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  • Writer's pictureHonest Hotel Reviews

Disney's Grand Californian - An Honest Review

Disney’s Grand Californian is the shining star of the Disney owned hotels at the Disneyland resort…and the price is also out of this world. Stay tuned to find out if the Perks and Pizzazz is really worth the price in this honest hotel review.

I am FINALLY getting this review out. As some of you may know, I stayed here before the pandemic and have also stayed here since things have started opening up, so I’ve been struggling with how to put this review out when SO MUCH has changed…In this review, I'll share the ups & downs of my stay in 4 categories: Overall Experience, Room, Hotel Amenities & Value. PLUS find out if I’d stay here again, if I’d recommend this hotel and specifically who I’d recommend it to.

***NOTE: If you aren't a big Disney fan and you are used to high end hotels, this might not be the best hotel for you. You might want to try The Westin Anaheim, the JW Marriott or the Raddison Blu.***

"...This hotel DELIVERS on its name’s promise…it’s Disney, it’s Grand and it’s Californian..."

Overall Experience: 5/5!!!! (This doesn't often happen...I'm really picky)

I’ve walked through the Grand Californian more times than I can count but NOTHING can describe the feeling of excitement Ben & I had walking through those beautiful stained glass doors into the expansive lobby as first time guests. I’m gunna cut straight to the cake here! Even though it’s not without it’s downfalls (especially where the price is concerned) we had one of our best Disneyland vacation experiences staying here. This hotel DELIVERS on its name’s promise: it’s Disney, it’s Grand and it’s Californian, in a redwood forest kind of way.

As the pinnacle hotel of the Disneyland Resort, you expect it to be the best of their three hotels across the board and it doesn’t disappoint. Like the Disneyland and Paradise Pier hotels, there’s a list of amenities and a certain magic that you really don’t get anywhere else, but this hotel has its own entrance to both California Adventure Park and Downtown Disney. This is the one hotel at the entire resort that made me feel like I was constantly and totally immersed in the magic.

***NOTE: Due to the pandemic, things are changing pretty regularly. Everything is coming back slowly but its always a good idea to check the current offerings/regulations before you book and before you leave for your trip. Check out Disneyland's current page on important changes & updates for their hotels: ***

A view from above the guest services and bell services counter

There is something to be said for the attention to detail in all of the decor that sets the stage for you as you walk in to the lobby. From the handcrafted wood pieces, the various hidden Mickeys, the giant fireplace with wooden rocking chairs that welcome you in, to the Pianist playing nostalgic Disney classics at the grand piano, this place strikes all the right chords in my grown up Disney heart (which weirdly wants sophistication with a hint of silliness at the same time).

The holidays bring an extra level of magic with carollers and Christmas trees or a giant edible halloween displays, there really is no place like it here.

The thing about our experience that really stands out in my mind is the sheer level of Resort Immersion. It doesn’t get any better than this at the Disneyland Resort. This is the ONLY hotel at the Disneyland resort that has a Monorail driving through it. While there is no designated stop for this hotel, the DTD monorail station is a short stroll through DTD…but really, it’s almost the same distance to the Disneyland Esplanade. So unless you are wanting a relaxing and scenic ride into Tomorrowland, you may prefer to just walk. From check in to check out, Ben and I did not leave the property. Because of what the hotel offers, plus you have DTD and California Adventure at your door step, there are so many options for fun & food you really don’t need to leave.

The monorail goes right through the Grand Californian!

We were greeted by a friendly lady at guest services who checked us in and told us our room ready… Here’s a big tip. Ask what the bed set up is in your room. It’s always easier to ask for a different room type at check in than once you’ve already arrived at the room. This is one of the biggest pet peeves I have of the Disneyland resort hotels is you can’t make a request for a King bed or two queen beds when you’re booking online. While some of you may not care, I know I would prefer a king room if it’s Ben & I…but especially if you have 4 guests in the room and you don’t want two people sleeping on a pull out couch, make sure you let the cast member know at check in. As long as you’re willing to wait and they have that availability it shouldn’t be a problem. We asked if there was any chance to wait for a king room even though we were told we would have to wait for one to become available (which we expressed a huge thank you and that were more than willing to wait) by the time she had finished the rest of the check in process a king room had become available. I mean, you’re paying top dollar here.

Now, this hotel is BIG so another tip I should mention is about bell service. There is a bell service desk and a sign telling you where to wait if you need help with your bags, but we didn’t know that until after we had already gone up to our rooms and were never offered it…but it is a big hotel so if you have a lot of bags and your room is far from the lobby I definitely recommend it. I don’t know if it makes me sound stuck up or something, but I like to be offered assistance with my bags without having to ask.

