With its laid-back vibe and unbeatable attractions, this vibrant city on the northwest side of Orange County has become a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. Home to A-list attractions such as Disneyland Resort, Anaheim also has local favorites like Angel Stadium. And now there's a reinvigorated downtown shopping and dining area, making Anaheim an outstanding destination for everyone from families to foodies. Plus, Anaheim's easy access to the rest of Southern California makes it a great place to start your next California vacation.
For little kids who are just getting used to rides—and for families who want a bite-size theme park visit—Adventure City is an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser, with its small coasters, a 1946 carousel, and a create-your-own train layout. Most rides at the Anaheim theme park are geared to the 4-foot-and-under set, so little ones will definitely feel like this is a place is for them.
The park gets creative with those rides, though. At the photo-op-magnet Rescue 911, kids can try on real firefighter helmets and jackets, board little vehicles, and then respond to silly-style emergency calls from the dispatcher. A few rides are great for kids who are growing into bigger thrills, like the 45-foot-drop tower called the Drop Zone, or the 40-foot-high Rewind Racers, which is the country’s first forward-and-reverse–style family coaster.
There are numerous attractions beyond rides, too. Go to the petting farm to canoodle with bunnies, pet a goat, or meet a pig. Watch one of the daily shows at the Kids’ Theater, or play games in the arcade to collect toy tickets. Let kids scale the 20-foot climbing wall (meant for ages 4 and up), where reaching the top is heralded by bells and sirens. And for some visitors, the biggest enticement may be the Thomas the Tank Engine zone, where you can create an infinite number of layouts with the little tracks, trains, and bridges.
You’ll find family-friendly theme park cuisine—from pizzas and salads to curly fries, frozen lemonade, and churros—and nice conveniences, like single- and double-stroller rentals at the park entrance. One of the biggest family perks, though, is the low-key admission price: just $19 for adults and kids ages 1 and up, and $15 for seniors.
The revitalization of Downtown Anaheim is astounding. Walkable, livable, sociable areas that have sprouted around town in recent years, making the city a worthy magnet for both locals and visitors.
One of the hottest new additions is the Anaheim Packing District, with revitalized buildings and inviting parkland. Front and center is the restored Anaheim Packing House, a former Sunkist citrus-packing facility built in 1919. Abandoned for decades, the building has been reborn as a multi-story food hall, with entertainment spaces for live music and events. Inside, visit two dozen food stalls and eateries—many focusing on hyper-local ingredients—tempt you to stop, taste, and enjoy. Stop by Lemon Drop for a pressed juice or lemonade, then plan your dining strategy. Maybe you’re in the mood for soul food at Georgia’s, ramen noodles at Orange Tei, or the street foods of India at Adya, one of The OC’s top new eateries. Or just forget dinner and go straight for dessert at Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream. Finish the night with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon in a restored 1920s railroad boxcar—yes, inside the Packing House—at The BXCR (also known as the Underground Wine Society).
Next door is the Packard Building, built in 1925 as a showroom for luxury cars. Today, it houses foodie-favorite Umami Burger (check out the license plate chandelier) and Anaheim Brewery, the re-imagining of a brewery closed during Prohibition (don’t miss the bar salvaged from an old saloon nearby).
The Packing District complex goes beyond building makeovers with Farmers Park, an inviting two-acre space with room to stroll and relax. Take an outdoor yoga class, play ping pong, watch a movie on an outdoor screen, or, on Sundays, visit with local growers at the Farmers Park Market—don’t miss Orange Clementine Bakery’s citrus-infused cake.
There is plenty to discover beyond the borders of the happiest place on Earth—including an eclectic mix of shopping spots, sports teams, tours, and music venues. Here are four great options, all within a quick drive from Disneyland Resort.
Explore Downtown Anaheim. With buzzing new shops and eateries, face-lifts for historic buildings, and a lively new park, the city’s central core has gotten an inviting boost. Anaheim Packing District, a former center of the region’s once booming citrus industry, has been reborn as an of-the-moment social hub. Hang out in the oh-so-cool Anaheim Packing House, a multistory food lover’s paradise with artisanal foods, craft cocktail bars, and live music. Nearby is the historic Center Street Promenade, a local gem where you can find handmade crafts, chef-driven eateries, and innovative local vendors.
Watch sports—or play them. Anaheim is home turf for three pro sports teams. Orange County baseball fans watch their boys of summer, the Los Angeles Angels, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Want a closer look or can’t catch a game? Take a 75-minute public tour of the stadium; it includes a trip down to the playing field, a visit to the dugout, a walk through the visitor’s clubhouse, and exclusive peeks inside the luxurious Gene Autry and Dugout Suites, the broadcast booth, and the press conference room. The Stanley Cup–winning Anaheim Ducks whack the puck in the soaring Honda Center, but your little ducks can take to the ice at the city’s Anaheim Rink; public skate times are offered throughout the year. Another team calls Honda Center home: The new LA Kiss, the Arena Football League team owned by members of Kiss (yes, the band) has indoor games here after hockey season wraps.
