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Where to Stay at Disneyland
Unlike in Florida at Walt Disney World, Disneyland in California has a bit of a space issue. The park was built at a time when extra surrounding land couldn’t be purchased by Disney and this eventually lead to the opening of motels and shops around the park. Now, the area around the parks is maintained as a resort district, however most of it isn’t owned by Disney.
With a mix of three on-site hotels and countless other hotels & motels spread out within a couple miles of the resort, the choices and options of accommodation when visiting Disneyland are limitless. With that said, I am here to help you narrow down where to stay at Disneyland.
To start determining where to stay at Disneyland, let’s look at Disney’s own on-site hotels. Unlike at Walt Disney World, on-site hotels at Disneyland aren’t quite as advantageous. To start, let’s look at the three on-site Disneyland Resort hotels:
The quality of the three hotels generally goes in that order as well. Paradise Pier is the most downmarket given that it was converted from another hotel back in 2001 and wasn’t built from scratch as a Disney resort. The Disneyland Hotel dates back to near the beginning, but was recently renovated and is very nice. On the top-end is the Grand Californian which is attached to Disney California Adventure and is widely considered to be one of Disney’s best resorts anywhere.
Unfortunately Disneyland’s on-site hotels are not cheap. It isn’t unusual to see Paradise Pier going for $300+ and depending on the night Grand Californian can easily approach north of $700. This is honestly one of the biggest downsides to staying on-property. I guarantee you those hotels/motels around Disneyland aren’t getting to that price even on the busiest of days.
While Disneyland’s on-site hotels are expensive, you do get a few perks. For me the only perk worth really considering is the Extra Magic Hour. On-site guests get into either Disney California Adventure or Disneyland one hour before the public. This alternates between the two parks each day. Other than that, you can charge purchases to your room and deliver packages back to your room from shops. Not a lot to justify that huge price, but the hotels are very nice as well.
Perhaps you are looking to save some money with your search for where to stay at Disneyland? Did you know that there are off property hotels which are closer to the parks than Disney’s own Paradise Pier? Yup! The Tomorrowland side of Disneyland borders Harbor Blvd. Just across the street about 3-4 minutes by foot from the front gates.
Let’s look at a map of the area to get a lay of the land.
What you are looking at is the Disneyland Resort, Anaheim Convention Center and Anaheim Resort District. Now let’s take a look at the areas to determine where to stay at Disneyland. There are three main areas that people stay in when visiting Disneyland.
Harbor Boulevard Side
If you look at the map above, you’ll see a McDonald’s just outside Disneyland Park on the top right. That is located across Harbor Blvd. from the park along with a ton of hotels and motels of varying levels and quality. Those hotels run for miles on Harbor Blvd., but many people like to stay at the properties located within walking distance of the park.
If you take a look a bit South on Harbor you’ll find Katella. Right around where the Hyatt House at Anaheim Resort is located. From experience I can tell you that from this spot to the front gates is about a 10 minute walk not factoring in security.
Downtown Disney Side
While a bit tougher to see, there are also some (not as many) hotels within walking distance on the West side of Disneyland. These are clustered around Katella and Disneyland Drive and also around the Mickey & Friends parking structure towards the top left of the map. You can see a Holiday Inn in the far left corner for example. These hotels tend to be a bit further by foot to the gates, but are generally within walking distance.
Beyond Walking Distance
The answer of where to stay at Disneyland is far from simple, because there are a ton more hotels just a bit further away as well! These hotels rely on city and private shuttles to ferry passengers between the hotels and parks at scheduled times.
Towards the bottom right of the map above you’ll also see a huge parking lot. That is Disney’s Toy Story parking lot and you can also walk there from many hotels and then take the free shuttle to Disneyland.. Keep in mind that the shuttle loading is somewhat far from Harbor, so it isn’t the quickest process and you’re still relying on shuttles which can get cramped, etc.
Good Neighbor Hotels
Disneyland has 48 “Good Neighbor Hotels” in the Anaheim area. Most of the major hotels in the area are good neighbor hotels. This doesn’t really get you any perks nor should it sway your decision very much. It just means they can sell tickets and answer some questions about Disneyland.
Navigating Security Time
When deciding where to stay at Disneyland there is one more thing to keep in mind. Which security entrance do you want to use? Disneyland pretty much has 3 main areas of security at the moment. If you arrive at the two parking structures then you’ll go through security before getting on the tram. If you arrive via bus/shuttle or walking on Harbor Blvd. there is a security checkpoint on that side. Finally, if you are coming from the other side then there is a checkpoint at Downtown Disney.
The Harbor Blvd. entrance seems to always be the busiest since it serves all Harbor Blvd. hotel guests plus those coming on shuttles from the Toy Story parking lot and hotels. Conversely it seems the Downtown Disney entrance is often much less busy. On slow days it won’t matter, but if you are going at a busy time, staying closer to the Downtown Disney side could be a good choice to avoid security lines. And you might even get to ride the monorail into the park!
Where I Stay?
I’ve been going to Anaheim for many years and have settled in to where to stay at Disneyland. Almost always I’ll stay within walking distance on the Harbor Blvd. side due to there being more choices, but I’m willing to stay on the other side as well. Generally I look at price/convenience and I’m always looking to use hotel points as well to avoid paying for my stay.
One hotel I have really liked lately is the Hyatt House. As I mentioned it is a 10 minute walk to the parks and has a number of food/drink options around it. I would stay at whichever property is the closest that meets your quality/price standards. You can read my Anaheim Hyatt House review on Miles to Memories.
Walk vs. Shuttle?
This is a big question I am often asked about where to stay in the Disneyland area. Fortunately I can definitively answer it for you. If you have a choice and especially if you plan to spend a lot of time at the parks then stay within walking distance. Yes, your feet may be tired at the end of the night, but waiting for a shuttle is so much worse.
Many of the ART shuttles in Anaheim stop at multiple hotels and can get cramped during busy times not to mention they aren’t free. Waiting can be a drag as well! If you do stay at a hotel with a shuttle, try to get one that has a private shuttle for only guests of that hotel. For example, the Hyatt Regency Orange County charges $6 per day for unlimited rides on their private shuttle which runs every 30 minutes. Make sure to also factor in the shuttle cost when comparing costs to a closer hotel.
Where to Stay at Disneyland – Recap
To sum it up, here are some key takeaways I think you should consider when deciding where to stay at Disneyland.
- On-site hotels are very expensive, but are of high quality, are near the parks and have some perks
- Avoid shuttles if you can and stay at a hotel that is within walking distance
- If you need to stay further away, find a hotel that has a good shuttle service that runs often
- The Downtown Disney side off-site hotels can be a great way to save time on security and money, although they tend to be a bit further away
In the end there is a lot to decide when looking at where to stay at Disneyland. Hopefully this guide has helped to explain the landscape a bit so you can decide on the perfect hotel. Just about every brand is represented along with tons of local properties, so you’ll always have plenty of options to choose from!