Anaheim is synomous with Disney, but venturing a little bit further from the Magic Kingdom can lead to some pleasant surprises.
Here are a few spots to check out when you've tired of Mickey and the gang.
It's definitely worth attending a baseball game at Angels Stadium — even if you're not a sports fan, it's a 'must-do.' The stadium is a major league baseball facility and home to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In fact, it doesn't matter if you don't follow baseball.
The three-hour game I attended flew by. There's plenty of on and off field entertainment and the atmosphere is electric. It's overwhelming, but in a good way. Fireworks erupt from a massive Californian rock feature at one end of the field every time an Angels' player scores a home run. There are plenty of food options and depending on where you sit, you can order refreshments and nibbles using credit card. You don't even have to get out of your seat to order.
It's exhilarating watching some of Amercian sport's most well-known stars in action, some of whom command multi-million dollar contracts, including Mike Trout. He's described as a "young, daring center fielder who is arguably the best player in the planet".
For an authentic and down to earth Californian beach experience, Huntington Beach is another "must do attraction" and is only 40 minute from Anaheim by car. Time named Huntington the best beach in America. It's a busy city, but it's not pretentious and like many cities in Orange County, locals are friendly and relaxed.
While Venice Beach is famous for its eccentric atmosphere, you can walk along this beach without having to navigate stallholders or buskers. There are many activities on the beach, from locals cooking food on bonfires, to volleyball games by the pier. You can hire electric bikes and ride along the Ocean Strand, or paddle board in the Pacific Ocean. There are even dance classes. The beach features the most consistent waves on the West Coast, an attribute that's helped the city receive the nickname "Surf City USA".
Huntington Beach hosts the Surf City Marathon, which attracts nearly 20,000 runners representing all 50 United States and 24 countries. After an afternoon on the beach, a great place to eat is Ola Mexican Kitchen. The restaurant's located across the road from the beach, and has stunning views of the ocean. I went at sunset. It was a remarkable view and the food is just as good as the view. It pays to book, as it's always busy.
Despite the packed atmosphere, the dining areas are divided into small sections, which absorb the sound. The service is efficient and fast. It's exactly what you want after a day in the sun. The menu is extensive, so I got the waiter to recommend a selection of food. You can't go wrong with any of their tacos.
South Coast Plaza is by far the best shopping experience for any shopaholic. Located in Costa Mesa, it's the largest plaza on the West Coast and takes in sales of over $1.5 billion. It's not hard to see why. Every high-end luxury brand and item can be found here.
South Coast Plaza is home to the world's most sort after brands including Bottega Veneta, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to Hermès, Gucci, and Roger Vivier to name a few. The plaza is huge. There are plenty of staff only too willing to help you find your way around. In fact, if you need some shopping tips, you can book a personal stylist.
The stores are beautifully presented; attention to detail counts. All of the shops have gone out of their way to create a VIP shopping experience, from the shop windows, to the décor and interior lighting. South Coast Plaza offers award-winning restaurants from American to contemporary French.
After shopping, I visited Marché Moderne. This French Bistro opened in 2007 and has won countless awards. For lunch, I chose a light option and ordered "Amelia's Chopped Salad" which includes kale, French feta, cucumber, celery, mint, tomato, avocado caramelized pumpkin seed, raw golden beets, and citrus-honey vinaigrette. It was delicious and the first salad I've had in a long time that was healthy and actually filling.