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The Frog Family's Guide to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

by Mommy Frog on June 10, 2022 Los Angeles

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Summary

Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the most luxurious and convenient of the three on-site Disneyland hotels. With entrances that put you right into a theme park or Downtown Disney, you are in the heart of the Disneyland Resort, just off Disneyland Drive. But once you step onto the hotel property, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a different part of California. There is something about Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa that melts away all stress and tension, like a walk in the woods. Plus, this hotel is the most convenient location to the theme parks and Downtown Disney.

Disney's Grand Californian

Overview of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

The hotel makes you feel like you’ve entered a mountain escape or wellness retreat with towering evergreens and quiet spaces (sprinkled with Disney magic, of course). Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is designed with Craftsman-style elegance and reminds us of visiting the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park and The Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. (In contrast, the Disneyland Hotel has a tropical vintage feel.)

The reception area is based on the interior of the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco. The hotel's designer, Peter Dominick, also designed Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in Disney World. We love the beautiful stained glass doors and windows in the hotel and spa!

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - LobbyWhether you stay the night or hop in for a day visit or dining, you can’t help but want to spend some time in the spacious lobby with natural light, exposed wooden beams, boulders and soothing piano music. We always find a rocking chair in front of the big fireplace no matter the season. Plus the Wi-Fi connection is strong, and it's nicely air-conditioned in summer. We've even been known to pop into the lobby to take care of business when we need to do some work while we are in the theme parks. (Hopfully, you don't have to work on your vacation!) With several restaurants, gorgeous spa and pools (with a waterslide), you’ll love being pampered at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

The lobby gets decorated for the holidays. At Halloween Time, you might see a giant Oogie Boogie cake in the lobby. At Holiday Time, you'll find a giant Christmas Tree and a gingerbread replica of the hotel.

So, what is it like to stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa? Let’s take a look! Activities and amenities are quickly returning. In fact, more benefits return as of Aug. 8, 2022, with Early Entry for hotel guests and being able to send theme park purchases to the hotel. Since the situation is always changing these days, you'll want to visit the hopful know before you go site so you have the latest details on health, safety and operations. During our most recent stay in May 2022, we saw housekeepers constantly cleaning and wiping down frequently touched areas. Hand sanitizer is plentiful.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Rooms

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Standard Room

Look for Chip 'n' Dale in the orange tree mural above the headboards. Select rooms have a sleeper bed. In the bathroom, discover the thrill of finding a hidden Mickey in the wallpaper as you sit on the potty. You have your choice of two shower heads, one of which is an overhead rain shower. Shorter froglets, like our toddler Lily, can use the provided step stool (also with a hidden Mickey) to reach the sink. Nice! The rooms have balconies and are powered with the latest technology, including 55-inch smart TVs, Keurig coffee makers and USB connections to charge your devices. You have a refrigerator in the room, as well as a desk.

The Disneyland Monorail does not make a stop at Disney’s Grand Californian, but some rooms have a view of it zooming by. You can also catch a sign of it traveling through the courtyard before you enter Downtown Disney.

One note about the beds for the clumsy frogs out there. The comfy mattress sits atop a wooden platform that gives the room a nice airy feel. If you have the sort of knees and shins that easily find sharp corners, walk around the bed with caution as the wood corners stick out farther than the soft mattress.

Amenities, Recreation and Shopping at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Pool

Look over the Activities guide you'll receive upon check-in. You can see all the magical offerings, classes and movie nights that might take place during your visit. The three Disneyland hotels rotate viewing locations between them, but all Disneyland hotel guests may attend no matter which hotel is hosting. You can sign up for fitness classes through the spa (some are an additional cost). Some take place in Disney California Adventure before it opens! Disney cartoons in the lobby are back, as are art classes, hula dancing, ukulele lessons and more.

Pools

The Frog Family's Guide to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa-Waterslides at Grand Californian

There are several pools and a hot tub located near the entrance to Disney’s California Adventure. You can rent private cabanas for an additional charge. Smaller froglets can handle the gentle waterslide that wraps around a redwood stump or the shorter slide next to it. Note the pool hours as the pools and hot tub may close early. If you have young tadpoles, life jackets are available for no extra cost at the pools. Pools are heated year-round, so you can bring your swimsuit no matter which season you're visiting.

