With the holiday season in full swing at Disneyland Resort, I thought I’d share a few tidbits about some of the offerings available to guests visiting the hotels of the Disneyland Resort: the Paradise Pier Hotel, the Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian Hotel.
Grand Californian Hotel
This hotel usually has the best decorations of the 3 hotels. Upon entering the lobby, you will encounter a tall Christmas tree that reaches all the way up to the 6th floor. The tree plays homage to the 1920s craftsman era. Near the tree you will find a large chair that could only belong to the one and only Santa! Beginning on Black Friday, Santa will be available to guests in the afternoon usually after 4pm.
Note that Santa is a busy man and between his sets will travel to all 3 Disneyland hotels. If you miss him at the Grand Californian, you might be able to catch him at the Disneyland Hotel or Paradise Pier. His schedule is subject to availability. Make sure you speak with a Guest Services Cast Member or call the property to receive Santa’s latest visiting hours. There is no charge to meet Santa. Disneyland Photopass Cast Members will be on hand to capture any special moments.
Going back to the Grand, look out for one of the two piano players Hugh or Jamie to play iconic holiday tunes. They are available everyday in the afternoon. Both Hugh and Jamie are excellent pianists and love being able to speak with visiting guests and are also happy to play requested tunes.
Behind the Christmas tree facing the swimming pool, you will find a large real gingerbread house. The gingerbread house is constructed each year by members of the Grand Californian culinary team. It takes weeks of planning to be able to put this together and hours to construct the house. There are always a secret number hidden Mickeys hidden inside of it.
If you are in the mood for specialized coffee or hot chocolate and cookies, a season food cart is typically located next to the Hearthstone lounge in the lobby of the Grand Californian. It used to be available in the mid morning after 10 am. I love their peppermint hot chocolate and Mickey head cookie!
Other than that, the general ambiance is well worth enjoying. Access into the front of the hotel is limited to guests staying there, but if you have the chance, see if you can step out to see the lights on the trees and poinsettias. They were always the highlights of my mornings.
The Disneyland Hotel
My home hotel has one of the special scent machines as you enter the lobby area in Fantasy Tower. Somedays it smells like peppermint, other days it may be gingerbread. It always put you in a good mood. The theme in the Disneyland Hotel is retro 1950s as it’s the original hotel. In the center of the Fantasy tower where the large iconic map of Disneyland usually hangs, you will see a gingerbread Minnie and Mickey house. It’s not real like the one at the Grand though.
Fantasy tower is where you might find Santa! He usually has a special retro inspired meeting area in the hallways between the Fantasia gift store and convention area. One question people asked a lot was about parking. Parking at the hotels is only free for 3 hours if you are dining at a full service restaurant. The best advice we could give you was to park in Downtown Disney. It was way cheaper than dining.
The Frontier and Adventure tower lobbys have their own unique themed Christmas trees! If you visit Frontier tower it’s usually themed as a western tree while the Adventure tower tree is usually themed like the Jungle Cruise. They aren’t as nice as the Grand’s tree, but are worth a visit.
If you are looking for collectible merchandise, Trader Sam’s usually has a limited edition themed holiday tiki mug available in late November or early December. I was always shocked by how many people would ask about it. Once the mug was release it was usually sold out pretty quickly. It was an item that you needed to be on property to purchase. Each hotel used to have a unique holiday inspired pin as well to look out for.
If you are looking for holiday themed drinks, the Coffee House has a selection as does Trader Sams. I liked the adult version of a peppermint hot chocolate…alcohol is served in the mornings if you are a brave adventurer!
The Paradise Pier Hotel
Last but not least is the Paradise Pier Hotel! As the other two properties the Pier has it’s own beach and shell themed tree. It’s one of my favorites to see at night as it’s lit up with blue, red, pink, and other multi colored lights. It’s unique when you take a photo with it by Goofy’s statue. The coconut scent still lingers in the air this time of year.
If you are searching for Santa, in year’s past he has been on hand to greet guests in the lobby of the Pier. His location was not set to one place last year. You will have to call and ask where to find him at the hotel, but this location is often the least crowded of the 3 properties.
Entertainment wise, you will find that the Grand, Disneyland Hotel and Pier all have different caroling groups that will come and perform in the evenings on the weekends and daily closer to Christmas. The caroling groups are also subject to availability and are free to come and watch. We would often get pretty tired of the groups after about a week as you tend to hear the same music day after day. With that being said they are still very good.
The Pier’s holiday refreshments are available at the Surfside Lounge in the lobby of the Paradise Pier across from their shop Mickey in Paradise! They didn’t have any specialized drinks that differed from the Disneyland Hotel last time I was there.
This information comes from my time as a Disneyland Cast Member at the hotels of the Disneyland Resort. My views may differ from yours but we are all entitled to our own opinions. There is no way the hotels can capture the same magic as being inside Disneyland or California Adventure parks, but it’s a pretty decent substitute if you don’t have the money to go inside and a great way to see Santa. Always check with each speicfic hotel for the most up to date information! Until next time, happy travels!