Mickey, Minnie, Donald and pals may be the first things that spring to mind when you think of Anaheim, California – but this interesting city has a lot to offer outside of Disneyland.
It doesn't take much digging to discover gems that will appeal to travellers of every age and inclination. The Southern Californian city (just 46km by car from Los Angeles Airport) is the one of most popular mainland destinations for New Zealanders visiting the United States, with over 50,000 making the trip each year.
There's a lot happening in Anaheim right now, with new hotels, and Galaxy's Edge (an ambitious Star Wars-themed extension to Disneyland where, among other things, you get to pilot the Millennium Falcon) set to open soon, plus other world-famous attractions like Knotts Berry Farm.
But there's more to the city than hotels and theme parks. With great food, a sophisticated beer culture, shopping and sport, it's a city really worth discovering.
First port of call for food loving travellers should always be the Packing House, located in the Anaheim Packing District. The Packing House started life as an orange packing facility and is now a two-storey food court full of excellent food and beverage options.
The BXCR Wine Bar offers a range of fine wines from California and further afield and is located in a 1920's railway carriage; Sweetbird specialises in that American classic, fried chicken, served as delectable sandwiches; there's delights such as homemade ice cream, authentic Syrian food, and bubble tea – genuinely something for everyone.
Also in the district is the Anaheim Brewery, with its range of beautiful beers made to be shared. It's located in what used to be a Packard car dealership and is part of a growing beer movement, with craft and microbreweries popping up all over the city. Even the downtown Disney district has welcomed a California brewery, Ballast Point.
Another food-oriented attraction is the Boysenberry Festival. Knott's Berry Farm hosts an annual Boysenberry Festival, in which many types of foods are infused with boysenberry flavor. All boysenberries can trace their roots back to Southern California.
This year's event will be running for four weeks (March 29 - April 28) so visitors will have a longer time to experience the delicacies on offer.
Anaheim is also a shoppers' paradise. There's the massive South Coast Plaza, just 23km from Anaheim, the largest mall on the USA's West Coast. The Outlet at Orange is another great mall, just 10 minutes from Disneyland, with 120-plus stores, 30 movie theatres, plus bowling, a skate park and day spa.
There are also boutiques in the middle of town, with the newly developed Anaheim Center Street Promenade a great place for the fashion-conscious.
If sport's your thing and you want a taste of America's best-loved game, head to a baseball game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim and watch the Los Angeles Angels in action.
When the Angels win a game at their stadium, the halo at the top of the "Big A" sign in the carpark lights up. This has led to a catch phrase "light that baby up", which fans chant at games, so soaking up a truly all-American experience is a great pastime for visitors.
Getting around Anaheim's central district has become a lot easier with the development of the new FRAN (Free Rides Around the Neighbourhood) micro-transit service.
It's great for budget-conscious travellers and allows you to experience all the great attractions located in Anaheim's central district.
For more information about a city packed with imagination and unique character, see www.visittheusa.com/destination/anaheim
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