Are you starting to plan your Disneyland vacation and are wondering if Disneyland hotels are really extra magical? Get the scoop on the Disney Grand Californian Hotel, which has a private entrance into Disney California Adventure Park.
This Disney Grand Californian review was written by Disneyland travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
I’ve had the Disney Grand Californian Hotel on my Disneyland bucket list for YEARS. I just kept getting sticker shock, which is why we haven’t stayed there in the past.
But, life is short and my family figured we’d just take the plunge and see if it’s the Grand Californian is worth the hype (and the high cost).
We spent 4 days here (including a full resort day) and these are our honest thoughts.
Where is the Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
The Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is located at 1600 South Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92803.
It’s the closest Disney hotel to the parks (it even has a private entrance into Disney California Adventure) and it’s just steps away from Downtown Disney.
What Was Check-In Like?
We grabbed an Uber from the Santa Ana airport and got to the hotel within about 20 minutes. I was actually able to check into the hotel using my Disneyland app and get a digital room key.
They dropped us right off at the hotel entrance and bell services offered to grab our luggage.
Since we didn’t overpack (which was shocking) we just carried our bags over to the check-in desk so we could get tangible keys. There was a staff member there directing people to the right counter.
Then, we just headed straight to the room. It was super easy and fast!
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Disneyland blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Disneyland with kids.
Where to Stay at Disneyland
- Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (it’s expensive but has a private entrance to Disney California Adventure)
- Howard Johnson Hotel & Water Playground (the water park is pretty fabulous)
- Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance (amazing water park and has bunk beds)
- Fairfield by Marriott Anaheim Resort (it’s so close to the park, and the rooms are awesome)
- Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn (this is my favorite Disneyland budget hotel)
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Honest Disney Grand Californian Hotel Review
I’ve been wanting to stay at the Disney Grand Californian Hotel for years and so I had sort of built it up in my head.
Honestly, it didn’t really live up to my (high) expectations. We still totally enjoyed our experience, but I kept expecting “more”. Check hotel rates and room types.
What is the lobby like?
I had only been inside the lobby a few times over the years but it always looked so impressive to me.
They have a kids’ area with Disney shows playing (this is standard for all Disney resorts). It’s right by the check-in desk so kids can stay entertained while grown-ups get the room keys.
There’s also usually a cool seasonal display in the lobby.
Since we visited in October, we weren’t surprised to see this amazing Coco display. The whole thing was made out of gingerbread and it was really impressive!
What was our room like?
Since this hotel was a splurge, we opted for the cheapest hotel room we could get. Our room felt like a fairly standard hotel room. We had two queen beds and a little sofa.
The bathroom was a great size. The sink was in a separate area from the toilet and shower.
And there was a wicker laundry basket in the bathroom, which I’d never seen in a hotel before. Plus there was a step stool in front of the sink, which is AMAZING for families with little ones.
I also really appreciated the Disney toiletries (like a toothbrush, shower cap, etc) at the sink. And there was bulk shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in the shower.
There was also a Keurig and an empty mini fridge.
The little deck area was cute and rustic. Plus, we had a great view of the Monorail that quietly zipped by throughout the day.
Plus, there was free Wi-Fi in the rooms, which was a bit hit with our technology-loving family. Check the latest rates and availability.
What did we think of the dining options?
There are actually a lot more places to eat here than we originally thought.
We’ve eaten at Napa Rose twice for the Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures and the food has always been great.
So, we booked a dinner reservation here for our resort day. The food is seriously tasty and I do think it’s worth the high price tag.
My husband did their 4-course tasting menu and I ordered things from their regular dinner menu.
Our kids thought the food was “fine.” My youngest only wanted a fruit plate and my oldest didn’t like his cheesy noodles because it wasn’t mac & cheese. Oh well.
This is home to the Mickey character breakfast. We debated doing it but ultimately decided on Goofy’s Kitchen because of the Halloween theme they offered this year.
When we looked at the menu, it sounded like all the same stuff that they offer at other Disneyland character breakfasts.
There was consistently a line out the door each morning, so it’s very popular!
They also serve brunch and dinner, but there are no characters.
GCH Craftsman Bar
This is located right next to the pool area and while they have an extensive drink menu, you can also get full meals.
GCH Craftsman Grill
This is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s where you can get a full sit-down breakfast. They also have grab-and-go items like pastries and salads.
This is a cute lounge area right next to the lobby. It’s open in the late afternoon until late in the evening and they serve wine, cocktails, lots of food items, and more.
There’s also a little stand in the lobby that sells seasonal treats. We came here last year to get Mickey gingerbread men during the holidays.
When we visited during Halloween, they had tons of spooky treats! They even had Halloween-themed gingerbread Mickey cookies!
Disney Grand Californian Resort Pool Area
The pool area is fantastic! The lounge chairs are super cushy and luxe, which really made our experience amazing.
There are three swimming pools. One has a cool waterslide as well as a little kid waterslide. Plus, there are several hot tubs scattered around.
We ended up spending most of our time in the quieter pool and the hot tub.
They also have cast members who will walk around to take your food/drink orders. My husband and kids ordered virgin lava flows (a.k.a. Miami Vices) and they loved them!
One cool thing we discovered is that they had bulk sunscreen and aftersun lotion near the restrooms. My easily burned husband definitely took advantage of that! Check resort rates.
Private Entrance to Disney California Adventure
One of the main reasons why we booked the Grand Californian is that it offers a direct entrance into Disney California Adventure.
The security line is super short and it drops you right by Grizzly Bear Run.
Since we booked the Oogie Boogie Bash (at DCA), we figured this would be convenient to go back to grab our costumes or to head to the room after a long evening event with kids.
Special Entrance to Downtown Disney
This isn’t really a “private” entrance since anyone is able to enter the hotel through this entrance (even if they aren’t staying there).
But, the hotel is practically in the heart of Downtown Disney so it’s nice to have a shortcut to the hotel if you like to shop or eat.
Early Entry Access
When you stay at the Grand Californian (or any Disney hotel), you’ll get Early Entry Access to the theme parks 30 minutes prior to park opening.
We took advantage of this to get a coveted photo with the Mickey Pumpkin on Main Street with a super short line!
Acorn Gifts & Goods
We’ve been visiting this Grand Californian gift shop for years. They have a great assortment of Disney souvenirs plus snacks and drinks.
Are there any things we didn’t like?
This hotel is LOUD. Our room was on the second floor in the main building and I was honestly surprised by how loud the lobby was at 10:30 p.m. The sound drifted straight into our room.
I had actually been a lot more worried about the Monorail sound, but we didn’t hear that at all.
While I can’t exactly place my finger on it, I just didn’t feel like the hotel was “fancy” enough to justify the price tag.
Why is the Grand Californian Hotel Ideal for Families?
We thought that the Grand Californian was a lot more spacious than other hotel rooms we’ve stayed in. We didn’t feel like we were tripping over our stuff (which happens in other places).
It’s also hard to beat the room amenities like the step stool, empty fridge (perfect for snacks or leftovers), and the laundry basket.
If you’re visiting with younger kids, you really can’t beat the location for popping back for a mid-day rest.
There’s usually a short line at security to get into Disney California Adventure. Plus, there’s a shortcut to Downtown Disney.
Additionally, their pool area is fairly calm and has two water slides for kids. My family spent hours there.
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Where to Stay at Disneyland FAQs
Is the Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa worth the cost and does it offer good value for money?
While the Disney Grand Californian has a lot of cool amenities, I’m not sure it’s actually a good value for the money.
What amenities, services, and experiences does the hotel offer, especially those unique to the Disney theme?
This hotel offers a private entrance into Disney California Adventure theme park and has a shortcut to Downtown Disney. There are also two character meals here (the Princess Breakfast and a Mickey Breakfast). The room decor also has minor Disney touches, like artwork.
How convenient is the hotel’s location in relation to Disneyland parks and other attractions?
It’s super convenient to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure plus it’s just steps from Downtown Disney District.
What do past guests have to say about their experience, particularly in terms of room comfort, staff service, and overall ambiance?
Most past guests have positive reviews of this hotel. The staff are super friendly and helpful and the hotel has a luxury lodge vibe.
Are there any specific pros and cons or tips that I should be aware of before booking a stay at this hotel?
- Proximity to Parks: Direct access to Disney California Adventure Park and a private entrance to Downtown Disney, making it convenient for guests.
- Themed Experience: The hotel offers a unique forest lodge theme that adds to the magical Disney experience.
- Early Entry: Guests get early park access, giving them a head start before general public entry.
- Top-Notch Amenities: Multiple pools, kids’ activities, fine dining, and a luxurious spa.
- Price: It’s one of the pricier options among Disneyland resorts.
- Busy Atmosphere: Due to its popularity and prime location, the hotel can often be bustling with guests and non-guests, which might not be ideal for those seeking a quiet retreat.
- Loud: Because of the hardwood floors and “lodge” theming, the noise easily echoes and makes it super loud if you’re staying in the main building.
Would We Recommend Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa?
This is actually a tough question for me. While I prefer the pool area and dining options at the Disneyland Hotel, my family really appreciated the private entrance into DCA.
If you block out time to enjoy the resort, I’d say you could justify the price. This is especially true if you’re already planning on doing a character meal here.
It’s also really nice if you plan on ending your day at DCA or are doing one of the events held at DCA (like the Food & Wine Festival or holiday events) because it’s so easy to head straight to your room.
All in all, the Disney Grand Californian is a great option if you’re planning to splurge but it’s not worth it if you’re just going to sleep there.