Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Review

Finding a hotel that you like requires you to do a lot of research ahead of time and trying out more than one hotel. The best thing to consider when you are trying to look for the right hotel for you is: what is most important to you? What are some of the amenities that you would like the hotel to have? Some people would prefer to have an indoor pool for the kids to play in. Some might like to have a hotel that has spa facilities. 

Others just need a bed to sleep on for the night and nothing else. It is essential to know what you to are wanting in a hotel. If you are not picky, then this process will be easy. However, if you are like me, there are some extra amenities when you are on vacation. These amenities are why I love Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa!

Things You Need to Know Beforehand

While the Grand Californian is a great hotel option, there are some downsides that guests should be aware of before making their decision to stay here. One crucial thing to note about this hotel everything is going to be significantly more expensive. For example, this hotel can go up to almost three times more in price than the neighboring hotels around Disneyland for the same kind of room. 

For most people, this is a big pill to swallow. However, if you are continually on the lookout for deals and are flexible with possible vacation date changes, you might be able to find a discounted price. Parking at Grand Californian is about twenty-five dollars for self-parking per day and is located across the street from the hotel. One amenity that this Disney hotel offers is valet parking for an extra ten dollars a day. Whereas a non-Disney hotel self-parking per day is only ten dollars. 

If you are going to be using self-parking at the Grand Californian, beware that while there will be a parking spot, it might be hard to find. The chance of getting a remotely close parking spot to the street are very slim because there is at least a hundred other guest staying at the hotel. If you want to stay at this hotel, it is best to book as soon as possible because a lot of time, their standard room sells out very quickly depending on what time of the year you are vacationing.

Another thing to note about this hotel, like most Disney hotel rooms, there is no microwave in the room. There is a rumor that there is a microwave somewhere in the lobby of the hotel. However, I have not seen them around or use them myself. Lastly, something to note is some of the restaurants at the Grand Californian require reservations beforehand, so you will need to book before your vacation.  

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Theme

One thing that I love about Disney hotels is the different themes that they have. There are never two of the same, but they all have a Disney feel to them. When the Grand Californian built in 2001, the creators wanted the recreate the famous Yosemite National Park Resort and while still incorporating Disney elements to it. When you first enter the hotel, there is a larger than life automatic door that opens up to the lobby. The door is made out of stained glass and has a picture of the well-known DCA grizzly bear mountain and a scene of the woods etched and painted on it. 

In the massive lobby area, there are comfy chairs and couches that people can sit and relax in at any time of the day. Throughout the hotel, there are exposed rafters, a lot of detailed wood and stone, and old fashion modern woodsy architecture. It may not seem like it, but if you take time to look into the detail of the hotel, you will find some Disney elements that they have incorporated into the theme. For example, some of the lamps in the lobby have Disney characters on them and specific places around the Grand Californian you can find hidden Mickeys. 

Even the restaurants around the hotel have a similar theme that the hotels has right down to the characters at the character dining events where Mickey Mouse dresses in his explorer outfit. The rooms are also beautifully themed like the lobby, and in every guest room, there are California inspired the artwork. Incorporated in the art around the rooms are different Disney characters such as Bambi’s friends and Chip ‘n Dale.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Service

When you see this massive Disney hotel, it is like you stepped into a beautiful rustic lodge resort. As soon as you drive up to the hotel’s entrance, cast members are right there waiting to open your car door for you, welcome you, and direct you to the check-in front desk. They will even take all your luggage out of the car and bring it inside the hotel for you. Depending on what time of day it is and how busy the hotel is, there will be another cast member to welcome you and direct you to an open front desk worker. 

If they are swamped and there is no one to take you right way at the front desk, the cast member will stand and wait with you. They are very friendly and will answer any questions that you might have before checking in. Upon checking in, the hotel cast member will walk you through how to get to the two parks, where your room is, and tell you about the extra magic morning available. They will also give you your park tickets. After you have successfully checked it, there usually will be someone around to ask you if you need help getting your luggage to your room. 

