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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Paradise Pier Hotel overlooks
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
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
But then again, perhaps not.
Californian at a Glance
A four-star deluxe resort hotel in early California style.
Number of rooms: 750 (all with balconies)
Safe (fits laptops)
2-line phone, w/ data port
Iron & ironing board
Stocked mini-fridge (extra charge for items)
Portable crib (by request)
Robes (child size by request)
Italian marble double vanity
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
Private, staffed Concierge Lounge
24-hour room service
Evening turndown service
Same-day or overnight laundry & dry clean
Full-service business center
Evening child activity facility
24-hour valet parking
Daily newspaper delivery
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
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 massage rooms
Dry & steam sauna
Full locker facilities
Elities (20,000 sq. ft. total)
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, Alexour MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinatorattend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).