Laura and Lee's Mini-Grand California Vacation

August 31-September 1, 2002

Towards the end of August Lee came to me with an interesting proposition..."What do you think about staying at the Grand Californian one night so that we can enjoy the night-time activities at Disneyland?" I thought it was a wonderful idea. :-) (For those who are not Disney-philes, the Grand Californian is Disney's newest resort hotel at Disneyland.)

We were planning to be at Disneyland on Sunday, September 1st anyways, and figured we could drive up on Saturday and spend the night. As it turned out, that weekend was the last weekend for some of the summer activities, like Fantasmic!, as well as for the Blast! show in the Hyperion Theater, which we had really enjoyed.

There had been an ad in the San Diego paper advertising special rates at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel and "lower rates" at the other Disney hotels, but when I called and asked for the Grand Californian, by far the best deal was the Annual Passholder rate. Availability was no problem, either, even though it was a holiday weekend and we were only staying one night! Of course at that rate we *didn't* get a park view - many rooms have a view looking directly into Disney's California Adventure (DCA). Our room was actually *directly* over the big World of Disney store on the Downtown Disney side, though fortunately it wasn't noisy.

The rest of this report will be photos of the place, with some of our comments and observations.

The lobby is *beautiful* - very reminiscent of Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World. The Grand Californian *felt* like a Disney resort, with all of the theming and attention to detail that we are used to from staying in the Florida resorts. In the past we've stayed at the other two Disneyland properties - the Disneyland Hotel and the Paradise Pier - and they are nice hotels, but they're just hotels. You don't get that "Wow" feeling when you walk in.

A feature that fascinated us...the area in the center of the lobby is carpeted, but the area along the side is some kind of stone mosaic. But if you'll notice, the patterns and most of the colors in the carpet and stone actually *match*, and at the joint between the carpet and stone, the pattern continues and flows into the other.

The chandeliers in the lobby were huge - interesting design, too. You can't really see it, but the "shades" on the lights had a branch-type pattern - fitting in with the logo of the Grand Californian, which is a sequoia tree.

To give some idea of scale, here's Lee looking over the lobby.

Our room - it had two queen-size beds but still felt fairly spacious - much larger than the room we had at Animal Kingdom Lodge back in April. Though we couldn't look out our window and see giraffes and gazelles here! :-)

One of the beds in the room - the bedspread has a forest design with deer, swans, trees, and birds on it, and of course the design on the headboard suggests a tree trunk and branches. You can't see it in this picture, but the lamp shades also had a branch design. On the wall was a picture of Snow White standing at her wishing well.

All of the furniture in the hotel was in the "Craftsman" style. And no, that doesn't mean it came from Sears. :-) It was beautiful and elegant but still welcoming and comfortable. I could spend a lot of time there. :-)

The shower curtain in the bathroom continued the forest motif - but with Bambi characters! :-)

The bathroom counter had a double sink and marble countertop, wood-framed mirror, and another interesting light fixture.

Interestingly enough, the toiletries were NOT the Mickey soaps and shampoos that we are used to seeing - everything had the Grand Californian's sequoia tree logo instead.

Speaking of the sequoia logo - it was even on the paper wrapping the extra toilet paper roll! :-)

There were a pair of comfy terry cloth robes hanging in the closet - also with the sequoia logo. I've never stayed in a hotel that gave you robes before. Though I understand that's one of the amenities at the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World - and I think the Grand Californian is supposed to be the California equivalent. It certainly seemed to offer all the services that the Grand Floridian does - health club, massages, guest services, and helpful (but unobtrusive) staff. When we checked in there was a pianist playing down in the lobby - very nice. Another thing we noticed that next morning was that rather than the huge housekeeping carts that we've seen in the Walt Disney World hotels, all the fresh linen was in wicker baskets sitting outside the doors. They must have had some kind of cart with the rest of the supplies, but we didn't see it. There was a newspaper outside our door, too.

One of the garden areas near the pool - though of course it was carefully landscaped, it *looked* somewhat wild, and as you can see there was quite a variety of plants.

The pool area, looking back toward the hotel.

From the pool area you can see the Paradise Pier area of DCA! :-) The Grand Californian has its own entrance into DCA, though of course you have to have some type of admission into the park - just being a hotel guest isn't enough!

And saving the best for last...this is the exquisite stained glass hotel entry door. We almost missed seeing it because it's an automatic sliding door, and it's usually open. It's at least 8' x 8'.

Even though we were only there for one night we felt like we'd had a mini vacation at Walt Disney World! We were gone from home for less than 24 hours, but it felt longer than that. It's great to finally get a hotel in California with all the wonderful theming that the Florida resorts have.

The hotel wasn't full, and when we got our Express check-out bill there was an offer to stay an extra night for $129.00...I wish we could've taken them up on it! :-)

There are two full-service restaurants at the GC - The Storyteller's Cafe (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and Napa Rose (dinner only). We didn't try either on this trip, though we've eaten at Storyteller's before, and enjoyed it - it's Disney prices, though. We looked at the Napa Rose menu on Saturday night and nothing really appealed to us - it was even more exotic than the menu at California Grill in Florida. Besides, one of the reasons we were there was to do the nighttime activities in the parks, and a 2 hour dinner didn't really fit into that plan. :-)

We had fun on Sunday morning just walking around the hotel and taking pictures of the grounds. I think they have the potential to do some really awesome decorations for Christmas - like a huge tree in the lobby - so we'll go back to check it out.

And oh, by the way...we did do all the afternoon/night-time activities we'd wanted to do on Saturday - at DCA we saw Blast!, saw the Eureka! parade, had dinner, saw Blast! again, watched the Electrical Parade, then hot-footed it over to Disneyland to see the "Believe, There's Magic in the Stars" fireworks show (though it was cut short due to high winds in the upper atmosphere, which seemed odd because there was hardly any breeze at ground level), then made our way through the crowds to see the second show of Fantasmic! We were actually able to sit on the ground right next to the river, about five rows back. It's by far the best viewing we've ever had for that show - it was great to be up close where we could see everything. We hadn't seen the Disneyland version in almost 5 years. I still like it a LOT better than the WDW show, but Lee thinks they are both good.

Other Links

Tigger's Grand Adventure

Text and photographs copyright © 2002, by Laura Gilbreath. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath,
Last updated 10/3/2002

Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation Page