Orange County: Disneywhat?

By Shandelle Battersby

Orange County has more to offer than just its famous theme park, finds Shandelle Battersby.
The famous Huntington Beach Pier. Photo / iStock
The famous Huntington Beach Pier. Photo / iStock

When Walt Disney created his famous park in California in the 1950s, he was smart enough to do it within driving distance of the heaving metropolis of Los Angeles.

The Orange County city of Anaheim grew up around Disneyland and when you're there, Mickey and his pals tend to dominate, but it doesn't take much effort to find a different SoCal experience altogether, especially if you head for the coast.

Orange County stretches from La Habra down to San Clemente, and has about 68km of beaches, each with a different feel: Dana Pt, for example, is known for its whale watching, while San Clemente has a Mediterranean vibe.

In Huntington Beach - aka Surf City USA - look up experienced local surfer and stand-up paddleboader Rocky McKinnon, who has a soft spot for Kiwis after spending time hanging 10 in Gisborne and Raglan. He'll give you a paddleboarding lesson on Huntington Harbour, or take you out for a surf. Rocky's lessons are relaxed and fun, and he knows the area like the back of his board, sharing interesting stories along the way.

mckinnonsurfboards.com

Huntington Beach is like something out of Baywatch - there's a cool pier, loads of volleyball nets, and about 16km of golden sand. It has more than 500 concrete fire rings available for bonfires on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can buy wood and ingredients for s'mores from most hotels or on the beach itself.

If this all sounds too hard, book a bonfire butler who will do it all for you, as well as bring along tables and chairs.

The famous Huntington Beach Pier. Photo / iStock
The famous Huntington Beach Pier. Photo / iStock


Artists have flocked to the charming beach city of Laguna Beach for years because of its unique light - there is less moisture in the air, which changes its atmospheric colours making them cooler and bluer, creating a sense of distance in a painting.

The 8km-long beach has attracted the state's best "plein air" (outdoor) painters since the 1800s, thanks to its secluded coves, sandy shores, and dramatic cliffs and canyons, and the eclectic beach city plays host to several art festivals each year. Check out the work of the area's non-profit plein air organisation, LPAPA, at lagunapleinair.org and lpapa.org

In Long Beach, visit - or stay the night - on the Queen Mary, a historic ocean liner that first sailed in 1936, then served as a troopship during World War II. She was retired in 1967 and now sits permanently moored at Long Beach. You can tour the beautifully maintained cruise ship or book a stateroom -- though it's not for the faint-hearted as she's said to be haunted. queenmary.com

Once you've toured the beaches, here are a couple of other un-Disney activities in Orange County.

CATCH A GAME

Americans sure love their sport and going to a live game is lots of fun, even if you have only a scant idea of what's going on. Think guys selling pretzels, nachos and candy corn up and down the stands while yelling at full volume, an impressive variety of booze vendors, and many thousands of passionate people decked out in team colours.

There's Kiss Cam, promo girls, plenty of entertainment, and world-class sporting action. In Anaheim you can regularly see local Major League Baseball team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play at Angel Stadium from April to October. The Anaheim Ducks, the National Hockey League team, play from September to April, and football team the LA Kiss play from April to July.

GO SHOPPING

If you're after more than antiques, there are little pockets of coolness all over Orange County, the newest of which is Center St Promenade in the Downtown Anaheim area.

Here, you'll find a bunch of independent, bespoke shops, immaculately designed and dripping with hipster cool, as well as curated public spaces.

centerstreetanaheim.com

There's too much rad stuff going on to mention here but definitely worth a look is Ink & Bean Coffee Saloon and Wordshop, a literary-themed coffee shop serving Anaheim's only Nitro Cold Brew - cold coffee put into a keg and infused with nitrogen gas to give it an airy, creamy texture.

All the stores hold classes and special themed events, as do the independent retailers at Community, a strip-mall arcade reminiscent of K Rd's St Kevins Arcade, which houses a record store, vintage-inspired homewares, baby shop, and much more. communitysocal.com

Lovers of vintage and second-hand designer clothing should definitely visit Rare by Goodwill, a curated collection of the thrift store's best finds, at excellent prices.

With decor similar to Urban Outfitters, there is even a row of (modern) record players set up so you can listen to the best of the vinyl its sorters have found. This is the place for electronics such as Super 8 cameras, projectors, Polaroid bodies, and so much more. It's the only one of its kind in America, so this is the best of the best, second-hand junk lovers. Go here at once. ocgoodwill.org/stores/anaheim/w-broadway

If you're after more of a mall experience, head for the huge outlet complex, The Outlets of Orange, which has stores such as Nike, Banana Republic, Converse and Calvin Klein, as well as lots of food options. theoutletsatorange.com

Checklist

GETTING THERE

Hawaiian Airlines flies to six California cities. Return fares start from $1795. hawaiianairlines.co.nz

ONLINE
visittheoc.com
visitanaheim.org
visittheusa.com

- NZ Herald

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