Anaheim is the place to turn your imagination into reality.

Disneyland Anaheim
Mickey and Minnie standing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Anaheim. Picture: Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland

From the colourful character parades at Disneyland to the roar of the crowd at a Ducks game – if you dream it, you can probably do it here. 

A fruitful history

Anaheim is part of Orange County, California – nicknamed the OC, as fans of the TV series will know. 

It was founded by a group of German immigrants looking for somewhere to grow grapes in the 1850s. The name Anaheim was derived from the nearby Santa Ana River and the German word for ‘home’. The grapes grown here quickly grew a reputation as the “sweetest and best grapes in the state”. But they wouldn’t last. Blight wiped out the vineyards in the 1880s.

Over the following years, the cultivation of oranges would come to replace grapes as the backbone of Anaheim’s agriculture. 

Anaheim with kids
Sleeping Beauty Castle Disneyland is the centrepiece of Fantasyland. Picture: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

One moment, more than any other, would change the history of Anaheim. In 1948 Chicago-born illustrator Walt Disney began to imagine and design an amusement park. He bought 160 acres of orange groves to turn that dream into reality.

Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955, a hot, sticky day in the middle of the US summer. Queues for the attractions spread around the block. The crowds loved it. 

Disneyland immediately changed Anaheim. From a town of less than 15,000 in the 1950s, Anaheim is now a city of more than 350,000 people. It has its own Major League baseball team, the Angels, an NHL ice-hockey team (the Ducks), several theme parks and dozens of family-friendly hotels. The wine has been replaced with an emerging craft brewery scene. 

Amazing attractions

Anaheim is the heart of family-fun in California if not the whole of the USA. To really do Anaheim justice, you will want to spend at least a week here. 

Walt’s original vision expanded to include two parks – Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Both are fuel for the imagination with immersive themed rides and shows based on Disney’s greatest films. Kids will love Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the Incredicoaster, Tomorrowland, Cars Land and Space Mountain.  In 2019, Disneyland California is going to get even bigger with the introduction of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

Disney is undoubtedly Anaheim’s biggest drawcard for families. But it is just the start.

Montezuma's Revenge at Knott's Berry Farm
Montezuma’s Revenge at Knott’s Berry Farm. Picture: Shutterstock

Knott’s Berry Farm, Anaheims other popular theme park started as a small berry farm. It’s now a modern amusement park with roller coasters, waterslides and a ghost town.

For that all-American experience, you must include a sporting event in your itinerary: Cheer on the Anaheim Ducks at an ice-hockey game and watch the Angels baseball team while devouring a hot dog.

Big A Angels vs Oakland A's at Angel Stadium.
Big A Angels vs Oakland A’s at Angel Stadium. Photo: Shutterstock

Anaheim is also a fabulous shopping destination, particularly for outlet shopping malls, such as Simon Malls.

Day trips from Anaheim

Base your holiday at Anaheim and you can easily reach many of the other Californian attractions without having to unpack. The OC is home to dozens of stunning beaches. Think – Laguna, Huntington, Seal Beach, Main Beach and Balboa. All of these are within an hour of Anaheim. 

Have a surf lesson at Huntington Beach, go cycling along the pier at Newport Beach and spot sea lions while kayaking at Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach, California
Laguna Beach, California. Picture: Shutterstock

SeaWorld San Diego is one-and-a-half hours’ drive south of Anaheim. You can take a day trip to learn about marine animals including orcas, dolphins and beluga whales.

In one hour, you can be in the heart of Los Angeles where you can see original Batmobiles and ride a Hogwarts’ broomstick on the Warner Bros Studio Tour.

Fans of the boy wizard will also love the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. You can go behind the scenes to see famous movie sets and experience thrilling 3D rides including The Simpsons, Transformers and Revenge of the Mummy.

Butterbeer Harry Potter world
When in Harry Potter World – you need to try butterbeer. Picture: Shutterstock

Getting there: 

United Airlines, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Delta fly to Los Angeles International Airport from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. From LAX families can take an airport shuttle, bus, hire car and even limousine to Anaheim. The trip will take around one hour. 

Anaheim Resort Transportation has shuttle buses that take guests from their hotels to locations such as Disneyland, Downtown Anaheim, Angel Stadium, The Outlets at Orange, South Coast Plaza, Knott’s Berry Farm and the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure show.

Buses also run to Los Angeles Union Station, where you can connect with the Metrolink trains to the beaches and Santa Barbara.

With so much going for it, it’s no wonder Anaheim is the number-one destination on many Aussie kids’ bucket lists. 

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