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  • Writer's pictureTara Wilson

Hotel Guide: Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa!

POV: You spent your whole day having a blast at one of California's Disney theme parks, and are now strolling through the downtown shopping area towards the tram stop, only to find yourself waiting in a long line - tired and dreading the long drive back home. You turn around, and see a grand, luxurious timberline hotel behind you, and wonder how awesome it would be to stay in such a place so close to both the theme parks and Downtown Disney.


Well, my friend, wonder no more because your girl got to stay there for her birthday last December and can tell you all about it! And yes, it was magical and everything I had hoped it would be!


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I'm sure it's amazing all year round, but going in December was even more magical because in pure Disney fashion, the hotel was completely decked out for the holidays. With its rustic decor and architecture, I honestly felt like we had been transported to a big mountain lodge, complete with an enormous Christmas tree and warm fire.


Christmas tree in the lobby of the Grand Californian

The Grand Californian is the most conveniently located hotel among all of the Disneyland Resort properties; with its own entrance to California Adventure and another leading directly to Downtown Disney, the Grand Californian puts you smack dab in the heart of all the action.


Navigating this Blog Post:



Check In & Check Out

I love how convenient Disney has made the check in & check out process for their hotels through their apps. For the California locations, I highly recommend downloading the Disneyland app! (For Florida, you'd use the Disney World app instead). It's free to download and you can keep all of your helpful info in one place, including your hotel reservations!


Though check-in isn't until 3pm, you can check in through the app (you should also receive an email that prompts you to check in) before then. I love the convenience of this, because my boyfriend and I like to partake in Early Entry (more on that below!), so we check in first thing in the morning and head to California Adventure, and we'll get a notification if our room is ready before 3pm.


If you don't have any special requests or needs, then you can just check in through the app and once you get a room number after 3pm, you can head to your room and there'll be a digital key feature on the app that will unlock your door.


If you do have special requests or needs, or you'd prefer physical room keys, then it's best to stop by the registration desk and speak to someone about checking in. For early check-in, sometimes it doesn't hurt to go to the front desk in person and ask if the room is ready early. By 1pm, we hadn't been notified if our room was ready yet, so we went to the lobby just to check, and they said our room was good to go! Yay!


Checking out is also just as easy - simply check-out in the app and you're all set!


Entrance to the Grand Californian from Downtown Disney

Early Entry

Did you know that guests staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel can enter a theme park 30 minutes before they officially open? That makes staying at this hotel even more convenient, especially if you're going to California Adventure!


In order to enjoy this perk, you have to have a theme park ticket and park reservation for the same day that you're checked in and staying at a Disneyland hotel. For example, if I'm staying at the Grand Californian on March 1st, and I have a theme park ticket & reservation for March 1st, even though my room won't officially be ready until 3pm, as long as I'm checked in for my hotel reservation on my app, I can enter the park at 7:30am (the parks open at 8am). Definitely link your park ticket & reservation to your hotel reservation in the app, so when you're going through security and entering the theme park, you can conveniently show them your ticket & hotel reservation.


Not every single attraction will be open in both parks, but a great deal of them will be - check out this page to see what will be open during Early Entry!


Entrance to the Grand Californian from California Adventure

Parking at the hotel and going through the Grand Californian's entrance into California Adventure during Early Entry was amazing!! So convenient, no line at security, and once we got into the park, we were able to walk right on to Soarin'! We then walked right on to the Incredicoaster, and got to the Cars ride right as it opened. So worth it!!



Parking


Self-parking for the Grand Californian is super easy to get to - it's located on the opposite side of Disneyland Drive from the hotel's entrance, on the same side as Paradise Pier. Since our room was booked through DVC (Disney Vacation Club) points, self-parking was free with our reservation!


Otherwise, the pricing for hotel parking per vehicle and per night (not including tax) is: self-parking is $35, valet is $65 and oversized vehicle parking is $40.


Seating in the lobby for the kiddos while you check in

The very first time we stayed here (before I started this blog), it was around Thanksgiving, and we walked our luggage from self-parking to the lobby only to find that the Bell Desk was over-packed with luggage...it was definitely going to be a while before we could check in our bags. Since we arrived early hoping to leave our bags at the Bell Desk and head into the park, we decided to walk our luggage all the way back to our car, and then walk back to the theme park. This also meant that once our room was ready, we had to walk all the way back to the car to then walk back with our luggage...again.



