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Why The Grand Californian Hotel is Not Grand Whatsoever

Disneyland's most expensive hotel is totally not worth it. EOM. (Not really. Keep reading to see why we think that.)


The backyard of the not-so-Grand Californian

CreditTrips + Giggles

UPDATE: The renovation at the Grand Californian has been completed! See the new look here.

In life, especially this privileged modern life we all lead, there are good hotel stays and bad hotel stays. Bad hotels are annoying and frustrating, but in the end (after you've written your online review and attempted to recoup some of the costs), they just make you appreciate the good hotels even more. Sadly, we aren't talking about a good hotel today but a bad one. Yet hopefully spreading the word about this bad hotel will help you choose a good one. And away we go!

Last summer, I promised to take the kids (ages 5.5 and 3 at the time) to Disneyland just before the school year started. Since we have the annual passes for Disneyland and since we live an hour away, making the trip to the happiest place on earth isn't all that big of a deal. But I wanted to make it slightly more special so I told them we could stay overnight at Disneyland. Whee!


We've already stayed at The Disneyland Hotel, which we loved. It's still a monorail ride away from the actual park (they check your tickets before you get on the train) but the rooms were spacious, the Mickey Mouse touches were plentiful and most importantly, the furniture, bedding, and towels were in great condition. 

We've also stayed at a few less expensive hotels outside the parks including the Hilton Anaheim, where we selected our room before we checked-in via the HHonors app, and the Marriott Anaheim which was perfectly fine, if lacking a bit in personality. 

This time we wanted to stay inside the park, especially since I was taking the girls solo and wanted needed convenience. The Disneyland Hotel was sold-out, leaving us with The Paradise Pier Hotel or The Grand Californian. Swayed by the promise of walking out directly into California Adventure, I splurged for The Grand Californian. Ay yi yi. 


We checked in on a Wednesday in mid-August. It was crowded, but the Grand Californian's lobby resembles an oversized wilderness lodge with plenty of seating to hang out. For the kids, there were little rocking chairs for kids placed in a circle around a small TV playing Disney cartoons. Waiting was a pain but the kids were happily distracted.


We headed on up to our room which had a view of the pool and bunk beds for the girls. Bunk beds are always a wow factor for kids. (Here are five hotels with awesome bunk beds.) Yet immediately I noticed the room, its furniture, its linens and even its shower curtain had lots of wear and tear. It was downright shabby. And not in the theme of a wilderness lodge or an authentic American Craftsman style, but in the theme of Disney was too cheap to pay for a remodel or a refresh.

And that's where I got a little mad. This hotel is the most expensive one of the three Disneyland Hotels. I paid close to $600 for this room, one of the most expensive hotels rooms I've ever paid for. There were plenty of good services and amenities at the hotel, but the room condition was barely three-star. Clearly, Disneyland was just coasting on the access to California Adventure to charge such outrageous room rates.


I'll admit, that was convenient. And a thrill for the kids too. Honestly, they thought the room was aces. But I was so burnt up about how much I spent on the room and the condition that it was in that I kept thinking, "I could have paid way less for a room and paid $18 to park and that would have been just fine." Sigh. I learned my lesson.

Another good perk was the Storytellers Cafe where we had breakfast with Chip and Dale and Pluto and this bear, pictured below. (Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf in "Frozen" was dining there that morning too, but I'm guessing he doesn't pay for anything at Disney. #amirite?) The hotel occassionally airs Disney movies on the 5th floor patio, although you have to bring your own snacks. For those traveling with babies, the hotel does keep a Pack n' Play in the closet, although I would definitely bring your own sheets. There were some nice H20 Plus toiletries in the bathroom too.


The final bummer was at night we headed out to the space in between Disneyland and California Adventure, carrying our little cups of hot chocolate (yes, it does get cool in the evenings in SoCal during the summer, bring a sweatshirt!) only to be told the fireworks show was cancelled. Not the fault of the hotel of course, but still a bummer nonetheless. Oh well, at least we didn't get bedbugs like this family claims.


There is a happy ending, eventually. The hotel is "refreshing" their rooms and public spaces, with work happening now at the property through the fall of 2017. has some details and it looks to be a soft goods refresh, i.e. linens, decor accents, etc. 

But according to what the hotel has officially put on its website, the remodel seems to be a bit more substantial. Either way, we'd avoid booking this hotel until early 2018. 

From January 2017 through fall 2017, it is possible that you may see and hear construction as we make improvements to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. To minimize any disruptions, activities that may create noise will not start earlier than 9:00 AM. 

Room refurbishments will occur from January 2017 through fall 2017.
The pools and poolside cabanas will be closed for refurbishment from January 2017 to spring 2017. The pools and waterslides at the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel will be available for your enjoyment, and poolside cabanas at Disneyland Hotel will be available for reservations.
The Great Hall lobby will be refurbished and access will be limited beginning June 2017 through early August 2017. Some Guest rooms will not be available during this time.
The Craftsman’s Club concierge lounge will be temporarily relocated from early August 2017 through early October 2017.

To learn more about these refurbishments, please call (714) 956-6425. Guests under age 18 years must have parent or guardian permission to call.

Have you stayed at The Grand Californian recently? Or are there other Disneyland hotels that you recommend? Let us know!


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1 Comment

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Madlucky Mama 9:56 am on February 25, 2017

Went for Halloween and I couldn’t agree more wth this article. Everything from the service to the character dining was a challenge. It wasn’t worth the convenience and the sticker price to stay here.