Hotel Review: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

Grand, but Used to Be Grander

Grizzly PeakAs an avid Disney fan, I take vacations to the Disneyland resort often. For the past couple of years I began booking my stays exclusively at the Disneyland Hotel, because I love their newly renovated pool area. This year I decided to give my once favorite hotel another try. Growing up, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa was the place we visited when we were celebrating something really special. It’s the more expensive resort out of the three on the Disney property, the third being Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.

The Grand Californian is a beautiful hotel, with a woodsy northern Californian feel. The lobby is a sight to be scene with high ceilings, a large stone fireplace, and cozy furniture. The pool area features three different large pools, a child’s play pool, and water slide. Restaurants on the property include the Napa Rose (award winning), Storyteller Cafe, and a casual fast service restaurant by the pool area. The Mandara Spa located on the hotel property is the only spa within the Disneyland resort. It is a full service spa offering massages, facials, nail treatments, and beauty services (hair and makeup).

For years we looked forward to our stays at the hotel. The concierge service offered free snacks, small dishes, alcoholic beverages, and sodas. It was a concierge service well worth the money. We also enjoyed the proximity to the parks. The Grand Californian is the only hotel located right next to the parks. You can enter CA Adventure Park and Downtown Disney from the hotel. Disneyland is also just a few feet away. The hotel offers rooms with premium views, those being of Downtown Disney, CA Adventure park, or the pool area. A non premium view is a view of the courtyards, featuring some very tall pine trees.

While the Grand Californian was once my favorite Disneyland Resort hotel, it’s lost some of the magic it once held. This past March I planned a trip to the hotel, booking my stay way in advance and requesting a premium view. In my notes to the Disney booking agent I requested a park view. For those who don’t know the hotel well, there is a part of the hotel which faces Grizzly Peak, a key feature of the CA Adventure Park. I had always wanted to stay in one of these rooms, and made my request to the booking agent. When it came time to check in, I reminded the front desk person that we had requested this room type, and paid for a premium room. We also paid the $250 a day upgrade charge for concierge service. Instead of the room I requested we were provided with a partial view of the pool, no Grizzly Peak or park view for that matter. I called down to the front desk, and we were shown another room, but this room was located farther from Grizzly Peak with a partial view of the attraction.

At this point I gave up trying, and accepted that for this trip my Disney dreams wouldn’t come true. I did however go down to the lobby, and spoke with a front desk staff member. I asked what I needed to do in order to secure a premium view, he told me the following:

1) Book in advance

2) Do not upgrade to concierge service

3) Specifically request the view you want

4) Accept that they can’t please everyone, and there are very few rooms with close up views of the park

It sounds strange that upgrading and paying an additional fee for concierge service would prevent you from securing a great view, but he assured me this was the case. They only have a few rooms that are designated for the concierge service, and these do not feature the amazing views you might want. Later, after experiencing what had happened to the concierge service, I regretted my decision to upgrade even more. What was once a great deal, free food and beverages, was now cut back to a tea service. You can still enjoy some snacks and tea sandwiches, but the Disneyland Hotel now offers the better Concierge service.

Besides the downgrading of the concierge service, the pool area also requires a remodel. With the newly renovated pool area of the Disneyland hotel, the Grand Californian’s pool area now looks far from “grand”. The water slide has lost it’s magic, requiring riders to use their hands and bodies to help guide them to the bottom. It may be the hotel’s way of conserving water, but the thrill of the ride has been lost. If you’re looking for a great pool experience stay at The Disneyland Hotel instead. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel also offers a great water slide, although the pool area is quite smaller.

During our stay we dined at the Napa Rose restaurant. Our waiter was very pleasant, and the service was great. The food was delicious, but do expect to pay more. The interesting moment of the night came when we were evacuated from the restaurant due to a fire alarm. We were escorted out of the resort into the CA Adventure park as we waited for the hotel to be checked out for flames. Once the issue was resolved we were allowed back into the restaurant. Our waiter served us two desserts of our choice for free to apologize for the escapade. It was an overall enjoyable experience, even with our own California adventure.

My stay wasn’t overall a bad experience. The hotel is still wonderfully imaginative. The pool area is still luxurious. You will enjoy the very comfortable lounge chairs where you can relax, and take a dip in the salt water pool. The rooms are very clean, and the amazing attention to detail transports you to Northern California. The proximity to the park is a definite bonus, with the ability to enter the park early on certain days.

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Have you stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian hotel? Tell us what you thought of the resort. Was this review helpful? Let us know int he comment section below.

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Best Places for Holiday Magic in LA

disneyland christmas castleAnyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with Christmas.  While many of my friends complain about  the early holiday decor, I revel in it.  I love the bright lights, wreaths, and garland. I love baking, and the smell of candles burning in the house. It warms my heart and lightens my soul. It comes as no shock then that I make sure to visit locations where the holiday cheer is high.

In Los Angeles there are plenty of places that put up special decor during the holidays. With plenty of shopping malls near by, there is no shortage of places to see Santa Clause.  The Beverly Center is famous for their “Hunky Santa.”  What women wouldn’t want a hot guy who gives gifts? Visit hunky Santa at the Beverly Center, sit on his lap, and get your picture taken.  Don’t worry guys, there’s something for you as well.  The Candy Cane girls perform acrobatic stunts when Santa makes his grand entrance. Want to view pics or learn more? Visit here to see what Hunky Santa is all about. The newly renovated Glendale Galleria has a Santa station right outside the Macy’s, and walk across the street to the Americana to visit Santa’s workshop.

If you’re looking for family friendly holiday cheer this season, you will want to make sure to visit the following merry destinations:

Disneyland holidays1) Disneyland

No one does Christmas magic like Disney.  At Disneyland they pull out all the stops making sure you see Christmas decor everywhere you go. Sleeping Beauty’s castle is covered in twinkling lights, giving it a look as if Tinkerbell herself sprinkled pixie dust all over it. Above the pavement on Mainstreet USA hang Christmas wreaths with hundreds of lights.  Mainstreet is also the location of the falling snow during the fireworks show.  The Haunted Mansion is transformed into a Nightmare before Christmas.  This year the movie celebrated it’s 25th anniversary, so even more changes have been made to the experience.  New to Disneyland this holiday season is the “Jingle Cruise.” The Jungle Cruise ride has a special holiday theme this year.  Over at CA Adventure the new Car’s Land has been decorated for the holidays.  Instead of wreaths, tires are decorated and hang above the main street. Enjoy special holiday treats at any number of bakeries located at the park. Also new this year to CA Adventure is the holiday World of Color show. Expect to see Ana and her sister Elsa from Disney’s newest animated feature “Frozen”. Can’t pay the price of admission? You can still enjoy Disney magic by visiting the Downtown Disney District.  The streets are decorated for the holidays, and you can ice skate with your little ones at the pixie themed skating rink.  Admission is free, and parking is free for 3 hours.

the grove christmas2) The Americana/Grove

Looking for things to do during the weekend? You can shop, dine, catch a movie, and see Santa at the Americana and the Grove.  The Grove was a Rick J. Caruso project. A little known fact is that one of the original Disney Imagineers worked on the design.  The Grove opened in 2002, and The Americana followed.  Both destinations set up huge Christmas trees, lights, and Santa’s workshop.  At The Grove it actually “snows” once a night.  There are a variety of restaurants and shops to choose from at both locations.  You can get your shopping done, have a cup of cocoa, and enjoy the lights. Right next to The Grove is the famous Farmer’s Market.  Enjoy fresh produce, and home cooked meals hometown and ethnic. Across from the Americana is the newly renovated Glendale Galleria with even more shopping and dining options.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3) Universal Studios/City Walk

If you don’t feel like making the drive out to Anaheim, Universal Studios is close by and cheaper.  Visit Grinchmas, Universal’s Grinch themed holiday area where it “snows” in Los Angeles.  Fans of the holiday movie will love this area.  Universal has recreated the set of the hit movie staring Jim Carey.  You can visit all of your favorite characters from the Dr. Suess book.  Located next to the theme park is Universal City Walk.  You can shop, dine, see a movie, play in an arcade, or dance the night away at a nightclub. Universal City Walk offers something for everyone. To purchase your theme park tickets or to learn more about the holiday festivities at Universal Studios Hollywood visit their website here.

Take some time to enjoy the holidays this year.

-Love Meesh

Halloween: Create Your Own Look

evil queen costumeI love Halloween, because it gives me a reason to be creative.  Sure you can buy a costume in a bag at any local Halloween shop, but the results are always the same.  A baggy, ill-fitting, too short costume is not the way to go.  After a few disastrous Halloweens during my early 20s I decided to start adding my own personal touch to costumes.  If you can’t sew like me, you can create an easy costume using items in your closet.  With the right dress all you really need are some Halloween accessories, which won’t cost you much at all. In need of costume accessories? I found mine here.

Each year I put together two costumes, a different costume for each of the nights I go out.  This year the theme was good vs. evil.  For my first look, I decided on the evil queen.  I drew my inspiration from the hit TV series Once Upon a Time.  In the show Regina plays an evil queen with killer style.  With each episode I watched I grew ever more jealous that I couldn’t wear her outfits in my day to day life, but on Halloween we can be as glamorous and sexy as we want to be.

To recreate Regina’s look I went for a black laced halter corset found here. Next, I searched for a skirt that would be fun and sexy, but still fit in with the theme.  I knew I could do better than a typical tutu, and found this high-low fairy tale skirt in black online here.  The crown would be the most important part of the costume, without it people would have trouble figuring out what I was supposed to be. I found this amazing crown at Amazon.com here.  The crown is definitely my favorite part of this costume. Wish I could wear it every day lol!

cinderella costumeEvery little girl dreams of being a Disney Princess.  Cinderella was one of my favorite movies as a little girl, and still is to this day, so for my second look I chose to recreate Cinderella’s iconic look.  My boyfriend had purchased the crown for me from Disneyland several months back, and Halloween gave me an opportunity to wear it out in public without seeming like a lunatic.  To recreate the rest of the look I started with this white corset from Frederick’s of Hollywood.  Although Cinderella’s dress is often depicted as blue, it always looked white, and glittery to me.  The shine in this corset was perfect.  I paired it with a white maxi skirt I had in my closet purchased at Foreign Exchange for less than $40.  To complete the look I’ll be wearing full length white gloves, and a black choker similar to the one found here.

No matter what your fairy tale dreams are you can make them come true on Halloween.  You don’t have to look unshapely in a costume from a bag just because you can’t sew.  Putting together a costume isn’t as hard as you might think, and the results are always better.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Halloween!

-Meeshme

D23: Wouldn’t You Think My Collection’s Complete?

Little Mermaid Collection

Ariel said it best when she said, “I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty!” Ever since my boyfriend discovered my love for Disney every gift has been Disney related. As a result I have acquired quite a collection of Disney artwork, figurines, and dolls. One look at my childhood bedroom, and I think you’ll agree that my collection is complete. That was until we heard that D23 was coming to town once again.

D23 is held at the Anaheim Convention Center every two years. At this year’s Disney Expo we viewed upcoming trailers for movies like “Maleficent” & “Thor: The Dark World“. We saw sneak peaks of movies currently filming like “Cinderella” & “Tomorrowland“, and had access to some limited edition items at the Disney Store. All I can say is that I’m incredibly excited for the new Disney film line up. Actors like Angelina Jolie, Tom Hiddleston, Kristen Bell, and Indina Menzel were in attendance to promote their new films. Yes, Angelina Jolie is incredibly gorgeous in person, and very kind.

Disney Infinity Display

Infinity, the new Disney interactive game was one of the exciting products introduced at the Expo. After playing this game I can attest to it’s one of a kind experience. Your kids will love playing this game, and you can get in on the fun playing as one of your favorite Disney characters. View clips from this exciting new game here or purchase your very own game here.

054At the D23 pop up Disney store we were able to view upcoming product lines. I think you’ll be excited about some of the products hitting stores this fall. The Disney Fairytale Designer Collection features some of your favorite princesses in dresses designed with stunning detail. The unique thing about this collection is that it includes both prince and princess. The collection includes Rapunzel & Flynn Rider, Jazmine & Aladdin, Snow White & Prince Charming, Bell & the Beast, and Ariel & Prince Eric. The dolls are being released one at a time. The time to purchase Snow White & Charming has already passed, but you can purchase Rapunzel & Flynn now. To view future release dates visit the Disney info page here. All doll sets are priced at $129.95. There are only 6,000 of each doll made world round, so supplies are very limited. In addition to the dolls, the Disney Fairytale Designer Collection features journals, tea cups, jewelry, make up, clothing & more. To view the Fairytale Designer Collection page click here.

In addition to the Fairytale Designer Collection, Disney also unveiled their new line of “It’s a Small World” dolls. I know I’m not the only one who growing up wondered why the iconic ride’s dolls were not for sale. The new dolls feature the iconic song sung in each doll’s respective language. View the dolls in action here before they go on sale.  The dolls will be released just in time for this year’s holiday season. Guess what you’re little girl will want for Christmas?

Some items I picked up at D23 included limited edition Little Mermaid artwork, 1 of only 500 Fairytale Designer Collection makeup bag, and one of a kind paintings of Tinkerbell. The next D23 Expo will take place in Anaheim,CA in 2015. Until then don’t forget to visit your local Disney Store or Disneystore.com for the latest one of a kind items. I hope my collection is finally complete, then again there’s always something new I just have to have!

Twenty Seven

I took quite a bit of time off from the blog recently to attend a work conference, and celebrate my twenty-seventh birthday.  Why is it that life speeds up so much after high school? Before you turn twenty-one the days are endless, the weeks drag on, and summer vacation never seems to come.  Now I blink, and I’m turning another year older.  I can’t get used to saying one age, before it’s time to say another.

This year I decided to take a break from the Vegas celebrations of the past, and spend time with family.  Besides my cousins and my brother, my best friends Marta, Naty and Vlad are my family; as well as, my boyfriend Chris.  The group of us spent the weekend at the Disneyland Resort.  I’m not ready to grow up and face 30, so a weekend at Disneyland was my way of protesting twenty-seven.