That's why this time, we decided to leave our bags in the car and head into the park, and we wouldn't get our bags until we knew for sure our room was ready. We didn't want to risk walking in with our luggage and seeing the Bell Desk backed up again, and with all the food we were eating, we honestly didn't mind the extra steps!


However, I know this can be inconvenient for some families, so I've read that instead of going straight to self-parking, you can drive to the front entrance through valet and let them know that you're planning to self park, you'd just like to drop off your bags at the Bell Desk and check in, and you should be able to do that with no problem.


Just a heads up - when you walk from self-parking to the hotel, there is a gate at the walkway that requires an active hotel key for entry. We've never had a problem getting through before we had our room keys, though. There's almost always someone already walking through that you can walk in with, and if you do happen to get stopped, just show your hotel reservation.



The Hotel Room: Deluxe Studio Villa


There is a section of the Grand Californian called the Villas that is designated for DVC members, and that's where we stayed: in a Deluxe Studio DVC room!



The room was so spacious, clean, and just perfect for a one night stay for the two of us! It came with a queen bed and a queen-size pull-out sofa bed, a dining table with two chairs, flat screen tv, kitchenette, and a balcony with its own two chairs and small bistro table.



I liked that there was plenty of space underneath the bed to store suitcases and keep them out of the way!



The kitchenette had a microwave, coffee maker, toaster, mini fridge, glassware & ice bucket, as well as some cabinet space for whatever groceries you may bring with you during your stay.


Ours was a regular coffee maker, but I did read that many of the hotel rooms at the Grand Californian were renovated a few years ago, and now they have Keurig pod coffee makers. Apparently the DVC villas didn't go through quite the same update, so if you're staying in a DVC room and not a standard hotel room, you might have a regular coffee maker instead of a Keurig. However, this didn't bother us! There's a Starbucks Reserve just steps from the hotel's Downtown Disney entrance that we love to visit!



The DVC Deluxe Studio also comes with a full bathroom, separate sink area, and a closet with two full mirrors on the closet doors. The closet has an iron & ironing board, laundry basket, and my favorite...Grand Californian hotel robes!!


These robes were thick & so cozy!! You can't take them with you, but you can purchase one in the hotel gift shop as a souvenir!


The DVC Office at the Grand Californian

I did read some reviews saying they wished the DVC villas had been renovated & updated like the standard hotel rooms. However, we didn't feel like our room was in any immediate need of renovations. Maybe it added to the coziness of it all, but we loved our room and it was perfect for our one-night stay.


The next morning before we checked out, we received a call from the DVC saying they had a little gift for us! On our way out, we stopped by the DVC office on the first floor and they had a little bag full of goodies for us to take home. It's the little things like this, and the personalized "Welcome Home" message on the tv when you first walk into your room, that makes Disney stand out from the rest.



Room Service & Dining


I always love to check out the room service menus at hotels because nothing says vacation quite like luxury robes and room service in bed, am I right? However, with all of the incredible restaurants within the hotel, Downtown Disney, and the parks, we decided to go out instead of order in this time.


Though we didn't order room service, I was pleased to see that the Grand Californian does offer in-room dining, since there was no in-room dining offered at a couple of the Disney World Resort hotels we've stayed at. It's not offered 24/7, but you can enjoy room service breakfast from 6am-11am and dinner from 5:30pm to midnight. Here are pictures of the Grand Californian room service menu offered during our stay (December 2022), just click on the photo to expand or zoom in.

As far as extra charges go for the in-room dining, the menu says that all orders are subject to "local sales tax, 19.5% service charge and $3.00 delivery charge."


We usually eat at a restaurant in either the parks or Downtown Disney for dinner since they're so close, but we have eaten at the GCH Craftsman Bar several times for lunch by the pool, and we've loved the food every time. Our favorite to share was the Charcuterie Artisanal Pizza (pepperoni, prosciutto, salami, Italian sausage, Grana Padano & aged provolone cheeses, arugula, and fire-roasted tomatoes). Delicious!! Also, you don't have to be a guest of the hotel to dine at one of its restaurants, if you wanted to check them out the next time you're at Disney!


The GCH Craftsman Bar by the Pool

Other restaurants in the Grand Californian:


To see a list of restaurants in Downtown Disney, click here!


To see a list of restaurants in the Disneyland Hotel, click here!


