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Anaheim/Orange County, California

Great Destination:

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Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • In 1845, California Gov. Pio Pico sold the San Juan Capistrano Mission to a relative for $750; it was worth more than $54,000.
  • About half the 28,000 people at Disneyland’s 1955 debut carried phony tickets.
  • More than 10,000 windows were required to build the Crystal Cathedral.
  • Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is based on Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, but the Disney version swapped the front and back sides.
  • The gas lamps on Disney’s Main Street are antique lamps from Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Mickey and the ‘hood

Animator and motion picture producer Walt Disney had a new idea. He envisioned a tourist attraction adjacent to his Burbank, Calif., studios. However, with input from a consultant, he reconsidered and bought land in Anaheim for what would become today’s 510-acre Disneyland Resort, a magnet for tourists from around the world.

Disneyland opened in 1955 and thereafter made Anaheim the epicenter for much of the tourism activity in California’s Orange County. It offers a huge variety of themed entertainment, thrill rides, street life and dining options.

However, Orange County is more than a suburb for Disneyland. Located on the Pacific Coast in Southern California, between Los Angeles and San Diego, the county is a year-round destination for lovers of outdoor activities, which may involve water sports or land-based activities such as biking, hiking or playing golf. It’s a destination for foodies and shoppers, too.

To introduce the county effectively, tourism officials divide the landscape into two parts, the Beach Town District and the Disney District.

The Beach Town area is the band of land that parallels the county’s 42-mile Pacific coastline. Its draws may seem predictable but are worth itemizing: sandy beaches with emphasis on surfing and windsurfing; fishing; whale watching and other coastal cruising, and bird-watching.

The Disney District is the inland section of Orange County and, besides encompassing everything Disney, it is home to the likes of Knott’s Berry Farm, the all-glass 2,736-seat Crystal Cathedral and a number of sports teams.

The attractions of each district are suitably complemented by golf courses, spa facilities, theater, art galleries, fine dining and the shops. In addition, the county boasts more than 20 parks, preserves, refuges and open spaces. The Santa Ana Mountains account for a slice of the Disney District, providing extra variety to the terrain.

As a result, tourists with a keen interest in vigorous outdoor activity are well accommodated in Orange County, as well as those with a quieter vacation in mind.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Try stand-up paddle boarding off the Orange County coast, at Laguna Beach. Paddle and look for sea lions and maybe dolphins.
  • Hike on some part of the 17 miles of trails in the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. The park also offers connections to other trails in the Orange County Parks Regional Trails system. Another option is to offer your services for a one-time volunteer activity in the park.
  • Surf at any of several Orange County beaches. Also, visit the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach.
  • Take a cooking class at Anaheim’s Eat Street culinary school. Also, sample area ethnic foods, such as that found in Westminster’s Little Saigon.
  • Go mountain biking in Anaheim’s Deer Canyon Preserve/Park.
  • At Fullerton’s Air Combat USA, join a licensed fighter pilot in the cockpit of a real military fighter for a training session in air combat tactics. You don’t need a pilot’s license, just guts and money.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take the whole family to Anaheim’s Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, which is the world’s first all-trampoline, walled court. Participants can play SkySlam basketball and other sports while in jumping mode.
  • See the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play baseball at the Angel Stadium. Even if it is not baseball season, tour the stadium. Or, if soccer is your preference, attend a game featuring the Anaheim Bolts.
  • In Buena Park, participate in a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament in a castle setting; or if piracy is more your speed, choose the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure on a pirate ship (of sorts).
  • Tour the San Juan Capistrano Mission. Better yet, check for availability for an evening tour focused on the legends and folklore that surround the site.
  • Lie on a bed of nails at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana. And check out DinoQuest, described as the world’s first interactive dinosaur adventure.
  • Choose the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve for spotting birds. This coastal wetland is considered one of the finest spots for watching birds in North America. Or, look for the shorebirds at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Schedule time for whale watching, and look for dolphins, too. If these creatures are a special interest, also drop by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach; the facility rescues needy marine animals, treats them medically and rehabilitates them.
  • Shop at Orange County’s outlet center at Orange.
  • Spend one or more days in the Disneyland parks, sampling the rides and shows. Take a break and head to Knott’s Berry Farm.
    Also, arrange for your children to meet Disney characters over a birthday or other special-event lunch.
  • At Newport Beach, take a harbor cruise; drive the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. In Costa Mesa, attend the South Coast Repertory Theatre.
  • Sign your children up for the kid-focused free Sunday fishing clinic at Dana Point.
  • Play golf at any time of the year in a county with a good selection of courses.

Additional Resources

For additional information, consult the Orange County Visitors Association at