Some thoughts on hotels near Disneyland.

I’ve had the chance to stay at a few different hotels near Disneyland for various pleasure trips and conferences. Someone in one of my circles is always on their way to the Happiest Place, so I’m putting my thoughts here instead of typing all this out in each facebook thread.

As nearly every profile of Disneyland history notes, Walt underpurchased the land that would become Disneyland Park. This is commonly categorized as a huge mistake, because as news spread that Disney owned the parcel, others bought up all the land around it. However, this makes Disneyland an even more unique and special experience — especially when your first experience is with Walt Disney World, like mine was. Disneyland is completely walkable. Where some people see a perpetual expansion challenge surrounded by tacky tourist traps, I see affordable hotels near the parks — it’s impossible to walk to Disney’s Florida parks unless you can afford a handful of the most expensive Disney hotels — and a world-class convention center steps away, if that’s your thing [personally, I owe almost all of my Disneyland visits to speaking sessions or other participation at professional conventions held nearby].

My first visit to Anaheim was about six years ago — I know, right? For a Disney parks fan it sure look me long enough. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Anaheim on Walnut Street. It’s on the other side of the massive Mickey and Friends parking structure .  It had a nice restaurant and pool, as Holiday Inns do, and I remember having to be a Priority Club member [IHG’s free loyalty program] to get on Wifi. It was nice but it might be a bit of a hike, and on one rainy day we sprung $3/head for the Anaheim Resort Shuttle.

I spent a few days at the Motel 6 Anaheim Maingate, on Disney Way for a conference about three years ago. Despite the hotel name and street name, it isn’t right on property — it’s about two blocks. It was cheap-nice. The TV was a relatively recent model but suffered from the same crummy picture most inexpensive hotel TVs have where they split one cable signal into however many rooms. And they charged for Wifi, like $3 a day! But I didn’t spend much time in the room so no biggie. Between conference wifi, the Del Taco around the corner, and my phone, I was okay. No carpet in the rooms, just hard floors. I think this is a new standard for M6. Pet owners like this, but I recommend slippers, because they can’t mop the floor after every visit.

Wife and kids arrived as soon as the conference was over, and I met them at the Best Western Park Place, right across Harbor Blvd from the Disneyland bus stops. I liked this place a lot, especially when we visited with our two-year-old who still took afternoon naps. Less than ten minutes minutes from park entrance to Zzzz. Breakfast at the pirate-themed buffet next door included in room rate. It is not great cuisine, but it will save you a few bucks. This hotel was probably my favorite.

We switched for the last two days of the trip to the Howard Johnson’s on Harbor, a block up from the Disneyland bus entrance. We like to take an inexpensive relaxation day in the middle when we take long trips — swim in the hotel pool, visit a free attraction like Downtown DIsney — and the HoJo waterpark is great for kids, especially considering Disneyland doesn’t have a waterpark. It has a section for small children, though we had some rowdy older kids who kept coming into it that day, and I finally had to be a cranky old man to one of them who kept chasing my young one. Our room was on the upper level of one of the lodges in the center of the resort. It had skylights, which — I love natural light during the day, but not when I’m trying to sleep. Maybe ask for an accessible room, because these lodges also don’t have an elevator [so a lot of upstairs bag schlepping for me].

The Harbor Blvd strip is kind of charming-tacky — a lot of family-friendly hotels, fast-food and casual dining, and relentless timeshare salesmen. Just don’t make eye contact with them, or smile and keep walking, and you should be fine.

I stayed at the America’s Best Value Inn on Katella about a year and a half ago for a different conference. Two level motel, rooms open to outdoors. They keep the lights on all night, which makes sense for safety but it’s rough if you like to sleep in darkness like me. I draped one of my bed comforters over the part of the window that the curtains didn’t cover, they took it down during the day. Pool looked decent, but I never went in it. It’s on Katella, between a couple of much larger hotels and a Super 8 Inn. Free breakfast, pastries and apples at the front desk. It was the cheapest place I could find online within about a block walk to the Anaheim Convention Center. There are many hotels on Katella Drive that cater to the resort crowd, but a lot of them are more expensive, because most convention attendees are business travelers with travel budgets.

You might be able to Priceline places around Disneyland for cheaper, but the “Anaheim Convention Center” maps on Priceline and Hotwire extend way sound into Garden Grove, areas that would be too far to comfortably walk, so I’ve never risked it.