Battle of the Big 3 – A Comparison of the Three Disneyland Resort Hotels

Updated August 24, 2016

With so many cost-effective and convenient off-site hotels near Disneyland, I’m often asked if it’s even necessary to stay on-site?

The experience here at DLR is quite different from WDW, where hotel life is a big part of your visit.  Disneyland is fully immersed in the city of Anaheim, with many hotels in walking distance and actually closer than the three DLR Hotels.

However, few compare to the Disney experience, only found at the big 3.  Here, I’ve compared the Disney hotels so you can decide which is the best fit for you and your family.

(Note: Price is average and can greatly increase during peak times.) Before we get started, ALL three hotels include the following:

  • Room accommodations up to 5 people
  • Early entry into the parks
  • Health club
  • Child Activity Center access (located in the Grand Californian Hotel) and learning programs
  • Complimentary Wifi
  • Cribs
  • In-room safe
  • Access to exclusive park entrance into California Adventure (located in the Grand Californian Hotel)
  • Disney character wake up calls
  • Merchandise delivery to your hotel
  • Charging privileges for purchases and (most) meals to your room

Paradise Pier  disneys-paradise-pier-hotel-rooms-968x450-05

  • Photo Tour
  • Average cost: $300/night
  • Main Idea: Disneyland’s most affordable and laid back hotel option
  • Rooms: Recently renovated; 481 total rooms and suites
  • Location: monorail ride away
  • View: California Adventure
  • History: Built in 1984; Disney acquired 1995; formerly named The Emerald Hotel, The Pan Pacific Hotel and The Disneyland Pacific Hotel
  • Design: Beach and boardwalk
  • Pools: Rooftop pool with waterslide
  • Special features: Panoramic views of California Adventure; business center
  • Character dining: Surf’s Up! Breakfast with Mickey and friends at Disney’s PCH Grill
  • Restaurants: Disney’s PCH Grill; Surfside Lounge
  • Arcade
  • 12 wheelchair friendly/handicapped accessible rooms

The Disneyland Hotel dlrHotel_pool

  • Photo tour
  • Average cost: $333/night
  • Main idea: The original Disneyland hotel with a classic feel and lots of nostalgia
  • Rooms: Recently renovated; Sleeping Beauty Castle light-up headboards; 990 total rooms and suites
  • Location: monorail ride away
  • View: Downtown Disney
  • History: Opened with Disneyland in 1955 with many transformations over the years, including rebuilds; Disney acquired 1988
  • Design: Old school Disney
  •  Pools: Monorail slide pool, D-ticket pool, Water Playground, private cabanas available
  • Special Features: Themed suites including Pirates of the Caribbean, Mickey Mouse, Fairy Tale, Big Thunder and Adventureland
  • Character dining: Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen
  • Restaurants: Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar; Tangaroa Terrace – Casual Island Dining; Goofy’s Kitchen; Steakhouse 55; The Coffee House
  • 31 wheelchair friendly/handicapped accessible rooms

The Grand Californian DSC_5674-5678HDR

  • Photo Tour
  • Average cost: $409/night
  • The main idea: The most luxurious of the three DLR options with easy access to the parks
  • Rooms: Bunk beds (in some rooms); turn down service; sleeping bags available on request; plush robes; 745 total rooms and suites
  • Location: Downtown Disney entrance; closest to the parks and immediate access to California Adventure
  • View: Downtown Disney and California Adventure
  • History: Built in 2001, this is Disney’s Flagship Hotel and was a big part of the large expansion with California Adventure
  • Design: California craftsmen
  • Pools: Fountain pool (with slide), Redwood pool, Mariposa pool, private cabanas available
  • Special Features: Forested courtyard; elaborate fireplace; scenic lobby; live music; storytelling
  • Character dining: Breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe
  • Restaurants: Napa Rose; Storyteller’s Cafe; Whitewater Snacks; Hearthstone Lounge
  • Mandara Spa on-site
  • Arcade
  • 24 wheelchair friendly/handicapped accessible rooms

Good luck deciding!  They’re all great options.

Tickets I recommend (read why)
Enter code DLRPS at checkout to save an additional $2 on each ticket.


