Recently my multi-generational family planned a trip to Disneyland, the first Disney experience for my grandchildren. We were on a budget and the best fit for our family vacation was the smoke-free Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground. I admit some reservations about booking a Howard Johnson, as the HJ’s of my childhood weren’t always, well, clean and safe, but once we landed in California, this family hotel within walking distance to Disneyland (10 minute brisk walk) was the perfect choice.
Upon entering California’s magical world of Disneyland, the landscape changes into a Disney commercial with banners and signs proclaiming love of Mickey.
As you progress closer to Disneyland, the hotels become a walk down retro Disney, with several mom-and-pop motels to a block. On my early morning arrival, families are already making the trek toward Disneyland from their budget hotel.
When we arrive at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel, it’s snuggled into seven landscaped acres with its 318-rooms rooms spread out across seven buildings.
Although it isn’t an official Disneyland resort, it does carry the “Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel” stamp, offering park admission discounts and close proximity to Disneyland. Directly across the street are Matterhorn Mountain and the Monorail tracks.
I’m greeted quickly in the modern white reception area, and I noted the Internet kiosk and printing services in the corner.
My daughter and her family had already checked in and met me outside to walk to our rooms.
I admit it – the Howard Johnson Anaheim hotel grounds were welcoming with colorful flowers and manicured lawns. Our building was a scant 2 minute walk, and we were on the second floor. When entering the building, there was a bit of a musty smell, but when we entered our standard double room, it was clean, surprisingly roomy with modern bed coverings. The bathroom consisted of the usual sink, toilet and shower with curtain, but we did also have another sink outside to make it easier to get ready for our family of 5.
The room also included a counter with microwave, Keurig coffee maker and mini-refrigerator. A flat screen TV sat atop a dresser. Our view was of the street, but we also had a hefty walk-in closet and a table with chairs. Free and strong WiFi was also a bonus!
NOTE: There were no elevators, so guests with ambulatory issues would need to inform the staff in order to get in on the ground floor.
The big draw for our family was the hotel’s waterpark, Castaway Cove. The pirate-themed playground is just off the lobby, complete with slides, water cannons, and a pirate sheep. The little ones can enjoy splash fountains and toddler pool. For those without kids, there is also the Garden Pool, more of n adult pool (kids are welcome), that is a bit quieter surrounded by gardens, but no less refreshing.
After schlepping at the Disneyland parks in the June heat, the waterpark saved us. After a particular long day, we left Disneyland and stationed ourselves in the kids’ pool, where my grandkids splashed for hours. We ordered pizza for delivery, and bunkered down for an early night.
Free parking was also a bonus, as we had rented a car to for a day trip to the ocean and to hang out on a California beach. There is also a games room, coin-operated Laundromats, and water and soft drink vending machines scattered throughout the property.
On-site, hotel guests can shop at the Main St. Market for sundries, light breakfast and lunch items, snacks, ice cream, beer and wine, soft drinks, bottled water, and even Disney-themed gifts and souvenirs.
For dining options, Mimi’s Café is directly across the street, and within walking distance (or short drive) are dozens of options, ranging from McDonalds to IHOP to California Pizza Kitchen
Families wanting to experience Disneyland without the resort price tag will find Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel a value, budget-friendly accommodation option. While it may not be high-end, the staff at “HoJo” is no less friendly and the amenities fit the bill, in a location that is walkable to the Disneyland parks entrance.