Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the most upscale of the three on property hotels at the Disneyland Resort. Guests can expect high service and lodging when enjoying a stay at this luxury hotel. You’ve likely heard that the Grand Californian was already one of the best hotels near Disneyland, so see for yourself in our Grand Californian hotel review.
The key perk of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is its proximity to the theme parks and upscale design. The contrast between the relaxing atmosphere of the hotel and the bustling corridors of the theme parks could not be more dramatic. It is a treat to be able to stay right in the center of the resort at the Grand Californian.
In this Grand Californian hotel review I’ll share a look at the hotel rooms [the hotel rooms were completely redesigned a couple of years ago], resort amenities, and a common spaces. We’ll try to answer the extremely subjective question of if the Grand Californian is worth it?
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Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Review 2023
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa sits in the middle of the Disneyland Resort with easy access to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure (the hotel has its own private entrance). In addition to the proximity, the hotel itself is beautiful with a relaxing ambience that feels immediately different from the rest of the resort.
Much of the value of the hotel can be ascribed to the proximity to the parks, but if this were the only differentiator you could stay at some of our recommended hotels near Disneyland on Harbor Blvd and be almost as close to the main Disneyland entrance esplanade. The Grand Californian Hotel room and grounds also provide an incredibly comfortable, relaxing, peaceful place away from the parks. If you’re looking to try and save for a Grand Californian visit, read through our record of Disneyland Resort hotel discounts to see when discounts are available for this hotel.
The main lobby of the hotel features a beautiful fireplace and plenty of benches and furniture to lounge on. In fact, this lobby is so spectacular that many guests not staying at the hotel come in just to view the lobby from the entrance in Downtown Disney. During the Disneyland Christmas season you can admire their enormous Christmas tree in this lobby, meet Santa, listen to bell rings and carolers, and view their enormous gingerbread house.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Room Review and Photos
Let’s take a look at our two queen room from a recent stay at the resort. We were in a standard room that looked out on the Brisa Courtyard where the Monorail breezes by. The trees outside our window were grown up nicely so it didn’t feel like you were looking directly into an inner courtyard but instead into nature with a hint of magic from the Monorail breezing by ever 5-10 minutes.
The rooms were updated semi-recently to be more open and comfortable. They made changes to give conveniences like luggage storage under the slightly raised beds and LOTS of charging outlets for all of our devices now that the Disneyland app and Disneyland Genie Plus is so critical to your park day. The rooms are open, airy, and most importantly functional while remaining luxurious.
You can see from the photos here that the beds are lifted to allow for easier storage (this idea actually came from the Disney Cruise Line team where it was first tested).
The room design takes inspiration from the woodland Disney creatures and the Craftsman style seen throughout the entire hotel. In the headboards, made of quarter-sawn oak wood, you will find Chip n’ Dale hiding among the designs. There is lots of copper and wood used throughout the rooms as a way to pay homage to early Arts and Crafts Style Homes built in Pasadena, California by Greene and Greene. The countertops in the rooms are made up of broken wine glass bottles, also drawing in the California wine region.
The room is outfitted with a 55-inch smart television (I don’t think we watched anything during our trip due to our busy park days), Keurig Coffee maker, built-in USB chargers, and lots of outlets for all of our devices. The Grand Californian rooms and entire resort also have fast unlimited WiFi for easy internet access.
Our room also featured a couch murphy bed that expanded to be more comfortable than other hotel sofa beds we have seen before. Perfect for a family with multiple children that wants to all be in the same hotel room. The beds open to reveal Bambi artwork in the same craftsman style.
The Grand Californian Hotel room bathrooms also feature high water pressure showers and beautiful new countertops. I love the details here. The bathroom has a Mickey Mouse stool for kids to be able to get up to the sink that you’ll just want to take home with you.
Disney history fans (as the author of Disneyland Secrets: A Grand Tour of Disneyland’s Hidden Details you can put me in this group) will also appreciate the artwork in the rooms as it features early Disneyland references that reflect the origins of the Orange Groves where the Resort was built.
- One poster features the Dominguez Grove Oranges in honor of the Dominguez family who owned much of the land. Ron Dominguez was a teen when Disneyland opened and went on to become a high ranking Disney executive and was named a Disney Legend in honor of his many years of service.
- You’ll also see a sign promoting Silver Lake Citrus in honor of the Los Angeles neighborhood that was home to the Disney Hyperion Street Animation Studio.
- Next you’ll see my favorite two posters honoring Walt Disney’s roots: The first shows the Wonderful California Limited railroad going through an orange grover to honor the Disneyland Railroad and…
- The second is of the Griffith Park carousel where Walt Disney dreamt of Disneyland watching his daughters while they rode the horses. He wanted a place where the children and adults could have fun together and that was the impetus of the idea for the incredible place that is now Disneyland.
