Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel Review
Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground is an ~8 minute walk from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Our review features room photos, thoughts on amenities, and our experience staying at the HoJo Anaheim. We also discuss whether the hotel is a tad overrated, with a reputation based upon a time when Anaheim had little in the way of nice hotels.
For starters, some basics. The Howard Johnson Anaheim is one of ~50 Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels. As we’ve stressed in other reviews, this is a meaningless distinction. It’s not a seal of approval by Disney, but more of a marketing thing. To get an idea of how the HoJo Anaheim stacks up to the competition, check out our Disneyland Hotels Reviews & Rankings post. You can also read our overall comparison of the benefits of staying off-site versus on-site in our Where to Stay at Disneyland post.
The Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground is unquestionably the most “well-known” hotel among Disneyland fans. It’s been a presence in the fan community for years, and is the hotel near Disneyland people ask us about the most. With their deep-discount rates they used to offer for Annual Passholders, cool retro-chic style, and gargantuan marketing budget, the HoJo Anaheim has attracted a legion of loyal guests.
I don’t doubt that there was a time when the HoJo Anaheim was one of the best–if not the best–hotel near Disneyland. Prior to the opening of Cars Land, many hotels along Harbor Boulevard coasted by on their proximity to Disneyland. In that era, the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground would have been a cut above the rest.
As more and more of these older motels have undergone top to bottom refurbishments, and new full-service hotels have opened, it’s difficult to be all that enthusiastic about the HoJo Anaheim. Sure, it’s a nice option by Anaheim standards from 6 years ago, but six years ago is not today. This is especially true when you consider its pricing, which is not akin to the few holdovers from Anaheim’s motel-era, but is more on par with the modern developments in the area.
All of this is evident even in the HoJo Anaheim’s own sister property, the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance by Marriott, which we love. While that newer hotel is more expensive than the HoJo, it’s also considerably nicer. It feels like the modern day equivalent of what the HoJo Anaheim once was: an off-site hotel a cut above the rest, more on par with an on-site Disney-owned hotel than its off-site competitors.
This is not to say the Howard Johnson Anaheim is a bad hotel near Disneyland. Far from it. Rather, it’s to provide some context and a preface to why this review is not as gushing as others you might read about the HoJo Anaheim.
The rooms at the Howard Johnson Anaheim are amply-sized and well-maintained, but dated. Not dated in a retro-styled sort of way like you might expect given how the hotel embraces its mid-century charm–just dated.
Nevertheless, we found the beds to be comfortable and the caliber of the accommodations is definitely nicer than what you’ll find at other nearby motel-style hotels in Anaheim. It’s also clear upgrades have been made in the last decade or so, with Keurig coffee/tea maker and 32″ LCD televisions.
There are also mini-fridges and microwaves, and again, the spacious nature of the room shouldn’t be understated. It’s also nice to have a second sink outside of the bathroom, especially since the bathroom itself is pretty cramped.
One quibble here: the WiFi connection was spotty for the duration of our stay, and downright unusable at times. We headed to Starbucks on a couple of occasions to work.
This circles back to the common theme of this review: at one point the rooms at the HoJo Anaheim would’ve been the gold standard of off-site hotels near Disneyland.
Many of the modern tower-style hotels that have been built in the last few years have nicer, larger rooms, and far superior amenities. Again, many of these newer hotels are comparable to the HoJo in terms of price–that’s the power of marketing and this hotel’s longstanding reputation.
The Castaway Cove pirate-inspired water playground is potentially a nice selling point for families. The water play area at the newer Courtyard next door is significantly nicer, but that hotel is also more expensive.
We would caution that the water play area is much smaller than we anticipated, and likely won’t appeal to kids over the age of around 8. The hotel’s other pool is considerably nicer than the Anaheim norm, and was fairly quiet and low-key when we walked past it.
For us, the bigger selling point was the resort-style landscaping of the Howard Johnson Anaheim. There’s a good amount of lush landscaping, gardens, and this coupled with the large patios and balconies the rooms offer is a very nice touch. All of this does an excellent job to make the hotel feel apart from Anaheim–you’d never know the I-5 freeway is right behind it. (Well, perhaps you would if you’re staying in the tower, but we never heard or saw the freeway.)
Other amenities include two guest laundry rooms, a playground, and a convenience store. Aside from the landscaping, the other big perk of the HoJo Anaheim is that its one of the few hotels in the area that still offers free parking. There are also no resort fees, or any other hidden charges.
Two potentially-important amenities are notably missing from the Howard Johnson Anaheim: a fitness center and restaurant. While the HoJo advertises Mimi’s Cafe as being its restaurant, it’s across an intersection–not at the hotel.
They might as well claim the nearby McDonald’s or Panera Bread as hotel dining options. (For what it’s worth, we do think the fact that you’ll walk past both of those restaurants on your way to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure is a potential selling point.)
Ultimately, Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground is a good option depending upon your preferences and budget. It’s not the best hotel near Disneyland, but it’s better than average. Our qualms with the HoJo essentially boil down to this: it’s overpriced for its actual quality-tier, and we don’t believe it has any significant selling points that make it worthy of consideration over alternatives in the area–especially at the same price point. It’s potentially good in some situations, but not because it’s “the best” or anything of that sort. Don’t buy into the outdated hype.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the Howard Johnson Anaheim? Do you think it’s one of the best hotels near Disneyland…or overrated? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
Absolutely no free parking here! It’s $23.40 usd sadly
We stayed in Tower 1 in June 2022. The room was really nice! I’m a sucker for mid-century, and thought it really felt like a retro So Cal resort. The first night, my brother and his girlfriend stayed with us, so 3 adults and 1 child in one 2 queen room. It didn’t feel cramped at all. I splurged on a balcony room hoping to see the fireworks, but we couldn’t see them from floor 3.
The grounds are indeed beautiful, and we all had a blast at Captain’s Cove. I like the size — it’s small enough that I can sit at a table and relax while keeping one eye on my 7yo. At a bigger water area, I’d probably have to follow her around. My only quibble is that I wish the hot tub was by the garden pool instead of in Captain’s Cove.
My other quibble is that it’s not as close to the parks as I expected. It’s fine to walk there in the morning, but we ended up taking rideshares to get home in the evening.
Horrible service. Even thousands of Bed Bugs, have welts all over my body.
How long a walk with a three year old?? Is there an available shuttle?? No breakfast included?? It seems fireworks would be visible from Tower 1. Thanks for the help and information!!
It’s LONG for a 3-year old. When we went our 6-year-old had a really hard time walking back to the hotel after being in the park all day. She ended up riding on my husband’s shoulders half-way back each night. We also stayed in the back tower, which seemed to make the walk that much longer… If you have a stroller it might not be too bad. But it feels a lot longer on the way back than it does in the morning!
No breakfast. I thought that was a bummer. Mimi’s is really close, but a bit expensive if you’re on a budget. Also, no shuttle. I think you can take ART (local transportation), you have to pay per day.
We did see some of the fireworks which was a nice perk. The beds were quite comfy and the room was really really quiet. The kids LOVED the splash area.
I think it’s worth a stay. I’d ask for one of the buildings closer to the front (to the park) just to save yourself a few extra minutes of walking at night 🙂
I’m curious if this review was done prior to the upgraded rooms? We have two young kids so interested in space and a fun water area. This one comes in at $150/night less than the courtyard by marriott. Just curious if the review was done while the rooms were more dated.
Hojo just did a major upgrade in March of this year. I LOVE this hotel, the staff is super friendly, the grounds are beautiful, the beds are so comfy. I should also mention that they seem to have the best gift shop I have seen on the Harbor strip. Our last trip in March, we couldn’t get into Hojo because of renos, so once again had to endure Marriott Courtyard. I just felt that the room were uninviting, we asked for a luggage rack 3 times, and it never arrived, so we had to use the floor, we had a constant draft coming from somewhere in the bathroom, and the bed was uncomfortable compared to what we get at Hojos. Happy we got Hojos for October
The HoJo is actually still my hotel of choice if I can get a special deal there. I have come to think of it as my ‘home’ when visiting the Disney parks at Anaheim. Would love to stay at one of the Disney hotels, but just can’t afford them. Have tried a couple of other hotels and neither were as good as the HoJo in terms of suiting my needs, provision of comfort and amenities.
