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

Updated May 13, 2019

***For updated info on the new Security Checkpoints at Downtown Disney effective 12/15/2016, check out this post from my Facebook page.

***Considering an upgrade to Concierge (Club) Level? Visit this post for more. 

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 Disneyland 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 Disneyland Resort Hotels 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.

Basic Info

Before we get started, ALL three hotels include the following:

  • Room accommodations up to 5 people
  • Early entry into the parks (Extra Magic Hour)
  • Health club
  • Complimentary Wifi
  • Cribs
  • In-room safe
  • Gift shops (click this link for a tour of each)
  • Disney character wake up calls
  • Merchandise delivery to your hotel
  • Charging privileges for purchases and (most) meals to your room; the BBB, too!

Get Away Today

Within each hotel detail, you’ll notice I provide a link to book with Get Away Today. I recommend doing so to save money on your hotel, park tickets, character meals and more.

Check out this post for details on Get Away Today and how they can help you save money on your visit while providing excellent service, trusted by Disney for over 27 years.

Also! You can save an extra $10 on any 2-night stay by using promo code: DDaily when booking over the phone at 855-GET-AWAY or at

Get Away Today

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

  • Photo tour of the property
  • Photo tour of a Paradise Pier Hotel room
  • Average cost: $350/night
  • Main Idea: Disneyland’s most affordable and laid back hotel option
  • Rooms: Recently renovated; 481 total rooms and suites
  • Location: 1/2 mile walk to the main gate of Disneyland or DCA
  • 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
  • Book this hotel at a discount

The Disneyland HoteldlrHotel_pool

  • Photo tour of the property
  • Photo tour of a Disneyland Hotel room
  • Video of the light up headboard in each room
  • Average cost: $475/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: .41 miles away from the main gate of Disneyland or DCA
  • 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
  • Book this hotel at a discount

The Grand CalifornianDSC_5674-5678HDR

  • Photo tour of the property
  • Photo tour of a Grand Californian Hotel room
  • Average cost: $600/night
  • The main idea: The most luxurious of the three DLR options with easy access to the parks
  • 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: Main pool, Pool (with slides), Smaller pool, kiddie pool, hot tubs, 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
  • Book this hotel at a discount

Good luck deciding!  They’re all great options.

Take a look at how Get Away Today can help with your vacation


  1. Looking to visit Disney this summer. My sister and I grew up in San Diego and visited many times as children and adults. Looking to ultimate experience. Do all Disney hotels have monorail entrance into Disney
    Any advise is appreciated

  2. Ive stayed at GCH 4 times and DLH once. If I book Paradise pier am I going to be sorely disappointed? Right now its a nice view at PP for about $150 less than a standard view at DLH. I cannot decide.

  3. Really bummed that I will be there while the pools at Disneyland Hotel are being renovated this year. How much will we be missing out if the Monorail Pool, waterslides and Minnie Spa are all closed? Would that be enough to steer you to a different hotel?

    We will be there at the end of April. Any chance the renovations are done early? Thanks. Love the site.

    • If you’re going to go to another hotel, go to the Grand Californian. The links I share after each hotel description can help you save money on each option.

      I doubt the renovations will be done early, but it’s hard to tell at this point.

      With the hotel pool renovation plans, you’re looking at about half of the pool being closed during each phase.

  4. Hi Casey, We are bringing our 18 month old for the first time this month. Help me understand how far the hotels are from the parks…We were thinking of staying at DLH but then I read someone’s review and they said the walk is really long, especially if going back for noontime naps, which we plan on doing. What is your opinion of distance? Should we splurge on Grand Californian just because of the distance to the park?
    Also, DLH is renovating the pools when we will be there, think it will be noisy from construction? Girl needs to nap!!!
    Thanks for your help!

  5. I’ve read Disneyland Hotel pool is being refurbished until May 2019. Debating on Disneyland’s Paradise Pier or Grand California for young teens. Which hotel has bigger slide, pools, hot tubs that would appeal more to older kids?

    • The Paradise Pier Hotel has a rooftop pool that is popular with bigger kids. You can also watch the fireworks from the 3rd floor deck at Paradise Pier.

      My kids are 11, 12, and 18 and still prefer the Grand Californian, however. They love the location and the “grandness” of it all. They both have many lovely qualities. You can’t go wrong with either one.

  6. Hi Casey- Love all your info!! We are planning a trip next year for my daughter’s 5th birthday but we haven’t been to DL since we took my son when he turned 5 in 2013! Last time we stayed at GC and loved it. This time, I’m debating between GC and DH and considering upgrading to concierge level. Is it worth the extra cost and which would hotel would you recommend?

  7. Looking at going to Disneyland for the first time with my wife. We have been to Disney World 4 times before. Is Paradise Pier a good hotel to stay? What is the best way of getting into the park from there? What is security like at Disneyland compared to Disney World since both entrances are so close to the parks?

    • Hi, Jonathan.

      Check out this link for the new route to enter the park from Paradise Pier:

      It really doesn’t add a huge amount of time, but some guests have been frustrated with not being able to cut through the Grand Californian Hotel that used to be available for such.

