You’re going to Disneyland!
Now, where are you going to stay?
This breaks down to about two different thoughts:
- Stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel, which is “on-site”.
- Or at any other Anaheim area hotel, which would be “off-site”.
Take a look at the Disneyland Resort Hotels Map to better understand the area.
Disney Resort Hotels:
You’ll be immersed in all things Disney from the moment you step onto the property. The restaurants are Disney themed, the shampoo and hand lotion have Mouse Ears, everything from the bedding to the pictures on the walls will be Disney themed. And if you have a park view room, even what you see out the window will be Disney themed because it will overlook the parks!
I have stayed at the first two and love them both. I have never stayed at the Grand Californian but have been through it and it’s amazing. Such a beautiful property!
Disney has an online list of Good Neighbor Hotels including a comparison chart. I have stayed at 7 of these hotels. Some good. Some not so good! More on that later…
What to expect of an OFF-SITE hotel room:
- Probably not much more than a standard, ordinary hotel room for the most part. Some of the rooms have views of fireworks at night and some of the hotels have special Disney themed spaces or rooms but generally these are just standard, regular looking hotel rooms. Also many of the area guest rooms have exterior doors to the outside and not interior hallways. Unfortunately this means that some of the carpets in these places are really dirty from park guests pounding pavement all day and then immediately walking inside their hotel room.
What to expect of a Disney Resort (ON-SITE) hotel room:
- Disney Resort hotels each have a specific theme based on the resort. The Paradise Pier has a beach-theme, The Disneyland Hotel is classic and modern and the Grand Californian is in a Craftsman-style. There will be special Disney touches throughout like the Mickey hands holding the sconces in the bathroom or the subtle Mouse ear silhouettes on the wallpaper. Your room will have in interior hallway with guest room doors inside. Your room (including the carpets!) will be clean.
What are the differences between ON and OFF-SITE hotels?:
Well, the big one is the price. Depending on the season, you are going to pay around $150-400 per night (or more) for an on-site Disneyland resort hotel room. Sometimes you can get a coupon code in the mail with special offers but those don’t happen frequently. For this price you’d think you’d be getting a suite, right? Resorts rooms are slightly larger than average and you do have seating areas, a large bathroom and likely a nice view but they are just normal rooms. I will say that on-site spaces and rooms are cleaner and better maintained than some of the off-site hotels and for my neat-nik husband, that’s worth the extra cost.
- Most of the off-site pools are just standard pools, nothing more. I’ve not stayed there, but The Howard Johnson has a fun pirate-themed pool area.
- Disney Resort hotels have amazing pools complete with water slides, hot tubs, fresh towels, swim diapers for babies, life-vests for toddlers, lots of lounging areas and pool-side dining & drink service. If you plan on using the pool on your vacation, consider paying a little more to stay at a site that has great water features!
- Most of the off-site hotels have restaurants within walking distance. Some have cafes and coffee shops in their lobbies. We stayed at the Anaheim Hilton a few years ago and while the hotel was lovely, there weren’t any kid-friendly restaurants (either in the hotel or within walking distance) and so we had a pizza delivered! Prices are going to be reasonable at off-site restaurants and you’ll have a lot more choices when you stray from the resorts.
- The Disney Resort Hotels each have several themed restaurants. We’ve eaten at the Paradise Pier’s restaurant several times for breakfast and there are some nice choices at the all-you-care-to-eat buffet along with characters visiting each table. Dining at The Disneyland Hotel’s Goofy’s Kitchen was a real treat. You’ll have your picture taken together before you’re seated and the dinner buffet is truly delicious! A multitude of characters came to visit us all evening, it was a lot of fun. The dinner buffet at StoryTeller’s inside the Grand Californian was decadent, my husband is still talking about that one! All this good food and theming comes at a price however and the Resort restaurants have a premium cost, especially those that feature character dining.
Location, location, location:
Now, before you book any off-site hotel that boasts, “We’re RIGHT across the street!”, PLEASE look at this area hotel map for some of the local hotels.
Yes, some of the Good Neighbor hotels might really be just across the street from the resort but they aren’t across the street from the ENTRANCE GATE, which means you’ll still be walking a long distance to get to the entrance. And who wants to waste all their energy walking to get there…save those legs for inside the park! Let alone walking back to the hotel after a long day, forget about it.