However, keep in mind with all this help with your bags means that there will be a lot of tips that you will have to be handing out, and if that cost extra, I would rather carry my own bags. Night or day, there is always someone to help you at the front desk with any questions that you might have, and they are quick to get you answers. 

The numerous times that my family has stayed at the Grand Californian, there has never once been a cast member who was unkind or rude to us. Also, another small bonus to staying at this hotel is that if you arrive earlier than check-in, all you have to do is give them your phone number, and they will text you when your room is ready! 

One downside, but it is for every hotel, is that if you go early to the parks for that magic hour and you come back to your room around early afternoon, your room may not be cleaned up. However, this happens at all hotels, not just this one, but it is just something to keep in mind. Another FYI would be that depending on who is in the guard shack at the self-parking lot. They may ask you what room number you are staying in to verify that you are staying at the hotel. This happened to us, but it was a long time ago and only happened once.  

Advantages of Staying at Disney’s Grand Californian

One of the perks of staying at the Grand Californian is that you get one early magic hour for one of the parks, no matter what kind of ticket you have. With the early magic hour, it means that you can beat the crowds and ride Radiator Springs Racers! The lobby area is great if you want to take a moment to relax from all that walking in the park, and there is a children’s area where they are always playing some Disney show or movie. 

When I was small, having a pool was a treat for us. At the Grand Californian, there is not one but three pools! Now that I am an adult, I always feel like pools are for the kids, but with three pools, there is one for everyone to enjoy. Each of the pools has a rustic theme that matches the hotel, and each of them is different. The Fountain Pool is close to the Storyteller’s Café that has a turtle fountain in the middle. 

With a twist and turn ninety-foot redwood tree slide, you will have your kids begging for more time at the pool. This pool is called the Redwood Pool. There is also a children’s pool, more for the littler kids, and a hot tub located close by the Redwood Pool. The pool is perfect if you have older and young children because you will not have to be far away from either of them. Last but not least, there is the Mariposa Pool. This pool is more gear for the adults who want to relax in the sun or take a dip in the pool. There are also poolside cabanas that you can rent if you are looking for some privacy and luxury. 

One of the advantages of staying at Disney’s Grand Californian is that there are quite a few different dining experiences that are available only a few steps away from your room! The Napa Rose is one of their most highly rated and recommended signature dinning, not only for Disneyland, but also considered to be one of the best places to eat in Anaheim. The inspiration for the Napa Rose comes from Napa, California, better known as wine country. Chef Andrew Sutton, a longtime award-winning chef, is the creator behind this top-rated restaurant’s menu, giving us delectable flavors, artistic dishes, and perfected wine pairings. Higher-end dining means a higher-end dinner check. 

However, this restaurant comes highly rated from countless guests and hires only the best chefs. If you prefer more casual dining, there is the Napa Rose Lounge, where you can order the appetizers, drinks, and desserts. It is a comfier area to relax and unwind that requires no reservations. Aside from the main dining, there is what is called the Chef’s Corner. 

The Chef’s Corner is where people get to enjoy watching the chefs prepare and cook their meal right in front of them. In the mornings, there is a special princess character breakfast perfect for kids to see their favorite Disney princess without waiting in those long lines. 

A great place to grab a quick bite to eat is at the Grand Californian Bar and Grill located next to the pool area. At this location, guests can order something for every meal of the day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want to head back up to your room or sit out next to the pool, ordering at the Grand Californian Bar & Grill is very convenient. They have food options that the whole family will love from burgers to tacos. 

Also, the prices, considering you are at Disneyland, are pretty fair, taking into account how much food you will be getting. The White Water Snacks is a quick service where there are different food selections to choose from, and is one of my favorites. Another upside to this quick service is they offer mobile ordering for your convenience. You can buy some tasty snacks and bottled drinks to take back to your room or into the parks. One great thing to know about is the prices at this snack shack are cheaper than in the parks, so make sure to stop in there before heading into the parks. 

