REVIEW: Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground

Located within walking distance of the Disneyland Resort, the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground is one of Disney’s official Good Neighbor Hotels, and the next best thing to staying on Disney property.  With their friendly staff, wide variety of room types, and long list of amenities, the “HoJo” is a great value and the ideal destination for your next vacation.  Recently, Adventures by Daddy had the opportunity to stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim for a few nights to experience all that they have to offer, continue reading for our review.

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At first glance, this quiet and seemingly compact property looks like it popped right off the page of a 1960’s vacation brochure.  As you step inside the lobby, their Mod decor shows that they’ve completely embraced their retro exterior.

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When we arrived to check-in, before we even gave our names for the reservation, we were greeted by every staffer at the welcome desk with a friendly “How do ya do?” and a warm smile.  This was a common theme throughout our entire stay – every hotel employee was noticeably friendly.

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Paper pirate hats are available in the lobby for the kiddos. Fun!


TIP: Before our stay, there was something I needed to order for the trip, but was worried it wouldn’t be delivered to our home in time.  I had it shipped directly to the hotel and just noted the check-in date on the delivery instructions when I placed the order.  It had already arrived when we checked in, and the staff had it there ready & waiting for me. Easy-peasy! Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s an overview of the amenities:
Room Amenities

  • Pillow-top mattress
  • Mini-fridge
  • 32″ LCD TV
  • HBO, Disney Channel, Nick Jr, ESPN & Golf Channel
  • Keurig coffee/tea maker
  • Free Wi-Fi internet
  • Free laptop safe
  • Hair dryer
  • Iron/Ironing board
  • Double sink
  • Balcony (most rooms)

Hotel Amenities

  • Beautifully landscaped resort on 7 private acres
  • Non-smoking facility
  • Castaway Cove – A Watery Pirate Playground
  • Heated pool & spa
  • 8 minute walk to the Disneyland Resort
  • Free parking
  • Convenience store/market
  • 2 guest laundries
  • Free internet kiosks
  • ART shuttle stop
On-site ART (Anaheim Resort Transit) shuttle stop - the HoJo is on Route 7

On-site ART (Anaheim Resort Transit) shuttle stop – Howard Johnson Anaheim is on Route 7


There are several different room options, including: double, queen, or king beds, standard, deluxe and premium (park) views, wheelchair accessible rooms, and even suites – some that feature bunk beds, to boot!  With so many choices, you’re certain to find a room type to fit your family’s traveling needs.  Even better, lots of options allow for varying budgets, and all of the rooms are very affordable.

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For our stay, we were booked in a Two Queen Premium room which meant we had a view of Disneyland (woohoo!).  Our room was on the 6th floor of the tower building overlooking the Matterhorn, and at night we had a great view of the park’s fireworks.  We could even hear the show’s soundtrack perfectly from our balcony!  Throughout the day we could hear sounds from the park, including the whistle of the Disneyland Railroad as the trains pulled into Tomorrowland Station and the horn of the Monorail. However, if we wanted some quiet time we simply closed the balcony door and all was blocked out.

Unaltered/unedited view from our balcony.

Unedited view of Disneyland from our balcony (those specks on top are the Matterhorn mountain climbers!)


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This view would be great for viewing the special seasonal fireworks during Halloween and Christmas! Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, too!


Our room was very spacious with a generous closet, a large dresser, and plenty of out-of-the-way spaces to store our luggage.  There are two sinks, one in the bathroom and a second just outside the bathroom door with it’s very own vanity – so handy! For larger families/parties staying here, the closet doors are mirrored and there was a large mirror over the dresser that would make it easy for at least 3-4 people to get ready at the same time.

Two Queen Pillow Top Beds - they were very comfortable!

The pillow top beds were super comfy!


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Roomy dresser with tons of space inside and on top.

Roomy dresser with tons of space inside and on top.  It could also double as a vanity area.


Separate vanity/sink area outside of the bathroom.