  1. This is such a great site! Thank you for all your dedication and great info :). I am a CA native and have gone to DL since I was little and reading this I realize how much has changed since I last went! I will be taking my twin 1 year olds for their 1st birthday to DL and we will be staying 2 nights. Any recommendation on which of the 3 DLR hotels you would pick? I am trying to decide between Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotel. Thanks!!

  2. We will be in California for Christmas this year and would like to stay at a Disney hotel. Do you have any advice on Disney over the Christmas holidays? We will be in California from the 20th to the 28th.

  3. Hi Casey. Thanks for your great information on the Disneyland Resorts.
    Could I please ask for some suggestions for our family trip planned for September/October 2018?
    My brother, sister, parents and I would love to visit with our children: 7 adults and 7 children in total.
    Is a suite or several rooms the best option? Obviously price is important but we’re willing to spend extra for perks such as a view, meeting stars and early entry.

  4. Hi Casey! I have looked all over for a clarification on this topic and can’t find an answer…I bet you can help though 🙂

    We are a family of 4 planning to stay at Disneyland Hotel and I am having trouble selecting the right room type. I am looking for the best bang for my buck. I am thinking either the Deluxe View or Premium View as I believe those are a good balance between view and price. But I am having a hard time finding the difference between the two. The Disney website lists both as having a pool view. Do you know what the exact difference is? Also, do you have any other tips for special room requests to make? Very much appreciate any help you can give me!


  5. Your site is awesome! Very insightful indeed.

    My question is the following – I plan to travel with my 4 year old son and mother who is active. Would you recommend going at the end of July or early November? I ask because I’m late in the game planning but think I can get it done. However, people are telling me I should wait until November to avoid the crowds. Hmmm? Thanks in advance. Any other information you think would help would be appreciated. Thanks again.

  6. Aloha Casey…

    We’re planning to take our girls this summer to Disneyland for their birthdays and want to make reservations for a character breakfast. I’ve read and re-read much of your site but can’t remember…if we wanted to do a character breakfast located in Disneyland Park, do we have to forfeit our ticket entrance if we’re not doing the park that day? We plan to get in on Thursday and have other plans that Friday but want to avoid the breakfast on the same day as our admission to keep from taking away our park time. Thanks for your help.

  7. Hi Casey,
    First thank you for sharing all your knowledge about WDW.

    But being an over thinker/planner I have to ask a couple of questions regarding my specific situations please. ?

    First, I only have a 22 month old little girl. People have suggested to wait to go until she’s about five. But of course I’d like to go sooner. What are your thoughts?

    Second I’d like to take my parents with us. Both have walking issues. If I understood correctly I can reserve motorized chairs there at the hotel upon check in. Not having to wait to do it upon entering the park and reducing the risk of them running out by the time we get to the park. Is that correct? I’d like to stay 4 nights. Take our time, visit DL two days and one day at CA.

    Now, taking their ambulatory situation and having a 3 yr old. Which hotel will be the most convenient? Does the monorail pick up directly at each hotel?

    We have not been to DL for abt 25 yrs or more. So it’ll be completely new to us. Lol.

    Thank you.

    • Hi, MaryEllen.

      I’m a BIG believer in Disneyland for all ages, young and old. I took my babies to the parks and I encourage guests to bring children of any age. 2 years old is such a magical time and you’re in for a real treat if you’re up to the challenge. Yes, it won’t be as smooth sailing as bringing an older child, but sometimes the older children aren’t as into the magic as the younger ones. Some of my best memories are from bring toddlers to the parks. I totally recommend doing so. Many people tell me that they want their children to remember the trip, however, I have very few significant memories from 5 or even 7 years old… I don’t agree with that philosophy. Plus, my husband and I remember the trip. That counts, right? 🙂

      You can rent off-site scooters and wheel chairs from 3rd party sources and they can bring them to the hotels for you. I recommend the following company for both:

      The Grand Californian Hotel is absolutely the most convenient option. It’s closest to the parks and has wonderful accommodations. You won’t need the monorail because you’ll be closer to the parks than the monorail station and not far at all from the security check point. I highly recommend staying there with your crew. The monorail doesn’t pick up directly at any hotels and is really more of a novelty at DLR rather than a necessity like at WDW.

      Hope so much this helps! Please let me know what other questions you have.