We stayed at the Disneyland hotel, and had a blast.  We enjoyed drinks at the Tiki Room inspired Trader Sams, went down the monorail themed water slides several times, and sun bathed.  For dinner we ate at Carthay Circle and The Story Teller’s Cafe located inside Disney’s Grand Californian hotel.  The weekend was full of laughs, good food, and good people.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate getting older, than to celebrate that I’m still young at heart.

Here are some pictures from my weekend of celebrating.

Valentine’s Day: Done Disney

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Anyone who has known me for even about five minutes, knows that I love Disneyland.  My very first birthday was celebrated there, and pretty much every year since.  My mom has worked for Disney for the past 17 years, and my boyfriend now works there as well.  Maybe it’s the fact that I never want to let go of my inner child, or that my love of big ball gowns makes me resentful that I wasn’t born a Disney Princess, but I always feel happy when I spend a day in or around the parks.

All my time spent at the parks have made me somewhat of an expert.  It’s no secret that many girls love Disneyland, many men however dread walking past that turnstile.  That being said, Disneyland is truly a romantic place.  It’s the reason why so many girls want to be taken there on a date.  Why not treat your girlfriend to a Valentine’s Day at the park? If you work on during the week, you can always celebrate a weekend before or after.  Can’t pay the hefty admission ticket price? No worries, Downtown Disney offers plenty of romantic dining experiences, and parking is free for five hours with validation.

So without further ado, here are some romantic dinner options Disney style:

The Blue Bayou

Blue bayou

The Blue Bayou

Ever taken a boat ride on the Pirates of the Carribbean? Then you have seen the Blue Bayou.  Yes, it’s that restaurant you can see from your boat before you take that first drop.  I had seen this restaurant over and over again for years, and always wanted to try it.  I just never got around to it.  I mentioned this to my boyfriend when we were first dating, and on my birthday he took me there.  I was so surprised, and excited.  The restaurant is much more magical than it appears from the ride.  The dining area is designed to look as though you are eating outside in the bayou region of Louisiana.  The entrance and waiting area are set in the facade of a New Orleans home.  When you walk past the doors into the “patio” you see what looks like outdoor dining.  The trees, twinkling lights, and bayou backdrop truly transport you to Louisiana.  Our table was positioned close to the water, but don’t worry you can’t even see the Disneyland tourists floating by on their boats.  The food was delicious.  They serve traditional Louisiana fare with choices of Jambalya, gumbo, and more.  See the full menu here.  As we finished our dinner my boyfriend said I love you for the first time.  He later referred the restaurant to his friend who purposed to his girl friend there.  The Blue Bayou is a truly a place for romance.

Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

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Jazz Kitchen

If you like the sound of a Louisiana inspired dinner date, but can’t afford to splurge on theme park tickets, then visit Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen.  While I’ve never been on a date here, I have dined here with a close friend of mine.  The restaurant is beautifully designed with lots of attention to detail.  The fountain in the center of the dinning room ads a dramatic touch to the scenery.  The food and portion size are great, and the beignets  are to die for.  View the full menu here.  If you’re on a budget, you can visit the quick pick up location next door.  They offer many Louisiana favorites, and you can pick up a bag of the delicious beignets with powdered sugar.  Take your bag to go, and snack with your loved one as you walk down the strip and take a look at the shops.

Carthay Circle

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Carthay Circle

Located near the entrance of Disney’s California Adventure theme park, Carthay Circle is one of the newest additions to the theme park.  The restaurant depicts the same theater Walt Disney premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all those years ago.  The original theater is now gone, and the restaurant pays tribute to the movie that started the animation studio.  The restaurant is an ode to old Hollywood glamour, and the architecture is similar to the Spanish style reminiscent of that time.  The bar located on the first floor of the restaurant serves delicious cocktails as you wait to be seated.  The dining room itself is glorious.  The menu is varied with many California inspired dishes, and a few Asian inspired as well. To view the full menu visit here.  The ambiance is very romantic, and will impress any date.

Napa Rose

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Napa rose

Located inside Disney’s California Adventure Hotel, Napa Rose is a romantic dinner destination.  Entrance to this restaurant does not require an admission ticket.  The menu was created by the same Chef responsible for the menu at Carthay Circle.  Napa Rose has received several accolades since it’s opening in 2002.  The ambiance is very contemporary, but the dim lighting ads a touch of romance.  The wine selection is quite extensive, so wine connoisseurs take note.  With thick cut steaks, and fresh fish to choose from, you can’t lose at this modern restaurant.  To view the full menu visit here.

Other downtown Disney options include: The House of Blues, Catal Restaurant, and Naples.

Disney romance on a budget: Flo’s V8 Cafe. Great views of the Car’s Land Canyon.

No matter where you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, I hope it’s a magical one.