The Disneyland website will lead you to believe that if you stay on-site, you are closer to the parks. The truth is that you will be close, but closer isn’t necessarily the whole truth. Many of the off-site hotels are literally right across the street with a 5 to 10 minute walk from the front gates.
- If you plan on walking to the park from your hotel, I would recommend sticking to hotels on Harbor Blvd, namely the ones right in front of the park entrance. The Park Vue Inn and Tropicana Inn are literally across the street from the entrance. Any hotel on Katella or Ball is going to be a bit more of a hike. I have stayed at the Quality Inn & Suites and it’s about a 10-15 minute walk to get to the entrance gates, not too bad. And once you get to the gate you’re home free. There are no trams to ride (like when you park at the garages). You simply walk to the bag check area and then in line to enter the park!
- I’ve stayed at the Anaheim Hilton and while it looks like it would be close on a map, it’s still a good length walk. Keep in mind that if you drive from your hotel and park on Disney property, you will be parking off-site and need to take a tram (about a 5 minute ride) to get into the parks. Parking is pricey and tram waits can be really long (even longer at the end of the day when everyone is trying to get to their car) so I still recommend staying at a closer hotel and walking in.
Disney Resort Hotels:
- If you stay at the Paradise Pier, it’s going to take a bit longer to get into the park. You need to walk past the Disneyland Hotel and then through Downtown Disney. The Disneyland Hotel is closer but not by much, you still have to walk through Downtown Disney.
- Downtown Disney Monorail Station. Hitch a ride here and be deposited into the middle of the park with a quick ride. Note that the Monorail station can get really busy so you might be waiting there for 10-20 minutes to catch a ride and you will also have to fold up your stroller to get aboard. You don’t need to be resort guest to take the Monorail, but you do need a valid park ticket.
- At the Grand Californian, there is a private entrance for resort guests that will allow admission into Disney’s California Adventure park. You will be required to show your valid Key to the Magic (room key) to use this entrance. You will also need your valid park admission ticket.
Other Benefits to Staying On-Site at a Disney Resort:
- A few years ago when we stayed at the Paradise Pier Hotel, we were able to watch and hear the parade inside California Adventure from our window. Later that night, we went up onto the roof top, pulled up a pool chair and watched the Disneyland fireworks show. They even had the narration and music piped in over loudspeakers.
- I paid extra for Concierge on one particular trip. This allowed us use of the Concierge lounge. We ate breakfast in the lounge, stocked up with drinks and snacks that we took to the pool in the afternoon, and had appetizers (they also serve wine) in the evening before dinner. When we got back to the room, there was a plate with Mickey shaped Rice Krispy Treats and fresh strawberries waiting for us. I really enjoyed the Concierge service and we did take advantage of the drinks and snacks. If it wasn’t quite so pricey, I’d consider it again. Also having a larger room that came along with the Concierge service and price would be nice, but the rooms are all exactly the same.
Other Benefits to Staying Off-Site:
- A few of these Good Neighbor Hotels offer complimentary breakfasts or “happy hour” snacks. This might be as simple as cereal and milk with juice or as nice as make-your-own-waffles, fresh fruit, mini-chicken sandwiches and salad. Look at the hotel’s website and see what they offer as far as these extras. The Marriott Anaheim Residence Inn Maingate had a wonderful indoor/outdoor seating space with a nice complimentary serve-yourself breakfast including oatmeal, muffins and juice. We grabbed some apples and bananas to take with us to the park!
The Bottom Line
- Deciding on a hotel really comes down to what you want, how much time you’ll be spending at the room, how much you want to spend and how far you want to be from the park.
- If you have the money and want the convenience of being close and appreciate high customer service, than by all means, stay on-site at an official Disneyland Resort hotel like The Paradise Pier, The Disneyland Hotel or Grand Californian. The Extra Magic Hour and use of the fantastic pools might be enough to tip the scales.
- If you are spending more than a few days in Anaheim and not just walking to Disneyland, consider an off-site suite which often has separate rooms. Getting a breakfast that is included in the cost is always nice too. I highly recommend the Marriott Anaheim Residence Inn Maingate, which was quite large and had a full kitchen.
- Do you like to go back to your room in the afternoon for a nap or a swim-break? Consider either a Disney Resort hotel or one that is directly across the street so you can walk back and forth easily during the day. Either of these options is only about 10-15 minutes versus the 45-60 minutes it might take to get your car out of the lot and drive there or wait for a shuttle pick-up.
And if you’re interested in staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, please see my post Benefits of Staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel.