Review: Veranda Club Level at Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland Resort
Wondering if Veranda Club Level at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is worth the money? Our review of the most expensive concierge hotel option at Disneyland Resort covers our experience with this lounge, with photos and thoughts on the food, resort amenities, service and strategy for taking advantage of the premium perks.
As background, each hotel at Disneyland Resort offers Club Level room. Yes, even Paradise Pier Hotel, which offers a concierge lounge that rivals the one at Homewood Suites. (I kid…it cannot compete with Homewood Suites!) While Paradise Pier’s Club Level excels at nothing, the other two each have selling points, with Disneyland Hotel’s E-Ticket Club offering great views of Downtown Disney and the fireworks.
Unsurprisingly, the Veranda Club at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the best lounge of the lineup, offering the nicest setting, best food spreads, top-notch service, and more. Let’s start by taking a look inside the Veranda Club with details about its theme and relatively recent reimagining.
Formerly known as the Craftsman’s Club, the Veranda is located on the sixth floor of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Upon exiting the Great Hall elevators, you can’t miss it–there’s a desk with a concierge Cast Member and an entrance to the lounge across from that area.
Back around the time the room reimagining started at the Grand Californian, so too did the reimagining of the Craftsman’s Club into the Veranda. Although Disney’s Grand Californian pays homage to the California Arts and Crafts movement, the Veranda’s design now draws inspiration from the architectural and furniture designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a visionary of the Arts and Crafts movement in Glasgow, United Kingdom.
In case you’re not a geographer or don’t have the Google Maps app, the United Kingdom is not part of California. It’s a big state, but not that big. Nevertheless, Walt Disney Imagineering opted to draw inspiration from the Mackintosh-designed Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, UK.
Why is beyond me. Perhaps because the “research trip” from Bob Hope to Glasgow sounded more fun? Driving from Glendale to Pasadena involved too much traffic?
In any case, Imagineering used white-based colors to make the Veranda’s interior look light, airy and spacious. Also added were new wall-to-wall windows, which open onto the balcony and bring in natural light and views of the tree tops.
The Veranda’s furniture design also incorporates Mackintosh’s interpretation of the Arts & Crafts architectural style with streamlined shapes and a light color palette. The lighting fixtures and buffet wall incorporate stained glass, which is once again also inspired by the Willow Tea Rooms in the United Kingdom.
The Veranda’s artwork celebrates craftsmen, nature, and hand made materials. Contemporary European artists were commissioned to create custom pieces for this space in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Unsurprisingly, this is unique to the Veranda, as all other art pieces throughout the hotel are by California artists.
Walt Disney Imagineering also collaborated with artists from Amsterdam (not the city in Merced County, California–the one in the Netherlands) to transform a wall in the Veranda Club Level lounge with a custom 10-foot long painted ceramic arrangement. The handmade, vintage plates and platters feature the iconic landscape of redwoods from Disney’s Brother Bear.
Honestly, when I first read the press release about all of these changes, it felt like it bordered on parody. It’s one thing to eschew themed design for a modern, crowd-pleasing style. It’s another entirely to “contradict” (for lack of a better term) a theme predicated on one locality by talking up how it was painstakingly inspired by and crafted in another continent.
It would be like adding a McDonald’s to the World Showcase France pavilion, but instead of drawing some tenuous nexus to the flagship fast food restaurant on Paris’ Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Disney said the McDonald’s was an homage to the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s in Chicago.
To conclude with the pièce de résistance from one of Disney’s least popular animated films ever? That’s just the chef’s kiss. But you know what? It largely works.
I’m guessing it’s due to feedback from club level guests who felt the old style wasn’t luxurious enough or had grown tired. While I am not one of these people, I can understand the criticism that the California Craftsman style is dark, dreary, and dated.
The interior design of Veranda Club Level uses a lot of rich woods, muted colors, and often has an earthier, more natural look. That seems like the exact opposite of what’s “in” right now. Personally, I find the Arts & Crafts movement timeless and classic–something that cannot go out of style.
The description and purported inspiration is trying too hard to be chic and contemporary, but in reality, the interior is more or less the intersection of modern and (not-California) craftsman. Aside from the light fixtures (which I wish were stained glass), this is a fair compromise.
