8 Reasons to stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

There is always a huge debate over staying on property when traveling to Disney.  I get it – it’s expensive, but I truly believe that you should budget the extra expense for the hotel.  We chose to stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa for many reasons.  I think the hotel will completely change your experience at Disney and here are a few reasons why staying on property is the best idea…

1.  My number one reason for staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the direct access to both parks.  From the hotel you can walk directly into the Downtown Disney District, which gives you access to food and shopping on your way to the park.  More specifically you walk directly past a Starbucks on your way into the main entrance of Disneyland…this is a bonus for the coffee addict in me.

From the other side of the resort you have access to Disney California Adventure Park, which comes out right next to Grizzly River Run and Soarin’ Around the World.  Having access to the hotel from both parks is great, especially if you want to take a break during the day or even just run back to the room because you forgot something, which happened to me more than it should have.

2.  Competing for the number one spot of the available Disney character breakfasts is the Storyteller Cafe, located at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. In my opinion, based on the Characters you see, the menu options and engagement with your children, this breakfast is the best.  And psst…Parents if you want a mimosa or bloody marry, they have you covered.

The hotel also has a separate restaurant and bar located right off of the main seating area of the Hearthstone Lounge, Napa Rose.  I have not eaten at the restaurant, which is shocking since I’ve probably stayed at this property more times than I can count…  but I have popped in for a glass of wine to go… because it’s Disney and you can do that.

3.  Another major perk of the hotel is that they recently renovated all rooms. When we arrived in early October 2018 the exterior was still under construction, but the rooms, common areas and amenities were complete.  After we arrived, we never saw the main entrance to the hotel again except for when we called our Uber to take us to the airport on our last day.

4.  The Hotel has beautiful courtyards, perfect for an outdoor cocktail reception. A large conference and event center are attached off the main lobby.   I’ve only walked past them on my way to the park, but they look impressive and I’m secretly hoping that one day my employer will offer a conference there.

5.  When you think Disney, you don’t often think of a Spa retreat. The hotel also offers a full-service spa for maybe a morning dad takes the kids to the park and mom hangs back for a little “me time.”

6.  From the lobby main entrance and past the guest check-in you will walk into a draw dropping open air – three story, log cabin lounge inclusive of a cozy nook with rocking chairs lined up in front of a wood burning fireplace. This space is dedicated to continuing your relaxing stay at the Grand Californian Hotel.

7.  Another area that I did not spend nearly enough time enjoying was the three pools inclusive of a water slide, life vests for the littles and life guards at each pool. Large lounge chairs with shade umbrellas made for a great place to take shade from the sun and relax a little between parks.

8.  I mentioned the major perk of direct access to the Downtown Disney District earlier, here’s a little more detail about what to expect. Over the years Disney has brought in new retailers and restaurants to bring the downtown area to life and have continued to maintain this luxury by bringing including:

  • Starbucks
  • Salt & Straw (NEW) This is an exciting new ice cream spot that is a must on your trip.
  • Naples Ristorante e Bar is the best place to get a pizza.  This little Italian restaurant and pizzeria has expanded by adding a massive outdoor patio and bar. One thing to mention is that the outdoor seating area serves a limited menu versus sitting inside, where they offer a complete menu. If you plan to eat indoors you will need a reservation.  We had no problem walking up to Naples to obtain outdoor patio seating (but please note there were only two of us and we were staying in the park during a slow time)
  • The Splitsville Luxury Lanes bowling alley is a new attraction for me in the Downtown Disney District.
  • Marceline’s Confectionery is always one of my favorite stops because they have a glass window where you can watch the candy apples being made.  Plus the chocolate is out of this world delicious.
  • Disney at Home was a nice surprise and a great place to find those last-minute gifts for family members at home. From coffee and tea to dog toys this store really had it all.  If you needed Mickey Mouse fine dining ware they had you covered.  The store reminded me of a home goods store but except everything is Disney.
  • The Disney fashion trends have definitely changed since the last time I visited Disneyland. I wandered into a a beautiful Disney Dress Shop, it’s what I would consider an upscale Disney dress boutique and was blown away by the beautiful dresses that Disney was offering teen and ladies.  The prices points averaged around $100 and up for dresses.

IMG_8634

8 Packing Essentials for Disneyland

Turning 36 and “officially” entering into my late thirties doesn’t have to be all tears and sadness, no I spent my birthday this year at the most magical place on earth… Disney.  Growing up, Disney has always been a family vacation tradition and one day I hope to take my children.

But in the meantime I’m living it up as a single person and unattached, I am kicking off a new blog series. Similar to my “Girlfriends Guide to Fredericksburg” blog series, I’m giving you all the Disney insider travel tips for your next trip to Disney with your bestie.  PS… did I tell you my bestie is a Disney Travel Agent?  Yeah that helps a little.

