Inner peace and balance may not be your first associations with a theme park vacation, but spend a few moments inside the new Tenaya Stone Spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort and you’ll feel miles from the hustle and bustle of the parks. The 6,000-square-foot, full-service spa opened in September and offers an indulgent selection of body treatments, massage and salon services within a serene, nature-inspired retreat just around the corner from the hotel’s dedicated entrance to Disney California Adventure Park.
Renowned for their immersive storytelling, Walt Disney Imagineers overseeing the project took inspiration from the Indigenous cultures of California and their connection to nature to develop an experience and spa design that would integrate with the iconic hotel’s Craftsman architecture and California story, inspired by the late-1800s and early-1900s Arts and Crafts movement.
“The story development for Tenaya Stone Spa was an amazing journey,” says Dawn Jackson, a Native American cultural advisor within Disney. “We considered the story of the hotel, and in thinking about California, the Indigenous people.”
The word “Tenaya” can be interpreted as “to dream” in the Indigenous culture of the Yosemite Valley, and inside the spa guests are encouraged to dream and look inward. “Much of the Craftsman architecture has you look ‘out and up,’ such as looking out across landscaping and up at the trees,” says Katrina Mosher, art director with Walt Disney Imagineering. Indeed, guests entering the Grand Californian Hotel’s sprawling Craftsman lobby, inspired by a redwood forest, can’t help but look up with awe at the breathtaking space. But, in the spa, “you literally do the opposite to look ‘down and in,’” says Mosher. “The translation of that into nature is going down into the earth, into stone and into roots. We took the cue from Mother Nature in order to inspire the design.”
To imbue a sense of balance, the spa’s design is structured around the natural order of four, a concept, Mosher noted, that can be found throughout many Indigenous cultures. “There are four directions, four colors, four elements, four points of wellness,” Mosher says. “These bring balance and harmony to the mind, body and spirit.”
The space is laid out in four points, aligning with the cardinal directions, each paired with an element and color — earth and white to the north, air and red to the south, sun and yellow to the east, and water and black to the west.
Occupying the physical and symbolic center of the spa, the Tenaya stone greets guests as they enter the “brush arbor,” a space inspired by the ceremonial arbors of the Indigenous cultures. The obsidian stone was a gift from a Miwok elder and her family, who are descendants of Chief Tenaya of the Ahwahnechee people in the Yosemite Valley. “The stone revealed itself and this Miwok family blessed it and gifted it to us,” Jackson said. “This stone has been shaped and formed over eons of time on earth. It is the center and the heart of the spa — and a place to reflect and set intentions.”
As guests enter the spa, they are invited to choose one of four types of stones — white magnesite, red pumice, black obsidian or gold pyrite — before pausing to establish their intentions for the experience and then placing their chosen stone on the Tenaya stone, connecting their journey with those who have come before and will follow.
Raw, natural details throughout the space — like a tree-root chandelier, wood flooring cut in rounds, and rock and mineral lights and artwork — create a rustic elegance, while silky-soft robes, lavish, cushioned loungers and attentive service make the experience feel endlessly luxurious.
Guests are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy the peaceful relaxation room, lit with soft natural light through a stained-glass window. The soothing sounds of a water feature complement the subtle background music. Before their treatment, spa-goers can curl up under a plush blanket while sipping fruit-infused waters and nibbling whole fresh fruit and vegan cookies.
Treatments include an array of massage therapies — the Tenaya River Stone Massage uses heated river stones to soothe and relax tense muscles, while the Herbal Poultice Massage applies pressure using steamed compresses of wild herbs to ease muscle tension. Herbal body treatments incorporate natural ingredients like red clay, peat mud, ginger, grapefruit and sea salt in treatments like the Wild Honey and Mud Body Renewal to exfoliate, hydrate and refresh skin.
Foot treatments and massages like the Mindful Traveler Foot Treatment give tired feet and legs a tune-up after pounding the pavement in the theme parks, and manicures and pedicures get fingers and toes camera-ready for an afternoon at the hotel’s Redwood Pool or dinner at award-winning Napa Rose restaurant.
Want more? Learn ways to support Native American groups plus get expert tips for visiting Disneyland at marinmagazine.com/tenaya.
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Brooke Geiger McDonald is the national content director for Make It Better Media Group. A Chicago native, she has worked for publications like O, The Oprah Magazine and SHAPE Magazine. She covers theme parks extensively and her work has appeared in Parents, TravelPulse, Attractions Magazine, MSN, Disney Food Blog, and more. Her favorite nonprofits to support include The Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago and Give Kids the World Village, which provides week-long, cost-free wish vacations to critically ill children and their families from around the world who want to visit Central Florida. Follow her on Instagram @brookegmcdonald and Twitter @BrookeGMcDonald.