In summer look for daily pool parties with characters in July and August! You can also try paddle board yoga or paddle board fitness classes arranged though the Tenaya Stone Spa.

You can order food and drinks and even Mickey ice cream bars or root beer floats with a Mickey cookie topper from your pool server. It's so convenient to have a pool right next to the theme park so you can take a break and cool off in the middle of your theme park day! We recently rope dropped Disney California Adventure and took advantage of short morning lines (along with some Genie+ selections). Then we had brunch at Storyteller's Café, where we hung out with Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale. We rested our full bellies at the pool and stayed cool during the hottest hours of the day. We used Genie+ to set up some Lightning Lanes for Disneyland, so that when we finished with the pool we could hop to Disneyland, rejuvenated, with no ride waits in the afternoon. What a perfect Disney day! The closeness of the hotel and amenities made it all very easy.

Fitness Center

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Fitness Center

The Eureka Fitness Center has high-tech machines such as treadmills, bicycles (regular as well as recumbent), ellipticals, stair climbers, weight machines — and free weights. It's open 24 hours a day!

Fitness classes are back. Some meet at the fitness center, some at the spa and in-park classes meet at the hotel's Disney California Adventure entrance. You can even take Hula classes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Disneyland Hotel! Try yoga, aqua yoga and other core strength and meditation classes. Fitness classes and an early morning power walk or boot camp in the closed Disney California Adventure cost extra and are arranged through the spa.

Early Entry to Theme Parks

As of Aug. 8, 2022, Disneyland Resort hotel guests can enter the theme parks (with tickets and reservations) 30 minutes before park opening. Early Entry benefits are every day for each park. Hotel guests have access to select attractions, dining and shopping before the park opens to everyone else.

Acorn Gifts & Goods

This souvenir shop off the lobby has apparel, toys and more. You'll find more shopping just outside of the hotel in Downtown Disney (including a World of Disney store and Marceline's Confectionery, where you can pick up caramel apples, churro toffee and other sweet treats to take home.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Stained GlassParking has a cost. It’s $35 per night for self-parking or $50 per night for valet parking. Keep in mind that self-parking is across the street near the Paradise Pier Hotel. It certainly makes you consider paying that difference in price for valet parking. You can always drop off your family and bags and go park the car to save money.

ATM

You'll find an ATM located near the lobby.

Laundry

Traveling with kids? You might want to know where you can do laundry. The budget-friendly laundry facilities are located on the first and second floors. Both are open 24 hours. Bring credit or debit cards for payment.

Digital Room Key

Did you know you can check-in online and use your phone to open your room? You don't even need to visit the front desk! You'll need a bluetooth-enabled device and the latest version fo the Disneyland app. But if you want a card key, just stop by the front desk.

Housekeeping

Light housekeeping comes by every other day of your stay at this time to remove trash and used towels. If you need anything before that, just ask Guest Services. You can put used linens in the provided laundry basket.

Package Delivery

Is that droid or lightsaber you built getting in the way of your fun on rides? As of Aug. 8, 2022, you can send them to your hotel for next-day delivery. For convenience, you can even charge select Disneyland Resort shopping and dining purchases right to your room through the Disneyland app.

The Tenaya Stone Spa at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Spa Room

Leap and I splurged at the recently renovated Tenaya Stone Spa during our last stay. It was toadally worth it! Even if you just want to hop in for a foot massage in the middle of your theme park day, you will have an immensely better time because of it. The highlight of our trip was that foot massage. Our flippers never felt so good as they did at the end of that theme park day! You no longer need to be a hotel guest to make appointments at the spa. Leap says he's budgeting a foot massage at Tenaya Stone Spa into every visit no matter where we stay, and I am 100 percent on board with that.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Tenaya StoneGuests who have booked a spa treatment may arrive 30 minutes early to enjoy the peaceful relaxation lounge (and the eucalyptus-infused steam room when it returns). People who have hair, nail or wax services in the salon may arrive 10 minutes early.