  8. I just wanted to add an experience I had that is a helpful tip. I’ve stayed at all 3 and been to Disney 10 times. I stayed at the Disneyland Hotel for the first time in 2015. My intention was to use the monorail but it was so hot that it closed down and we walked to and from the hotel all week. Its not far but at the end of a long day, that 15 min seems like a lifetime in 100 plus heat. There is no air conditioning on the monarails so its a safety features. Had I known that, I would have stayed at Grand Californian. My favorite. Thanks for all these tips and the comparisons. Great info!

  9. Hi Casey,
    Do the rooms at both the Disney Hotel and Paradise Pier have fridges and microwaves?
    I think we were looking at Paradise Pier because of cost, however just realised the pool facilities are on the roof and I’m not good with heights. Is the height view hidden with fences, shrubs etc.

    Thanks Tracey

    • These are refrigerators in each room, but no microwaves. The pool at Paradise Pier is lovely, but if heights are a concern, I would go with The Disneyland Hotel. Great pools. No heights. 🙂 The Grand is lovely, too.

  10. Is it worth staying at one of the hotels for the magic morning hour? We booked the Disneyland hotel specifically for the hour in the mornings to avoid long lines but plan on spending not much time at the hotel. Thanks!

  11. We just came home from WDW Art of Animation where the pools were so awesome for my young kids (7 and under). Where would you reccomend we stay at DLR for the best pool experience for my young kids?

  12. In an earlier post you mentioned there were shared microwaves available to use at the Disneyland Hotel. Where are these microwaves located? (I’ve tried to get this information from several sources, but can’t get a consistent answer. Hopefully you can help!) Thank you so much!

  13. Hi! I currently have a package booked, staying at the GC with a 3 day PH ticket. Once we arrive, could we upgrade our tickets to a 4 day PH if we decided to? Thanks!

  14. Hi Casey, I’ve not been able to find an answer to this question anywhere on the Disneyland site, I really hope you can help. We plan to stay at one of the hotels for a night in August, have a nice breakfast and then check out and spend the day at Disneyland. Can we leave the car parked at the hotel and pick it up sometime in the evening?? Best wishes, Anne

  15. Staying at Paradise Pier next week and just wondering what the walk is like to the main entrances to the parks. Would you suggest taking the monorail in Downtown Disney to Disneyland? Or using the Grand CA entrance for quicker entry? Or would walking it be the best option? We’ve got a 10 and 7 year old.

    • It’s really not too far from Paradise Pier, but some people like to take the monorail to avoid getting too tired. I recommend your first entry into Disneyland to be through the gates. Walking through the tunnels is magical and seeing the flower Mickey and all that is in the front of the parks, plus walking down Main Street is important, in my opinion. Then, feel free to use the monorail back to DTD after your first time in. That will save some time.

  16. I also forgot to ask for DCA when staying at the Grand: does the special entrance ever back up…it looks like of small. Is it better/faster to just go through the main entrance instead of the hotel entrance for park opening? Thanks again for all the help! 🙂

  17. Have you ever used the pool cabanas at the Grand Californian or Disneyland hotels? We are staying at the Grand and thinking of getting a cabana for the day to relax. (Plus we have a baby and the cabana just makes it easier.) We are trying to decide if we even have the option of using the pool at the Disneyland hotel instead, and if we do which hotel to pick. Plus we would like just a general review of the experience as well.

    • I have never used a cabana and they’re pricey at $299 a day for a full day and $149 for a half day. You cannot pool hop, so you must use the pool wherever you’re staying. I’m sure they accommodations are lovely, but they’re out of my budget.

  18. Hi Casey,

    I am a frequent visitor of Shannon’s site. We are considering a visit to DLR (and Aulani!) as our honeymoon next September. With our research we have spent a lot of time on your page, and I just wanted to say that it is GREAT! As someone who is so used to planning WDW trips, there is a lot to learn about DLR and all of your information is so helpful. Of course, we still can’t decide on a hotel – I know there are only 3 options but they all seem unique and great in their own way. Thanks again.

    • Hi, Ashley.

      Congratulations on your engagement! If I had to choose, I’d go with the Disneyland Hotel. It’s mid-priced and old school fabulous. It really feels like vintage Disney to me and I prefer that over everything else. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Happy to help!
      ‘s m

  19. Are you able to pool hop if you’re staying at one of the big 3 and want to check out another one’s pool? I’m sure it’s a “no” but crossing my fingers!