The Disneyland Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground is a family-friendly hotel just down the street (an 8-minute walk) from Disneyland. In this updated Disneyland Howard Johnson review I’ll share more about the hotel and my honest thoughts.
With many rooms recently renovated, the Howard Johnson Anaheim (HOJO) has all the clean modern designs I would expect from a major upscale hotel chain while also maintaining a retro family-friendly design charm. The hotel is a perfect home base designed for families with two pools and an easy walk from Disneyland.
In this Howard Johnson Disneyland review, I’ll share a room tour, details on the HOJO pool areas, and everything you need to know about this hotel across from Disneyland. The below review is an update to our previous Howard Johnson hotel review. I have kept some of those insights in this updated review.
Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground Review
My key ratings metrics for hotels near Disneyland are: general cleanliness, proximity to the parks, and comfortable bedding. The Anaheim Howard Johnson delivers on all three. The room was very clean as you will see in our room photos below, the hotel is an 8 minute walk to the parks (see map below), and the bedding had down pillows and a fluffy comforter.
There are two room types at the Howard Johnson: a deluxe room with two queen beds and a standard room with two double beds. The deluxe room is a higher price point but is more spacious and offers a larger bed size. The Howard Johnson Anaheim has been undergoing a lengthy refurbishment and is now finally done updating all the rooms although other updates (exterior, planting) may still be taking place.
The Howard Johnson Hotel is made up of a collection of different buildings and two pool areas. The hotel also has a convenience store, laundromat, and game rooms with games like foosball and air hockey. The hotel itself has a very nice relaxed feeling to it with lush landscaping and lots of greenery. There is no walking across long strips of asphalt through parking lots to get to your room as some other nearby hotels require.
We included the Howard Johnson as a bonus top hotel in our best hotels near Disneyland rankings. See that guide for other possible hotel options.
Booking with Get Away Today
Get Away Today is one of Disney’s longest standing partners- they have worked with Disneyland for 30 years! Their customer service is superb and they offer extreme discounts on tickets — the Get Away Today reviews are consistently extremely positive.
I have been using Get Away Today for my Disneyland vacations long before I began writing for Mickey Visit and they still remain my go-to for planning my Disneyland vacations. Not only can you get the best deals on discount Disneyland tickets with Get Away Today you also have the opportunity to receive exclusive hotel perks at many of the great hotels close to Disneyland. On this trip, we received one night free just because we booked through Get Away Today! Your savings can vary by hotel with some hotels offering a night free, free parking, free breakfast, and more.
Buying tickets from Get Away Today is easy and convenient since all their tickets are sent electronically. You can take their vouchers and head straight to the gate without needing to wait in any ticket booth lines. They also offer layaway plans so you can pay off your vacation over time.
So seriously, if you plan on visiting Disneyland, I can’t stress enough how much money Get Away Today can save you. We are typically a family that travels on a budget and anywhere we can save money is always appreciated.
Disneyland Howard Johnson Hotel Deluxe Room Tour
Though the Howard Johnson Anaheim rooms are retro themed the updated rooms have the latest in modern amenities. There is a charging dock with USB plugs and regular plugs near the desk. The bathroom was bright and very well-lit, The mirror and counter area were very big and sufficient for multiple people to get ready at the same time. There were two sinks available.
In many ways, this room offers the same upscale offerings as any new construction hotel around Disneyland (see our Disneyland JW Marriott review and Hilton Anaheim review) but also has a pop of color and fun from the retro design. There were tons of little details of fun throughout all of the designs that reminded me that we were on a Disneyland vacation rather than staying near a convention center or in a major city. I loved the artwork that features Disney and Disneyland. The Howard Johnson Anaheim is confidently a family-focused hotel and every aspect of the design of the hotel leans into this.
The beds were very comfortable and easily passed my bedding check. The pillows were down which is a key metric for me and the comforter was the perfect weight. At some points in recent hotels, I have felt the need to ask for an additional blanket. The rooms have a Keurig coffee maker, mini-fridge, microwave, and iron & board.
When you are booking with Get Away Today you’ll have the option for the deluxe room vs the regular standard room. The deluxe room is what we stayed in here while the regular room is slightly smaller. All the rooms have now been updated at Howard Johnson Anaheim!
Howard Johnson Anaheim Standard Room
The standard rooms at the Howard Johnson are similar to the deluxe rooms with just a more affordable price point and less space with double beds instead of queen beds.
There is a big size difference between the deluxe room and the standard rooms in terms of space as you can see from our comparisons.
If you’re a smaller family, you will do just fine in the standard room. I never felt like we were lacking space or room.
When we stayed in the standard room in building 2, we had a view of the Garden Pool plus a view of the monorail going past!
Another note on room location, there are two pool areas at the Howard Johnson that stay open until 10 pm. These pool areas are loud and can be heard from some of the surrounding hotel rooms. You may want to consider requesting a room away from the pool if you intend on getting to bed early or having little ones take a nap. During our most recent trip, we were in the parks until late so this wasn’t an issue, but on a previous trip where we stayed above the Castaway Cove pool, it was a bit loud. The pool opens at 9 am and plays top 40 hits music. We did hear this on our recent trip during a day of sleeping in before heading to the airport.
During another previous stay, this was our view out into the water play pool area of the Howard Johnson. Yes, we have stayed at the Howard Johnson multiple times!
The atmosphere at Howard Johnson Anaheim is perfect for families focusing on a Disneyland vacation. The Disney artwork in the room, also featuring popular Disney artist SHAG, and the posters of Disney attractions in the hallways all are a great touch.
Howard Johnson Pool Area Review – Castaway Cove and Relaxing Garden Pool
The Castaway Cove water playground is the highlight for families with young kids. In our previous review, my editor shared how much her son enjoyed this area. She said that she could barely tear him away from it to go to the parks and that’s saying something.
There’s a big pirate ship that periodically dumps a bucket of water on the children that gather underneath which all the kids loved. You can climb up on top of the pirate ship and there are two water slides that come off of it. There are also water cannons surrounding the ship and water sprinklers to stand under.
The toddler area is large with a small wading pool and animal statues to climb on. Toddlers will have plenty to do here while parents relax.
The Castaway Cove area is also home to the hot tub which is nice for parents to rest in while also watching their kids splash around in the playground. This is the only hot tub on property which is a little bit disappointing as there is no adults-focused hot tub in the adults hot tub area.
The Garden Pool area is in a much more secluded area of the hotel, away from the hustle and bustle of the lobby. It was quiet and calming. The pool has a shallow and deep end (5 ft and 3 ft respectively) which allows for more enjoyment for older kids and adults since Castaway Cove does NOT have a pool outside of the toddler wading pool. Even though this pool area does not have an adults hot tub, the pool is kept at a nice temperature that was even nice to swim in during our December Disneyland trip.
Overall, we liked this pool for a nice break to relax in the afternoon from the parks. While Castaway Cove is great, it’s also a bit chaotic and loud due to just the noise from the water playground and the laughter of the kiddos. The Garden Pool is an area for relaxing and it succeeded at that.
The entire landscape of the Howard Johnson is lush and beautiful – the pool areas are no exception. We enjoyed this area- it was one of our favorite parts of our vacation.
Check-In and Check-Out Process
When we arrived at our hotel we were two hours early for our check-in time of 4PM. That was no problem at all and the friendly staff at the desk were able to check us in right away and give us our hotel key. This was a pleasant surprise as I was wondering if we’d have to store our luggage and kill time before check-in. Of course, early check-in is not guaranteed but it was a nice surprise.
Howard Johnson Anaheim Free WiFi
The Howard Johnson Anaheim offers free WiFi to all guests with no login required. It may have just been where my room was located on property but the internet speeds were just average and at times unacceptably slow. The problem was compounded by the fact that there was not good cellular service from our Verizon carrier on property. This is an area that the hotel needs to improve.
Walking from Howard Johnson Anaheim to Disneyland
The Howard Johnson Anaheim is just across the street from the Harbor Boulevard entrance to Disneyland and about a block and a half over down a well-lit manicured sidewalk.
You might even see the monorail go past on your walk to Disneyland!
Here’s a map of the walk from the Howard Johnson Anaheim to Disneyland.
The Disneyland ART shuttle also picks up at the hotel for those who choose not to walk. Note that if you do take the ART shuttle you’ll probably end up waiting/driving for at least the same amount of time if not longer than it would take most to walk. The shuttle has to drive a couple of extra blocks to get to the drop-off point at the parks. This is still a great option if you have limited mobility.
Along the walk, you’ll cross the street twice. Though we clocked the walk at just over 8 minutes from the front of the hotel to the front gate at Disneyland, with younger kids and strollers the walk might take a little bit longer.
Howard Johnson Anaheim During Holidays and Christmas
During the holiday season at Disneyland, the Howard Johnson Anaheim also gets in the spirit of the holidays. The hotel has Christmas decorations throughout the property and has some fun activities for the kids.
In the lobby you’ll find a mailbox for kids to write letters to Santa Claus. At the end of the day you’ll then be able to pick up a letter back from Santa and a treat from the front desk. I thought this was so cute.
Complimentary Face Painting is also offered throughout the year every Saturday morning but during the holidays they have special holiday themed paintings.
