When traveling to any new destination, getting familiar with the hotel options is key. With three on-site hotel options at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, it can be tough to figure out which is the best Disneyland hotel. It’s tough to say which hotel is “best”, given that Disneyland’s Grand Californian, Disneyland, and Paradise Pier hotels all fall within different price points, but that’s a good thing! You can’t go wrong with any choice, and we’re here to help you compare the three to make a decision on which is the best bang for your buck.
Unlike the on-site hotels at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida that require a monorail or bus to get to the parks, all three of the Disneyland Resort hotels are within a true walking distance of both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. Downtown Disney, and awesome dining, shopping, and entertainment destination, acts as a sort of “hub” between these three hotels. While there are quite a few awesome “Good Neighbor” hotels close by (arguably for a much lower cost) you can’t beat the convenience of Disneyland’s on-site hotels for their proximity to the parks alone. Not only will the short distance save you transportation time and expenses, but that’s more energy for you to spend enjoying all of the attractions and entertainment instead.
So, Which is the Best Disneyland Hotel?
Before diving into what makes each of these hotels unique, we’ll go ahead and cover the awesome stuff they all have to offer:
- Movie nights: On select nights, popular Disney movies will be brought to the big screen (under the stars, weather permitting!) with a special screening for hotel guests.
- Get Up & Go Power Walk: One of the coolest features of staying on-site is that you get access to a resort guest-exclusive two-mile walk through Disney California Adventure Park prior to opening.
- Fitness Centers: Each hotel has a full gym complete with all of the cardio and weight-lifting equipment you need to stay in the fitness groove while on vacation.
- Trivia Challenges: To keep buzzing little ones entertained (as if there wasn’t enough to captivate them already!) trivia sheets are handed out in the hotel lobbies to be completed in the parks and later turned in for a prize!
- Standard amenities: Business centers, complimentary Wi-fi, currency exchange, ATMs, electric vehicle charging stations, souvenir shops, dry cleaning, laundry, in-room celebrations, merchandise delivery, self-parking, and valet are all available at each of the three hotels.
- Lounges: While thematically different depending on the hotel, all three on-site destinations offers a sophisticated, calm setting to enjoy a cocktail or two.
- Quick-service dining: We’ll cover the more involved restaurants at each hotel below, but it’s important to know that all three hotels have awesome grab-and-go spots for a quick bite, whether it’s your morning coffee at Disneyland Hotel’s Coffee House, or a hot dog by the pool at Paradise Pier’s Sand Bar.
- Room types: All three hotels have standard, premium, Club Level, and suites to choose from.
Now, let’s talk differences. I’ve filtered these from lowest- to highest-priced. You’ll quickly notice that I have much more to say about the highest priced than the lowest, and that’s because it truly has more to offer!
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
Paradise Pier has our favorite theme of any of the on-site Disneyland hotels. The old-fashioned pier aesthetic joins forces with modern touches and seaside décor for a warm and welcoming home away from home.
One “con” of Paradise Pier is that it only has one pool. The pool terrace will give you serious boardwalk vibes that I’m a huge fan of. What makes up for the lack of spare pools is the stellar view you’ll have of the evening fireworks in the parks!
Now, let’s talk food. PCH Grill offers an outstanding character breakfast and killer Italian dinner, both excellent for the whole family. Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast serves up a full breakfast buffet with all of your go-to menu items, but most notably, the delicious Banana Foster French Toast. With Donald and friends greeting you at your table, what more could you ask for? While the Grand Californian’s Storytellers Café is comparable, we hold a special place in our heart for the Italian food served at PCH Grill’s dinner buffet.
As we mentioned before, Paradise Pier does have a lounge and quick-service dining, but PCH Grill is the only full-service restaurant. Surfside Lounge has a small menu of light meals and delish drinks, and the rooftop Sand Bar serves sandwiches, hot dogs, and other snacks.
With towers dedicated to each of Disneyland’s original lands – Fantasy, Frontier, and Adventure – Disneyland Hotel offers a simple, modern design that fits everyone’s taste.
Disneyland Hotel’s strongest suit is its dining options, with a selection to charm everyone in your family. For date night, my girlfriend and I typically opt for Steakhouse 55, which serves steaks, seafood, and a full menu of premiere choices in an old-fashioned Hollywood setting.
Disneyland Hotel’s other “main” restaurant option, Goofy’s Kitchen, is what we find to be the best character meal on Disneyland property. As the name suggests, Goofy’s Kitchen serves up silly (but delicious) food that my daughter goes crazy for, her top pick being the peanut butter and jelly pizza. This kid-centric restaurant has multiple food stations for every taste, and is the perfect fit to go along with the fun characters meeting at your table for both breakfast and dinner. The random, roaming character greetings at Disneyland Hotel bring tons of joy to my daughter too, so I count it as a major bonus in staying here.
While Goofy’s Kitchen is our daughter’s paradise, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is my girlfriend and I’s number one place for a good time. The tropical bar menu perfectly fits the Polynesian aesthetic themed after the Jungle Cruise itself. Live, acoustic music really sets the scene for the perfect fireside evening.
Disneyland Hotel is home to what we find to be the best pools at any Disneyland Hotel: the D-Ticket and E-Ticket pools. The adjoining retro-style pools have monorail slides (that I love as much as my daughter does), a great lap pool, and two whirpool spas. You truly feel like you are immersed in a different world in this little getaway.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
I personally love the Grand Californian for being a high-end hotel that appeals to both kids and adults in unique, fun ways. Kids go crazy for the Grand Quest, a scavenger hunt that will allow them to explore the hotel. Adults can explore the grounds with the Art of Craft tour, which highlights the artifacts, architecture and décor of the hotel inspired by the arts and crafts movement.
For adults looking for a restful getaway (or my wife looking for a couple hour break from mom-duty) Mandara Spa is the closest you’ll get to heaven on Earth. As the only spa at Disneyland Resort, it’s the number one “edge” the Grand Californian has on the other on-site hotels. Mandara has a huge menu of services including massages, facials, nail care, and tons of other body therapies.
To continue your day of unwinding, you can lounge at one of THREE pools. Fitting to its name, the Redwood Pool has a 90-foot slide wrapping around a Redwood tree stump, as well as a hot tub and Mickey-shaped kids’ pool nearby. The Fountain pool, fittingly so, has a turtle fountain in a calm, natural setting. My personal favorite is the Mariposa Pool, which has rustic décor including twinkling lights and butterfly details.
One of my family’s favorite parts of staying at the Grand Californian is the Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Brunch Buffet at Storytellers Café. Mickey and friends meet-and-greet while your family gets the chance to chow down on a delicious assortment of food. Even outside of this awesome character breakfast, Storytellers has a fantastic dinner buffet, sans characters, that offers a high-quality line-up of home-style food that even the pickiest of adults and children will enjoy … without being too boring!
Over at Napa Rose Restaurant & Lounge, Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures will be debuting March 30. A three-course breakfast will be made magical by the accompaniment of some of your favorite princess friends, complete with activities for little ones. For dinner, sans characters, there is no better spot for a high-end meal … with a view of California Adventure Park, no less! With sommeliers on-site to guide your wine journey along with exquisite California-inspired fare, this is a must-try for those with a taste for fine dining.
One last “plus” that makes Grand Californian worth the splurge is the exclusive guest entrance to Disney California Adventure park.
There you have it, the pros and cons of each Disneyland Resort hotel! Long story short, you get what you pay for, but even the most budget-friendly option has amazing offerings. Based on our descriptions in comparison to price, which Disneyland hotel would you book for your next trip?