Beyond the Theme ParksTo millions of visitors who arrive each year, Anaheim means one thing: Disneyland. Families from around the world have made the pilgrimage to the mouse’s house for more than 60 years to encounter imaginary characters and fairy tales brought to life beneath the sunny Southern California sky. For children—and the children of yesteryear who themselves grew up to become parents—Disneyland is more than a theme park. It’s a destination that fulfills childhood dreams and lets moms and dads relive their own childhoods through the eyes of their kids.
But Anaheim didn’t start out being so fanciful. German settlers founded the Anaheim colony in 1857. Wine grapes were their first product, but when diseases devastated their vineyards, they turned to other crops, particularly oranges.
As more and more people moved to Los Angeles, lured by the mild climate and glamorous lifestyle associated with the emerging movie industry, rail lines and highways were built connecting L.A.’s downtown with outlying communities, spurring development of suburbs in and around Anaheim. Things really took off when Walt Disney opened his first theme park here in 1955, transforming the area into a major tourist destination.
Today Anaheim offers an array of accommodations—from budget motels to luxurious theme park-adjacent lodgings. Most non-Disney properties line busy Harbor Boulevard, Ball Road and Katella Avenue, an area known as the Anaheim Resort District. Familiar brands (Best Western, Howard Johnson, etc.) stand cheek by jowl with family-friendly chain and local restaurants.
Some advice: If you're on vacation solely to visit Disneyland® Resort, there's no need to get a rental car for your trip. Anaheim Resort Transit (“ART”) is a 22-route bus network linking nearly everything of visitor interest, including the Anaheim Convention Center and Garden Grove's Christ Cathedral. If you want to travel to neighboring cities and O.C.'s beaches, Hertz offices are at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel and at 221 W. Katella Ave.; phone (800) 654-3080.
Anaheim’s revitalized downtown now boasts modern apartment/condo lofts, a sprinkling of shops, places to eat and Muzeo, a museum and cultural center. Fun places to go are concentrated along Center Street Promenade and in the nearby Anaheim Packing District, where historic buildings enjoy new life as hipster hangouts and gourmet shops. Focus of all the trendy action is Anaheim Packing House, a repurposed citrus packing plant that draws throngs as a bustling food hall where you can savor soul food, ramen noodles or spicy Indian curry.
Angel Stadium of Anaheim (home of the Los Angeles Angels) and the Honda Center (home ice for the NHL Ducks) occupy the city's so-called Platinum Triangle along with the eye-catching Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC). You'll recognize ARTIC, the newest city landmark, by its soaring glass entrance hall beneath an arched roof made of inflated plastic pillows. At night the center glows with hundreds of colored lights.
Other Orange County communities offer their own fun things to do just a short drive away. Knott’s Berry Farm arrived on the theme park scene years before Disney in nearby Buena Park, and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda is a must for history buffs.
Of course, the O.C. is known for its natural beauty as well, with the area’s first tourists arriving to relax on its incredible beaches. Huntington Beach celebrates California surf culture, claiming the title “Surf City, USA.” Newport Beach has managed to preserve the look and feel of a quaint seaside resort from another century while offering a host of fun things to do with kids. And ritzy Laguna Beach is known for art galleries, beachfront restaurants and a beautiful bluff-top park overlooking the Pacific.
Although folks on either side of the Los Angeles-Orange County line talk about an “Orange Curtain,” a physical barrier between the two is as imaginary as Disney’s friendly talking mice. In fact, the two counties are part of the same metro area, and Anaheim is a mere 26 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Visitors can get a taste of a big, glitzy city with its skyscrapers, urban vibe and exciting nightlife, and still easily add on some theme park thrills in Orange County within a single vacation.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
State and county sales taxes total 7.75 to 8 percent in Anaheim. A lodging tax, called a transient occupancy tax, of 17 percent also is levied along with an 8 percent rental car tax.
Anaheim Global Medical Center, (714) 533-6220; Anaheim Regional Medical Center, (714) 774-1450; Kaiser Permanente Orange County - Anaheim Medical Center, (714) 644-2000; St. Joseph Hospital, (714) 633-9111; West Anaheim Medical Center, (714) 827-3000.
2099 S. State College Blvd. Suite 600 Anaheim, CA 92806. Phone:(714)765-2800
John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana, nearly 13 miles south of Anaheim, is served by major domestic and commuter carriers. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), approximately 33 miles northwest of Anaheim, is served by international and major domestic carriers. Long Beach Airport (LGB), about 19 miles west of Anaheim, is served by three major domestic airlines. Ontario International Airport (ONT), approximately 33 miles northeast of Anaheim, is served by international and major domestic carriers.
Most major car rental agencies serve Anaheim. Hertz, (800) 654-3080, provides discounts to AAA members.
Amtrak, (800) 872-7245, departs from Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC). Amtrak provides daily service north to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, and south to San Diego. Metrolink is a commuter rail service in Southern California with two stations in Anaheim, Anaheim Canyon Station and ARTIC, (800) 371-5465.
Anaheim Resort Transit (ART), (888) 364-2787, is an 18-route bus network to nearly every local point of interest and hotel. Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), (714) 636-7433, provides regional service. Greyhound, (800) 231-2222, provides national service. Tres Estrellas de Oro, (323) 588-9188, provides service to Tijuana. Greyhound and Tres Estrellas de Oro buses have a terminal at Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), 2626 E. Katella Ave.
The base rate is $3.50 at flag drop and $2.75 per mile. Two large companies are California Yellow Cab, (714) 444-4444 and Yellow Cab Co, (714) 999-9999 OR (800) 649-1222.
Transportation by bus and commuter rail service is available in Anaheim.