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Disneyland Resort has been the crown jewel of California vacations for decades. As an attraction and home to the first Walt Disney parkover 50 years ago — the world’s first theme park, in fact — Disneyland revolutionized the theme park industry and changed California vacations and family trips forever. California hotels sprung up like wildflowers, and still continue to do so.

Today’s Disneyland Resort includes California Adventure, Downtown Disney, three Disney hotels, and it’s still growing (Cars Land will be opening in 2012). Naturally, everyone wants to stay at a Disneyland hotel to be in the thick of the magic and fully immersed in the Disney experience; unfortunately, this isn’t always financially feasible. California vacations are not cheap, let alone the trips to Disneyland theme parks, and staying at a Disney Resort hotel is a luxury many cannot afford.

Not too worry: there are plenty of other great hotels right outside the gate, and many are within walking distance. Here are my top five picks based on location, affordability and amenities:

Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel Anaheim Resort

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The Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel Anaheim Resort is right across from Disneyland on Harbor Blvd and a quick walk to the main gates. The hotel has a relaxing garden pool and Castaway Cove, a pirate-themed watery playground with a beach entry toddler pool, Speedy’s Sprayground, and a 30-foot pirate ship complete with climbing nets, slides, water cannons, and a 300-gallon drench bucket. Castaway Cove also provides guests with a great view of Disneyland’s firework display.

Anabella Hotel

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The Anabella Hotel sits directly across the street from the Disneyland Resort on seven beautifully landscaped acres. Built in the style of a California-Spanish mission, it offers separate family and adults-only pools and a poolside bar, as well as dishes like slow-roasted short ribs with duck-fat potatoes in the Tangerine Grill and Patio. Generally speaking, the Anabella offers the most affordable room rates on this list (parking and other fees apply).

Hyatt Regency Orange County

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The recently remodeled and refurbished Hyatt Regency Orange County is about a mile from the Disneyland Resort, but it does offer a shuttle to the parks. It also lets kids eat free for dinner in their TusCA restaurant with a paying adult, which is a huge way to save some money on California vacations. The Hyatt also keeps the family in mind with their Kids Suites, which allow children to have their own room complete with bunk beds, while parents can relax in an adjoining room.

Sheraton Anaheim Hotel

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The Sheraton Anaheim Hotel is walking distance (and free shuttle ride) from the Disneyland Resort and the new Anaheim GardenWalk, which features additional opportunities to shop and dine on your California trip. The rooms at the Sheraton all feature private balconies with views of the pool area or the Disney parks. Club Level accommodations entitle guests to complimentary continental breakfast and evening cocktails.

Carousel Inn and Suites

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Carousel Inn and Suites is a boutique hotel right across the street from the Disney parks. It features a heated rooftop pool that provides a view of the nightly fireworks. Plus, another great view is available in the aptly named,state-of-the-art Sky Gym.

The best thing about these hotels is location, location, location. But they also provide good service and affordable rates so that guests can spend their money where they most want to: the Disneyland Resort.

Whit Honea is a travel writer living in Seattle with his wife and two children. He packs light and travels often to far-away places, exotic lands and more than a few theme parks.

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Tagged: California, Family

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