Tune in to live music. Whether you want to rock out to big names like the Foo Fighters and Katy Perry or prefer smaller clubs with an indie music vibe, Anaheim has venues to suit your mood and style. The splashiest acts tend to perform at Honda Center, which doubles as a 19,000-seat performance space. Next door is the City National Grove of Anaheim, offering a more intimate experience for as little as 50 or up to 5,000 concertgoers. Check the calendar for family-friendly shows, like Alvin & The Chipmunks Live on Stage. Want to follow almost famous acts? Check out Observatory OC, playing host to new names in indie, hip-hop, rock, and pop. Shows run almost every night, so you’ll likely find something to pique your interest.
Dig deeper into the Disney story. The Anaheim Tour Company’s Walt Tour departs from Anaheim but devotes a full day to about a dozen landmarks, most in Los Angeles County, that played a part in the life and career (and even the final resting place) of Walter Elias Disney. Stops include his various studios, from his Uncle Robert’s Barn in Garden Grove to the Los Feliz storefront originally called “Disney Brothers Studio” and the Walt Disney Studios headquarters in Burbank. You’ll even eat lunch at Walt’s favorite restaurant, the Scottish-themed Tam O’Shanter on Los Feliz Boulevard that dates to 1922. This intimate tour, limited to just seven participants (ages 12 and up), certainly appeals to Disney superfans and history buffs, but it also features timeless L.A. sights—like the Hollywood Walk of Fame (where Walt has more than one star) and Walt Disney Concert Hall—through a unique lens.
Backed by beer enthusiast Mayor Tom Tait, Anaheim’s craft beer industry is booming with at least a dozen craft breweries soon to be pouring within the city limits. “In Southern California, when you think about craft beer and all that goes along with that scene, you’re going to think about Anaheim,” says the mayor. “Anaheim’s German heritage means that we’ve actually been brewing beer here since the city was founded.”
Joining the likes of classic Backstreet Brewery (opened 1998), resurrected Anaheim Brewery (closed 1920; opened 2010), flavorful Noble Ale Works (2012), and experimental Bottle Logic Brewing (2013) will be two more great places to sample delicious craft brews. Hoparazzi Brewing Co. will have a tasting room with an open airy feel. Legends Craft Brewery will debut the first tasting room for its award-winning brews. Check websites for each location to find out about special tastings, classes, and other events throughout the year.
Another fun way to sample Anaheim's crafty suds: join a guided tour to get the big picture of craft brewing in Anaheim and beyond. At Orange County Craft Brew Tours, board a limo-style bus to visit three breweries, with plenty of samples and extra goodies. (Souvenir bottle opener anyone? Heck yeah!) In September, the annual OC Brew Haha festival showcases nearly 100 craft beers, plus other beers from around the world. Prost!
There aren’t many places where you can visit an old-fashioned barbershop while enjoying a local craft beer, but that's what’s on tap at Barbeer—just one of the trendy stores at Center Street Promenade. Surrounded by fashionable new lofts and located just blocks from Anaheim's historic Carnegie Library, this hip downtown locale has already become an Orange County landmark and a worthwhile stop on a vacationer’s to-do list.
Find gifts for any occasion at Home Eco:nomics, a shop stocked full of artisanal jewelry, handmade cards, and other housewares that are all chosen with sustainability in mind. Fashionistas should head straight to Look Boutique for the latest handbags, threads, and accessories (and it's nice to know you won't find prices that break their vacation budget). Men can also kit out their closets with shoes from Heart & Sole and also find sleek looks at The Good—both carry classic American labels and focus on quality and durability in their wares. When it’s time to refuel, shoppers will find plenty of places to nosh, whether it's an espresso drink and a vegan snack at Gypsy Den or a savory grilled cheese at K&A Downtown Café.
When it comes to pro sports, Orange County delivers. Baseball, hockey, and now football fans cheer for their teams throughout the year, and their home stadiums and arenas score points with their special features and offerings.
In summer, the MLB Los Angeles Angels play in Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the team’s home field since 1965. Nachos, hot dogs, and other ballgame foods abound, but who can pass up Angel’s Wings (juicy grilled chicken wings), outside Section 207? Check out California-centric “A” Wine Cellar wine bar in Section 111. Buy a bottle and it transferred into an unbreakable carafe--with two plastic glasses--so you can enjoy it at the game. To get the local vibe, hang out by the Trout Farm (Section 101), the designated cheering section for star center fielder Mike Trout.