 Some extra perks that guests of this hotel get to participate in are exclusively for this Disney hotel. For example, there is the Get Up & Go Power walk where guests can enter Disney’s California Adventure park before opening hours to walk around the two miles through the DCA. There is no fee for this activity, but you are required to sign up beforehand. 

A great family perk that the Grand Californian offers is a scavenger hunt for children between the ages of three to twelve called the Grand Quest. The scavenger hunt will have you and your family searching around the entire hotel gathering clues and unearthing secrets. At the end of this hunt, you will receive a special reward for all your hard work. This activity is free for all.  All you have to do see a cast member at the front desk for your instructions. 

If you are someone who likes to buy a lot of souvenirs but does not want to lug them all over the park for the entire day, as a guest of the hotel, you will be able to send the items you buy back to the hotel.   

Why I Love Disney’s Grand Californian

Disney’s Grand Californian opened in 2001. However, it was not until 2014 that I stayed there. Ever since then, every trip that we take to Disneyland, we always stay at the Grand Californian. I am the sort of person who is always looking for good deals and find it hard to cough up a lot of money for mostly everything. Nevertheless, when it comes to deciding what hotel to choose when taking a trip to Disneyland, I will always choose the Grand Californian even though it is costly. 

One of the reasons I love this hotel is because of how close it is to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. The Grand Californian is right in DCA. There is a private entrance to the park specifically for the Disney hotel’s guest. This entrance is excellent because the security and ticketing gate is much shorter than the access that the general public has. Also, there is another entrance that opens up right into Downtown Disney. I love this because, after a long day of walking, it is nice not having to walk a long way back to the hotel or sit and wait to get on a crowded bus to get back to the hotel. 

When you go to any of the Disney hotels or parks, it is like you step into a different world. It is almost like a movie set. The attention to detail that the architects have in the construction of these buildings is another reason I love the Grand Californian. Disney always goes all out with making whatever theme they have. From the big chandeliers to the desk lamps, the theming is without exception spot on. You can tell that this a five-star hotel, some of the hotels around the Disney park are not as nice as Grand Californians in terms of room updates, but they also are only two or three-star hotels. 

Another pro in my book is there is a lot of food options close by. Downtown Disney has a lot of different food options from Rainforest Cafe to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. The Storyteller’s Café is another dining option at the DGC, which many people are in love with. One of the favorite things about this place is that it is an all you can eat buffet! One of the tasty breakfast foods they offer is their iconic Mickey Mouse waffles! The buffet also has a various selection of breakfast items like:

  • Eggs
  • Scones
  • Bacon
  • Biscuits & Gravy
  • And so much more! 

In addition to the massive amounts of food that you will be eating, you will also be getting a visit from some of your favorite Disney characters. During your breakfast or brunch, you will get to take pictures and one on one time with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Minnie Mouse, and some other beloved Disney characters. The Storyteller’s café has been reviewed by numerous people as the best character breakfast at Disneyland

Furthermore, it is worth noting that you will not have to go through security to get to the Downtown area. Also, Disney’s Grand Californian has some great food right inside the hotel, so there’s no need to even step out of the hotel. During the nighttime, some movies playing around the hotel for guests to take pleasure in. You will be able to choose between two different locations, one location will take place inside the hotel, and the other will be played outside under the stars!  

Do I wish the prices were lower? Definitely. Is it worth paying three times more than a neighboring hotel? For me, it is. It might not work for other people. You have to know what for you personally take priority in finding a hotel.

Final Thoughts

If you have never stayed at the Grand Californian, let me encourage you to indulge just once. Yes, it is a lot of money, but for the many advantages and perks that you get from staying at this hotel, I believe that the price is worth it!If you want to get the most out of your stay, I encourage you to take advantage of all the extra perks that the hotel has to offer. For example, the scavenger hunt or the luxury pools. 

There are over 948 rooms in this five-star hotel, from standard sized rooms to signature suites that have up to three bedrooms. In 2020 the Grand Californian will be opening the Tenaya Stone Spa, where guests can take a break from the busiest of the park. Services include salon services, massages, and facials.

On a scale of one to ten, I would give Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa a nine.

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