Especially in the off season, there is so much to love about the Grand Californian. It’s both sweeping and intimate, relaxing and exciting, upscale and laidback – a trifecta of combinations that make it a great date spot.
Slowed Pace or Game of Chase
If you’ve got the cash or are visiting for a special occasion date, start with a spa visit. The hotel’s Mandara spa effectively provides a relaxing (if comically overpriced) experience in a spotless environment. They even offer couples’ massages, which is a good way to dip your toe in the spa water if you’ve never been baptized there before. A hotel spa is also perfect for first-timers, as it’s filled with non-regulars by definition and focused specifically on hospitality and on welcoming newcomers.
If you prefer your fun to be of the clothes-on variety, you’re still in luck. Part of the fun of hotel dates is the sneaking around, and the Grand Californian is a fabulous place for that! Some favorite semi-off-limits places to slip into: 1) The pool, even if you’re not going to swim, because the loungers are cozy, and the water is vacation-y, and you can see stars at night. 2) The ballrooms, where the peckish can find the occasional free cookies left out after meetings. 3) The concierge lounge on the 6th floor. This destination is for advanced sneakers only – attempt at your own risk for the rewards of free food and drink, views of the parks, and a congratulatory selfie.
Or, if you’d rather play by the rules (and honestly, we would 99% of the time), there are some lovely hallways and walkways both inside and outside where you can have fun exploring at the Grand Californian .
A Rose by Any Other Name
You’re going to be famished after all your date-night frolicking (unless you scored a free cookie). Where to eat? Let’s talk about Napa Rose. It’s…fine. We’re not going to say don’t go there, because it technically does have a lot of the usual date night boxes checked, and it seems like an obvious choice. However, because the price is so high and the ambiance is so lacking and the service is so spotty, we’re going to suggest that you hedge your bets by eating in the bar. There you’ll get the full menu if you want it, you’ll get dimmer lighting and comfy chairs, and you’ll be able to manage your expectations. Because that’s what a romantic night is all about, right? Bracing yourself for disappointment?
On second thought, maybe just hit Storytellers for their amazing cheesecake and call it good.
Do like the original datenighters and make your date night a late night at the Grand Californian. While you’re waiting for the lobby to clear, enjoy the flickers. As in most deluxe Disney digs, classic cartoons play in an out-of-the-way corner and their silly gags hold up pretty well these days. Soon the lobby fireplace and all its rocking chairs will be occupied by only a few wine-sipping hermits. Settle in near the warmth of the flames and chat with your date over a drink from the adjacent Hearthstone lounge. You can also sneak around back and enjoy the backside of fire – outdoors – where you’ll find respite from the racing, arrhythmic piano in the grand lobby (what is that guy’s perpetual hurry?). Beware the blue haze of cigar smoke clouding the patio, as this is a favorite spot for those lighting up stogies. On the plus side, you may spy some hotel matches to nab for your collection.
Photo credit: Fireplace by Michaela Hansen of toursdepartingdaily.com.