Holidays in Southern California: Disneyland Resort Hotels

Having posted several recent articles about the Disneyland Resort, I thought it would be fitting to write something about the three hotels that are a part of the resort complex. I have had the good fortune to stay in all three hotels even though I lived locally in Anaheim, California and my experiences were very memorable and positive as Disney does everything a cut above the rest.

The Downtown Disney entrance to the hotel

The Downtown Disney entrance to the hotel




My favorite hotel from the viewpoint of a Disney fan and an architecture student, is the 1019 room Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.  Designed by architect Peter Dominick as part of the 2001 expansion of the Disneyland Resort, the hotel’s design is based on the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s. Despite the large scale of the hotel, its design still captures the key elements of the Craftsman style: Exposed rafter tails and beams under deep roof eaves, exaggerated braces, stone details and earthy colors that blend with nature.


The lounge

The lounge

The reception hall is based on the interior of the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco. The central lobby is more like a living room done in immense scale with a massive fireplace and vast arching beams overhead, and furnished with chairs and sofas arranged around small coffee tables giving it a very homey feel. Many of the items found throughout the hotel have been handcrafted by modern practitioners of the Arts and Crafts movement using traditional techniques. The hotel’s rooms and features are tributes to various Craftsman-era architects and designers. For instance, two of the guest suites, as well as the California Boardroom, pay homage to Frank Lloyd Wright. The Napa Rose restaurant features a rose motif in the glass design which was inspired by Charles Rennie MacKintosh. The Storytellers Cafe features a large tile mural that is a reproduction of an original design by the Gladding, McBean Company for a Robin Hood Room in the Wilmington, California, public library.


Storytellers Cafe



The hotel has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure Park  and one of the hotel entrances can be accessed through Downtown Disney.

I was staying at the hotel on December 28, 2005, when the Christmas tree in the main lobby caught fire after electric maintenance workers had replaced the lights on the tree. Fortunately, the fire was contained by the hotel’s sprinkler system and by the Anaheim Fire Department. I still remember the lingering smoke smell in our rooms and in the hallways.

On September 18, 2007 an expansion of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa was announced.  The project  would increase accommodations by more than 30 percent and include the first Disney Vacation Club villas in Anaheim. The expansion on the hotel’s south side added more than 200 new hotel rooms and 50 two-bedroom equivalent vacation villas and marked the West Coast debut of Disney Vacation Club, Disney’s vacation-ownership program. During this expansion and renovation, a new swimming pool was added as well as a 300 space underground parking garage. Peter Dominick, the architect for the original Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa designed the ambitious expansion to compliment his existing hotel. The project was completed in September 2009.

Standard Room

Standard Room



The 990 room Disneyland Hotel originally opened on October 5, 1955 as a motel owned and operated by Jack Wrather under an agreement with Walt Disney.  The hotel was the first to officially bear the Disney name and underwent several expansions and renovations over the years before being acquired by Disney in 1988. The hotel was downsized to its present capacity in 1999 as part of the Disneyland Resort expansion.


As part of the expansion program, a significant portion of the hotel was demolished to make way for Downtown Disney and parking areas. Today none of the original hotel buildings from 1955 remain standing. Very little of the hotel other than parking areas and service facilities sit outside of the perimeter created by the three remaining guest room towers. Original signs and other artifacts from several of the stores and restaurants demolished are on display in the hotel’s employee cafeteria.



The hotel employs the Mickey Mouse theme throughout its furnishings and interior details. In 2007 the Marina, Sierra, and Bonita Towers were renamed Magic, Dreams, and Wonder, respectively. Other buildings in the sprawling hotel complex house restaurants, stores, offices, recreational facilities and convention & banquet facilities. The complex also features a gazebo and a garden with white rose bushes where Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings are staged.



My favorite restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel is Steakhouse 55 where martinis and filet mignons reign supreme!  The restaurant also offers a world-class selection of prime steaks, chops and seafood and has an extensive in-house wine cellar.  Bring a hearty appetite with you as the portions sizes can be enormous!

Steakhouse 55

Steakhouse 55


On May of 2011, two new dining locations opened replacing the former Hook’s Pointe, Croc’s Bites, The Wine Cellar, and The Lost Bar. I used to visit The Wine Cellar quite often as an annual pass holder to the theme park, sampling the various wines and the accompanying cheese, fruit and cracker trays.  Unfortunately, the Wine Cellar was never really filled to capacity even in those days, which I am sure prompted its closure.

Tangaroa Terrace

Tangaroa Terrace

Tangaroa Terrace, an island themed casual dining restaurant, is one of the new locations.  It gets its name from the magical god of the Enchanted Tiki Room.  Here, guests can enjoy a Polynesian style menu while listening to live Hawaiian music.  Adjacent to Tangaroa Terrace is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, based on the Jungle Cruise’s head salesman, Trader Sam. These two new locations are rather small inside, but there is plenty of outdoor seating, including seating by a giant fireplace by the pool entrance.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

 Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel  is the third hotel at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. The hotel was originally built and owned by the Japanese-based Tokyu Group, and opened in 1984 as the Emerald of Anaheim. Disney purchased the hotel from Tokyu in 1995 and renamed it the Disneyland Pacific Hotel. When the Disney California Adventure park was opened in 2000, the hotel was renamed Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel after the waterfront land within DCA that the hotel tower overlooks.


The seashore themed hotel complex consists of a high-rise guest room tower with 489 rooms, which includes 29 suites. At the base of the tower is the lobby, restaurants, a gift shop, recreational facilities including a video arcade, over 30,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 7,250-square-foot ballroom. There is an outdoor swimming pool and waterslide located on the third floor.





The hotel has one sit down restaurant, Disney’s PCH Grill (PCH stands for Pacific Coast Highway) and a lounge area called, Surfside Lounge.  PCH Grill serves an American menu and offers character Breakfasts  starting at 7:00 AM.  Guests can relax with a cocktail or glass of wine at the Surfside Lounge.  Breakfast pastries, coffee and a selection of sandwiches, burgers and salads can be ordered at the lounge from the nearby Disney’s PCH Grill.

PCG Grill

PCG Grill

Gift shop in the lobby

Gift shop in the lobby


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