I agree with pretty much everything you said. I’d heard so many people talk about how great this hotel was that I booked it for our first trip to DL in 2015. And it was fine. I didn’t have any complaints, but it was nothing special and not what I’d consider really nice or anything. The location was decent but there are so many other hotels in the area now that I’ll try something new next time.
Off-topic, I think a post (or series of posts!) comparing DL Hotels by price and/or quality tier would be entertaining and informative. For me, it’s good to know that the Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance is a better deal at a higher price tier, but I don’t know what comparative quality hotels are not overpriced at this quality tier.
On topic, I really appreciate this post! I can see why locals like the price with discounts and the free parking, but I would probably go elsewhere when I’m visiting DL for a few days without a car.
To get an idea of how the HoJo Anaheim stacks up to the competition, check out our Disneyland Hotels Reviews & Rankings post.
I clicked on this link, but the HOJO wasn’t on the list. I looked through it twice, and unless I missed it, it’s not there. Is that intentional – boy does that give us an idea of how it stacks up! – or is the list about to be updated? Cheers & thanks!
It’s smaller than the mega hotels in area, but I like it. The waterpark is good for little ones and small enough you can keep your eyes on them without being right next to them. The bathroom/changing room and shower are all right there compared to other watermarks. Basic rooms are low-key, clean and moderately priced. The only thing missing is an on-site dining area to socialize, complimentary buffet breakfast would be nice. With the price of nearby attractions its nice to save some $$ on a room.
Good review. The one group where the free parking plays up are NorCal pass holders. We go down 4-5 times a year and will usually stay at the HoJo if we drive. When you factor that in along with availability (there is surprisingly ample parking), it becomes a little more desirable. Overall, good hotel and staff but dated. Curious to see it when the renovations in Tower 1are complete.
Tom, interesting review. I’ve enjoyed Hojo’s twice during my Disney visits. Last time was almost 5 years ago. I definitely believe it’s overpriced, but I do love being able to sit on my balcony (I always book tower 1 and request a room on a high floor), to take in the magnificent atmosphere and view of Disneyland. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to hear the whistle of the train or see the monorail glide past. Bliss. Also, last time I stayed they offered a room clean ‘lite’ which I loved. Leave a hanger on your door knob by 9am and room services will have made up your room by 1pm. Is this something that is still available?
I think you missed the point of the HoJo, which is surprising given how much you enjoy WDW resorts that have grounds to explore and surround you. You gloss over the grounds at the HoJo, though you say that they are a unique feature of the hotel. Those grounds, though compact, are the whole point. They’re a bubble. They come off like a small WDW resort-style campus. They’re what make the HoJo the only off-property hotel that feels like an actual place and not just a motel or tower surrounded by parking. They only other Disneyland Resort Area hotels that offer that feeling are on-property, and not even all three of them (certainly not Paradise Pier.) It’s why before we changed allegiances to WDW, the only place we would stay offsite was the HoJo–the ability to have a nice buffer zone between our room and the real world. In fact, when my partner and I finally visited WDW together for the first time, we first stayed at Pop. And the first thing we thought was, “This is in our comfort zone, it has nice, compact grounds like the HoJo.”
That bubble, although nice, is only one component of the motel. As time goes by and some of the upgrades have missed the mark, just being “in the bubble” isn’t enough. I like that feeling too, but it’s not nearly as important for others. When weighing out the whole property, I thought Tom was pretty fair.
I did mention the grounds being a highlight, and while reasonable minds can vary, I think you’re giving them a bit too much credit. Several other hotels (Sheraton Anaheim, Candy Cane Inn, Anaheim Hotel) have nice grounds…and also don’t have rooms overlooking I-5.
I think your review is right on point for this hotel. The hype for the hotel is definitely overrated, it’s way overdue for some updates. We stayed there about a year and a half ago because we got a 30% AP discount. We paid just under $900 for a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom family suite for a 4 night stay for a long weekend in the middle of July. The water playground was perfect for our toddler and the teenagers loved the pool. I would stay there again if I get the same discount, but otherwise would prefer to stay at the Courtyard across the street or the Disneyland Hotel.