Separate vanity/sink outside the bathroom.


Each room features a mini-fridge, microwave, and a Keurig coffee maker.  It was so convenient being able to store snacks, drinks, and leftovers, helping us save money during the trip by not needing to eat out at every meal.  Having the Keurig coffee maker in the room was a genius idea! I wish more hotels thought of that.

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One thing I loved, albeit fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, was the built-in luggage stand attached to the dresser.  Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. Howard Johnson Anaheim (8)

All-in-all, we found our room to be very clean, and the housekeeping service did a fantastic job each day of our stay. There was barely a speck of dust anywhere to be found!  And while the overall decor of the rooms is pretty dated and some of the fixtures are older, the layout was extremely functional and very comfortable.

A closer look at the mountain climbers atop the Matterhorn

A closer look at the mountain climbers atop the Matterhorn, as seen from our balcony


Moving outside of the room, if you’re looking for a little pool time during your stay there are two options.  First is the Garden Pool, the more relaxed of the two, which is located in a secluded area surrounded by gardens and trees.  The second option is Castaway Cove, the featured “water playground”, a kid’s paradise and a perfect respite during a busy park day.  Here are the features of Castaway Cove as noted on the HoJo website:

  • Toddler water slide and big kid S-curvy water slide
  • 200 gallon drench bucket
  • 4 mini water cannons
  • Water curtain
  • 2 water umbrellas
  • Toddler wading pool with beach-style entry
  • Speedy, the friendly turtle, and 13 water fountains
  • Bubbling whirlpool spa with foot and back jets!

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The view of Castaway Cove from our room.

The view of Castaway Cove from our room.


For dining options outside of the theme parks, Mimi’s Cafe is just steps away, and there’s a McDonald’s not too far beyond that – both are located in between the parks and the hotel.  Additionally, going back to that fridge & microwave in the rooms, the Main St. Market is a convenience store located on the first floor of the main HoJo tower.  Every inch of this shop is filled with just about anything you could possibly need during your stay.  From grab & go groceries that can easily be prepared in your room, to sundries, souvenirs, pool toys, and more.  They even sell a wide variety of K-Cup flavors for just $1 each!

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A peek inside the Main St. Market


They have just about anything you could think to need in here.

A wide variety of items available for your convenience


Last but not least, located just across from the Main St. Market is an on-site arcade.

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If you’re planning a vacation to the Disneyland Resort area, choosing a hotel can be downright exhausting.  Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a full blown once-in-a-lifetime experience, the amount of places to choose from alone is overwhelming, then tack on comparing their distance to the parks, amenities, etc., it becomes daunting – I speak from experience.  In all of my research, the Howard Johnson Anaheim hotel consistently comes up as a top choice among online reviewers.  After finally having the opportunity to stay here, I can honestly say its clear why they’re on top – here’s why:

1) Their service is outstanding.  Every staff member we encountered was friendly, polite, and eager to make sure they’re customers are happy.

2) Amenities galore! Several hotels in the area may offer what seems to be a low rate, but then they tack on fees that drive up the price on the back end.  The HoJo’s free parking and free-wifi alone could save you upwards of $25/night when compared to similar chains in the area.  Then add in features like the water playground, late checkout time (12:00 pm!), and their proximity to Disneyland & California Adventure (they’re closer to the parks than some of the on-site Disney hotels!) and their already budget friendly rooms become an even bigger value!

Where is your favorite place to stay in the Disneyland Resort area?

Disclosure: Adventures by Daddy was hosted by the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and provided with four nights accommodations for the purposes of writing this review.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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About Chrysty Summers

Growing up in southern California, Disneyland has always been a staple for my family. Today, my husband and I spend most of our free time at the parks, where you can usually find us soaking up the atmosphere of Buena Vista Street in California Adventure. We also love traveling to Walt Disney World as often as we can, especially during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in the Fall! Find me on Twitter @PenelopePeach for live updates from around the parks.