Never stayed off-site (I live close enough to drive in for a day) but I would recommend the newly renovated howard johnson (they have disney imagineering art adorning the rooms now) and use the micechat discount code. It is right across the street and is the only harbor hotel I know about by name. Doesn't necessarily mean anything but arguably it does. Further down harbor there are big convention hotels that are of a grander scale with Anaheim convention center and disney touches. However, they are at least a mile from the gate.
(basically all the hotels serving the anaheim resort district are littered with cheap looking mall store disney / mickey art. Disney is leaving so much money on the table and allowing so many other companies to get rich off of their business. The general consensus is that disneyland is small and a local park while orlando is sprawling and serves a tourist market, but there are tens of thousands of hotel rooms in anaheim and another 7 billion dollars worth of hotels are being built now, including several upscale resorts).
I've stayed at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel a bunch of times. Its nice, it looks sort of like a Tudor style castle from the outside. Their rates are pretty reasonable especially if you book several months in advance. The rooms are nice, clean, and comfortable. If you want a princess style meet and greet without the waits, they also have a resident princess that roams around and talks to the kids. And they have a free shuttle to the parks.
I have stayed in a family suite at the Howard Johnson when I went with my sister and her daughter, the extra space was nice, not too expensive and the walk wasn't too bad. I timed it a few times and it was about 8-10 minutes to the turnstile.
I have also stayed at the Best Western Park Place Inn and Mini Suites and Best Western Anaheim Inn. Both are on Harbor with the Park Place being right across the street from the main walkway into the parks. I have only stayed in standard rooms there so I don't know about a room for 5. Both of these were decent hotels with continental breakfast (the Hojo doesn't offer this) and the rooms were always clean. The pool areas aren't anything special, the HoJo leads the pack with this one.
I have also stayed at the Best Western Stovall's Inn and this is on Katella. I used to like staying here a lot it was a little cheaper than the hotels on Harbor and the pool area was fantastic for a Best Western, there are actually 2 pools in the area and from the pool you can see Mickey's Fun Wheel (or whatever it is called now) and the coaster. Now Disney has changed security and the walk wasn't more than the HoJo when one could cut through the Grand Californian but now it isn't allowed on the way to the parks so the walk is longer. Although I have thought about staying here again next year for the D23 Expo since it is fairly close to the convention center.
Also this website might help you out. It is from a blogger that used to be an active member here and now lives in California. I find his reviews honest and opinions usually in sync with mine.
I always recommend the Park Vue Inn. It's the closest hotel to the park entrances besides the Grand Californian, and it is clean. They have a decent free breakfast every morning, and the staff have always been very helpful.
I've also stayed at the Howard Johnson and liked that a lot too, but it's about a third of a mile further walk than the Park Vue Inn and that always makes a difference at night when you're tired and your feet feel like they can't go another step.
They have a really fun water play area for kids though, which my younger kids at the time loved.
I've stayed at several off property hotels along Harbor. But my favorite, and the one I always book with anymore is the Park Vue Inn. It's location is the best that there is, being literally at the crosswalk to walk onto property. Plus, the rooms are spacious and clean. The place doesn't look to great from the outside, granted. But I don't really care about that. Don't plan on swimming. There's a pool, but it's small. They have free breakfast in the morningls and it's pretty good for what it is! Waffles, bacon, etc.
The rates are pretty affordable. I've gotten as low as 130 a night, but average closer to 160. My next trip in a couple weeks is with a group of friends, so I booked a 2 room suite, and I think it's only around 210 a night or so. What a steal!
It's not gonna be the focal point of your trip. But having a clean, comfortable room five minutes from the gate of Disneyland is pretty hard to beat, especially for the price.
Thanks everyone for your post I was leaning toward the Howard Johnson because my wife is really picky with rooms being cleaned and kept up but I might look into the the Best Western across the street. Were on a strict budget and being able to get breakfast in the morning for free is a plus in my book. I'll check out the homewood suites, and the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel.
We're going at the end of September and staying at the Desert Palms Inn. It's one that you have to book directly through the hotel but everything I read online seems to be incredibly positive. I will follow up when we return from our trip and let you know what we though. Another good option though is the Hotel Indigo. Both of these hotels are within walking distance.