The room also has a balcony which is a perfect place to sit and enjoy an afternoon break – we rarely take breaks back to the hotel when we are staying somewhere down Harbor, but when staying at the Grand Californian it is so easy to pop back for a snack or a quick pause. In fact, an afternoon at the pool is one of our favorite amenities…
Grand Californian Hotel Review Resort Amenities
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa provides a variety of amenities for guests that go beyond what you might expect with the location of the resort.
As I already mentioned, one of the perks of the resort is the convenient entry into Disney California Adventure park and access to Downtown Disney (and the entrance to Disneyland Park ~300 yards away).
Guests can also utilize their hotel key as their “Key to the Magic” as a charge card for locations throughout the Disneyland Resort.
Disney Grand Californian Hotel Dining Options
Inside the hotel there are a couple of different restaurants you can consider for your stay. They are the Storyteller’s Cafe (featuring Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Character Meal), Craftsman Bar (great spot to enjoy a relaxed sit down meal), Craftsman Grill (easy grab-and-go option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Hearthstone Lounge (bar with limited food menu), and Napa Rose (the highest end restaurant at the resort that also offers the Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures as a character experience in the morning). You can read about both Disneyland character dining options that are offered at the Grand Californian here.
We have already covered Storyteller’s Cafe in a separate article, but I want to dive deeper into the other Grand Californian dining options.
Craftsman Bar at Grand Californian Hotel 2023
The Craftsman Bar is the best hidden dining spot in all of the Disneyland Resort. I’ve made an error by not mentioning this Grand Californian dining location on Mickey Visit more as it is the top lunch/dinner spot that I recommend to friends doing a one day trip to Disneyland. The location is a sit down restaurant with a menu featuring fresh, California-inspired fare ranging from avocado toast to salmon salad to flatbread. The prices are reasonable for how good the food is and how relaxing this hidden spot is.
The restaurant is perched on the pool deck just outside of the Grand Californian entrance to Disney California Adventure. There are tables, couches around tables, and bar stool seats. Some evenings you’ll find a live band serenading patrons.
Some of my top recommended dishes here are: The Lemon-Sumac Salmon Salad, Avocado Toast, Black Angus Flat Iron Steak Salad, Shawarma Chicken Skewers, and Cali Sliders. Looking back on the menu as I write this, I can tell you I’ve had almost everything on here and have been pleased each time. You can’t go wrong with the Grand Californian Hotel Craftsman Bar.
Highly recommend it!
Though the Craftsman Bar and Grill share the same name, the Craftsman Grill is a separate counter service with grab-and-go options along with menu items. Some of the menu items are the same between the two locations but the presentation is dramatically better in the “bar” location.
This is the best breakfast option within the hotel with options of breakfast sandwiches, burritos, french toast, omelets and more. We didn’t see much of a line for breakfast here during our recent stay, but have seen build ups in the past so you might want to consider the Disneyland Mobile Order option.
During our recent stay I enjoyed the Egg White Scramble with spinach, asparagus, and avocado for breakfast. The dish also comes with a piece of bread.
If you are looking for a quick escape from the crowds in California Adventure you can easily duck in here for some air conditioning and a snack.
The Hearthstone Lounge offers a cozy option to quick eats and drinks that many guests enjoy. This is a late night option for drinks after you get back from the parks.
Napa Rose Grand Californian
Last on this list but certainly not least, the Napa Rose is the fanciest dining option at the Disneyland Resort besides the uber-exclusive Club 33 (the two restaurants, along with Carthay Circle Restaurant, share the same executive chef).
The menu consists of regional food inspired by California produce, meats, seafood, and an enormous wine list. This award winning restaurant is a favorite of many guests whether you are staying at the hotel or not. The food is delicious. Some of our orders from our last time eating here: Wine Country Pot Pie, Duck Breast Tamarind Glazed, and Colorado Lamb Roaster Tender.
The service and food quality matches what you would find at an upscale restaurant in a major city. Though the massive restaurant windows look out on the wooded Grizzly Peak section of Disney California Adventure, the thought of a theme park feels miles away.
This is a difficult reservation to secure (read our guide to securing the difficult Disneyland restaurant reservations here) but sometimes being a guest at the Grand Californian will help you to secure a spot here.
Disney’s Grand Californian Pool Review
The Grand Californian has three large pools and a hot tub. One of the pools has a fun water-slide flowing into it. Don’t worry, I tested the slide on our recent trip. Lots of fun.
Around the pool you’ll find a variety of cabana options to reserve in addition to the complimentary comfortable loungers. As I mentioned earlier, while we don’t usually take a mid-day break during a stay at one of the other hotels near Disneyland, this pool area combined with the proximity to the parks is too tempting to pass up.
Add in another wrinkle.
The Grizzly River Rapids attraction in Disney California Adventure is a fun water ride, but the likelihood that you will get soaked is high. The ride bumps along spinning and the random bump will send a wave into the ride vehicle. This ride is a secret amenity of the Grand Californian Hotel.