When you enter the spa from the gift shop, you’ll enter a forest of trees surrounding the Tenaya stone, originating in Yosemite and gifted from the descendants of Chief Tenaya. Just past the stone is a relaxation lounge with running water, snacks, beverages and comfortable seats. You can choose to wear a robe if you want to get comfier. You can enjoy this area before your treatments and unwind from the outside world.

Dining at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

You can enjoy on-site quick-dining to table-service dining and lounges. This hotel offers two character dining choices along with room service, bars and many more restaurants at nearby Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel. Character hugs are back! Soon, hotel guests will have preferred access to hotel dining reservations during their stay.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Storytellers Cafe Food

Hearthstone Lounge

This lounge is located just off the lobby from about noon until midnight. Hop in for drinks or a meal. The kitchen stays open late. The tadpoles loved their late-night grilled cheese while Leap and I enjoy an adult beverage. At times, you can order food to go via mobile order in the Disneyland app.

GCH Craftsman Bar

The Frog Family's Guide to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa-women enjoy lunch at GCH Bar

This poolside bar and lounge is a kickback outside dining location. It’s open for lunch and dinner, and the bar might be a good spot to catch a game if someone in your party is interested. Don’t froget to ask about the hot dog of the month or seasonal drinks. The nachos and quesadilla are delicious and fun to share!

GCH Craftsman Grill

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - GCH Craftsman Grill

This almost-hidden, quick-service dining location (just across from the bar and next to the spa) is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can use mobile order or order in person. Get grab ‘n’ go foods or order hot food from the grill (and sit outside or inside). For us, it's all about the avocado toast (which recently went off the menu, but we hope it returns) and breakfast burritos (eggs whites only, please) in the morning, but there are adorable doughnuts, Belgian waffles and typical American breakfast items. Our tip is to mobile order breakfast early if you grab a bite before heading to the park. At lunch and dinner, you have sliders, poke bowls wings, shawarma chicken skewers, sandwiches, pizza and more.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Storytellers CafeStorytellers Café

Storytellers Café has a breakfast buffet with brunch after 11 a.m. on select days. The best part is that you get to start your day with Disney pals such as Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip 'n' Dale. Read all about it in our post on character dining at Storytellers Café. Dinner is also a buffet, but no characters are present. At all meals, there are additional (but included) items your server can bring to you, including kids meal items. You can upgrade dinner to the World of Color dining package if you want a reserved (but standing) area to watch the show.

Napa Rose

Napa Rose is next door to Storytellers. It offers a three-course Princess Breakfast Adventures character dining breakfast (it’s more like brunch) on select days. You can learn more about this pricy but elegant three-course dining experience in our Disneyland character dining post. Princess interactions are modified at this time.

If you want a special night out of fine dining, make a reservation for dinner. No characters will be joining you for dinner, but you can enjoy good food and its atmosphere.

Room Service

Room Service is available at this hotel for breakfast and in the evening. You can also use a QR code to order food from select Downtown Disney restaurants and have it delivered to the lobby.

Downtown Disney

Just outside the hotel, you’ll find a bunch of quick-service and table-service dining choices. Hop over to our Downtown Disney restaurants post to find the best choice for you.

We recommend getting a reservation if you want to dine at Storytellers Café, Napa Rose or the GCH Craftsman Bar (or even some Downtown Disney locations). Reservations can open up to 60 days in advance anytime at 6 a.m. Some locations do open up reservation times later, so if you do not see what you want, keep checking back. If you don't get a reservation, you may be able to join the walk-up availability list through the Disneyland app.

Holiday Cart in the Lobby

At certain times of the year, you can hop by the cookie cart in the lobby to get all kinds of yummy goodness from cookies and other baked goods, cookie shots, hot cider and even adult beverages. During holiday time, we always hop by for the gingerbread cookies and cider, which we enjoy by the fire. In February, you may find Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day treats. Keep an eye out throughout the year for seasonal cookies and treats (such as for May the Fourth or the Fourth of July or Halloween Time).

What to Consider Before Staying at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Theme Park Entrance

Here are a few things to consider when deciding on a stay at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Location, location location. We want to say that the other hotels are just as convenient, but they are not. This hotel accesses the middle of Downtown Disney and is the closest hotel to Disneyland Park (accessible through Downtown Disney). Not only that, but it has a separate side entrance right into Disney California Adventure! Whether you are starting or ending your day at Disney California Adventure, you will appreciate the convenience of this special theme park entrance.

Early Entry into the theme parks. The morning is the least crowded time of day at Disneyland. The park is even less crowded before it opens. As of Aug. 8, 2022, hotel guests can get in 30 minutes before park opening at each park every day (with ticket and theme park reservation). Hotel guests have access to select attractions, dining and shopping.

What is your budget? This is the priciest of the three hotels (although some of the toadally awesome signature suites and Disneyland Hotel are also quite a splurge). If it’s within your means, then enjoy this luxurious and convenient location. Did you know you can book hotel rooms at Disney’s Grand Californian (or any on-site or off-site hotels near Disneyland) for a discount through Undercover Tourist? No matter where you stay, if you’ll be needing a rental car, be sure to book one when booking the hotel to unlock even deeper discounts and save up to 50 percent on the car.

Choose your view. A premium view looks at the pool or theme park. You can also select a woods, garden or courtyard view or a standard view (which has views of Disneyland Drive, Downtown Disney, interior courtyards, the rooftop or parking). We recently had what might be considered a lesser view as it looked out towards the driveway to the hotel, but the tall trees made it feel quiet and peaceful. Our standard views have also included Downtown Disney or the Monorail. We get a different view every time we visit.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa - Theme Park View from Balcony

Find a view from outside your room. There are some balconies with views that all guests can access. On the fifth floor, there is a balcony with seating that overlooks the pools. On the sixth floor, you can find a balcony (bring a room key to access it) that looks out over Disney California Adventure’s Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park. It might be a great spot to catch World of Color from a distance!

How much time are you planning to spend at the hotel? If you are an open-to-close theme park warrior, you might not be spending a lot of time at the hotel. But if you want to come and go between the hotel and the theme park to take breaks to use the gym, pools and spa, and to dine at Disney’s Grand Californian, then this is your place.

What kind of vibe are you looking for? If you are looking for a serene escape from the busy theme parks or a more upscale experience, this would be your best choice. If you want more water slides and a water play area for toddlers besides the main pools, you might consider the Disneyland Hotel in your search.

How big is your party? Standard rooms at Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel are a little bigger and have a day bed for a fifth person (or if you have party members who do not want to share a bed). Some rooms at Disney’s Grand Californian do not. Some rooms have a twin sleeper chair or a day bed. Just be sure you book what your party needs to sleep comfortably.

Security. You will need to prepare to go through a security bag check and metal detector every time you enter the theme park or Downtown Disney. Use the Downtown Disney security to access Disneyland Park, and use the security near the pools and restaurants for Disney California Adventure. The early bird gets the worm, so line up extra early to get into the parks before they open.

"Hey, Disney!" and MagicBands are coming soon. In 2022, MagicBand+ makes its debut at Disneyland Resort. You, Disney World fans, know how convenient it is to use MagicBands wristwear for theme park admission, Disney Genie+, room charges and to unlock the door of your room. Guests will also soon be able to use the "Hey, Disney!" voice assistant in hotel lobbies and guest rooms. It works alongside Alexa on Amazon Echo.

Which Disneyland ticket and reservations do you want? You have a lot to think about in terms of theme park tickets and park reservations. Do you want to start your day in Disney California Adventure or end there to make the best use of the theme park hotel entrance? Is a park hopper ticket worth it? We think so, especially for a multi-day ticket. Did you know it's the same price to add park hopping to a 1-day ticket as it is for a 5-day ticket? You get your money's worth with a park hopper multi-day ticket. It allows you to start in one park and hop after 1 p.m., that way you can either start or end your day (or even both) at Disney California Adventure. The Downtown Disney entrance from Disney's Grand Californian makes it just as easy to be among the first people at the gates of Disneyland Park before park opening. We suggest starting in each park at least once during your visit to take advantage of the shortest lines of the day.

We love staying at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and we know you will too. Check here for a hoppin' deal on a room. If you need theme park tickets, you can also get discount Disneyland Resort theme park tickets from your favorite froggy friends. Book a rental car at the same time you book a room to unlock deeper discounts!

Related: All of the Magical Reasons to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel

Related: Tips to Maximize Your Time at Disneyland

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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