      Security at Disneyland can be pretty busy. I don’t recall seeing WDW have the lines that we have here at Disneyland. However, those lines stack up around 9:00am or 10:00am. If you’re a WDW vet, you likely know how important it is to arrive early. If you arrive an hour prior to official park opening like I suggest with my touring strategies, you won’t see the huge lines.

      My favorite hotel to stay in is the Disneyland Hotel. The Grand Californian wins for location.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Casey,

    My family is doing our first Disneyland trip for the first time. My kids are 2 and 4 years old.
    We will be there in November for 3 days. I’m planning on doing a character meal and leaning towards Breakfast with Minnie & Friends. Does this one require park admission? Also, which one is the best Resort Hotel Character Dining? Thank you.

  9. Hi Casey. We are planning a trip for 2018 and will be our first to Disneyland. we are Disney world fanatics! We are debating on Disneyland hotel or Grand Californian. Do you know if walking distance from Disneyland hotel is really far? or GC should be a better choice? also i wanted to rent DVC points to stay at GC but dont want to miss experiencing the nice rooms instead of the studio/villas. Do you know if they are as nice as the regular rooms at GC?

    • The villas are just as lovely as the rooms, as far as I have seen. The Disneyland Hotel is my favorite, but the distance is significant compared to the Grand Californian. It never bothers me, but if close proximity is important to you, go with the Grand. I would estimate that the walk from the Disneyland Hotel is 3/4 of a mile to the front gate and the Grand is 1/4 mile. Now, you can jump on the monorail in Downtown Disney (not too far into the Downtown area from the Disneyland Hotel) and get dropped in Tomorrowland if you want to avoid the walk all the way to the main entrance. That can help a bit on the walk.

      The monorail, otherwise, is kind of a novelty here. NOTHING like at WDW, where it’s an integral part of transportation.

      Oh, you’re going to love Disneyland! Everything is so convenient and charming and filled with history. I hope you enjoy it. I adore both WDW and Disneyland, but Disneyland feels so much more authentic to me. Characters roam the parks without handlers. Everything (to me) just feels like it’s more real. Such a different experience when you run into Peter Pan skipping through Fantasyland instead of waiting to see him on stage with a FASTPASS. (Not even sure that’s how you see him at WDW, but I know lots of characters are set up like that.)

      Anywho, check out this post for SO MUCH info on Disneyland for first timers, including a section for WDW vets like you:

      And, please let me know how I can help you!

  10. I’ve read that nightly fireworks can be viewed from PP rooftop pool. Can they be viewed from a location at DLH or anywhere else outside Disney land park?
    Also are monorail rides free when you stay at one of the 3 or is there a fee and how much?

    Thanks! This sight is very helpful!

    • Hi, Vanessa.

      The monorail is free with your paid admission ticket that day. You have to have a Disneyland park ticket to ride it.

      Paradise Pier is a great option for fireworks viewing. Far better than what you will find at either of the other hotels. Recommend!

      If you don’t choose that location for fireworks, you can watch from between the two parks, in the esplanade. Music is piped into that area, too.

  11. Hello Casey,

    Thank for all of the great tips! We are looking at staying at a DLR in early October. What’s the difference between Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the VILLAS AT Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (assuming I can rent points from a DVC owner).

  12. Between Disneyland hotel & Paradise Pier hotel, which one has the shortest walk to the park entrances? Thanks!

    • They’re technically tied because you can no longer walk through the Grand Californian Hotel to enter Downtown Disney as a short cut. Paradise Pier hotel guests will enter at the security checkpoint near ESPN zone – which is right in front of the Disneyland Hotel.

  13. Hi Casey!

    Thank you for all of your information! I have enjoyed reading through your many links & posts! Question…is there a height or age restriction for the water slides at the Disneyland Hotel?

    Thank you!

  14. Hi Casey!

    Considering a stay at the Grand Californian this July, but am worried about missing out on the *full* experience because of all of the renovations going on. Any thoughts on that? Has it looked like a hot mess over the past few months? I’ve never stayed there before and this would be a celebratory splurge (I’m turning 30, woo!) so I’d ideally want access to all the pools, restaurants, main lobby lounge areas, etc etc etc. Any advice would be much appreciated, and thanks so much for everything you do (and for keeping me entertained on FB & IG!).

  15. Compared to the good neighbor hotels across the street from the main enterence are the big 3 really worth the extra cost? I have 5 nights saved at the Fairfield but am considering switching to one of these hotels but I’m not sure if it’s really worth the extra money.

    • Hi, Carlee.

      It’s all really personal preference. Some people think it’s totally worth it to have the Extra Magic Hour and on site perks at the hotel. Some people are totally satisfied with the off-site options. Both are great – just depends on what you think would fit for your party.

  16. Hi Casey,
    So we are planning a stay at either PP or DH and have before used entry from the California Grand but recently saw they are no longer letting people cut through unless you are staying at that resort. Do you know If this is true? It just is so much easier when walking with small children.

  17. 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!!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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!


  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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?

  28. 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!

  29. 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!

  30. 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

  31. 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.

  32. 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! 🙂

  33. 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.

  34. 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

  35. 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!

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