With major stars like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the NHL Anaheim Ducks give their fans plenty of reasons to keep their eyes glued to the home ice in the Honda Center. But just to keep things fresh, in 2013 the team added a giant high-definition scoreboard and brought in award-winning food vendors like Pick Up Stix (its Asian-inspired menu includes General's Orange Chicken and decadent cream cheese wontons). Up on the club level you’ll find the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Club, where you can watch the game from the bar. You can also hang out at the open-air Shock Top Terrace, which serves craft brews as well as wine. Standing ‘O’ Restaurant has a 250-seat dining room where fans can eat gourmet wings—among other selections—and sip on craft beers before, during, or after the game. When the season ends, the Honda Center transforms into a thrilling entertainment venue featuring top acts like the Foo Fighters and more family-friendly events like Disney on Ice.
Maybe you need an end-of-day break after 10 hours of meetings in the Anaheim Convention Center. Or perhaps you’re looking for a place to take the kids after a day of princesses and parades at Disneyland Resort. Anaheim GardenWalk, a sleek outdoor complex of shops and eateries, makes an appealing destination, especially after dark, when things like outdoor fire pits and entertainment venues spring to life.
The open-air, multistory mall is an easy and safe 5- to 10-minute stroll from the convention center, Disneyland Resort, and several major hotels. Stores and eateries are a nice mix of quality chains and local finds, and movie theaters, live music, and even a bowling alley provide plenty of ways to relax.
Hungry? A quick look at Anaheim GardenWalk’s directory reveals a solid mix of choices. If you’re a conventioneer ready to put down the iPad and relax, head for the broad outdoor patio and fire pits at Fire + Ice Grill + Bar. For a clubby feel, order Manhattans and ask for the daily seafood specials at McCormick & Schmick’s Grille. If you’re aiming to keep the younger set happy and fed, try the hand-tossed and hearth-baked pies at California Pizza Kitchen, or head to The Cheesecake Factory (it’s ultra-popular, so arrive early to avoid the biggest crowds, typically from 6 to 8 p.m.).
If your kids still have energy to burn after a day of theme park fun, beeline to Billy Beez, which features an indoor play space with slides, trampolines, and plenty of runaround room. (There's even an on-site babysitting service, so you can let the kids play--with adult supervision--while parents dine.) Grown-ups have play spaces too: Bowlmor Lanes keeps the night rolling with glow-in-the-dark lanes, plus you can enjoy VIP-style food and drink service while relaxing in your lane’s cushy banquettes. Bowlmor also has laser tag, a video game arcade, and a DJ-appointed lounge.
Shops stay open till 9 p.m., so you can browse for handmade cosmetics at celebrity-favorite Lush, or get your leather on at Los Angeles Harley-Davidson of Anaheim. If you’ve got tweens, they’ll probably steer you toward Skechers or O’Neill. Looking for bling to take home? Check out Madison and Company Fine Jewelers.
Though it was originally settled by Bavarian vintners in the 1850s, Anaheim (combining the word “Ana,” for the Santa Ana River, with “heim,” the German word for home), now has a global community of cultures in and around its city borders. With restaurants serving national favorites, unusual treasures in shops, and fascinating cultural sites, these communities create an easy way to explore a world of cultures in a relatively small area. In these two ethnic enclaves, take time to taste, tour, listen, and explore.
In the 1980s, a growing number of people from Middle Eastern and North African countries settled in sunny Anaheim. Today they operate stores and eateries, many clustered in West Anaheim. This is the place to go for the enticing cuisines of Lebanon, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia—as well as Armenia—often at very affordable prices. Here are some places to enjoy them.
