By Anne Taylor Hartzell, on May 8, 2014

How to choose a Disneyland hotel

The Disneyland Resort marks an important chapter in our family’s story; it’s where my husband asked me to marry him in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle more than 15 years ago. I still remember the smell of jasmine in the air, the bright fireworks lighting up the night sky, and the sound of people clapping as we both wept in a joyful embrace. Since those early days, we’ve made annual trips to Orange County to experience the “Happiest Place on Earth” with our kids, stopping by that very bench where our magical family story began.


We’ve stayed at many different Anaheim hotels on these trips, but prefer the convenience and special Disney extras available only at Disneyland Resort Hotels. Some of these extras include early entry to the parks (with valid park admission), private entrance access to Disney California Adventure park through Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and special Disney character wake-up calls.

When our girls were much smaller, they especially enjoyed the night-time ritual of watching in-room Disney princess bedtime stories on the private Disneyland Resort TV channel. Now that they are older, they both can spend time at Pinocchio’s Workshop child activity center (located at the Grand Californian and available to all guests of the three Disneyland Resort Hotels, so long as they’re between the ages of 5-12) while my husband and I grab a glass of wine and decompress from the day.

If you’re not sure which Disneyland Resort hotel to choose for your family, here is a breakdown of the three main on-site options, perks and all.


Viewfinder Tip: Consider splurging on concierge-level access to enjoy complimentary snacks and drinks, as well as private Disneyland fireworks viewing away from the crowds.



Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

This California craftsman-themed hotel has stunning details and is the most expensive of the three Disneyland Resort properties. That said, a stay here certainly is worth the splurge. Our kids love the bunk bed guest rooms that sleep up to two adults and three children with trundle (rooms with this configuration are available on a first-come-first-served basis). Our favorite feature of this hotel is the convenience of the private entrance to Disney’s California Adventure; during our visits, we love to rise and shine for an early character breakfast with Chip and Dale at Storytellers Café, or to hustle into Disney’s California Adventure to be one of the first in line for a Fast Pass to rides in Cars Land. The private entrance also allows us to take frequent breaks from the park for afternoon naps, or to relax by the pool. In the evenings, we can grab a quick bottle of good California wine at Napa Rose restaurant, and can have it delivered to our room before we retire for the night.

The Disneyland Hotel


The Disneyland Hotel originally opened in the 1950s and was completely renovated in 2011. I remember staying at the property when I was a kid; it still has much of the vintage Disney charm, only now it has added retro upgrades and modern décor. My kids love the Sleeping Beauty light up headboards. They also can spend hours splashing in the Monorail Pool and water play area or warming up in the two hot tubs (which appropriately are named Mickey and Minnie). No trip to Disneyland is complete without a character breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen, located in the Fantasy Tower. If money is no object, consider booking one of several luxury suites themed after favorite Disneyland rides and characters. Some of these include the Pirates of the Caribbean Suite, the Fairy Tale Suite (with amazing views overlooking the Sleeping Beauty Castle), or the spacious Mickey Mouse Penthouse. The only drawback of this hotel? It is the farthest from all three properties. So bring your walking shoes.

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel

Surf’s up at the Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. Depending on the season, this Disneyland Resort hotel typically is the best value of the three options on site. The California beachfront-themed rooms are spacious and sleep up to five guests. What I love most about this hotel are the sweet views of Disneyland from the scenic rooftop pool. I also like the nearby the California Streamin’ water slide, a tribute to classic boardwalk roller coasters. An added perk? On select nights, you can head up to the pool deck for a special viewing of the Disneyland Park fireworks. Your little ones also will love to hang ten at Breakfast with Mickey & Friends at Disney’s PCH Grill.

Regardless of which hotel you choose for your next Disneyland vacation, plan to reserve several nights and spend a minimum of 72 hours exploring the parks at your leisure. Usually we buy a 3-Day Park Hopper pass that allows us access to both parks and gives us plenty of time to explore and enjoy this magical place together as a family.

What is your favorite perk of staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel?