The Grand Californian Hotel is the crown jewel of Disneyland Resort’s three hotels. With its shingle siding, rock foundations, cavernous hewn-beam lobby, polished hardwood floors, and cozy hearths, the 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. In 2017 Disney gave the Grand Californian a face-lift, refreshing the lobby and concierge Craftsman Club with new artisanal furnishings.
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 Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahnee) at Yosemite National Park, the Grand Californian Hotel 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 948 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. All guest rooms were renovated in 2017 with new hardwood flooring, brighter carpets, white soft goods, orange tree-inspired wall art, and oak furnishings featuring headboards inlaid with Chip ’n’ Dale (not Chippendale) designs.
Views from the guest rooms overlook the swimming pool, Downtown Disney, or Disney California Adventure theme park. Ranging $417 (for a standard view) to more than $2,100 (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. 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 coffee maker. 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 $272 for a studio suite during the off-season to more than $3,580 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 Grand Californian Hotel has a beautiful High Sierra–themed pool complex, which was completely renovated in 2017, features three pools surrounded by handlaid stone, private cabanas that can be rented by the day or half-day, and a 90-foot waterslide that wraps around a redwood stump. 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.
Picture of Grand Californian Hotel entrance, courtesy of Patrick Pelletier [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons