Hotels: First, keep in mind that the Disneyland Resort area is SMALL compared to WDW. Everything is within walking distance of the park gates- the three Disney Hotels, as well as what they call their “Good Neighbor” hotels. Those Good Neighbor hotels can be even closer than the Disney Hotels!
Paradise Pier: I don’t really know anything about it; but I hear it’s nice, just not in the heart of things, and not, perhaps, as “Disney” as one might wish.
Disneyland Hotel: It’s at the end of Downtown Disney (which is just off of the main gates of both Disneyland and DCA). I like the walk through Downtown Disney, and I love this hotel. The rooms are beautiful (see my TR from last summer!).
Grand Californian: Grand indeed. Reminiscent of the Wilderness Lodge with a strong Craftsman influence. Right smack in the middle of Downtown Disney (and a world away!), it’s stunning. The monorail goes right alongside it, but strangely doesn’t stop there; the monorail stops further down in DTD, kind of between the Disneyland Hotel and the Grand Californian. The Grand Californian also has an entrance into DCA. One can go through the GC from DTD to DCA… but it’s a maze!
The Good Neighbor hotels I’ve stayed in have been perfectly fine, clean, your basic room you’d find anywhere. Nothing special, nothing you’d feel like you should avoid. I’ve stayed in them before, and I’m sure I’ll end up in them again.
Tickets: Go with the hoppers. Hopping is much less time-consuming than at WDW. You just walk across the promenade! I’ve gone back and forth several times during a day and not felt like I’d wasted a lot of time.
The other ticket options are just the single park tickets; there is also a ticket one can buy that is a pass for both parks- wickedly expensive, but if you’re planning a lot more WDW trips in a short time, perhaps worth it?
They run a lot of specials, but those tend to be for locals.
Number of days: Well, for me, I can get everything done in 3 days, with some repeating, and feel thoroughly as if I haven’t missed anything. That’s generally what I’d recommend to anyone. That said… you might want to try 4? Because for me, at Disneyland, I would never, ever have to consult a map- much like you at WDW, I’m sure. I have the feeling map consultation wastes a lot of time. :biggrin: (Of course, if you’re anything like me you won’t have to consult a map- I barely had to when I first went to WDW because I had studied up so much beforehand!)
Parks: Rope drop is critical if you’re concerned about getting in the big rides. If you attack it, you can get in all the major rides and attractions before noon (but all bets are off concerning the new Star Tours!). Then you can relax a bit more with the rest of the day.
Dining: Reservations are NOT the huge deal they are with WDW. If you want to do any of the sit down places, calling just a little bit ahead will probably be perfectly fine.
Do make a ressie for the Carnation Cafe for breakfast. Oscar keeps threatening to retire, but it hasn’t happened yet. He’ll treat you like you’re long-lost friends.
Get the bacon-wrapped asparagus skewer at Bengal BBQ, and the Pommes Frites at Cafe Orleans.
Lately I’ve been wanted to stay for 5 days, and just take a very relaxed approach. I’m not sure I have that in me, but it sounds like a lovely idea.
Hope that helps a little!