I do highly recommend making dinner reservations in advance. We went on a weekday during the first part of December and by early afternoon couldn't find an open dinner reservation anywhere. We had really hoped to eat in California Adventure or the hotel that night, but hadn't made a reservation since we weren't sure when or what we would want to eat for dinner. We ended up going to the Uva Bar in Downtown Disney since they had the shortest wait - still good, but we go there often and had wanted to try something different. Definitely make a reservation in advance if you have your heart set on somewhere specific to eat!



Amenities


There are three themed outdoor pools (Mariposa, Fountain, and Redwood), with two whirlpool spas and a 90-foot waterslide! There are plenty of lounge chairs in the pool area, as well as pool-side cabanas available to reserve, that come with a flat panel tv, mini fridge, an electric fan, personal assistance from a cast member, and more!


There is a fitness center on the first floor, as well as a variety of fitness classes offered among the Disneyland Resort hotels. For those looking for a more relaxing experience, be sure to check out the luxurious, full-service Tenaya Stone Spa!



There's also a patio area on the sixth floor, where you have a great view of California Adventure, which looks pretty incredible at night!!



Be sure to check in at the front desk about activities that are going on around the hotel during your stay - during the holidays, sometimes there's a treats cart in the lobby where you can purchase holiday goodies and enjoy them by the fireplace!



Overview


If you're willing to splurge on a Disneyland Resort hotel over the holidays, the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is totally worth it. It doesn't get any more convenient than your hotel having its own entrance to both a theme park and the Downtown Disney area! Recreation-wise, there's so much to see & do at this location, but you're still close enough to the other Disney hotels to walk over & check them out if you'd like.


Christmas Decorations in Downtown Disney

The other resort hotels may be nice to stay during other parts of the year, since they're usually less expensive, and though they're a bit further away than the Grand Californian, the weather should be nice enough to walk. However, the Grand Californian's architecture & decor immediately transport you to a cozy winter getaway, making it a romantic & magical place to be during the holidays.


In all honesty, the Grand Californian is the most expensive out of the Disneyland Resort hotels, and is definitely a splurge. The rooms that haven't been renovated might not feel as if they're worth the price or are lacking the "luxury" factor. However, I feel like the majority of the price is paying for the location and the grandeur of what the Grand Californian has to offer.


It was pretty convenient that our hotel room was so close to California Adventure - it took us no time to walk back and forth from the room. We could head into the park during the day when it was warm, and then walk back and get layers as it started to get chilly at night, without needing to carry them with us all day.


If the Disneyland hotels are a bit out of your price range but you'd still like to stay close to the magic, my other favorite place to stay is the new Westin Anaheim resort - it's within walking distance (as opposed to most hotels that are over a mile away), and still luxurious without being quite as expensive as the resort hotels. To read more about our stay at the Westin, click here!


To quickly compare rates, I've input the hotel into these three links: Hotels.com, Tripadviser and Expedia, to help you find the best deal! You can also fill out the form below!



Helpful Hotel Facts


  • Check in: 3pm (you can technically check in at any time, but rooms aren't guaranteed to be ready before 3pm)

  • Check out: 11am

  • Pets: Disneyland Resort hotels don't allow pets - however, they do allow service animals. For more info, click here for Disney's Guest Information phone number.

  • Discounts & Offers: for a full list of applicable discounts & offers, click here!

  • Resort Fee: none! The resort fee is included in the rate for the room.

  • In-Room Celebrations: Click here to see what gifts you can pre-order to have waiting for you in your hotel room!

  • Next Day Package Delivery: Instead of carrying around your Disney purchases all day, have them delivered to your hotel instead! You just shop & pay at the store, and they'll deliver it to your hotel the next day! Click here for more information!

  • Smoking: the Grand Californian is strictly a non-smoking hotel, however there are designated areas outside where you are free to smoke.

  • Airport Transportation: Unfortunately, unlike the Disney World Resort hotels in Florida, there are no complimentary airport shuttles for the Disney Resort hotels in California. However, besides ride share and public transportation, click here for some shuttle services Disney recommends.

  • Theme Park Transportation: The theme parks are within walking distance from the Grand Californian, so shuttles can't get you closer to the park entrances than you already are by being at the hotel. However, there is a monorail stop in Downtown Disney that goes directly into Tomorrowland in Disneyland.


Have you gotten to stay at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels? Let me know in the comments which is your favorite! I'd love to hear what you think!

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