The Disneyland Resort has three on-property hotels to choose from although two of these hotels are often ranked against each other due to their popularity and unique offerings. The Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are both beloved hotels among Disney fans and they are often ranked against each other. The third hotel, Pixar Place, is still currently in the process of transformation from its former Paradise Pier theme into Pixar. Once its transformation is complete, it will be a strong contender against the Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian, although these two are in a league all their own which is why we will rank Disneyland Hotel vs. Grand Californian.
The Disneyland Hotel was the original hotel at Disneyland and is themed to the original lands of Disneyland Park and the history of the resort. This hotel is filled with tributes to Disneyland from the teacup chairs in the lobby to the light-up castle headboards.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the most upscale resort on property with high service and quality lodging. The Grand Californian’s theme is rooted in the Craftsman style of the early 20th century and the elegance of the great National Park’s lodges.
Let’s compare the popular Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian to see which hotel is best for your trip to Disneyland.
Disneyland Hotel vs. Grand Californian- Price
Before we get into the logistics of the differences between Disneyland Hotel vs. Grand Californian, let’s talk about the price. It’s not a secret that all the on-property Disneyland hotels are expensive, far more expensive than the many other Anaheim area hotels. If you want to stay on-site at Disneyland, you need to be prepared to pay top dollar.
Both of these hotels cost a considerable amount so if you are reading this article, you are already willing to spend that money to stay at one of these beautiful properties.
The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the most expensive of the two with the highest class accommodations and service. The Grand Californian can average anywhere from $585 a night to $1000 a night on days like Christmas. The time of year you visit has a huge impact on cost. The lowest cost nights will be during months like the middle of January after the holiday needs while the most expensive will be during the Halloween and Christmas seasons. Most nights of the year the Grand Californian averages about $750 a night.
The Disneyland Hotel is less than the Grand Californian on average but follows a similar pattern with prices fluctuating drastically depending on what time of year you visit. The Disneyland Hotel can average anywhere from $460 a night to $700 a night on days like Christmas. But even at its highest cost, the Disneyland Hotel is often more affordable than the Grand Californian. Most nights of the year the Disneyland Hotel averages about $600 a night. The Disneyland Hotel also has the new Disneyland Villas which average around $580 a night for the studio option. Read more about these new Disney Vacation Club Villas in our review and how standard guests can book these rooms.
Disney will also offer discounts throughout the year that range anywhere from 10% to 25% depending on the season. You can read more about the current Disneyland hotel discounts in our guide.
Out of the two hotels, the Disneyland Hotel will always be less than the Grand Californian. If cost is the most important factor (although if that’s the case then a local area hotel might be a better option!) then the Disneyland Hotel will win this category.
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Does Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian Have the Best Theme?
The two themes of the Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are vastly different and appeal to guests looking for different immersive experiences.
The theme of the Disneyland Hotel is strictly a Disney theme and is most appealing to guests who desire obvious Disney theming (although much more tastefully done than the value resorts at Walt Disney World). Each hotel tower is named after a different Disneyland area with the three main towers named Adventure, Fantasy, and Frontier. The new Disneyland Villas tower is named Discovery. The hotel walls are adorned with artwork and throwbacks to the history of Disneyland. The rooms themselves are filled with Disney touches with the most famous being the light-up headboard featuring the Disney Castle that illuminates with fireworks and plays “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” The pool area features a monorail-themed slide and the iconic retro-style Disneyland sign. The Disneyland Hotel is perfect for guests who desire a hotel themed strongly after the Disneyland Resort that is full of tributes to the history of the resort.
The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa features an early 20th-century wood craftsman-style theme as it was inspired by the lodges of the famous National Parks. This is a beautiful resort with large open ceilings, wooden beams, and an impressive lobby fireplace. The wood stylings and lodge theme are all reminiscent of Californian nature and the famous redwood trees. This resort is themed strongly around the nature and forests of California and is popular among adults traveling to Disneyland. However, that’s not to say kids won’t love this theme, this is a beautiful hotel and is one of the most magnificent that Disney has ever built. The rooms do feature small Disney touches in the artwork, some of which feature Chip ‘n’ Dale, but it’s far more subtle than the Disneyland Hotel. If guests are looking for a strictly Disney touch, the Disneyland Hotel does better in this area.
While the Grand Californian may be more subtle in other areas of Disney-theming, they excel during the Disneyland Halloween and Disneyland Christmas seasons with a giant gingerbread display, holiday treat carts, and live entertainment. In fact, a visit to the Grand Californian lobby is one of our top tips for guests enjoying the holidays at Disneyland.
It is difficult to give a strong winner in this category for the Disneyland Hotel vs. Grand Californian as both these hotels have such different themes that excel on their own merits. In this case, a guest looking to pick between these resorts should decide if they want a strictly Disney theme or the elegant beauty of a craftsman-style lodge with more subtle Disney touches.
Which Hotel has the Best Rooms?
The ranking of quality of Disneyland Hotel vs. Grand Californian rooms poses a similar comparison when looking at the different themes between the two resorts.
Both the Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian have the same recent updates with all the most recent in-room amenities like elevated beds to allow for luggage storage and additional outlets throughout the rooms. There is no real difference in terms of modern updates between the two resorts. However, the biggest difference is that only about a dozen Disneyland hotel rooms have balconies while all the Grand Californian hotel rooms offer balconies.
As far as room views go, the winning contender in this category would be the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Since this hotel sits just adjacent to California Adventure, you can book a room with a theme park view or a Downtown Disney view. We were fortunate enough to get upgraded (for free by an amazing cast member!) to a theme park view on our last Grand Californian stay and we could see Grizzly Peak, Space Mountain, and fireworks from the balcony. The Disneyland Hotel view depends on which tower you end up in, you might be looking out into the pool area, Downtown Disney, or the parking lots. Depending on how high your room is, you may be able to see the Disneyland fireworks. Nothing beats the proximity of the view from Grand Californian though! And since all the rooms have balconies with far better views than the Disneyland Hotel, the rooms at the Grand Californian have a good edge.
As for the theme, it depends on whether you prefer the Disney-focused room at the Disneyland Hotel or the bright wood and white coloring of the Grand Californian with more subtle Disney touches.
In terms of theme, it’s hard to compete with the light-up headboards at the Disneyland Hotel nor the Mickey hand wall sconces and pixie dust carpet. In terms of Disney theming alone, the Disneyland Hotel wins in this category due to these bold details. I wish I could take that light-up headboard home with me!
While the Grand Californian hotel rooms are lovely, their theming is far more subtle than the Disneyland Hotel offers. But you can still find plenty of Disney touches like the artwork (pictured above) inspired by the Griffith Park carousel where Walt Disney dreamt of Disneyland watching his daughters while they rode the horses or Disney scenes included in the pull-down Murphy bed to reveal scenes from Bambi in a similar craftsman style.
Does the Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian Have a Better Pool?
Both the Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian have great pool areas with hot tubs. Each has its own unique aspects, tied into that difference of hotel themes, that may hold different appeals for families.
The Disneyland Hotel’s pool area is one kids will love with a large monorail slide inspired by the two original Disneyland monorails. There are two large Mickey and Minnie-shaped hot tubs and the pool area itself is fairly large.
But since the addition of the Disneyland Hotel villas, this adds another featured pool area to Disneyland which includes an impressive Steamboat Willy splash pad. Since this addition, the Disneyland Hotel has an incredibly themed pool area that is hard to beat!
The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa has three large pools and a hot tub, the main pool has a redwood tree waterslide in the middle that kids will be excited to try. The lounge chairs at the Grand Californian Pool are covered in plush cushions and these loungers all come with poolside service which is a great perk if you want to order food and drinks by the pool without having to go grab the food yourself. The Grand Californian just comes with that top-notch service!
There is just one small water slide at the Grand Californian pool (pictured above) and while the redwood tree adds a nice theming touch, my son (12 at the time of our stay) found it to be pretty lackluster. Younger kids will be more impressed!
If you are looking for luxury and comfort, the pool at the Grand Californian is the winner in this category. But for guests with kids looking for a more play-focused pool area, the Disneyland Hotel easily wins with taller slides and more Disney-focused theming. Kids will be blown away by the incredible theming and more tropical setting of the Disneyland Hotel pool area, it’s definitely a strong contender for one of the best pools at Disneyland.
Best Disneyland Hotel for Dining?
When it comes to dining, there is a lot to compare with Disneyland Hotel vs. Grand Californian, as both hotels offer popular dining options that all Disneyland guests enjoy.
The Disneyland Hotel dining options include the popular Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar and Goofy’s Kitchen character dining. The Grand Californian dining options include two different character meals plus a fine dining option that is one of the most upscale dining options at Disneyland. Disneyland Hotel no longer has a fine dining option since Steakhouse 55 closed for good.
The two main quick service options at Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian are pretty similar in terms of quality although we feel that the Craftsman Grill at the Grand Californian edges out the Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel.
The Grand Californian easily beats out the Disneyland Hotel when it comes to quantity of dining options along with quality as even the character meals at this hotel offer some of the highest quality food out of all the character dining at Disneyland. But of course, it’s hard to pass up the appeal of being so close to the popular Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar as hotel guests and this is easily one of the most popular dining locations at Disneyland!
