Like so many vacations, where you stay at Disneyland is going to depend on what your goals are for the trip, your budget, and your timeline. In this article I will discuss where I recommend staying, what I recommend you look for, and how to figure out and break down the best choice(s) for your traveling party.
The map of Disneyland…
Disneyland is compact. Think of the entire resort as one big block that backs right up to Interstate 5, with three main roads running around it. Harbor, Katella, and Disneyland Drive. On the map above the Disney official hotels have a purple star, and all are within easy walking of the resorts so that you can park your car and enjoy. In the purple zones marked on Harbor and Katella above, are the zones I’d stay in to save money/select a “good neighbor” hotel. These are all still walkable to the resort, and often hundreds of dollars less per night!
So which one do you pick and what is your best choice? It depends on your reason for staying. Quite regularly I book a hotel by the convention center because I am attending a work event and will just hop up to the Downtown Disney (no ticket required!) area once or twice, so being close to the work events makes more sense.
Convention Center area ‘upscale’ hotels
These hotels are often into the $200-300/night range, so if your primary goal is Disney I’d spring for an official Disney hotel at that price. I would only book one of the more expensive (Marriott, Hilton) convention hotels if my primary goal was the convention center event(s), and if my work was picking up the tab. These hotels have full amenities including Starbucks, decent restaurants, etc – and they make you pay for it. If able to afford one of these and not attending any events other than Disneyland – I’d spring for a Disney hotel.
Between Convention Center and Disney ‘basic’ hotels
I pick one of these hotels on Katella or Harbor when I’m picking up the tab, need to be close to convention center, and I won’t really be in the room nor need any amenities. I’ve stayed at several and they all run about the same quality wise. Understand these hotels run pretty close to full most of the time, and often cut corners to keep prices low. Expect worn looking furniture and just the basics. There’s nothing wrong with any of the ones I’ve stayed at, they are simply budget motels with the one and only benefit being proximity to major sites (Disney, convention) with much lower price tags. The downside is you’re going to be walking a small to medium distance to get to anything. The upsides are price as well as being close to many great food options.
Tip: Check out Trip Advisor for current reviews, and look around to see which ones are freshly renovated or getting a lot of love for good service and cleanliness. This does often change – so it’s good to make sure you’re looking at recent trip reports!
Anaheim Garden Walk
I’m adding this in here because you should know Roy’s to CPK to Cheesecake factory- there’s a lot of nice ‘mid range’ meals to be had here both to-go and to enjoy at the restaurant.
The con here is a big one: price. A few ways around that include renting DVC points at Grand Californian, watching for sales/offers and being flexible on price, and staying the minimum # of nights possible before moving to more affordable accommodations. The pros? Location, early entry to park, close and easily walkable, beautiful pools and food, and the sense of being “inside the Disney bubble” for your stay.
On our next trip the best price to be had was a room in the Grand Californian Hotel (Disneyland Hotel basic rooms were sold out, leaving us to spend $$$ on a view or sleep elsewhere) – and we took it. Since we have only one day in the parks the extra hour of park access as well as how close it will be for our mid day summer pool break made it totally worth the splurge for a short trip.
To recap, the areas above in purple (starred official Disney hotels and ranges on map in purple) are the areas I’d recommend staying for a few days in Disneyland. Consider your own eating (will you want to eat in parks? Outside?), transportation, budget, and travel style. All of these choices can be done easily without a car or dealing with Disney’s parking lot which is a plus to me!
Which specific hotel to pick? Trust recent trip reports, but ultimately pick the one that has the right price + amenities for your family. Within this very small area you’ll have a magical time and enjoy no matter what!