Before visiting the Disney Theme parks, we investigated accommodations in the surrounding area, and settled on staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. We picked this on-site craftsman-style Disney hotel because of its location- it looks out over the California Adventure Park and has an entrance directly into the Downtown Disney Area. (A tip: this is paticularly nice after a 14 hour day in the parks- it’s a looong walk just to make your way through them, so it’s nice to have a close hotel.) Our room was on the third floor, with two queen beds and a nice balcony; we had a view of the fireworks at night.
As a general rule, the Grand Californian tends to be more expensive than the other Disney hotels (or the associated “Good Neighbor” hotels), but because of a 30% off deal that Disney is running this month, the price actually wound up being comparable. The hotel is beautiful, with an impressive lobby, spacious rooms, and nice amenities, such as on-site restaraunts, a spa and a licensed daycare. Staying at the Disney hotels themselves also grants you early entrance to the parks- an hour before the general public.
There are no meals included in the cost of the stay, so be prepared to visit the Downtown Disney District or an in-park venue for meals; expect to pay $10-20 per person, per meal. Bringing along portable snacks is also a good idea, as the inclusion of these items in the food budget causes expenses to rise pretty quickly.
The Downtown Disney District is the gateway to the parks themselves, and features a variety of restaurants, cafes, live entertainment, clubs and a movie theater. (You can see a map of the entire district and its offerings here.) Our favorite stop there was the Rainforest Café, a restaurant themed like a tropical rainforest- where the “inhabitants” (animatronics) come to life every 15 minutes or so. The dining area is modeled after a rainforest canopy, and features stars, birds and rain storms, complete with thunder and lightning. The costs to dine range from about $20-$40 per person, and there’s also cute Rainforest Cafe retail village with cute offerings such as stuffed animals, and branded attire.
Next… On to the theme parks.