Review: The Howard Johnson Anaheim Might Be The Happiest Hotel On Earth For Families

*This family stay was hosted by Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground. All ideas and opinions expressed are that of the writer, Lisa McGuigan. Find additional disclosure information at the bottom of this article.*

A mom and her young daughter stand together, wearing Minnie Mouse gear, while staying at Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground.

If you’re looking for an exciting and affordable vacation for families, look no further than Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground! Located in the heart of Anaheim, California (part of northern Orange County), this hotel’s central location is ideal for various unique adventures and experiences. In fact, this beautiful hotel is located just a short walk from the happiest place on earth – Disneyland! It’s also near family-friendly attractions like California Adventure, making it a great place to take a family vacation. Plus, the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground offers a whole lot of bang for your buck without compromising on quality, fun, or convenience. Next time you’re planning a family vacation to California, read through this review to find out whether the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel is right for you!

Why is the Howard Johson Anaheim Ideal for Families?

The entrance to the Howard Johnson Anaheim.
Photo Courtesy: Howard Johnson Anaheim

Howard Johnson Anaheim is the perfect place for families to stay while visiting Disneyland. In fact, you’ll be so close to all the action that your room at the hotel should only be about an 8-minute walk to Disneyland. And, when you need a mid-day break from all the chaos of the parks, it’s a fantastic place to escape. During this break, you can take a refreshing dip in the pool. Or, recharge with a nap in the comfort of your room. Disney days can be long and tiresome. Having a comfortable respite can make a world of difference in your overall vacation experience. Of course, Mickey will be waiting for you when you return to the park!

Book your stay at Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground using Expedia!

Use to Book Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground!

Accommodations for Families at Howard Johnson Anaheim 

Finding a hotel that is spacious enough for families of 5 is unique, but what makes Howard Johnson Anaheim spectacular is the variety of room layouts. During our hosted visit, we stayed in the Kids Suite. This 538-square-foot two-room suite sleeps up to five people, making it the perfect room for families with kids. Featuring two separate bedrooms and bathrooms, we had the rare opportunity to relax in a spacious king bedroom. At the same time, our kids slept snuggly in a separate room featuring a twin bunk bed and a deluxe double, pull-out sofa sleeper. This Pirate Suite also came with Pirate Attraction-themed artwork throughout, so all our little buccaneers enjoyed living the pirate life!

With so many unique room configurations, we encourage you to explore the website, which includes detailed descriptions and several pictures. Need more help? The staff is accommodating and knowledgeable – we think Tinker Bell may have sprinkled some pixie dust over the lobby!

Best On-Site Amenities for Families at Howard Johnson Anaheim

The beautiful courtyard within the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground.

Perhaps the best thing about Howard Johnson Anaheim is the range of amenities on offer for families! From an on-site pool to views of the Disneyland fireworks, there are many reasons families stay at this hotel. Keep reading to find out more! 

READ NEXT: 20 Best Destinations In The United States To Visit With Young Kids

Splish-Splashy Fun for Families

One of the biggest perks for kids staying at the hotel is Castaway Cove – a watery pirate playground featuring slides, water cannons, and a big old pirate ship. With no deep-water pool at Castaway Cove, this felt like one of the safer hotel pools to enjoy with small children. Small children will love playing in the splash fountains, and there is a shallow toddler pool with beach-style entry. All and all, a great escape and something for everyone to enjoy some fun in the So Cal sun!

Garden Swimming Pool

The beautiful garden pool, with surrounding pool deck featuring blue chairs and garden features, at Howard Johnson Anaheim.
Photo Courtesy: Howard Johnson Anaheim

If dunk buckets and water cannons aren’t your cup of tea, visit the Garden Pool, a calm oasis surrounded by lush landscaping. This pool area is located next to Building #2 and is separate from the busier Castaway Cove Water Playground. Even though we traveled in February, we enjoyed the convenience of taking a dip in the heated pool before heading back to the parks. This is a quieter pool, but still loads of fun.

Due to its popularity, only hotel guests can use Castaway Cove Water Playground and Garden Pool. Upon check-in, we were issued wristband passes for all members of our reservation. During busier periods, reservations may be required. In other words, no impromptu gatherings or surprise guests! 

Firework Spectacular

At 9:30 PM every night, Disneyland guests are invited to experience spectacular fireworks, timeless music, and surprise appearances by some classic Disney characters…that is, unless you have tired kids! One of our favorite features of the hotel is the incredible view of the fireworks. We were thrilled to have access to the show right from the comfort of Howard Johnson Anaheim. No crowds, and perfect views. What an unexpected and delightful treat! Talk about that Tinkerbell magic!