We had a ton of fun putting on our bathing suits and riding the attraction a couple of times (I used Single Rider and looped it 3 times with no wait). Then, once we were sufficiently soaked we could head to the pool area and dive in completing our refreshing afternoon. This works well in the rainy season as well. Get soaked on Grizzly River Run and then pop back into the hotel easily to change.
Disney Grand Californian Hotel Concierge Club Level Review
Guests can also add the Club Level to their Grand Californian hotel stay. The Club Level provides a smoother check in process and lounge constantly stocked with food and drinks.
When guests book a Grand Californian Hotel Club Level room they can proceed directly to the 6th floor to avoid the regular check in front desk. There they will find Cast Members ready to greet them in a seated luxurious check in process.
Also on the 6th floor is a fantastic change to the Grand Californian Hotel concierge lounge, officially called The Veranda. The new lounge features updated decor, more comfortable seating, and a much better food selection.
The lounge also provides a fantastic view of the fireworks and monorail track that passes through the Grand Californian. I could sit there all day and watch the world go by if it weren’t for the fact that I could be in Disneyland.
The food variety available in the lounge is impressive. Almost all day there is breakfast, tea, afternoon snacks, and appetizers available. This can easily be your breakfast and any other meal you want to lounge around for. The lounge also has alcohol options included throughout the day.
This is also a great way to end the day if you aren’t going to make it into the parks. The lounge has a great view of the fireworks and the fireworks background loop is played.
The design of the new updated lounge is inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a leader of the Arts and Crafts movement. The Grand Californian space specifically takes inspiration from the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow. One key aspect taken from the Tea Rooms is the open bright decor with big windows.
Unlike the rest of the resort which features work done completely by Californian crafts people, the lounge has art pieces completed by artisans from throughout Europe to honor Mackintosh. Seen above is a set of painted ceramics themed to the iconic Redwood Forest from the Brother Bear film.
Fitness Classes at the Grand Californian Hotel
During my recent trip I got to experience something brand new to me. I joined a speed-walking class through Disney California Adventure before the park opened to the public. Guests must sign up for the class (it is an additional $25 and only open to Grand, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier Hotel guests).
Read all about my experience with various Disneyland fitness classes at the Grand Californian and speed-walking inside the theme park in our guide.
We met our passionate instructor at 6:15 am outside of the gate into Disney California Adventure. It was a bit difficult to pull myself out of bed at that hour after closing the park the night before but I can’t tell you how happy I was once we were in the parks watching the sunrise over the resort. The entire experience was well thought out with brief squat and work out breaks themed to our different areas. For instance we paused in Avengers Campus to perform Spider-Man web lunges. You are in the park before official opening hours so you’ll see delivery trucks and maintenance happening. Towards the end of the workout we speed-walked past the front gate where guests were already starting to line up and waved hello. Talk about feeling like an VIP. All of the credit for this highly planned out experience can be given to our energetic instructor, Shinobu.
After our morning work out class I enjoyed our instructor’s energy so much that I signed up for another class later that morning. I joined her for a water aquatic workout where we exercised on floating platforms much like stand up paddle-boards. This was an intense 30 minutes that left me sore in a couple of underused muscle areas for the next couple of days.
These classes can be booked before your stay and do sometimes sell out. If these sound interesting to you, hold your space when you first book the hotel. I can’t recommend these experiences highly enough.
The hotel also has a very nice fitness area available for use at any time.
Tenaya Spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
During my stay I was able to preview the Tenaya Spa. While I didn’t take part in any of the experiences I wanted to share some of the beautiful interiors of the space. The entire area is calming with individual massage and salon treatments available.
For the individual room experiences, guests are given a choice of music: calming nature sounds, Grand Californian lobby music loop featuring calming instrumental music, or instrumental versions of Disney classics.
The spa is being designed by Disney Imagineers and is taking inspiration from the title ‘Tenaya’ in which some indigenous cultures can mean ‘to dream.’
Other Activities at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel in 2023
When we first checked in the front desk gave me a listing of all the activities planned for the upcoming week at the hotel. For instance there is a movie each night at one of the official Disneyland Resort Hotels. Check the hotel website for all information on current amenities and events.
How much is parking at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel?
Parking is not included with a stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. Self-parking is $35 per night and valet is $50 per night. Oversized vehicle parking is $40 per night.
Save Money on Stay the the Grand Californian When You Book with our Travel Partner
When you are ready to book your stay at the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, be sure to book through our travel partner to save big on your tickets and hotel. I have worked with them to make sure that you get the absolute lowest prices on tickets available publicly anywhere.
Get Away Today is the best place to book your Disneyland vacation. They monitor prices and deals from Disney and will refund you the difference if there is a new deal. I have loved working with Get Away Today and hear constantly from readers that have appreciated working with them.
Note, I have stayed at the hotel a number of times both on our own dime and while hosted by Disney. During our most recent stay we were hosted by Disney.
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