Altayebat Market. Like a souk (Arab marketplace) transplanted to the middle of Anaheim, this shop is a sensory whirlwind of ethnic spices and Middle Eastern foods, as well as American-style groceries and produce. 1217 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim
Olive Tree Restaurant. This is the place for succulent lamb, with preparations including a stellar mansaf—the meat dressed in a special yogurt sauce and served with saffron-colored rice. Cozy and friendly, with Arabic featured on the menus and wall decorations, this appealing find is a worthy dinner destination. 512 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim
Sahara Falafel. You will not leave here hungry. Overloaded plates at this family-run restaurant showcase Middle Eastern standards, like crispy falafel balls, hummus, and greens dressed with sesame-flavored sauce. Vegetarians will find plenty of options here, like baba ghanouj and tabbouleh. More of a carnivore? Order an overstuffed combo shawarma (sliced beef and chicken, sesame and garlic sauce, tomatoes, and pickles, all wrapped in a pita). 590 S. Brookhurst St., Anaheim
Zait & Zataar. The dishes at this petite Lebanese eatery stand up to the restaurant’s tagline: “Fresh, healthy, and delicious.” To sample zataar, a traditional blend of herbs that’s a staple in Lebanese cooking, try the zaatar and cheese pie. Portions here are generous, so nab a table outside and share your way through the menu. 510 N. Brookhurst St., Suite 106, Anaheim
Zankou Chicken. Let the line at the door be your guide. Locals flock to this unassuming storefront café, giving big thumbs-up to the chicken and beef shawarma plates—juicy broiled meat wrapped in a warm pita and topped with tomatoes, pickled turnips, and house-made tahini. 2424 W. Ball Rd., Anaheim
Visiting this area is like taking a trip to Asia without the jet lag. Over 3,500 bustling Vietnamese-owned businesses and restaurants pack the region, home to almost 40,000 Vietnamese Americans. Little Saigon covers roughly three square miles, mostly in the city of Westminster, but also spills over into Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and Fountain Valley. Here are a few worthy stops.
Asian Garden Mall. If you have time for only one stop, consider this first. It has everything from bakeries to food vendors to jewelry stores (mainly on the second floor) and plenty of knickknack stalls. Treat the kids to freshly squeezed sugarcane juice at Suite 303--let them watch as the stalk gets pulverized into frothy pale-green juice, with tangy kumquat ground in for extra flavor. 9200 Bolsa Ave., Westminster
Chua Hue Quang. Visitors are welcome to step inside this ornate Buddhist temple topped by a curving crimson roof. Inside, it’s just as eye-popping--a riot of color and decorations, including a giant white statue of Buddha seated on a lotus blossom. 4918 Westminster Ave., Santa Ana
Lily’s Bakery. At this low-key charmer, families and singles alike sit comfortably on a tree-shaded patio around little bistro-style tables, nibbling at pastries, talking, and reading. Croissants are properly flaky, and the coffee—the supercharged café sua dá (French roast with sweetened condensed milk)—will rocket-fuel your day. 10161 Bolsa Ave., Westminster
Quán Hy. Inside this elegant restaurant, it’s all bamboo, smooth and stylish surfaces, and soft shadows—a refined setting in which to sample sophisticated Vietnamese food. The focus is on central Vietnamese cuisine (from the Hue area), particularly noodles and rice dishes, and the menu is in English and Vietnamese. 9727 Bolsa Ave., Westminster
Vua Kho Bo. Got a sweet tooth, or know someone who does? Find your happy place at this incredible shop, with countless types of candies—chewy ginger and fragrant pandan treats, crunchy sesame mini-bars, and other exotic delights from bins occupying about a third of the store. There’s a serious jerky section too. 9717 Bolsa Ave., Westminster
Start with straight-up jumping and graduate to volleyball, dodgeball, and basketball on the trampoline courts at Sky Zone Trampoline Park. Slam-dunking is a breeze (bouncy launch pads!) at this mega-size indoor trampoline park. Don your sticky-bottomed "SkySocks" and join the fun. If free-falling sounds like your thing, drop into the Foam Zone; the sense of weightlessness can be downright dreamy. Reservations are recommended, and you can reserve from 30 minutes to two hours of time on the tramps.
For another out-of-this-world experience, head to Anaheim’s thrilling Flightdeck, where you can experience what it’s like to have control of a commercial airplane or military jet. First, get dressed in the same gear a high-flying pilot would wear (all gear provided; wear lightweight clothes for easy layering). Then step into a Boeing 737 or F-16 cockpit for pilot “training programs” that last from 30 minutes to three hours—you can climb, bank, and even (safely) crash. All “flights” require advance reservations. Got friends? Private events for up to 80 people are also available.
Maybe you love great steak—like Los Angeles Angels star outfielder Mike Trout, who celebrated his contract extension with a Cowboy Ribeye here. Or maybe you’re drawn by all the fine wines (30 by the glass). Or maybe you know how to two-step or line dance (can you say “Watermelon Crawl”?). Whatever floats your boat, you’ll have a blast at this 53,000-square-foot restaurant/stage/dance hall. While high-quality beef gets a big play here, Executive Chef Michael Rossi’s farm-to-fork menu goes far beyond meat and potatoes. Fresh seafood is sustainably sourced, and the seasonally driven menu puts a big emphasis on fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables, often brought in from local farms or the restaurant’s own ranch in the nearby Santa Ana Mountains. Burn off enough calories for dessert with a spin on the 1,222-square-foot dance floor, with live bands playing country music until the wee hours.