doesn’t have the private entrance into a park. Of course, it’s cheaper. Oh, and the pools were totally open and full of people… :-)
Trader Sam’s was everything we’d hoped it would be. We loved every minute. It’s definitely the most entertaining bar we’ve ever been to – on both coasts!
Tips and Tricks:
- All three on-property resorts are very close to the action. They are all quite expensive too. But, in the end, I would definitely stay on property next time. I would try Disneyland Hotel for sure!
- We booked our package through Costco Travel. It was the exact same price as if booking direct through Disney but it came with vouchers for a free character meal. Our two character meals were really fairly priced in comparison to others we’ve done, and as it turns out, the vouchers are good at any restaurant up to a certain dollar amount. (I want to say close to $50 for adults and $30 something for kids.) We used ours at Carthay Circle. The package also included a $60 Disney Gift Card that we applied towards our bill at checkout, vouchers for four free Disneyland Diamond Celebration lanyards and four free Diamond Celebration pins, and four free 60th luggage tags. I would definitely recommend this!
- Downtown Disney is literally attached to both Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotel.
- It is a five minute walk to Disneyland Park through Downtown Disney. There is one bag check at the end of DD and that admits you to both Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park. Once you’ve been through the bag check, it is about a 2 minute walk from the gate of one to hop to the gate of the other. No second bag check needed!
- It is a two minute walk from the Grand Californian pool to California Adventure. This entrance is only valid for resort guests at Grand Californian so it is only backed up at rope drop. It let’s you out into the park right at Grizzly River Run (wet raft ride).
- Disneyland still operates on room cards, not magic bands. It was a bit crazy to keep up with everyone’s room card, park ticket card, fast passes and such. I missed the magic bands! The cards also make going through the turnstiles a slow process. On your first trip through they have to convert your paper ticket to a card, take your picture, and have you sign your card.
- As always, I only recommend staying at a deluxe resort if you have time to fully enjoy the resort!!
- We had five nights and four day park hopper tickets in Disneyland. The parks were extremely crowded and we really used all of that time to be able to take mid-day breaks and fully enjoy our time. Could it all be done in two days? No, not ALL. At least not when the crowd level is 10. If you had favorite rides and wouldn’t be upset over missing a show, then probably yes. We were glad we had all of that time!
I’m sure y’all have tons more questions and I would love to answer them!! Just post them in the comments!!
I hope y’all enjoyed the blow by blow of our Disneyland trip for John’s 10th birthday. It was wonderful and many, many memories were made. It will surely be a long, long time before we cross the country again, but I know we will be back one day!
We left Disneyland for Hawaii on Saturday afternoon!! A pit stop at In-N-Out and we were wheels up in the air for the last leg of our trip!!!! This time the littles were thrilled to get a whole meal on the plane :-)