Nearby Family-Friendly Dining Options

A plate of delicious food from Mimi's Cafe in Anaheim.
Photo Courtesy: Mimi’s Cafe

While there is no restaurant on the property, Mimi’s Cafe is located next to the hotel. Mimi’s serves generous helpings of American dishes in a French New Orleans-inspired atmosphere. We personally loved the hearty soups and delicious muffins and appreciated their reasonably priced kids’ menu. After a day of eating at Disney, it’s hard not to love and appreciate a tried and true restaurant like Mimi’s Café.

While there are also several chain restaurants within walking distance (like, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, and Denny’s, to name a few), dining with Disney characters can be one of the most memorable highlights of your family’s vacation. There are several fun and unique opportunities for character dining throughout the resort, but Goofy’s Kitchen is one of our favorites and an easy walk from Howard Johnson Anaheim. Whether for breakfast or dinner, you can enjoy a buffet with Goofy and more of his Disney friends. And they’ll even be some impressive singing and dancing! 

Main Street Market Gift Shop

Plenty of fun Disney-themed toys and supplies in the market store at Howard Johnson Anaheim.
Photo Courtesy: Lisa McGuigan

Families staying at Howard Johnson Anaheim can visit the Main Street Market, an on-site gift shop that sells items such as milk, juice, cereal, bread, lunch meat, snacks, and other essentials. Open daily; they even sell Disney gifts & souvenirs, including shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and collectibles. The prices were more reasonable than we expected (and far better than the parks), and they offer a wide range of fanfare and merchandise. We each left with a snack and a new set of Mickey ears (for about half the price!).

Here are 10 Fun Things To Do In Temecula With Kids!

Nearby Things to Do in Orange County with Kids

While staying at one of the best Disney adjacent hotels may make leaving difficult, you’ll also want to explore some of the best things to do near Anaheim with kids (that isn’t Disney). Mickey & Minnie are terrific, but there is a dynamic world of family fun just a short drive away from the hotel. Here are some of the best things to do with kids near Howard Johnson Anaheim, in addition to Disneyland! 

READ NEXT: Explore The United States On A Budget: 21 Affordable Summer Vacation Destinations With Kids

Pirates Dinner Adventure, Buena Park

An actress in a pirate costume on stage at Pirates Dinner Adventure.
Photo Courtesy: Pirates Dinner Adventure

Wondering about things to do with kids near Disneyland? You’ll have tales to tell after your epic adventure at Pirates Dinner Adventure! Located in Buena Park (about 11 minutes from the hotel), this popular attraction in Orange County features live theater, food, and fun for the whole family. Families can enjoy swashbuckling pirates, live cannon fire, daring acrobatics, and a classic story of good vs. evil. The elaborate theater set provides the perfect backdrop for a celebration on the open seas. You’ll be able to indulge in all different kinds of food as all the action happens around you. Both kids and adults can join in on the festivities and cheer for their favorite pirate! 

Get your Pirates Dinner Adventure tickets here.

Pretend City Children’s Museum, Irvine

A young boy plays at a car exhibit at Pretend City Children's Museum.
Photo Courtesy: Pretend City Children’s Museum

Cozy Coupes rule the road at Pretend City, an adorable child-size world perfect for younger travelers. As one of the best things to do with kids in Orange County, Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine (about 20 minutes from the hotel) is designed to teach children how the world works while engaging their curiosities and imaginations. The not-as-small-as-you-think interconnected city boasts a fun balance of educational intention with loads of fun. Bonus, they have a tiny Trader Joe’s complete with small shopping carts, real Trader Joe’s items you know and love, and crew member uniforms. 

Irvine Spectrum, Irvine

Irvine Spectrum, a fun shopping district in Anaheim, lit up at night.
Photo Courtesy: Irvine Spectrum Center

Irvine Spectrum Center offers unparalleled shopping, dining, and entertainment, plus tons of family-friendly activities (about 20 minutes from the property). No wonder it’s one of the best things to do with kids in Orange County! Perhaps most notable is the Giant Wheel, which features an LED interface with 52,000 energy-efficient lights that can project a dazzling 16 million color schemes. The view from the top is spectacular, and at $8 a ride, it is a surprisingly affordable way to enjoy the OC! Also noteworthy are the carousel, play structure, and impressive entertainment that regularly takes place. Check online for their robust calendar of events, pop-up shops, and family-friendly fun. 

Knotts Berry Farms, Buena Park

A family of four walks along the theme park associated with Knotts Berry Farm Hotel, eating cotton candy and other treats.
Photo Courtesy: Knotts Berry Farm

If you’re looking for a fun-filled day out with the kids near Anaheim, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Knotts Berry Farm! Located just 10 minutes from Howard Johnson Anaheim, it’s one of the best things to do near Anaheim with kids. This world-famous theme park is packed with rides, shows, and attractions that will entertain the whole family.

From thrilling rollercoasters to gentle rides for younger children, you’ll find attractions in four themed areas inspired by the history and culture of California. This includes Old West adventures in the authentic 1800s Ghost Town, paying tribute to California’s Hispanic roots in Fiesta Village, experiencing the Southern California beach lifestyle along the Boardwalk, and more. 

Discover the Best Themed Hotels On The West Coast For Families (including Knotts Berry Farm Hotel!)

Tanaka Farms, Irvine

The strawberry fields of Tanaka Farms.
Photo Courtesy: Tanaka Farms

Tanaka Farms is a great place to take the kids for a day of fun! Located in Irvine, just a short drive from Anaheim, this family-owned farm offers a variety of activities for all ages. Kids can enjoy tractor rides, hayrides, U-pick fruits and vegetables (in season), and more. Plus, there’s an annual Pumpkin Patch with pumpkins you can pick right off the vines, farm-to-table luncheons, cookouts, dinners, and so much more. There’s also a farm store on site where you can purchase fresh produce, eggs, honey, and other items. 

If you visit during the holidays, Hikari, Festival Of Lights, is a fantastic and must-visit celebration filled with joy and light. Loosely translated, Hikari means “shine” in Japanese, and Tanaka Farms does just that with over a million twinkling lights!

For more information on family fun in California, read our article on Sunny Days and Blue Skies: Visiting Sesame Place San Diego With Kids!

Irvine Regional Park, Irvine

The arched entrance sign to Irvine Regional Park.
Photo Courtesy: Irvine Regional Park

Families who want an outdoor escape will love Irvine Regional Park! With its Oak and Sycamore trees, this scenic outdoor spot features rolling foothills and shaded areas where families can enjoy leisure activities. Plus, it’s only about 25 minutes from the hotel!

Santiago Creek bisects the park, and a pond with a stone-work waterfall and footbridge is located in the center. A paved bicycle/walking trail meanders through the central park providing easy access to six playgrounds, four softball fields, two horseshoe pits, and a lake. In addition to simply enjoying the natural beauty of the park, there are several additional paid activities and experiences within the park that are worth noting.

In Irvine Regional Park, Families Also Love:

  • Irvine Park Railroad is a 1/3 scale train that takes both children and adults on a 10-minute ride through beautiful and historic Irvine Regional Park. Located in the foothills of Orange, Irvine Park Railroad is open seven days a week (weather permitting).
  • Wheel Fun Rentals® offers a fleet of bikes for single riders or an entire family. Their fleet of Wheel Fun Rentals at Irvine Park cycles — which are ideal for sightseeing, people watching, exercising, or simply enjoying Irvine Regional Park — includes the surrey, double surrey, quad sport, and chopper. Other rentals include tandem bikes, cruiser bikes, BMX bikes, kid’s bikes, and paddle boats. Wheel Fun Rentals at Irvine Park is adjacent to the historic old boathouse next to the lake.
  • Finally, The Orange County Zoo is another wonderful attraction nestled inside beautiful Irvine Regional Park. Tucked among coastal live oak and giant sycamore groves, this eight-acre zoo displays plants native to the southwestern United States. The zoo exhibits its animals in natural habitats, from black bears to mountain lions, bald eagles, ocelots, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, porcupines, coyotes, turkey vultures, and more.

And, Don’t Forget Disneyland!

Mickey Mouse leads a parade through Disneyland.
Photo Courtesy: Disney

The list of possibilities beyond the mouse is seemingly endless, but a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure is undoubtedly worth your time when staying at Howard Johnson Anaheim with kids. While the parks feel busier and busier, new attractions, refreshed characters, and the re-opening of ToonTown (March 19, 2023) are giving us all something to look forward to. The magic of Disney simply can’t be matched, and Howard Johnson Anaheim makes it just a bit easier with its affordable pricing and family-friendly accommodations.

RELATED: Why Your Family Will Love a Disney Cruise

So, Would I Recommend Howard Johnson Anaheim for Families?

Two kids sit together on the top bunk within their family room at Howard Johnson Anaheim.

If you’re wondering whether I would recommend Howard Johnson Anaheim for families, the answer is yes! Along with the scenic property and great amenities, it puts you within close distance of some fantastic family-friendly attractions in California, including the best things to do near Disneyland with kids. No wonder it’s one of the best family-friendly hotels in California! 

Happy Travels!

A mom and her young daughter smile in their Minnie Mouse gear while staying at Howard Johnson Anaheim.

We hope you found this review of Howard Johnson by Wyndham Anaheim Hotel & Water Playground for Families by contributor Lisa McGuigan (aka Temecula Tots) helpful in planning your own adventure! From bunk beds to exciting water slides and firework displays, there will be plenty of action to experience with your entire family. So, whether you’re on vacation or a Southern California local, add Howard Johnson Anaheim to your list of the best things to do with kids. 

*Unless otherwise noted, all images within this article belong to and are courtesy of Lisa McGuigan.

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are that of the attributed author, Lisa McGuigan.


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