Veranda Club Level delivers the pretense of luxury that well-heeled guests of the Grand Californian expect, and offers a level of theme for fans. It’s not going to be either’s version of perfect, but such is the nature of a compromise. As contrasted with the Club Level lounges at Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel, it’s a night and day improvement.
As for the Veranda Club Level review, I think it’s worth mentioning here that this is the best concierge level service we’ve received at Disneyland Resort. Normally, we don’t fixate on service too much because it’s spotty and inconsistent. Walt Disney World Cast Members are generally great, but Disney is pretty far from a hospitality industry leader when it comes to hotel operations.
However, I get the feeling that service at the Veranda Club is consistently good. We interacted with several great Cast Members, including a few who had been at the resort for a decade or longer. Many of them seemed to consider the lodge a second home, and took great pride in it. I’m guessing here, but I suspect it’s a coveted role and one in which long-tenured Cast Members take great pride.
The Veranda Club Level Lounge is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and provides guests with the following complimentary offerings:
- Grand Beginnings (6:30 am to 10 a.m.) – Continental breakfast bar with an assortment of fresh pastries, fruit, cereal and morning beverages.
- Afternoon Tea (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) – A selection of teas and other beverages, accompanied by a variety of goodies.
- Grand Hours (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) – Scrumptious appetizers and cheese, paired with your choice of wine and beer.
- Sweet Endings (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) – Delectable desserts and after-dinner beverages.
The various food spreads change daily, so I’m going to simply share a few photos of what was available during our stay at the Veranda Club and will circle back with generalized commentary afterwards.
To my knowledge, there aren’t any “iconic” dishes or desserts for which the Veranda is known, and that are served up daily.
As is par for the course at Disney’s Club Level lounges on both coasts, lunch is underwhelming.
Technically, it’s called “Afternoon Tea.” None of the spreads are referred to with meal names, presumably to discourage guests from making full meals of them.
The Grand Hours service, on the other hand, is exceptional.
You can expect a variety of vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and side dishes. There are also several individually-portioned dishes on par with what you might be served downstairs at Napa Rose. These small serving dishes encourage portion control, but don’t worry, I was able to persevere and overcome that!
A variety of options are available for dessert, with the most notable being macarons.
We found a similar spread at the E-Ticket Club in Disneyland Hotel on a separate recent stay, but the Grand Californian had the clear edge.
The Veranda Club Level has self-service espresso and other custom coffee drinks that guests can prepare for themselves.
The lounge also has a bar, where you can order mimosa or other alcoholic beverages. For the most part, Disney’s Club Level lounges are moving away from self-service alcohol and towards it being offered ‘upon request.’ Cordials are also out in the evening.
There’s also an outdoor balconies at Veranda Club Level. These face an inner courtyard that’s lined with trees, which makes for a relaxing and tranquil setting, a great way to decompress during or after a long day at Disneyland or DCA.
It’s possible to watch the Disneyland fireworks from this balcony, schedule and weather (Santa Ana winds) permitting. Many guests do that, but it’s not the greatest view. You’re much better off inside the park, even watching from the Rivers of America or by “it’s a small world” if you want to avoid the Main Street crowds.
Naturally, all of this comes at an astronomical cost. In pricing out various dates, the average price premium for the Veranda Club Level at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is about $225 to $300 per night. It might be lower or higher than that–pricing varies by date and discount. This is the surcharge alone–not the total cost of the room.
In thoroughly searching, we found what I think/hope was the cheapest Standard View – Club Level room and date combination, at just under $700 per night after Magic Key discount. The sky is the limit on the upper price points–I’ve seen some dates well over $1,000 per night. Grand Californian is not just the most expensive hotel option at Disneyland Resort, but is often more expensive than even comparable Club Level rooms at Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World!
There’s no way to justify this from a value for money perspective. You’re booking the Veranda at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa if money is no issue or because you really want to splurge.
From that perspective, it’s a superlative splurge and/or excellent luxury offering. The service, food, views, and atmosphere are all fantastic. The Veranda is a great enhancement to a stay at Disneyland Resort’s best hotel.
We’re approaching these Club Level stays from the perspective of getting the most bang for your buck by spending more time in the lounge, enjoying the food and atmosphere. Having access to the Club Level lounge provides a reason/excuse to spend more time relaxing at the resort, thus enjoying more of that atmosphere. In this regard, the Veranda Club Level is impossible to beat.
Moreover, it has far and away the easiest access from DCA and Disneyland. You can literally step off Grizzly River Run and be inside the lounge (consider drying off in your room first) in under 5 minutes. Due to GCH’s proximity to the parks, it’s so much easier to make multiple stops per day here for each food service while still enjoying the parks.
Overall, we loved the Veranda Club at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa–as should be expected given the astronomical pricing. While the overall experiences, food spreads and atmosphere are vastly different between here and Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World, the Veranda Club rivals that as my favorite concierge level on either coast.
It’s far and away our favorite Club Level experience at the Hotels of Disneyland Resort, and it’s not even close. This really shouldn’t be a surprise. Grand Californian is the flagship hotel at Disneyland, this is the most expensive Club Level, and it’s the freshest of the bunch. From a value for money perspective, it’s difficult/impossible to justify any of them, but as a splurge, this is without a doubt the best.
The price premium is similar for all three, and the Veranda is head and shoulders above Beach Comber Club Level at Paradise Pier Hotel (or whatever it ends up being called once this hotel is converted into Pixar Place Hotel) and E-Ticket Club Level at Disneyland Hotel. In every regard except the view (E-Ticket Club wins there), the Veranda absolutely trounces the competition. If you’re thinking of splurging on Club Level at Disneyland Resort, go all or nothing, and do the Veranda or nothing at all.
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
Have you stayed the Veranda Club Level at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa? Thoughts on the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert spreads? Did you spend a lot of time appreciating the laid back atmosphere? Do you agree or disagree that the Grand Californian’s normal ambiance is an asset of this lounge? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
I wonder if they will follow WDW club level in having hot items for breakfast. The scrambled eggs and sausage at the Wilderness lodge were the best I ever had. Of course that hotel was to me the best Disney hotel ever, but I’m looking forward to visiting the GC this year.
Tom, do you have any photos of the older version of the (then Craftsman) Club Level design and theme? All I can find online looks a lot less like Arts and Crafts and more like the smoking room at the Diogenes Club (Sherlock Holmes type of “gentlemen’s club”). Judging by those alone, neither one nails the theme of the old rooms OR the current hotel. I like them both, but not in that location.
Instead of just telling the designers “lighter but still Arts and Crafts,” which is apparently technically correct, the decision makers could have just given them a picture of Napa Rose and told them to do something like that.
I had never been bothered about club level at the GCH because of the cost. I did it once at PPH with a great discount & it was nice, but Disneyland Hotel’s club level was the one I’ve always wanted to try. Still do, but you have made me consider trying this one if we are ever in the market for a super splurge!
Great article. We stay at the grand club level three time a year. Spring , Halloween, and Christmas. I have been visiting Disneyland since 1956. It is still a wondrous, magical experience as you enter the parks. Made even more special by the grand hotel lobby. Then entering the veranda, all stress goes away. The concierges , especially Megan and Yvette are wonderful. All the cast members in the lounge are super friendly and very hard working. You are spot on with your comments concerning food, drinks, ambiance, and proximity to the parks. Certainly not inexpensive, but worth it !
I should know this, as we’ve stayed at the Grand Californian a few times and twice in the last year. Isn’t there a viewing deck at the back of the hotel on the DVC side (top floor), to watch World of Color (and I imagine whatever else as well) at DCA? I’m not sure I’ve seen this covered on the blog with the various hotel / DVC reviews – maybe I missed that too. Next time I won’t just look at this location from inside DCA, I’ll actually seek it out!
“Personally, I find the Arts & Crafts movement timeless and classic–something that cannot go out of style.” Have you been to the new Museum of American Arts & Crafts in St. Petersburg? It will blow your mind.
Tom: Nice piece. Funny, informative, and insightful. But enough about you. 🙂 Do you think the Pixar Pier Hotel re-do (hope I got the name correct) will be a step up in quality or simply a cosmetic refresh?
Looks like a great experience- glad you were able to enjoy.
Tom – by coincidence we just had a trip to Disneyland last week and stayed at both the Disneyland hotel and the Grand Californian. It was a last minute trip so the club levels weren’t available, but we did manage to ask for a tour of each and were very impressed by them, especially the Veranda. We will definitely be considering staying club level when we return there. And also we absolutely loved the Grand Californian. We also ate at Napa Rose and Storytellers Cafe and have to say we weren’t too impressed with Napa Rose but really enjoyed Storytellers.