The Grand Californian offers two different character dining, Mickey’s Tales of Adventure and Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures at Napa Rose. The diversity of experiences offered at this resort along with the great food offered, makes the Grand Californian a winner when it comes to character dining although we love the Goofy’s Kitchen experience which is the only character dining available for dinner.
You also do not need to stay at either of these resorts to enjoy the dining options so keep that in mind! You can enjoy dining at both of these resorts if you wish.
Best Amenities- Grand Californian or Disneyland Hotel?
Hands down, the most luxurious options for hotel amenities will be at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. The hotel comes with top accommodations like the option of room service, poolside service plus an on-site spa. The Tenaya Stone Spa offers a wide range of luxurious spa services and amenities inspired by California’s landscape and natural elements. I take the time to visit this spa at least once during our Disneyland vacations ever since our first stay at the Grand Californian, it’s just that good!
There’s nothing better than staying at a hotel that offers spa service like this and this was one of my favorite parts of my stay at the Grand Californian.
Both hotels offer concierge-level service but some might say the Grand Californian does it better but I can’t speak to that personal experience. Just know that it is available at both resorts!
Best Location to Disneyland
Both the Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are within walking distance of the Disneyland Resort and are connected to the Downtown Disney District. This means if you stay at either property you will be effectively staying within the Disneyland bubble.
The Grand Californian has its own entrance to California Adventure from the hotel itself which is a great perk for hotel guests. Anyone can use this entrance during the day except in the morning when it’s restricted to Grand Californian guests for Early Entry. Both the Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian guests receive Early Entry but only the guests staying at the Grand Californian have this entrance in their hotel.
This private entrance is a game changer and once you stay at the Grand Californian, it will be hard to imagine staying anywhere else because being this close to the parks is just that convenient. During my last stay at the Grand Californian, we were waiting for our reservation for the World of Color Dessert Party to start and my son realized he wanted his hoodie before the show started. He was able to just dash up to our room quickly, grab his hoodie, and meet me back by the party entrance. You just can’t beat that convenience!
Guests staying at the Disneyland Hotel access Downtown Disney from the far end, near The Lego Store and monorail, and can walk to the resort from there. They also have the option of taking the Disneyland monorail to the park although this is something all guests can take advantage of and not just a perk for Disneyland Hotel guests. Often we recommend guests skip the monorail in the morning when using our Disneyland rope drop strategy since it may not be operational at park opening.
Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian?
What is the final verdict for the Disneyland Hotel vs. Grand Californian? Well, that depends on a few factors but these three should help you decide:
The price of the Disneyland Hotel is often anywhere from $150-200 less per night than the Grand Californian, for some guests this may be the biggest deciding factor when picking between the two.
The theme of the Disneyland Hotel is extremely Disney-focused from the monorail slides to the light-up castle headboards. Guests wanting a strong, Disney immersive theme should consider the Disneyland Hotel. The theme of this hotel may also be more popular with smaller kids!
The Grand Californian’s open-air, craftsman-style theming just adds to the luxury of this hotel and is a perfect choice for adults and families who want a more subtle, lodge-style theme. There’s a reason this resort is also the most popular during the Disneyland Christmas season, the decorations and giant gingerbread house are a great feature for hotel guests to enjoy. Plus the Grand Californian lobby often includes entertainment like piano players and seasonal bell ringers during the holiday season.
As for location, guests who want immediate access to the parks, the Grand Californian will always come out on top. The entrance to California Adventure is extremely convenient for midday hotel breaks and the walk to Disneyland is just five minutes away to the front gates from the front end of Downtown Disney. For guests wanting that close access, the Grand always wins. If being close to Downtown Disney is good enough, then the Disneyland Hotel is a great option and is far closer than many off-site hotels. Either way, with both hotels you are within the Disneyland bubble.
Both hotels are excellent choices for a magical Disneyland vacation and appeal to guests based on their own individual preferences.
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The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the most luxurious Disneyland hotel with its incredible amenities, top-notch customer service and on site spa.
The Grand Californian has the best access to both California Adventure, with its own entrance, and the shortest walk to Disneyland.
You can enter California Adventure from the Grand Californian but not Disneyland Park.
The on-site Disneyland hotels are extremely expensive but many feel being immersed in the magic is worth the cost. There are also plenty of great hotels off-site too that are even closer than some of the official Disneyland ones though!
Those staying at club level can view the fireworks from the Craftmans Club on the 6th. Guests with Disneyland facing rooms may also be able to see the fireworks from their balconies.
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