Star Wars Meets the Howard Johnson Anaheim

Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground Pirates CoveBy Ilona Kauremszky

Next door the Star Wars Galaxy crowd is having its moment.

With the long anticipated opening of Disneyland’s new Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge finally upon us in sunny Anaheim, the spillover crowd is making a splash at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground across the street.

Aimed at the family market the hotel location overlooks SOCAL’s two biggest draws: Disneyland and depending on how you look at it – the California Freeway. “Now if only they could get rid of that,” laughs one local on my latest visit to fun-filled Anaheim.

Off Gene Autry Way on South Harbor Boulevard that takes you to Anaheim’s historic packing district — another local fixture which is having its moment of new Cali restaurants plus a centennial anniversary – you got this vacation thingy covered.

Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground Star Wars Galaxy Edge

As the light saber toting Star Wars fans converge families are living it up across the street. At the HoJo Anaheim there’s a water playground of pirate-themed attractions casting big smiles on the kids while the adults sunbathe by the gentler more soothing outdoor heated Garden Pool. The hotel has two pools, both of which are kiddie-friendly.

When Mr. James P. Edmondson, the original owner who still runs the hotel, arrived on the scene this place was an orange grove. Build it and they will come. He did.

Ever since the iconic motor lodge opened in 1965 the family-fun hotel has drawn huge crowd appeal, creating lasting memories for future generations.

Now why should you go?

Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground Main BuildingHoward Johnson Anaheim Hotel Highlights

This hotel has a list of big bragging rights. There’s the TripAdvisor fan favorite, 5-time winner in the category, “Top 25 Hotels for Families in the United States.”

But then there’s the Castaway Cove Water Playground, a kitschy pirate-themed pool attraction. Stand under a big pail of water for mega soaks.

Disneyland Monorail PosterBy night sit at your balcony to hear and watch the fireworks from neighboring Disneyland. See the band of Mickey Mouse fans on the super futuristic monorail, a thrilling train ride that was the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere when it opened.

Another Disneyland Park thriller seen from this perch is the Matterhorn. Considered the most distinctive landmark next to the Sleeping Beauty Castle, this man-made snow-capped wonder is only 750 feet away from the hotel.

Beautifully landscaped grounds, see tall Canary Island pine trees planted by Mr. Edmondson tower over the main office and garden pool setting.

Canary Island Pine Trees Howard Johnson AnaheimGo for the design. Retro crusaders will love the futuristic build of this HoJo designed by architect William Pereira, a mid 20th century American pioneer. The main building looks like a spaceship and the surrounding structures have vaulted pod-like rooftops.

Suite PlusesBuilding 1 - Room 709 HOJO Anaheim

Choose from a variety of suite and room bundle options for a quintessential SOCAL family vacation. Look for Kids Suites, a pirate-themed room with vintage Pirates of the Caribbean artwork and buccaneer style bunk beds, the kind with a wooden ladder. Two bathrooms to boot.

We loved the lush Simmons Beautyrest pillow-top mattress with 300-thread count sheeting. After years of planning, the hotel has completed an $8-million reno of the 111 rooms in Building 1 Tower.

Pirates Cove HOJO AnaheimI stayed at the iconic Building 1 Tower. Some of these rooms overlook the Castaway Cove Water Playground oasis. In the refurbished bathroom the motion sensory light fixture is a cool addition in keeping up with the Jones’ across the street. Duo sinks for his and her or the time-crunched FAM is also appreciated. The newly renovated suites thankfully retains its vintage original skylights and vaulted stucco ceiling giving guests an edge of nostalgia with a mesh of old and new.

The smart color of teal (Howard Johnson’s trademark hue with the orange) is a nice addition of splashy beach tones that gets you in the mood of SOCAL fun.

Love the complimentary coffee machine, the fridge for storing cold beverages and last night’s leftover dinner plus the big screen smart TV stocked with Netflix and other digital services.Coffee maker microwave HOJO Anaheim

There’s ample storage, spacious closets and hangers, drawers and even an ironing board and iron to help iron out the wrinkles from the long haul flights coming in from the East Coast.

Free Wi-Fi, free parking, waterpark adventure, and rooms with balconies plus it’s an affordable hotel next door to Disneyland.

Insider tip: Go for a room in Building 1 Tower and pick Room 709 – no regrets.

Hotel Perks

HOJO Anaheim Garden PoolCastaway Cove for swashbuckling fun. The Howard Johnson Anaheim has a water playground the whole family could enjoy. Equipped with water slides, water canons, splash pad, a heated kid pool and a hot tub, it’s open year round. On those days when the parks are just too crowded, you can easily head back to the HOJO for a much needed park break and spend some time at the water park.

There is a heated full size pool called the Garden Pool and a game room for older kids.

Location, location, location. The Howard Johnson Anaheim is only a 10-minute walk to the parks. This saves time and money. Guests can park for free in the hotel parking lot. Don’t bother parking at the Disneyland parking.

The hotel sells a variety of passes. Invest in a RideART bus pass, a hop-on hop-off service for shuttle rides. The local transit system has 20 scheduled routes to such places as Disneyland and the downtown Packing District.

The hotel is connected to Mimi’s Cafe, a diner across the street, so guests can easily fuel up on some breakfast fare before hitting the Wonderful World of Disney next door.

Hotel Diversions

This HoJo is a gem ever since opening its doors in 1965. Guests staying here can visit iconic landmarks, shop, and dine at local hot spots.


Not so much – it’s really aimed as a stay and play place. Dining is located across the street at Mimi’s Cafe or head down to either the Packing District or the Garden Walk district for a collection of eateries.

Overall Impression

Living up to its motto: Happy stays since 1965


You can make your booking at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground website. Regular rates start at anywhere from $149 to $199 a night depending on the time of the year. You can also compare rates and book at Priceline.

Photography by Ilona Kauremszky and supplied.

Ilona Kauremszky attended the IPW2019 #IPW2019 in Anaheim and was a guest of Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground which did not approve this editorial.

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.