Long gone is the assumption that Disneyland is just for kids. You know who has to bring those kids into the parks? Parents! And it’s not just for parents either. Disney is for young honeymooners, groups of friends visiting SoCal, retired folks coming back for their annual visit, or solo travelers looking for an escape from reality. As someone who doesn’t have children and often travels alone, I’ve found tons of things to do in the parks that keep me coming back. So, I compiled a series of posts about what to do as a grown-up at Disneyland.
Now, I’m finally getting to my favorite part of the series! Disneyland Resort Hotels. Disneyland has three official hotels with a fourth hotel coming in 2021. All three are a little bit pricey, but even if a Disneyland Hotel is outside of your budget, there are a ton of activities, food, and drink to be explored at the resorts. Most of them completely suitable, if not made for, adults.
Check out our other three Guides to Disneyland for Adults here!
Paradise Pier is severely lacking in dining and entertainment and really doesn’t hold a bar to Grand Californian or The Disneyland Hotel. If you’re looking to stay at a Disney hotel, I would say due to the high prices, you’ll get a lower value compared to the other two. There other nearby hotels like Four Points Sheraton that would be a better choice. I will also say that it still has the Disney touch and it’s close to Downtown Disney, so it’s not a bad choice, just not the best one. There are two
1) View the Fireworks from the Rooftop Pool: The firework viewing is the best thing about this resort. In true Disney fashion, they also pipe in the soundtrack while you watch. Arrive about 20-30 minutes early if you want a seat and there is plenty of standing room if you come late. This is technically for resort guests only, but I somehow found myself on the rooftop one night and I wasn’t turned away. I don’t know if everyone will be that lucky, however, so visit at your own risk!
2) Surfside Lounge: If you’re looking to a Disney bar crawl and hit up every lounge in the area, this will be the place to start off. However, if you’re looking for a good Disney cocktail, I suggest heading across the street to another resort or Downtown Disney.
Walt’s flagship hotel has fantastic park views and located just steps away from the monorail. The hotel is defiantly Disney in a way that’s neither cheesy or oversaturated. The rooms are filled with “magical” elements like the light-up headboards and Hidden Mickeys. If you’re a grown-up Disney fan you’ll love the theming and the historical elements scattered throughout the hotel. Last I visited, they were having a special showing of Disneyland’s opening day documentary in one of their conference rooms. It was extremely nerdy and awesome.
3) Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar: You’ll find the best mixed drinks at Trader Sam’s. On the patio, you’re treated to a live band and tiki torches. The indoor bar is very tiny so you will most likely have to wait in a line to be admitted. Even then, you’re not guaranteed a seat and you might have to cozy up to the bar. Once you’ve made it inside, you’re transported to an immersive tropical hideaway with really great food. Try the Chinese Long Beans or just get the sampler Pu Pu Platter. Also, I don’t want to give away too much, but if you order a Krakatoa Punch, you’re in for a surprise!
4) Rum Dole Whip – The Coffee House: This the one place on property that serves the classic Dole Whip with a shot of rum. Extremely dangerous! They also have coffee (duh) and specialty pastries and treats throughout the day.
5) Fancy Dining – Steakhouse 55: What’s more adult than a fancy steakhouse? The specialty is the 24 layer chocolate cake (YAS). If you want to be extra fancy, try the Afternoon Tea where you can indulge in a spread of scones and tea sandwiches. I have a preference to Napa Rose for fancy feasts, but I know plenty of others who enjoy this place.
6) Explore the Wedding Pavillions: Spread out among the finely tamed lawn are small wedding gazebos, usually abandoned, and ready for you take some Instagram pics in a picturesque setting. Sure, they may not be as grandiose as Grand Floridian’s wedding pavilions, but they’re still pretty cute. I’ve had the opportunity to run into a couple wedding ceremonies. I creepily watched from the bushes while the bride and groom made their happily ever after come true!
The Grand Californian
The most adult-centric resort is the Grand Californian and if you have the budget, this place is worth every penny. There’s poolside service, a gorgeous lobby to rest your feet, and a private entrance to California Adventure. If it’s not in your budget, you can still enjoy some of the things the resort has to offer.
7) Napa Rose: This is my favorite restaurant in Disneyland and the best place you can go for a quiet evening out. Everything is delicious and the service is excellent. On a slow night, I took my champagne to the firepits on the outside terrace. Right on the other side winding grape vines is California Adventure and you can hear the ambient music and chatter from the parks. Pure Disney bliss. If you don’t want to splurge on a full meal visit the lounge for cocktails and appetizers. I can’t suggest a single meal because the menu changes often and also because everything I’ve tried is so darn good.
8) Get Up and Go Power Walk: This is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done at Disneyland. If you happen to stay at any of the resorts you have the ability to see the parks before anyone else that day. I mean, you still have to work for it, but it’s still pretty cool. Every morning, a Cast Member leads a group of hotel guests through the special entrance of California Adventure and on a guided power walk. The Cast Member who lead my group worked in the corporate office and told us fun facts and stories about his life at Disney. I promise you it’s not that difficult of a workout either. As long as you can keep up with a quickened step for about 20 minutes, you should be good. I am definitely not an athletic person and I did just fine. To sign up, visit the Concierge at your hotel when you arrive and they’ll let you know if they have open spots.
9) Hearthstone Lounge: In the morning, grab a coffee or pastry and in the afternoon, grab a drink! The lounge is located inside of the lobby with decor that matches the rest of the resort. It’s a great place to escape to when you’re about halfway through your day and in need of a good, solid cocktail. Best cocktails to try: Pina CoLava or the Bourbon Flight!
10) Mandara Spa: On my last two visits I booked a massage at Mandara and I’m officially hooked on this spa. Get a massage with your partner or a pedi with your best friend then relax in their steam room and sauna. It’s a great way to experience the luxury of the Grand Californian without completely emptying your bank account. Also, be sure to check out Groupon before booking here! I’ve found a few discounted packages in the past.
Whether you’re drinking at a resort or taking in a spa day, there are plenty of things to do at any of the hotels. And most of them don’t require the price of admission or even a one-night stay! Take the day off and do some shopping at Downtown Disney, grab some lunch at Napa Rose, take a walk around The Disneyland Hotel, and cap off your night at Trader Sam’s! Also, if you’re traveling with kids they can join you for most of these endeavors, so there’s no need to find a babysitter on date night. 😉