Six Reasons to Stay at Disney’s Grand Californian
When you visit the Happiest Place on Earth, you’ll want to stay at an official Disney resort. Otherwise, you won’t receive the exclusive benefits that Disney gives to its loyal customers. Since Disneyland only owns three official resorts, you might as well treat yourself to the best one. Here are six reasons to stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa.
The Disneyland Location and History
When The Walt Disney Company chose to add a new resort at Disneyland, it was a historic announcement. Disney had never built an official Disneyland resort before. Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel were both owned by third parties. Disney purchased each one so that they’d have an ownership interest in hotels close to the world’s most famous theme park.
Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa was different. It was planned from the beginning as an upscale resort that would mirror Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in terms of perception and clientele. Park officials signed off on the project as part of an unprecedented expansion at Disneyland Resort. The Grand Californian wasn’t even the headline construction project. That honor belonged to Disney California Adventure (DCA), the planned second gate at Disneyland.
Given the importance of a new theme park at the Happiest Place on Earth, Disney spared no expense in creating an adjoining hotel worthy of the Disney brand. It carried particular importance since Disney had never built a resort here before. It had to surpass Disneyland Hotel or would immediately seem like a disappointment. As fate would have it, DCA suffered this perception compared to Disneyland, but no one would ever argue against Grand Californian as the most luxurious Disneyland resort.
The location of this resort is right beside Downtown Disney, the entertainment district at Disneyland Resort. On the other side is DCA. When you look at the map of the area, you’ll see that it’s the closest of the three Disney hotels to the theme parks. Disneyland Hotel is west of the property between Disneyland Drive and South Walnut Street. Paradise Pier is southwest on Disneyland Drive. While all three resorts are a short walk away from Disneyland’s entrance, Grand Californian has the best possible location.
The Theming and the Lobby
The theme of the Grand Californian is, well, California. Specifically, it’s the national parks in the northern part of the state. The setting of the hotel is a lot of vegetation, specifically gorgeous bushes and verdant trees. You’ll feel at one with nature during your visit, a remarkable feat since you’re in the heart of Anaheim.
The best example of the theme is visible in the hotel lobby. Walt Disney World fans will notice similarities to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and that’s not coincidental. Architect Peter Dominick oversaw both projects. The Grand Californian’s style mimics Craftsman homes, which are famous for their garden themes. Those aspects are integral to the exterior. The lobby is a much more intimate and humbling construct.
When you enter this place, you’ll feel tiny due to the multi-storied view available. The giant stone pillars in the center of the room will mess with your sense of scale, too. They’re huge in stature and grandiose in design. The entire effect of the lobby is nature’s finest. Should you sit down even for a second, you’ll struggle to resist the temptation of a happy nap due to the tranquility of the place.
The Exterior Views
Due to its exceptional location, Grand Californian overlooks several gorgeous Disney landmarks. But let’s start with the best one for people-watching. Some rooms at the hotel come with views of Downtown Disney. You can watch guests roam the area where they drink, dine, and shop. It’s fun sometimes to see how others are spending their vacations.
The more famous views at Grand Californian involve Disney California Adventure. Guests whose rooms face the theme park will relish every second of their stay. You can see the Pixar Pal-A-Round and the Pixar Pier sign. You can also watch guests circle the tracks on The Incredicoaster. Best of all, you’ll have a spectacular view of World of Color. You can watch it from your hotel room rather than fight the crowds at the park. And the experience will be one that you remember for the rest of your life!
The Special Entrance
Perhaps the most significant amenity of any official Disneyland hotel is available at the Grand Californian. When you take an elevator down to the hotel lobby and walk out the door, you’re almost at the entrance to Disney California Adventure! I’m not even exaggerating.
Since Disney designed the hotel and theme park simultaneously, they connected the two places. A special side entrance to DCA resides just outside the door of the hotel lobby at Grand Floridian. Seriously, you’ll turn left when you leave the hotel. Then, you’ll turn left again at the next place you can go that isn’t Grand Floridian. You’re now passing security at DCA. How great is that???
The Spectacular Pools
The California theme is on full display at the hotel’s pools. The Redwood Creek area has a centerpiece that is older than everyone reading this combined. It’s a giant piece of redwood that sits in the middle of the slide. This pool highlights nature at its finest while still providing a nice way to cool off during a muggy California afternoon.
People who prefer a quiet pool should spend a couple of hours at Mariposa. It’s a more basic, circular pool, but the pleasant aspect is that it’s rarely crowded. The Fountain pool is similarly less popular and equally tranquil. Realistically, your choice at the Grand Californian is whether you want to spend time at a majestic pool or an empty one. Neither option is wrong.
The Signature Restaurants
Grand Californian hosts three different restaurants on site, not including the options at Downtown Disney and the two theme parks. The ones at the hotel mirror the Grand Floridian in terms of quality. Yes, they’re (almost) that good.
White Water Snacks is the counter service option here. This place features a decidedly large menu for its type, and the cuisine is heavily California-styled. You can try anything from Shwarma to Bulgogi Beef to fish tacos here. It’s an ambitious set of entrees to be sure. Better yet, this place offers Mobile Ordering so you can grab your food at your convenience.
Fans of character meals love Storytellers Café. Formerly, you’d order a la carte here, but the restaurant switched to All-You-Care-to-Eat buffet-style service. While this was something of a setback for chefs and customers alike, it did come with a new character meal. Called Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Buffet Breakfast, it’s a delightful way to hang out with Mickey Mouse…and he’s dressed like an Indiana Jones cosplayer!
The finest dining experience at Grand Californian – and all of Disneyland, really – is Napa Rose. As we recently mentioned, it received both the AAA Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Stars for excellence. The only other Disney restaurant that can claim this is Victoria and Albert’s, which costs about three times as much. So, Napa Rose isn’t cheap, but it’s…cheaper than other super-expensive places. Look, the meal’s phenomenal and the best place to eat at Disneyland unless you’re in Club 33.