For the most iconic Disney resort experience, you must stay at the Disneyland Hotel (1150 Magic Way, 714/956-6425 or 714/778-6600, http://disneyland.disney.go.com, $350). This nearly 1,000-room high-rise monument to brand-specific family entertainment has everything a vacationing Brady-esque bunch could want: themed swimming pools, themed play areas, and even character-themed guest rooms that allow the kids to fully immerse themselves in the Mouse experience.
Adults and families on a budget can also get rooms with either a king or two queen beds and more traditional motel fabrics and appointments. The monorail stops inside the hotel, offering guests the easiest way into the park proper without having to deal with parking or even walking.
It’s easy to find the Paradise Pier Hotel (1717 S. Disneyland Dr., 714/956-6425 or 714/999-0990, http://disneyland.disney.go.com, $450); it’s that high-rise thing just outside of the parks on the California Adventure side. This hotel boasts what passes for affordable lodgings within walking distance of California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and Disnelyand’s main gate.
Rooms are cute, colorful, and clean; many have two double or queen beds to accommodate families or couples traveling together on a tighter budget. You’ll find a (possibly refreshing) lack of Mickeys in the standard guest accommodations at the Paradise, which has the feel of a beach resort motel.
The Grand Californian (1600 S. Disneyland Dr., 714/956-6425 or 714/635-2300, http://disneyland.disney.go.com, $200–450) lies inside California Adventure, attempting to mimic the famous Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite. While it doesn’t quite succeed (much of what makes the Ahwahnee so great is its views), the big-beam construction and soaring common spaces do feel reminiscent of a great luxury lodge. The hotel is surrounded by gardens and has restaurants, a day spa, and shops attached on the ground floors; it can also get you right out into Downtown Disney and thence to the parks proper.
Guest rooms at the Californian offer more luxury than the other Disney resorts, with dark woods and faux-Craftsman detailing creating an attractive atmosphere. You can get anything from a standard room that sleeps two up to spacious family suites with bunk beds that can easily handle six people. As with all Disney resorts, you can purchase tickets and a meal plan along with your hotel room (in fact, if you book via the website they’ll try to force you to do it that way).
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition