Thanks to the Disney Parks team, our family just enjoyed a few magical days experiencing the holidays at Disneyland and California Adventure. Be sure to check out these posts featured earlier in my Disney Holidays series: Don’t-Miss #DisneyHolidays Experiences and Tips, More Tips for Enjoying Disney Holidays at Disneyland & Our Family Just Got Merrier, Thanks to Disney Holidays
Both times we visited Disneyland this year, we had the luxury of staying at Disneyland Resort Hotels. The Disney Social Media Moms conference was held at the Disneyland Hotel, so we got the chance to experience staying there. And last week, during our Disney Holidays visit, Disney generously hosted our family at the Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. (We have never stayed at or been to Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, but have friends who enjoy it since they get Disney perks at a lower room rate.)
I’ll admit, I used to wonder why people would pay a bit more to stay at the resort instead of shuttling off to a less expensive hotel nearby. Now, having experienced two of the three hotels, I can say that I definitely think it’s worth the investment. Here’s why…
REASON #1: Take advantage of Extra Magic Hour.
With a Disneyland Resort Hotel room key and a park ticket, you can enter either Disneyland or California Adventure—depending on the day—an hour before the parks open to the public. If you can plan your stay so that you have an Extra Magic Hour at each park, it’s a great way to maximize your ride time. (As of the date of this post: Disneyland Park- Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; Disney California Adventure Park (including access to Cars Land)- Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.)
TIP: Though there’s an entrance to California Adventure within Grand Californian, you’ll have better luck if you go outside the hotel and to the main entrance for Extra Magic Hour. There are a lot more entry points at the main park entrance, and with so many people entering in the morning, you’re likely to get into the park faster. Plus you walk right by the California Adventure Starbucks on your way in.
REASON #2: The fun pools make for a great afternoon refresher.
Don’t just take a dip, ride a slide. Each of the resort hotels has a fun water slide (or more) that will have your kids thinking they never left the parks. We found that the variety of slide sizes at the Disneyland Hotel was ideal for our family given our kids’ various ages (and risk aversions).
TIP: If you go for a swim during the winter months, be aware that the sun goes down early, so you’ll want to hit the pool early too. Though it was 80 degrees in the parks the day we took the plunge, by the time we hit the Californian pool at 3pm, it was almost entirely shaded…and chilly.
REASON #3: You’re truly immersed in the Disney experience.
Whether you’re cruising through Downtown Disney to get to your room, oohing and ahhing over the hidden Mickeys in the carpet, or sending your kids to lounge and watch a movie while you’re waiting to check in, you can’t help but feel like the magic is everywhere. Because it is.
TIP: You don’t have to wait in line at City Hall—ask for your birthday and/or 1st visit pins upon check in and they’ll gladly accommodate you.
REASON #4: If you need to make a quick escape, you can.
Discovering you’ve left your camera in the room, running back for a quick change, or realizing (too late) that your kiddo’s stomach couldn’t handle that roller coaster two times in a row is much less stressful if you’re staying right there. (Yes, I’ve experienced all three of these…and more.)
REASON #5: All the Disney channels you could want.
Ok, go ahead and laugh. But I’m not kidding. Finding age-appropriate TV programming for our kids in hotels is always touch and go. I love knowing that if I need little people out of my way to pack up, or if one of my kids is tired or under the weather, we can turn on one of their favorite shows—or even my favorite, Radio Disney—and everyone’s happy again. Plus, if you can’t make it out to World of Color or the Disneyland fireworks, but you can see them from your room, you can turn to the station with the music that goes along with the show. We could see the fireworks from the Disneyland Hotel and it was perfect since our kids couldn’t handle the crowds or noise after a long day anyway.
TIP: When you check in, ask if you have a view of any of the late-night park shows from your room and—if the answer is yes—plan to cozy up and watch them with your family.
And, based on our experiences, here are a couple of our favorite things about each of the hotels…
• A variety of pool slides means kids of all ages in your family can enjoy the thrill.
• There’s all kinds of Disney magic, from the lit up headboard to the towel rack, the experience is full of ah-ha moments.
• The Monorail entrance is nearby, so you can get to Disneyland quickly without too much of a walk.
• You get to experience the whole Downtown Disney as you walk toward the parks, and, in the winter, you’re near Olaf’s Frozen Ice Rink.
• If you’re in town during your team’s big game, make reservations and enjoy a meal at ESPN Zone while you cheer them on.
• The proximity to the parks is unbeatable.
• The holiday décor was truly a sight to be seen with a huge (5-foot-tallish?) gingerbread house (you could smell it!), and a beautiful Christmas tree. The piano music was also fun.
• We were lucky enough to get a room with bunk beds and a trundle, so each of our kids had their own space—a rare treat in a hotel.
• There’s a big waterslide and a tiny one, so the little ones can have fun of their own.
Have you stayed at any of the Disneyland Resort Hotels? What are your favorite reasons for staying there?
Disclosure: I was honored to be invited to the 5th Annual Disney Social Media Moms Celebration held at Disneyland in April of 2014. While I paid a fee to attend the conference (as well as my extended stay and travel), it was enhanced with perks to give us an even more magical time. For our family’s recent #DisneyHolidays visit, Disney hosted our family’s stay at the Grand Californian for two nights. I am not compensated nor required to share my experiences, and all opinions are my own.