  Copy of GG Disneyland (2)

First on the list, what do you even pack when you go to Disney?  If you are an over packer like me then I have a great list for you of items you may not even think of as you arrive at the park.  And I know I said 8 packing essentials… well I’m giving you 2 extra bonus tips.

Disney Packing Essentials

  1.  Etsy for the win.  Etsy really came through for us on custom Disney t-shirts, I also found a lot of great choices on Amazon.
  2. The Perfect Backpack. This Amazon backpack is seriously my favorite purchase.  It was the perfect size, light weight and easy to maneuver on and off while jumping on rides.  The multi-pockets allowed me to store my phone, charger, snacks and carry a bottle of water.  It comes in some many fun colors, I would highly recommend this bag.
  3. Portable charger.  Who has time to stop and charge your phone while you are at Disney? The answer is no one… but carrying a portable charger was great.  I recently bought one on Amazon and love it, I use it for all of my travel and I highly recommend traveling with one in your bag.
  4. Mickey Mouse Ears.  Anything goes at Disney and wearing Mickey ears is a must at the park.  We jumped on the rose gold bandwagon and pre-ordered our ears to have in our suitcase upon arriving at the park
  5. Save your feet.  It is so tempting to wear cute shoes, but I’m telling you right now we averaged about 9 miles a day in the park.  You will want to wear the most comfortable shoes you own.  And if you don’t own a pair, Amazon has you covered.
  6. Bottled Water.  You can enter the park with sealed bottles of water.  Throughout the park they had recycling bins for your empty bottles. It was nice to have water on us at all times to stay hydrated as we ran around the park like teenagers.
  7. Sunscreen.  Although the temperatures were cooler the sun was bright, and in the afternoon you could especially feel the heat.  Sunscreen is always a good idea.
  8. Lily Shades.  We found a really affordable pink mirrored shade at Lilly Pulitzer that of course matched our rose gold Mickey ears.
  9. BONUS TIP:  Travel corkscrew.  Have you ever tried to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew… yeah guilty, but save the hassle and buy TSA approved travel corkscrew.
  10. BONUS TIP:  Amazon Prime is your friend.  Consider having essentials delivered to the hotel bellhop before arriving. We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel and didn’t have an issue with ordering ahead and they even delivered it to our room upon our arrival.  Items we ordered were….wine of course, water, fresh fruit and granola bars.

7 Reasons to Download the Disneyland App before your next Trip

Technology continues to improve our travel experiences and Disney has done a great job of providing a new and exciting app that allows guests to maximize their magical moments in the park.

If you are planning to visit Disneyland this holiday season I would highly recommend downloading the Disneyland Mobile App before you jump on the plane or in the car to visit Mickey and Minnie.

disneyland-app-

Through the app you can…

  1. Upload your park ticket – don’t worry cast members will help you do this when you make your first trip through the gate.
  2. View a Digital Map – don’t get me wrong I love having the paper version of the Disneyland map because even it seems magical, but having the app was wonderful because you could see the entire park in the palm of your hand.
  3. Track down your favorite characters between rides – This was a wonderful feature.  Often when we are in the park we like to look for specific characters and the app allowed us to plan around our other park adventures while ensuring that we could meet up with our favorite Disney pals.
  4. Check wait times – You’re excited and in the park and the last thing you want to do is wait in a line for anything.  The app allows you to see attraction wait times for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park at a glance.  If you have chosen to tack on a MaxPass to your ticket (which I highly recommend), you can also obtain your FASTPASS times and select your favorite ride.  The MaxPass is only $10 extra per day… I would budget it for sure.
  5. Another great feature of purchasing the MaxPass is the ability to have your PhotoPass on your phone.  You can download and share your photos from your trip through the Disney-MaxPass feature on the app.  
  6. Ok hold your hats, this is my favorite part of the app…. FOOD.  You can now make mobile dining reservations and order food directly through the app to pick up while you are in the park.  Talk about a huge time saver!  This was a big deal for us as we were trying to maximize everyday in the park and the last lines we wanted to stand in were food lines.   You can even view restaurant menus to see if they offered the food you are craving.
  7. The app even had all of the basics covered.  You could see yourself on the map through their gps navigation.  It also answered basic questions such as park hours, descriptions for attractions and entertainment schedules.

Although all of these features are awesome I will caution you that the app will drain your battery phone.  We packed a battery pack to use while we were in the park and also took turns using the app so we ensured we were full charged up for the day.

I would still recommend the app because it truly made our Disney experience that much more magical.  And don’t worry if you get stumped on the app, there are many cast members who can guide you through the using the app.

Disneyland App

Happy Disney travels my friends! xx Jennifer