Should You Stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim? Here’s How to Decide

Everything you need to know before you book a stay at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim (Photo: Disney)
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim (Photo: Disney)

Going to the Disneyland is one of the ultimate family vacation ideas for many kids and parents. Walking down Main Street, U.S.A. to Sleeping Beauty Castle is like a rite of passage and the official start of a vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth. But even after you’ve decided when to visit Disneyland, there’s still the question of where to stay.

One of the closest properties is Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, and it’s a popular choice for families. How can you know if the Grand Californian is the right Anaheim hotel for your family, though? Here are six things to consider before booking this luxury Disneyland hotel. 

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1. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Feels Like an Extension of Disneyland

Craftsman Bar at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim (Photo: Disney)
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel has three different swimming pools (Photo: Disney)

Since Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel is located right in the heart of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the Disney vibes are strong. While you may not be blown away by seeing Mickey Mouse in your face the entire time, there are plenty of Disney nods and hidden characters to find inside the hotel. In fact, inside the standard hotel rooms you’ll find the adorable chipmunks Chip and Dale in some of the artwork. 

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Around the craftsman-style hotel, you’ll also find plenty of little nooks and quiet spots where you can enjoy a moment of solitude, which is a rarity at Disneyland. In the main lobby, there’s a roaring fireplace with rocking chairs that makes for a nice spot to relax while the rest of your family is getting ready for the day. It’s also a nice place to enjoy after the parks close when you’re not quite ready to go to sleep yet.

2. It’s Located Right in the Middle of Disneyland

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa is located smack dab in the middle of the Disneyland Resort. The hotel has direct access to Disney California Adventure (DCA) and the Downtown Disney District, where you can walk to either theme park or enjoy the shopping and dining plaza. From the hotel’s lobby, it’s about a two-minute walk to DCA or the Downtown Disney District, and about a five-minute walk to Disneyland Park. Because of its location, Disney Vacation Club members enjoy staying in the hotel’s studios and villas. 

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Heading out of the hotel at the Downtown Disney District exit, you can also easily walk to the Disneyland Hotel and its popular Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. However, getting to other Southern California destinations around the park, like Knott’s Berry Farm or the Anaheim Packing District, will require a taxi or ride share service.

3. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Comes with a Lot of Special Perks

Welcome to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California (Photo: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)
Early admission to Disneyland is one of the perks of staying at the Grand Californian (Photo: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Staying at the Grand Californian is a treat for Disney fans because you get a lot of special perks associated with the theme parks. Here’s what’s included in the price of a stay.

Activities: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel hosts a variety of activities each week. While there’s no set schedule that can be viewed online, guests at the hotel are encouraged to go to the Guest Services desk in the lobby to get a schedule. Activities may include movie nights, poolside games, and trivia. The hotel boasts a fitness center and three different pools that families can enjoy.

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Early park entry: The biggest perk of staying at the Grand Californian, or any of the three Disney-owned hotels, is early admission to Disneyland before those who are not staying at a Disney-owned hotel. If you’re vacationing with toddlers or even slightly older kids, this is a good time to do the dark rides like Peter Pan’s Flight or Snow White’s Enchanted Wish at Disneyland Park, since those lines grow quickly after the park opens to everyone; at Disney California Adventure, the early admission is perfect for riding WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure. 

4. Not Everything Is Included at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

Tenaya Stone Spa at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel (Photo: Disney)
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel has a luxury spa called Tenaya Stone Spa (Photo: Disney)

While the biggest perk of staying at the Grand Californian is the early access to the park, there are some things that are not included. Here’s what’s considered extra.

Food: Dining at the Grand Californian ranges from poolside bars and quick service eateries to upscale restaurants, but none of the five eateries are included in the overall cost of staying at the hotel. Food at the hotel can be expensive, so you may want to think about packing snacks like granola bars and crackers to save time and money whenever your group needs a snack. Guests staying in a studio or villa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel do have access to some cooking equipment, and groceries can be delivered to the hotel or brought with you. 

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The Spa: The hotel’s Tenaya Stone Spa is also not included in the overall cost of the hotel. Should you choose to indulge in a spa treatment, which ranges from facials to body treatments, you will also have access to the relaxation lounge and steam room. 

5. Set a Reminder to Book Activities, Experiences, and Restaurants at the Grand Californian 

Restaurants at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa (Photo: Disney)
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa has multiple dining options (Photo: Disney)

It’s a good idea to look at the different timelines for services and dining that can be booked in advance. After booking your hotel room, you’re going to want to set reminders and write down dates of booking windows so you’re on the computer or the Disneyland app to make reservations when the time comes.

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All dining reservations, whether at the hotel, the Downtown Disney District, or in the parks, open 60 days in advance. This 60-day window is from the start of your vacation, and you can book dining for your entire trip at the same time. To get the most sought-after reservations, like character dining or dining packages, you’ll want to be up by 3:00 a.m. PST, since that’s when reservations typically open on Disneyland’s website and app.

Inside the hotel, Napa Rose (dinner) is a fine dining restaurant that can be hard to get. If you want to dine here, you should prioritize this before something like Storyteller’s Cafe (character dining for breakfast and brunch, standard buffet for dinner). 

If you want to enjoy a spa treatment, be aware that priority bookings are given to those staying at one of the three Disneyland hotels. Reservations can be made up to three months in advance, though some treatments and activities fill up quicker than others.

6. When it Comes to Rooms at the Grand Californian, You Have Options

There are a variety of different room types at the Grand Californian. Standard rooms have either a king bed and one sleeper chair, two queen beds and one day bed, or just two queen beds. Views in these rooms can be of the pool, Downtown Disney District, DCA, a parking area, or a courtyard. The beds in these rooms have enough room underneath to store your suitcases. The rooms have ample storage, large bathrooms with a double vanity, and a coffee station.

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There are also club-level suites that offer more amenities and personalized service. For even more space, check out the Disney Vacation Club studios and villas. These rooms are set up more like an actual home versus a hotel room, with a kitchen, separate bedrooms (villas only), in-room laundry, and room to accommodate up to 12 people (in the three-bedroom grand villas). 

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a freelance writer who covers theme parks, cruising, food and drink, and family travel. Her work has appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, FamilyVacationist, The Daily Meal, Family Vacation Critic, TravelPulse, and more. Megan has been quoted as an expert and thought leader on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets.