Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, the Crown Jewel of Disneyland Resorts
With its shingle siding, rock foundations, cavernous hewn beam lobby, polished hardwood floors, and cozy hearths, the Grand Californian Hotel is a stately combination of elements from Western national park lodges. Designed by architect Peter Dominick (who also designed the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World), the Grand Californian is rendered in the Arts & Crafts style of the early 20th century, with such classic features as “flying” roofs, projecting beams, massive buttresses, and an earth tone color palette. We strongly encourage visitors with an interest in architecture to take the fascinating (and free) hour-long Art of the Craft walking tour of the resort, offered several times each week through the Guest Services desk. Most reminiscent of the Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park, the Grand Californian combines rugged craftsmanship and grand scale with functional design and intimate spaces. Pull up a vintage rocker in front of a blazing fire, and the bustling lobby instantly becomes a snug cabin.
The hotel’s main entrance off Downtown Drive is primarily for vehicular traffic. Two pedestrian-only entrances open into Downtown Disney and DCA; this last makes it a cinch to return to the hotel from DCA for a nap, a swim, or lunch. The features we like in the 1,019 guest rooms include excellent light for reading in bed, more than adequate storage space, a two-sink vanity outside the toilet and bath, and, in some rooms, a balcony. Views from the guest rooms overlook the swimming pool, Downtown Disney, or Disney California Adventure theme park. Ranging $379 (for a standard view) to more than $1,860 (for a three-bedroom suite) per night, guest rooms are the most expensive at Disneyland Resort.
Disney’s time-share condo enterprise, the Disney Vacation Club, premiered its first West Coast property as part of the 2009 expansion of the Grand Californian Hotel. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian consist of 48 two-bedroom equivalent villas and two Grand Villas. Equivalent is the term used to describe single units that can be sold (or rented) as studio suites or combined to make two- and three-bedroom villas. All villas except studio suites include kitchens, living rooms, and dining areas, as well as washers and dryers. Master bedrooms offer a king bed, while other bedrooms provide two queen beds. Studio suites come with a single queen bed. All bedrooms have a flat-panel TV, private bath, and private balcony. Though studio suites don’t have full kitchens, they do include a small fridge, a microwave, and a coffeemaker. Two-bedroom villas consist of a one-bedroom villa joined to a studio suite. Three-bedroom Grand Villas are two-story affairs with the living area, kitchen, and master bedroom on the lower level and two bedrooms on the upper level. Rates for various villas range from $238 for a studio suite during the off-season to more than $3,100 for a three-bedroom Grand Villa on New Year’s weekend. Other elements of the Grand Californian include a swimming pool for the villas and an underground parking garage.
The resort’s pool complex, beautifully landscaped with rocks and conifers in a High Sierra theme, includes a lap pool, a Mickey-shaped pool, and a kids’ pool with a 100-foot-long twisting slide. The on-site Mandara Spa is one of Disney’s best, offering a wide selection of treatments and a state-of-the-art fitness facility. Rounding out the Grand Californian’s amenity mix are two clubby lounges and a child-care center for children ages 5–12.
Good (and Not-So-Good) Rooms at Grand Californian Hotel
Grand Californian’s rooms are large and attractive, but unless you’re willing to pay extra, you’ll be stuck looking at a parking lot or the backs of buildings. Standard rooms that don’t have a great view but are close to the hotel’s exclusive entrance into DCA are rooms 2336, 2338–2346, 3334, 3336, and 3338.
Avoid even-numbered rooms X240–X260, as these are directly next to a loud roller coaster. Also avoid even-numbered rooms 3240– 3252, as these are expensive premium-theme-park-view rooms but don’t offer a great view of the park.
For the best views of DCA we like even-numbered rooms 5424– 5448 (which view the Grizzly Peak area of the park) or the ultra-expensive concierge-level rooms, which are even-numbered rooms 6402–6412 and 6416. Odd-numbered rooms 4419–4447 and 5419–5447 are the expensive Downtown Disney or deluxe view room types, but these offer views of Disneyland’s fireworks show.
You find a complete review of all Disneyland Resorts in The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland by Seth Kubersky with Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa, and Guy Selga Jr.