After a few nights at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, I was already taking the luxury of an exclusive park and Downtown Disney entrance for granted. My mornings could be leisurely, knowing the park entrance was just a quick elevator ride down, and that I could easily enter and reenter the park at my leisure — I’m sure other families couldn’t exactly say the same.
Once dressed and ready to go for the day, guests and families can slip out the side or back doors of the resort and find themselves steps away from the entrance to the park and security lines — not a bad way to start a long day of rides and walking around.
My mom and I spent a few nights at the resort, enjoying the parks and local attractions by day, fitting in some time at the pool when we could, and various reservations at night. We stayed in conjunction with an Adventures by Disney trip, so our days and nights were mostly planned for us.
I was immediately taken with the design of the hotel. Like a spacious, rustic lodge, but with that special Disney touch and hidden characters like Chip and Dale mixed into the décor, this resort kept up with the “Grand” in its name. Our large, two-bedroom guestroom boasted a balcony to overlook the pool and courtyard, rainfall showerhead, closet space for two and cozy queen-sized beds. We sat out on the balcony with coffee before the day ahead. My mom, an early riser, would be up and looking for coffee well before the normal resort guest would (should) be, so the in-room coffeemaker was a great go-between until the resort’s café opened.
There are actually quite a few ways to dine while at the resort, but we found ourselves in and out so much, we really only experienced the one on-property option fully. We had our first and only (obligatory) Disney character buffet breakfast at Storytellers Café before heading out for the day.
When we arrived back, just before dinner, we had time to change for a quick lounge by the pool before getting ready to go back out again. Turns out, we were not the only family with this idea. The various pools were all pretty busy with kids and families splashing around, leaving little to no lounge chairs — which must be a regular occurrence, considering the pool lounge area is in the middle of an expansion. I made a mental note to check out cabana rentals for the next day.
Before long, we were well-versed in the layout of the resort. I made time a couple mornings to check out the Eureka Fitness Center, on the ground floor. It was all par for the course at first glance, with cardio machines along the walls and weights toward the back, but that was before I found the Peloton bikes.
The convenience of the resort’s location, amenities and services are kind of a game-changer for such a dynamic and busy location. Enjoy the spa, fitness center and swimming pool at your leisure and don’t worry too much about the dirty laundry, as you can always use the hotel laundry service to freshen up your things. For the Type-A family members that like to fill time, there are several recreation options at the resort I wasn’t even aware of, like early group walks and movie nights.
If you have a special occasion to celebrate, the kids can enjoy their own party in the room or plan for something extra special out at the parks. The hotel concierge can assist with nearly anything, taking some added pressure off guests and parents.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is large — there is no doubt about that — but the layout is surprisingly walkable, homey and a little tucked away. Yes, it may be busy with families, groups, kids of all ages and various guests running around, but there is always so much to do and see either at the resort or in the nearby parks, there isn’t too much overlap of guests.
The kids will be entertained, to say the least, at the themed pools and waterslides, while the adults can sneak off for Mandara Spa treatments. Plan for some alone time over dinner while the kids see a movie or head off on a Disney tour. Guestroom prices begin at $417 a night.
Ah, the perks of staying at a Disney resort.
Santa Barbara is perfect for couples. It’s no wonder the city nicknamed the American Riviera is a place to walk hand-in-hand through the urban wine trail, gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes over dinner at an award-winning restaurant or listen to the crash of waves and call of seagulls along the country’s oldest operating wharf. Yet, it’s also a great place to bring kids.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
Walking across The National Mall, I literally crossed paths with Lonnie G. Bunch III, the Smithsonian Institution’s first African American CEO. Dr. Bunch, who first visited the Smithsonian as a 10-year-old Civil War buff, was told by his father, “Here’s a place where you can understand yourself and your country and not be worried by the color of your skin.” Bunch, who famously created the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, was quoted as saying, “I wanted to give back to those institutions that shaped everything I am.”
Sure, we’re barely dipping our toes into winter weather, but isn’t it more fun to think ahead to the warm weather family fun your crew could have at the Jersey Shore? Luckily, Atlantic City, New Jersey, offers far more than sandy beaches and casinos — enough to entertain all ages in all sorts of weather.