on August 26, 2012
We are members of Disney Vacation Club so decided that we would use our timeshare points to book a one bedroom villa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa which is the flagship hotel on the Disney site.First impressions from the outside were very good. With a facade of brick and wood this obviously took inspiration from the nearby Sequoias forests and reminded me of Wilderness Lodge in WDW and Sequoia Lodge at Disneyland Paris.We pulled up and the valets explained about self-park and valet service and showed us where to pull up for check-in. We received the traditional DVC "welcome Home" greeting from every cast member that we came in to contact with from the man at the gate to the receptionist at the front desk.Walking in to the main lobby is an awe inspiring experience; it is a beautiful vaulted space with wooden beams, comfortable chairs and floor coverings all inspired by the American Arts and Crafts movement.Reception was to the right but there was no definite queuing area and people just seemed to be milling around so we headed straight for a free receptionist but I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t jumping the queue really.We were dealt with efficiently and within minutes we had the key to our room and a map of the site as well as information about the theme-park opening hours. We had room 507 on the 5th floor (the 4th floor to us Brits). The corridors were wide and clean and the elevators were extremely quick and there were a bank of 3 which meant that one always came very quickly throughout our stay.Upon opening the door I was immediately struck by the fact that the room seemed a bit dark but I realised that was the influence of all the dark wood which was in keeping with the theme of the hotel. I immediately went and opened the balcony doors and was disappointed to see that I had a view over the Mariposa Pool; I had been harbouring a secret hope of getting a Theme Park View room on the other side of the corridor.My daughter then noticed that we seemed to be short of a bed. The one-bedroomed DVC units sleep 5 people, 2 in a King bed in the main bedroom, 2 on a sofa bed and 1 on another bed in the lounge. In Orlando these extra beds are chair beds but here there was no chair. We puzzled over the bench by the dining room table but that wasn’t it but we then realised that it pulled down from a cabinet under the TV. Unfortunately this meant that the bed was rather short, my 5’4" daughter didn’t really fit very well and I was surprised that I hadn’t seen any mention that this bed would only be suitable for a child.The rest of the villa consisted of a large dining table, a fully equipped kitchen (except we were missing saucepans which seemed a bit strange), a shower room off the kitchen and then a large master bedroom with a bathroom with spa bath, a huge walk-in shower and another toilet. There was also a balcony with a table and two chairs. There was a washer/dryer in a cupboard and then another large cupboard which could be used as a wardrobe and also contained and iron, board and a pack’n’play.Our balcony had thick wooden balustrades which meant that it was difficult to see anything whilst sitting down, you had to stand up and look over the rail to gaze around the resort. The door to the balcony had two locks which I thought was a good safety feature, especially if you had young children.The villa had been well-cleaned and we had plenty of thick white towels and toiletries as well as two cotton-waffle bathrobes with the Grand Californian design embroidered on them including the Hidden Mickey on the tree. We found our beds were comfortable except for the short one and the room was quiet even though the wall to next door seemed very thin as we could hear our neighbours talking in the evening.The hotel has three pools and a childs pool but they are all located in the same area. One of the pools has a slide which seemed very popular and there were several hot-tubs dotted around. We went to the pools several times in the afternoon and found that there were usually beds available and I did see the pool attendants occasionally come round and just remove all the towels that were on beds where there were no other items left so luckily bed-hogging didn’t seem much of an issue. The sun beds are all adjustable with thick cushion covers and there are a few umbrellas. We found that the chairs around the Mariposa pool went in to shade at about 3 o’clock which suited us perfectly. There are a few cabanas that can be hired around the pool as well. The pool has life-guard cover and there were always several on duty. Entrance to the pool area is door key controlled so although anyone can walk around the hotel it is only residents who can access the pool area. To be honest we always had so much trouble getting the key lock to work that was located on the far side of the pool complex that I felt we had to be quite determined to get in any way!The hotel has several eateries; Storytellers cafe, Napa rose and White Water Snacks which cater for all tastes from pizza or fries up to romantic meals with wine. We only used White water Snacks which was usually quiet and we found the staff very helpful and the food was always fresh although it took a while usually to be cooked.One of the main complaints I would have about this hotel is the location of the smoking areas. One is just outside the lobby on the walkway from the DVC building which meant we couldn’t avoid it when entering the main building. The other was on the Walkway to Downtown Disney so that was impossible to avoid too.The main reason we stayed in this hotel was to visit the Disney Them Parks and the location could not have been better. There is a direct entrance to Disney’s California Adventure Park next to the Napa Rose restaurant. This entrance brings you right in near the rapids ride so was fantastic for entering and leaving the park during the day, one day we came off the rapids soaking wet and were back in our room getting changed within 5 minutes. The entrance opens at the same time as the main gates of the park but there are only two turnstiles. Getting to Disneyland Park was also very easy as that is also accessed via the main plaza so it was probably about 7 minutes to get to the gates of this park from our room too. We did notice that some of the rooms did seem to face out over Downtown Disney which I would imagine made them rather noisy.If we ever get to return to Anaheim I can’t see us being happy to stay anywhere else as this hotel thoroughly spoilt us. It felt luxurious throughout and the location couldn’t be beaten. We didn’t need to touch our car for 4 days and it was hard to believe that we were on the outskirts of LA as we felt we were in a totally different world. We only experienced excellent service whilst staying here and it really embodied the Disney Magic for us.
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