Aside from those few negative things, everything else went smoothly. Every staff member we saw was super friendly and some even recognized us from one day to the next. For those of you who don’t know, keep in mind the Disney Vacation Club sales team in the lobby and throughout the resort will entice you in with stickers and pins for pin trading to try and get you in to one of their show rooms and sales meetings. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m staying this much per night, the last thing I want to do is spend a few hours of my time in a time share presentation.

So I guess the biggest take away I can give you to help improve your experience is to ask for what you want, politely of course.

From start to finish we had a wonderful experience, I mean how can you not?! We had a couple very minor things come up but the good always outweighed the bad that I have yet to have a better overall experience at any of the Disneyland on property hotels.

Room: 4.13/5

The Room is definitely on the smaller side and had all the basic essentials you would expect from a room of this size...but the quality of the furnishings, decor and surrounding made you feel like you were in an enchanted forest. We stayed in a Woods/Courtyard king room and it really was a magical stay. the balcony overlooked a tree filled courtyard with the monorail running right past our room and in the distance we could see Grizzly Peak. The few dollars it cost us to upgrade to this room type was totally worth it and in future visits I will definitely splurge for park view rooms. That said, I have recently stayed here again and paid for the cheapest room possible, but I was upgraded to a park view room (although it was a little too close for comfort since anyone riding Goofy's Sky School could see into my room and a few even waved at me while I was on the patio).

View from my park view room from a different stay...maybe a little too close for comfort?

Not only is this one of the cleanest hotel rooms we’ve stayed in, it also has the most subtly sophisticated Disney theming of all the Resorts. The beautiful Chip and Dale orange tree mural behind bed was stunning and the bed is super comfy. There were other Hidden Mickeys and characters hiding around the room just waiting to be discovered. The bathroom had a beautiful rain shower, a double vanity with great lighting, and Disney’s H20+ toiletries. There was a full sized hair dryer, beautiful terry cloth robes (normally I wouldn't trust a hotel robe...but this is one of the exceptions), a safe that would easily fit a laptop and a fridge that would barely fit a laptop, but seriously don’t put your laptop in the fridge…but it is laughably small.

We ordered room service once while we were there. We had the chicken quesadilla and the forest mushroom pizza. Both were tasty and arrived in a reasonable amount of time and they even gave us a mini tabasco bottle with it which I thought was super cute.

You can also make purchases to be sent to your room. One day Ben took advantage of this and surprised me with a beautiful set of Betsey Johnson Limited edition ears. While I was freshening up for the evening, ben snuck out to our deck and arranged for a set of these ears to be billed to the room and they were hand delivered less than an hour later.

If you are expecting luxury and are used to staying at really high end hotels, this room might feel pretty basic to you, but it is by far the nicest rooms of all the Disneyland Resort Hotels, IMO.

Hotel Amenities: 4/5

***NOTE: Extra Magic Hours and some other Disney hotel guest exclusive perks have been cancelled until further notice due to the pandemic***

A view of some of the pool areas

There are so many amazing amenities at Disney’s grand Californian it’s almost hard to decide where to start. Again, I am putting a huge disclaimer here because the pandemic has affected a lot of these offerings so definitely check the website before you shell out the cash.

The grand Californian pool is one of the most beautiful pool areas in all of anaheim. Period. It’s definitely our favourite so far. With 3 separate pools, the mariposa pool, the redwood pool 90 foot waterslide and the fountain pool two hot tubs and a kids splash pool, this sprawling grotto has so many nooks & crannies you can still manage to find a spot that fits your style.

Whether you’re there for splashing around and screaming down the waterslide or want a calmer more relaxing vibe, there is a place for everyone. Some of the best features of this pool are the super cushy loungers & chairs. I really appreciate that the have so many set up with plenty of umbrellas and side tables as well. If you want a little extra privacy or a spot to claim as your own, there are a number of pool side cabanas and special areas available to rent for a fee.

To help you stay safe they have life guards on duty at all the pools and complimentary lifejackets for your kids and to keep you hydrated they provide water stations too.

Poolside Water Station

If you work up an appetite while swimming & soaking up the sun, their pool side menu serve up food from the Craftsman Bar & Grille. Unfortunately, getting a server can sometimes be a problem. But you can always place a mobile pick up order or just hop in and order it in person which can help save you a couple bucks. We noticed some of the menu items were a couple bucks more ordering poolside versus grabbing them yourself, plus you'll save on tipping.

Craftsman Bar & Grille is a wonderful place to hang out. With lots of comfy leather chairs and bar stools that overlook the pool deck. Other restaurants include StoryTeller’s cafe, a home-style buffet and character dining restaurant, the Hearthstone Lounge, located next to the lobby, but the most renowned of all the restaurants at Disney’s Grand Californian is the award wining, fine dining restaurant, the Napa Rose. As a Disney hotel guest you get preferred access reservations which allows guests access to a limited number of reservations to popular restaurants, but we highly recommend you make your reservations when you cam (reservations open 60 days prior). If you can’t snag a reservation, the lounge at the Napa rose is also fantastic.

If none of these restaurants tickle your tastebuds, the hotel has an entrance to Downtown Disney, so all those great Restaurants are literally at your doorstep.

The Downtown Disney Entrance to the Grand Californian

If you feel the need to work off some of the delicious food, they’ve got you covered. The Eureka Fitness centre has an awesome array of top of the line work out equipment and even offer Peleton bikes. It was super clean & cool and well ventilated and offered a filtered water station, kashi bars and towels. They also offer a number of paid activities like Pilates and stretching but the coolest activities have got to be the paid activities that take you into DCA before it even opens! There's the Rise and Stretch in the Park, Bootcamp in the Park and the Get Up & Go Power Walk. Space is limited so make sure to sign up at the guest services desk in the lobby well in advance. One thing I will say is these activities used to be free....but now they charge extra even though you're already paying an arm and a leg, but they are only available to Disney Hotel Guests.

They have also just opened their brand new Tenaya Stone Spa which can only be booked by Disney hotel guests. Although I have yet to experience it, I've heard good things.

In the lobby there’s a gift shop for Disney paraphernalia and some of your essentials…but they’re all at park prices. Some other great amenities include movie nights under the stars, pin trading events, seasonal music and displays. When you check in be sure to ask about any special events during your stay, but you also have the Disneyland Resort Information channel displayed in your room to keep you up to date on Park hours, special evens and dining tips or just to play sentimental Disney tunes in your room

Here is where they host movies under the stars

There is so much more available that I haven’t even touched on that once you check in you ALMOST won’t need to leave the property…Unfortunately, we can only give them a 4 out of 5 for hotel amenities simply because you are paying Disneyland Park prices for EVERYTHING. From snacks to toiletries to water bottles…If you’re looking for any supplies like non-park food, alcohol or any of your essentials and don’t want to pay an arm and a leg, you’re going to need to leave the Disney Property.

As a Disney hotel guest, Extra Magic Hour is pretty awesome, because it allows you early access to one of the parks every day of the week (again, currently cancelled!) BUT it is also really early, so I would have to say my single favourite amenity exclusive to the Grand Californian is the entrance to Disney’s California Adventure Park. We would often start our day with a quick stroll to the Starbucks in the park for our morning coffee & breakfast. Or end our day with a visit to the Carthay Circle lounge and a fast pass to Soarin’, all which was within a 5 minute walk to our room.

Value: 4/5***

***I am including an HUGE asterisk here because this is the score we gave them assuming all things are in operation and all amenities are available.

Value is a hard category to score for a hotel that is so pricey, but At the end of the day, we had to give them a 4 because of how much is included in the price. Getting the Extra Magic Hours and the service that you just can’t find anywhere else makes it worth the price…once in a while. I know this hotel seems to be priced through the roof and I wouldn’t recommend you stay here all the time. After all, you could stay at three nights at some of our favourite value hotels for the price of one here. But if you’re a die-hard Disney fan, it is a place you should experience at least once in your life. Maybe you save up for a special occasion, or maybe you are planning a weeklong trip and decide to stay at a budget hotel for 4 nights so you can stay here for three.

Overall Rating: 4.13/5

This gives Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa and overall score of 4.13/5. If you're a Disney fanatic and it fits your trip budget to stay here, you should. The experience of being at the foot of Downtown Disney in a Disney operated hotel keeps the magic alive through your whole trip. That said, you might want to save your $$$ until all the value added items (like Extra Magic Hour) return. On the other hand, if you aren't the biggest Disney fan but are looking for a high-end hotel at the Disneyland Resort, you may want to consider staying at The Westin Anaheim, the JW Marriott or the Raddison Blu.

If you want to stay on property but are looking elsewhere just be sure to check what's going on and maybe contact the hotels directly. Both the Disneyland & Paradise Pier hotel will be undergoing construction with the new Disney Vacation Club tower currently being built at the Disneyland Hotel and the Refurb of the Paradise Pier Hotel to the Pixar themed hotel set to start soon.

I’m Julia and this has been another honest hotel review.


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