Headed to Anaheim, California to visit Mickey and wondering: What are the benefits of staying on property at Disneyland? If you are a Walt Disney World fan accustomed to the multitude of Disney-owned hotel properties in Orlando, the experience of choosing a hotel at Disneyland will be very different.
One of the major decisions you need to make in planning a family Disneyland trip is whether to choose a Disney-owned property or whether to select one of the “Good Neighbor” hotels run by someone else. There are only three Disney-owned hotels at Disneyland: Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. None of these three are cheap and they often sell out at peak times, so a Disney hotel may not always be the right choice for your family. But there are also dozens of non-Disney hotels in the vicinity that may be a good choice.
How do you make the right selection? Before you book your vacation, these are the factors to consider when choosing a hotel at Disneyland:
All three of the Disney-owned properties can be pretty pricey most of the year, usually averaging between $300-$500 a night. There is no equivalent at Disneyland to the “value” resorts of Walt Disney World. A Disney-owned hotel may simply be out of reach for some families, particularly during high seasons.
If a Disney hotel is within your budget, however, you should still consider other lodging choices. I always assess just how much value I will get out of paying (sometimes 2, 3 or 4 times) more by staying on-property. Sometimes it will be worth it and sometimes it won’t be. The right answer will likely be different for you if you visit Disneyland often or if you are planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Your choice may also be different depending on the ages and stages of your kids (check out Disneyland hotel selection tips if you have toddlers or younger kids).
For the budget-conscious, Disney sometimes runs 20% discounts on lodging during lower seasons, so these specials could potentially bring a Disney-owned property within reach. And don’t forget to look out for packages from other companies. I’ve heard of families who have scored some enviable package deals that include a Disney hotel from Costco Travel, for example.
2) Early Entry (Magic Morning & Extra Magic Hour)
The biggest benefit of staying at a Disney-owned hotel is early entry privileges, which afford a chance to beat the Disneyland crowds. Disneyland uses two different phrases to refer to its early entry options. “Extra Magic Hour” is the early entry privilege for Disney hotel guests. It is currently available seven days a week (four days a week in California Adventure and three in Disneyland park).
“Magic Morning” refers to early entry privileges for other guests not staying in Disney hotels. Magic Morning is only offered in conjunction with Park Hopper tickets of three days or more, so it is not available to guests taking a short trip. It entitles guests to one day of early entry into Disneyland park only. If you want early entry into California Adventure to take advantage of all the new Cars Land attractions, however, you are out of luck. The only way you can get into California Adventure early is by staying at a Disney-owned hotel.
In short, if early entry really matters to you, Disney hotels are the way to go.
At Walt Disney World, you simply must stay at a Disney-owned property if you want to be close to the parks. This is not true at Disneyland. Disney’s Grand Californian is the closest hotel to the two Disneyland parks (in fact, it has a private entrance into California Adventure), but there are many non-Disney hotels that are only a few steps farther away.
The hotels across from the pedestrian entrance on South Harbor Boulevard (including Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort, Camelot Inn, Carousel Inn, Tropicana Inn, Best Western Park Place, Desert Inn & Suites, and many others) are extremely close. My family, for example, found ourselves with a shorter walk back to the Fairfield Inn than we had when we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel!
If you value proximity and walkability to the parks, study the map. Surprisingly, a Disney hotel may not necessarily be the closest.
Rooms in Disney-owned hotels are fairly spacious and you should be able comfortably to fit a family of four in all of them. If you need even more space, however, springing for a suite or multiple rooms in a Disney hotel is likely to be prohibitively expensive for many families.
Some of the cheaper non-Disney hotels offer family suites that can give you a lot more space for not a lot of money. Hotels near Disneyland that offer reasonably-priced family suites include the Camelot Inn & Suites, Camelot Inn & Suites, and Howard Johnson Inn and Suites, among others.
5) The Experience: Theming & Luxury
If you want to be immersed in the Disney experience, Disney-owned hotels are obviously going to do the job better than the off-property options. From illuminated castle bed headboards and a monorail water slide at the Disneyland Hotel to the breathtaking lobby at the Grand Californian, Disney hotels set the theming bar very high. In addition, all three Disney hotels have character dining restaurants, so having that kind of access might provide additional value to your family.
Finally, for luxury travel seekers, there is simply no rival to a Disney hotel – specifically, Disney’s Grand Californian. It has a high-end and well-rated restaurant within the hotel, Napa Rose, as well as a full service spa and numerous other amenities. There are no other comparable properties within walking distance of Disneyland.
Need more Disneyland hotel and trip-planning advice? Check out these articles:
- Hotel Review: Anaheim Hilton is a Kid Friendly Hotel Near Disneyland
- 7 Tips For First Time Visitors to Disneyland
Additional Disclosure: Disney hosted my family at the Grand Californian for 2 nights in the fall of 2014. All other Disney and non-Disney hotels in which I have stayed over the years near Disneyland were at my own expense.