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Lani Teshima, editor

Disneyland Resort Hotels

Choosing the Best Disneyland On-Property Hotel

January 31, 2001
by Lani Teshima, Trip Planner editor

The new year welcomes not only a brand new, neighboring theme park to Disneyland in Anaheim, but a new Disneyland Resort hotel as well. Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is not only expansive and majestic: it is also the only Resort hotel that is technically "on property" within park grounds. If you are considering staying within the Disneyland Resort, you now have three choices. So... where will you stay?

Early reports are trickling in, and the word on Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is nothing short of spectacular. And while you can enjoy a tour of the hotel even if you are not a guest, part of what makes Grand Californian Hotel a real standout is service.

Grand Californian
Grand Californian lobby.

"I think the level at which you are treated, in general, at the Grand Californian Hotel is on par with Concierge [-level service] at the Disneyland Hotel," reports fellow MousePlanet columnist Sue Kruse, who had an opportunity to stay at the Grand Californian during one of her preview visits to the new theme park. "You are treated like royalty from the moment you drive up, to the moment you leave." (You can read her complete hotel review here on MousePlanet.)

This sentiment is echoed by long-time Disneyland visitor Lyn Campbell, a quality analysis director for an Internet company in Northern California, who raved about her three-night stay at the Grand Californian earlier this year.

From parking lot valet to check-in clerk to housekeeping staff, Lyn reports that her experience was wonderful. While all cast members (cast members) who work at Disney facilities are trained to provide a high level of service to park and hotel guests, Lyn reports that the staff at the Grand Californian are especially motivated to improve the guest's experience.

Grand Californian room
Grand Californian room

A relative of Lyn's, who works at the Grand Californian, passed along an interesting tidbit of information: At the Grand Californian, cast members are empowered to facilitate in their areas of responsibility, cast members have wide latitude on what they can do to keep guests happy. For this reason, the cast members really feel that they are an integral part of the guests' experience.

This philosophy certainly applied in Sue's experience. "At the front gate I was greeted warmly and by name," Sue said. "My car door was opened for me and they emptied my trunk of luggage and tried to carry everything in for me. I say tried because I only had a small suitcase and a gift bag of stuff to carry in. I think I practically gave them apoplexy when I carried my stuff and didn't let them... I have never, ever been treated like that. I felt as if I was a millionaire and they were catering to my every whim."

All of this empowered service sounds wonderful, but at what price? According to Jennifer Rich, a California State Automobile Association travel counselor and wife of MousePlanet system engineer Andrew Rich, prices for the Grand Californian Hotel vary widely by season and type of room. However, at roughly $250, even the lowest-cost, one-night stay is at least $70 more per night than a comparable standard room in either the Paradise Pier Hotel or Disneyland Hotel. A stay in a room with any sort of view (for example, of the new Disney's California Adventures park) quickly bumps up the price. Prices currently top out at roughly $600 per night for an upgraded room in the Concierge Level.

If exceptional service is not worth the extra $70 per night, what else is available at the Grand Californian? As a four-star resort accommodation with all of its hotel amenities (see side bar for details), it is possible for you to have an enjoyable stay without even setting foot in either of the theme parks. In fact, Lyn noted that there is a very distinct lack of Disney characters at the Grand Californian. Unlike the other two "on-property" hotels, the architecture and interior decorating is done in early Californian; you would be hard-pressed to find too many Mickey Mouse ears (even hidden ones). She did note that there was a very subtle use of Mouse ears on the toiletry bottles in her room.

Grand Californian gate to DCA
Grand Californian gate to DCA

Guests at the Grand Californian also have exclusive access to a separate gate for entering DCA. MouseShoppe keeper and MousePlanet columnist Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix notes that since Grand Californian Hotel is the only "on-property hotel" that is technically on property, it has a completely different feeling to it than the other on-property hotels. Adrienne likens this feeling to staying on property at WDW, even though Grand Californian Hotel is within sight of the other hotels.

In addition, guests who stay at Grand Californian Hotel as part of a package receive extra perks that are hard to quantify or purchase separately. These include one "any-time" FastPass per person that can be used at either DCA or Disneyland as well as the ability to hop between parks in a single day. The latter is familiar for visitors of Walt Disney World in Orlando. Without a park-hopper pass, visitors staying in nearby hotels who purchase traditional Flex Passports will discover that they are only allowed admission into one park per day. Done with your California Adventure at 3pm and wish to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean? You're out of luck, unless you're a premium two-park annual passholder, an on-property hotel guest with a park-hopper pass, or you're willing to give up an extra full day's admission on your Flex Passport.

The main Disney store at the Disneyland Hotel was shut down when the area around the Disneyland Monorail station went into major construction for Downtown Disney, with a similar store opening inside the Disneyland Hotel shortly thereafter. Unfortunately for Disneyland Hotel guests, the store took the place of the old expansive lobby. Ever since that time, guests have missed the leisurely pleasure of being able to sit in a large lobby. With the opening of the Grand Californian Hotel, guests can now enjoy a centralized lobby that is also an impressive piece of work.

Grand Californian fireplace
Grand Californian fireplace

With a large fireplace on one side and hallways that open up into wooden balconies that overlook the lobby on all floors, this is a lobby in which to truly rest your feet. Watch empowered cast members create lifetime memories for their guests. Listen to the storyteller cast member tell tall tales to excited children and tired parents. Relax.

Is all this worth the extra price? The answer depends on your budget, tastes, and desire for the experience. In fact, how you decide is very similar to the way you decide whether upgrading to a Concierge Level at a Disneyland Resort hotel is worth the extra price. Do you wish to have a truly sumptuous experience of an exclusive on-property resort, where cast members are personally empowered to ensure that you have a great stay? Does that make a difference when you might only spend a dozen hours total in your room?

The Paradise Pier Hotel overlooks DCA
The Paradise Pier Hotel overlooks California Adventure

Interestingly enough, Jennifer Rich notes an anecdotal observation in her reservation patterns. According to Jennifer, families who are interested in being on-property but trying to stay within budget seem to be requesting a stay at the Paradise Pier Hotel. Those on the opposite end of the spectrum, who wish to spend the extra money for a lavish experience, are instead requesting reservations for the Grand Californian Hotel.

Where does this leave the Disneyland Hotel? No longer able to offer its once-large lobby, its popular Monorail Cafe, or its bungalow rooms, it's quite possible that the original may be headed into a new era of declining popularity. Perhaps this will prompt Disney to consider slashing prices on room rates, and thus drawing guests away from neighboring off-property hotels. Perhaps.

But then again, perhaps not.

Which hotel at Disneyland?

Grand Californian at a Glance

A four-star deluxe resort hotel in early California style. Number of rooms: 750 (all with balconies)

In-Room Amenities:
• Safe (fits laptops)
• Lighted closet
• 2-line phone, w/ data port
• Iron & ironing board
• Stocked mini-fridge (extra charge for items)
• Coffee maker
• Portable crib (by request)
• Robes (child size by request)

Bathroom Amenities:
• Italian marble double vanity
• Make-up mirror
• Hair dryer
• Full complement of Grand Californian Hotel-branded toiletries

2 Presidential suites:
• El Capitan Suite in style of Frank Lloyd Wright
• Mount Whitney Suite in style of Greene & Greene

2 Vice Presidential suites:
• Arcadia Suite in style of Frank Lloyd Wright
• Arroyo Suite in style of Greene & Greene

34 Artisan suites

Hotel Services:
• Private, staffed Concierge Lounge
• 24-hour room service
• Evening turndown service
• Same-day or overnight laundry & dry clean
• Full-service business center
• Express check-out
• Evening child activity facility
• 24-hour valet parking
• Daily newspaper delivery

Dining Facilities:
• Napa Rose: California cuisine, seats 200
• Storytellers Cafe: Family dining, contemporary American cuisine. Breakfast buffet. Seats 290.
• Hearthstone Lounge: Coffee and cocktail lounge with easy chairs and fireplace.
• White Water Snacks: Poolside self-serve snack bar.

Rest & Relaxation:
• Fountain Pool (quiet)
• Redwood Pool w/ slide (active pool)
• Kids' pool in the shape of Mickey Mouse
• 2 spas
• 2 massage rooms
• Dry & steam sauna
• Full locker facilities
• Elities (20,000 sq. ft. total)
• Executive boardroom
• 12,000 sq. ft. Sequoia Ballroom divisible by 8
• 7 breakout rooms


Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).


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