Does Disneyland Howard Johnson Anaheim have free breakfast?
The Howard Johnson Anaheim does not offer a free breakfast to guests though they do have a relationship with Mimi’s Cafe to provide guests 20% off breakfast there. They claim that the Mimi’s Cafe is part of the hotel but it is across the intersection towards Disneyland. For this reason, there is no reason to go to Mimi’s vs any other breakfast place on your way into the parks.
We never opted to have breakfast at Mimi’s and instead ate in the parks (try La Brea Bakery) or at the Panera Bread on Harbor Boulevard. Panera Bread is a great option that you can mobile order from your phone so that you can grab and go breakfast options as you head into the parks. Here’s the direct link to mobile order from that location.
Howard Johnson Hotel Amenities
We spent more money than I intended originally in the Market Store. This well-stocked gift shop/convenience store has everything you might need during your stay from food, alcohol, souvenirs, medicine, etc. Expect high prices for anything you buy in this store- everything was marked up heavily. That’s not necessarily a con of the Howard Johnson though, it’s typical with most hotels, especially in the Disney area.
I recommend finding a cheap store when you arrive to stock up on hotel snacks and drinks to avoid spending money in the market store.
We didn’t spend too much time in the arcade but I was impressed by the time we did spend in it. All of the games were new and in working condition (which is not always the case with hotel arcades!) and there were also classics like foosball and air hockey.
Free Family Face Painting
The Howard Johnson at Disneyland also offers free face painting for families every Saturday morning. Be sure to check the schedule and confirm with the hotel for timing. During the various holiday seasons, the hotel also offers holiday-specific painting.
Free Howard Johnson Hats and Balloon Swords
At check-in we also were offered free pirate hats for the kids and balloon swords. During our holiday season visit there were also free peppermint candy canes.
How much does the Howard Johnson Anaheim cost?
The Howard Johnson Anaheim price varies by whether you opt for the deluxe room type that we detailed here or if you opt for the rooms that have not yet been updated.
When you book your hotel and tickets with Get Away Today, you’ll find standard 2-doubles room types for $270-$290 per night and Deluxe queen room types for $350-$380 per night. Check prices for your trip dates here.
Here are my general pros/cons of Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground:
- Upgraded Howard Johnson rooms are a great mix of family fun and color with the latest in hotel amenities including comfortable bedding and tech upgrades.
- The Castaway Cove is a blast if you have kids. I could see some older kids, perhaps 12 and up being bored. But then again, we saw people of all ages playing not just small children.
- The hot tub in the Castaway Cove was perfect for parents to enjoy while the kids played.
- You can see the fireworks from the Castaway Cove playground area.
- The landscaping at this hotel is amazing. Everywhere you look are beautiful palm trees, flowers, and more.
- The hotel is within walking distance to the Disneyland front gates- about ten minutes or less.
- There is an ART stop right out front if you want to rest your legs and take the buses to the parks.
- The market had long hours which was helpful if we needed anything early or late in the day.
- The rooms were clean and the beds were comfortable.
- Our room had a small balcony which was great for hanging wet swimsuits, towels, etc
- Price is reasonable for what you get with the Castaway Cove playground, very affordable for families.
- Comment from my editor – Safety: we felt safe here and surrounded by families which is always a plus since I am a single mom traveling as the only adult with my child.
- No on-site breakfast. Mimi’s Cafe, their restaurant, is across the street and not too conveniently located to the rooms. We never ate there because of that and usually ate snacks on the way to the parks. Plenty of restaurants are located nearby.
- Some of the rooms at the hotel are still a bit outdated if you do not opt for the Deluxe rooms.
- Very popular- these rooms sell quickly through Get Away Today. Don’t wait if you have your heart set on staying here!
- If your room faces the Castaway Cove, it’s very loud all day and night. The pool area stays open until 10PM so this was a bit inconvenient if we wanted to be asleep early to get up for the parks or if you have napping kids.
- There is no fitness center offered at the hotel.
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground. My favorite part about this hotel was the lush and beautiful landscaping all around the buildings. It really made you realize you were on vacation in California! It was just stunning. My editor’s favorite part (you guessed it!) was the Castaway Cove. Her son was seven during their first visit but he was still highly entertained by the water playground. She saw children as old as ten enjoying it so I don’t think it’s necessary just for small children.
I would definitely stay here again- this hotel’s beauty and fun atmosphere made this vacation extra memorable in our minds. Combine the lush landscapes with the updated room designs and we are happy to recommend the updated rooms at the Howard Johnson hotel today.
Though we are occasionally hosted for hotel reviews, our opinion is completely our own and we are unafraid to give you all the details on a hotel.
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