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Review of the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground Near Disneyland

For many generations of Disneyland vacationers, the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground has been the go-to hotel. Founded in 1965 – just 10 years after Disneyland itself – the HoJo Anaheim has been part of some serious theme park history. Over five decades later, it is still one of the most popular and well-known off-property Disneyland hotels.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Hojo Lobby Building

Even though I’ve vacationed at Disneyland for two of those decades, I had never stayed at the Howard Johnson Anaheim. That all changed at the end of this past summer when my two kids (ages 10 and 5) and I were guests of the hotel for a two night stay. We took a quick last minute trip so they could sneak a peek at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for the first time.

We found the hotel to be an ideal fit for family travelers. The walking distance location, the awesome water playground, and the mid-century modern vibe make it one of my top off-property recommendations in the area.

Here’s what you need to know to decide whether the HoJo Anaheim is the right hotel for your family vacation at Disneyland.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Orange HoJo Chair

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Howard Johnson Anaheim Location: Walking Distance to Disneyland

I’m a big proponent of hotels within walking distance of Disneyland, so it’s a bit crazy that it took me so long to stay at the HoJo Anaheim. Located on Harbor Boulevard about a 10 minute walk from the pedestrian entrance to the parks, the location is pretty fantastic. Guests need to cross just two crosswalks to get to the parks – the one over Harbor itself and one right at the corner of the hotel at Manchester.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Walking Distance to Disneyland

Just be aware that the HoJo Anaheim is not the closest off-property hotel to Disneyland. You’ll pass about 5 other hotels on the walk. I’ve found, however, that the very closest hotels are often a bit more bare bones in some of their offerings. For the 2-5 extra minutes on foot, the HoJo Anaheim has more to offer. If you plan to spend any time at the hotel taking advantage of an amenity like the pool (especially on an arrival or a departure day), that matters. If, however, you plan to spend every waking minute in the parks and just need a clean crash pad as close as possible, this might not be the ideal hotel choice.

HoJo Anaheim Rooms & Price

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Queen Bed Renovated Room

The HoJo Anaheim has a wide variety of different room types. The result is that there are lots of options at different price points with different layouts.

So many hotels make it hard to figure out exactly what type of room you are going to get. The HoJo Anaheim is definitely not one of them. The property makes all the room types crystal clear on its website, with lots of photos and a full description of each one.

For families, the layout of a room can really matter a lot. I remember well a few years ago when all I needed in a hotel room was a quiet and spacious corner for a Pack N Play for my son. Now that my kids are a bit older, it really matters how many beds a room has as well as what the bed size and type is going to be. The HoJo Anaheim gets that.

Room types at the HoJo Anaheim include the following:

  • Standard Rooms: Either 1 King ADA or 2 Doubles
  • Deluxe Rooms: Either 1 King, 1 Queen/Junior Bunk, 2 Queens in Building 1, or 2 Queens in Building 2
  • Premium Rooms: Either 1 Queen/Bunk ADA, 2 Queens, or a 2 Queen/2 Room Bundle 
  • Suites: Either a King Suite, a Queen Suite, or a Kids Suite
Howard Johnson Anaheim - Renovated Room ADA Bathroom

My family stayed in the one of the Premium Rooms – the 1 Queen/Bunk ADA room type. This room is located in the newly-renovated Building 1. It features a queen bed as well as bunk beds in the corner. My kids do not do so well when they have to share a bed (even a queen!), so this was the ideal room type for us. Check out my video room tour of our recent stay in this room type:

All rooms at the HoJo Anaheim come standard with a microwave, mini-fridge, and Keurig coffee maker. Those make it easy to prepare a simple breakfast in the room so you can get to the parks quickly for rope drop like my family did. Other in-room amenities include a safe, hairdryer, and ironing board.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Room Microwave and Keurig

All the rooms in the premium room categories and some of the rooms in the deluxe and suite room categories are in the newly renovated Building 1. Standard rooms are not in the renovated buildings, but come at a more affordable price of course.

Speaking of price, like all Disneyland area hotels, room prices at the HoJo Anaheim fluctuate considerably based upon seasonal demand. Generally speaking, standard rooms can often be found for around $200 a night before tax. Expect to pay about $20-50 more per night for the rooms in the renovated building. But keep reading below to find out how to save money off these rack rates!

Howard Johnson Anaheim Pools & Water Playground

HoJo Anaheim Castaway Cove Entrance

The highlight for families at the HoJo Anaheim is most definitely the pools. Castaway Cove is the hotel’s pirate-themed water playground. It is as fun as the description suggests.

A complete review of the HoJo Anaheim, a hotel within walking distance of Disneyland. Get a video tour of a newly renovated room and find out all about the hotel's pirate water park. #hojoanaheim #disneyland

The centerpiece of the water playground is a giant pirate ship play structure. There are numerous splash pad features surrounding it as well as a drench bucket that drops a ton of water every few minutes. There is also a medium thrills waterslide and two smaller slides perfect for toddlers. Finally, I spotted a small wading pool for babies off to one side as well as a hot tub.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Castaway Cove Water Playground View from Above

What I loved as a parent about the area was that it was fully enclosed and gated for safety. All of the water features were also shallow enough for non-swimmers to enjoy. It was freeing for my 5 year old to be able to roam without a life jacket in this space. 

There is a staff member monitoring the top of the larger waterslide to make sure kids are using it safely. I was so impressed with the young woman in charge during the afternoon we spent there – she doted on my kids, learned their names, and just generally made an already fun experience that much more so.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Castaway Cove

I must admit that I worried a bit that the space might be too young and tame for my 10 year old, but she enjoyed every minute we spent there. She was definitely one of the oldest kids enjoying the area though, and older tweens and teens may want more thrills.

One note about timing – the water playground doesn’t open until 10am. We had hoped to spend a little time there in the morning on our departure day before a noon flight, but the later morning opening didn’t make that possible. Luckily, the area does stay open late until 10pm (with the pirate ship closing at 9pm), so it’s possible to enjoy in the evenings on an arrival day or after time in the parks.

There is also a second pool area on property. Located near Building 2, the garden pool is pretty standard but does the job for families who want to take a regular swim. There are no lifejackets that I spotted, so I’d recommend bringing your own if you have a little one who is a non-swimmer (we travel with the Puddle Jumper for my son). The pool area is of course very safely gated from the rest of the property.

HoJo Anaheim Garden Pool

HoJo Anaheim Amenities & Perks

While the pools are the biggest highlight of the property, the HoJo Anaheim has a few other amenities of note. Guests get free parking for one car. This can really save a lot of money if you are driving to Disneyland, as some area hotels charge up to $25 a night to park. The hotel also doesn’t charge any extra resort or hidden fees, so that’s a plus. (Editor’s Note 2022: HoJo Anaheim now charges $20/night for parking.)

The hotel has a cute arcade that kept my kids entertained on two separate visits during our trip. For longer stays, there are two guest laundry facilities on the property.

As for dining, there’s no restaurant on-site but there are plenty of eating choices nearby. The closest is Mimi’s Bistro & Bakery, a casual sit down restaurant with French inspired cuisine.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - McDonalds Nearby

Just a few steps beyond that is a Panera Bread location, which is perfectly positioned for a quick breakfast stop on the walk to the parks. There’s also a McDonald’s on the way to the parks as well. Within a 5-10 minute walk on that same block, there are quite a few other kid-friendly restaurants, from Denny’s to IHOP to the Pizza Press.

Finally, we also found the hotel gift shop extremely well stocked. There are tons of snack options for grabbing a quick bite. The gift shop also has a wide variety of Disney essentials and souvenirs, from autograph books to stuffed characters. For the most part, we found them all quite a bit cheaper than the items found in the parks.

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Gift Shop Snacks

What’s Coming at the Howard Johnson Anaheim

I mentioned that my family stayed in a renovated room so it probably goes without saying that the hotel is in the middle of a renovation! The HoJo is doing the renovation building by building to take fewer rooms out of service as well as to minimize any disruption to guests in the process.

Building 1 is completely renovated already as of March 2018. Next up is Building 2. The renovation will start November 1, 2019 and is slated for completion in March 2020. When those two buildings are complete, the hotel will have nearly 200 renovated rooms available.

Howard Johnson Anaheim Booking Discounts & Deals!

Howard Johnson Anaheim - Castaway Cove Water Playground Fun

Interested in booking the HoJo for your own vacation? I have two ways for Trips With Tykes readers to snag a great deal.

First, you can book the HoJo through my partner Get Away Today where deep discounts are almost always available. For 2019 stays, Get Away Today offers only standard rooms with two double beds, but you can always book one of those and call the hotel if you want to upgrade your stay. For stays in 2020 and beyond, there is a wider variety of room types available on the Get Away Today site, including deluxe two queen rooms. Be sure to apply the code Tykes10 for an additional $10 off vacation packages if you are booking discounted park tickets too!

Alternatively, book directly through HoJo’s website with my discount code LNLR and get 15% off (make sure you put the code in the “GROUP CODE” box in the drop down menu – not the top level corporate code one – and look for a rate type that says “Influencer Discount” in the results). Select the exact room type that interests you, including the newly renovated rooms in Building 1 like the one featured above. If you are an annual passholder, you can often get a 20% discount with the code LNAP (call the hotel directly to override any minimum length of stay requirements too). Direct bookings with HoJo also earn Wyndham Rewards points if you are into hotel loyalty points like I am!

I’d recommend comparing these two options to find the best prices for your given vacation dates as well as the room type that meets your needs. The two choices regularly do not have the same room inventory or the same prices available so you’ll get many more options if you run both. These two options almost always beat other discounts I’ve seen, like pre-paid nonrefundable rates, Wyndham Rewards member rates, or AAA discounts. And remember that if you do book your room directly via HoJo’s site, you should absolutely still book your park tickets through Get Away Today to save off of the Disney rack rates!

Just how much can you save? I priced out a few different 2 night stays in 2019 and 2020 with both of these methods and found pre-tax rates like the following:

  • 1 Queen/Bunk ADA Room (the room type I stayed in) for $238 a night in early December 2019
  • 2 Doubles Standard Room for $171 a night in late February 2020
  • Deluxe 2 Queen Room in Building 2 for $204 a night in late April 2020

The Bottom Line on the HoJo Anaheim

So will my family return to the Howard Johnson Anaheim? A resounding yes! The hotel worked so well for us for this particular trip – a two night stay when we only spent a single day in the theme parks. With the down time we had on our arrival day, we were really able to take the time to enjoy Castaway Cove for several hours. Additionally, the newly renovated rooms have bright colors and decor that made my kids feel like they were still in the Disney bubble. And finally, the rooms and hotel generally had all amenities family travelers need without any extra hidden fees.

Disclosure: The HoJo Anaheim provided complimentary 2 night accommodations to my family for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Looking for a hotel within walking distance of Disneyland? Get all the details on the Howard Johnson in Anaheim, with information about newly renovated rooms, amenities for families, and the pirate water playground, Castaway Cove.

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Jill Skouson

Sunday 29th of December 2019

Nevermind! I just had to use your link and I found it. Thanks!

Jill Skouson

Sunday 29th of December 2019

Hi Leslie! I tried to book a kids suite and use your code LNLR for 15% off. I couldn't find a RATE CODE box to put in that code. Any clarification for me?