11 Best Things to Do in Anaheim, CA (with Photos)

Synonymous with Disneyland – its main attraction and claim to fame – Anaheim has much more going for it. The largest city in California’s Orange County, it is also a major convention destination, thanks to the array of shops and restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions it offers.

You can find plenty happening in both the Anaheim Packing District and Anaheim Garden Walk with many establishments to check out. Aside from great shopping and dining, the city is also home to major league baseball and hockey teams with exciting matches taking place in the atmospheric Angel Stadium. The standout attraction, of course, is Disneyland with the equally appealing Disney California Adventure Park lying right next to it.

As it is part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Anaheim lies within easy driving distance of all the city’s main sights. Seaside cities, such as Santa Monica, Long Beach and Huntington Beach, also lie nearby. With so many things to do in Anaheim, and so many fabulous places to visit nearby, the city really does make for a great holiday destination.

11. Anaheim GardenWalk

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Located a block from all of Disneyland’s enticing attractions and rides, is the much calmer and quieter Anaheim Garden Walk. Home to dozens of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, the huge outdoor complex is just ten minutes drive south of the city center.

First opened in 2008, the massive, multi-level shopping center has big name retail stores with countless chain restaurants and local eateries. Aside from the lovely outdoor spaces, it is known for the amazing art murals that decorate its walls. Pop-up exhibits and art installations also regularly take place.

In addition to shopping and dining, guests can enjoy fun, family-friendly activities, such as bowling, VR games and escape rooms with the complex also hosting two nightclubs and the fantastic House of Blues live music concert hall.

10. Outlets at Orange

Outlets at Orange© dreamstime

Another great place to shop til you drop is the wildly popular Outlets at Orange, which lies fifteen minutes drive south of the center, next to the Anaheim Resort District. Impressively enough, it contains over 120 outlet stores and includes a spa, skate park and movie theater.

Due to its proximity to so many resorts, the Anaheim Convention Center and Disney, the enormous open-air mall has welcomed millions of shoppers every year since opening in 1998. While most people visit for its unbeatable prices, it also has a whole host of outstanding restaurants and cafes.

Besides perusing stores such as Nordstrom Rack, Banana Republic, and Tommy Hilfiger, visitors can get pampered at the spa, shoot down skate ramps or sit back, relax and watch a film on the massive IMAX screen.

9. Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific© dreamstime

Slightly further away than many of Anaheim other main sights, the excellent Aquarium of the Pacific is well worth visiting if you have the time. Boasting an incredible array of animals and exhibits, it’s half an hour’s drive west of town, alongside Long Beach’s beautiful waterfront.

One of the biggest and best aquariums in the country, it was first opened in 1998 and its collection now encompasses over 11,000 animals of more than 500 different species. Remarkably enough, it has over a hundred educational exhibits, with some focusing on South California and others transporting you as far away as the Tropics or Pacific.

While seeing penguins, sea lions and sea turtles up close and learning all about their natural habitats is a treat, the undoubted highlight is its large lagoon which houses over 150 sharks and stingrays.

8. Mission San Juan Capistrano

Mission San Juan Capistrano© dreamstime

Also lying half an hour away is the atmospheric Mission San Juan Capistrano, one of the most important and impressive historic sites in Orange County. Set in the city of the same name, the Spanish Mission has attractive architecture and gorgeous grounds to explore.

Believed to be the oldest building still standing in California, the wonderfully-restored Serra Chapel and its fabulous frescoes was erected in 1782. Next to it you can find photogenic adobe buildings, elegant arches and the crumbling ruins of the Great Stone Church, as well as a museum that contains art and artifacts from the sprawling site.

Besides learning about its interesting past and seeing its soldiers’ quarters, courtyards and cemetery, you can also stroll around its scenic gardens.

7. Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center

Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center© dreamstime

Right next door to both Disney and the Anaheim Convention Center is another of the area’s top attractions: the Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center. Also located at the Anaheim GardenWalk, it offers thrilling aviation-themed experiences.

Since opening in 2005 it has regularly been ranked among the best things to do in town thanks to its fun flight simulations that allow you virtually take to the skies. Besides sitting behind the controls of a Boeing 737, you can also step into the world of a fighter pilot and pull off acrobatic aerial maneuvers during air-to-air combat.

From taxiing, taking off and landing in a whole host of challenging weather conditions, the state-of-the-art Simulation Center guarantees aviation aficionados a memorable flight.

6. Huntington Beach

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If instead of the wide open skies it is surf you’re after then Huntington Beach is the place to go. Half an hour’s drive south of Anaheim, ‘Surf City’ has long been a popular destination due to its beautiful beach, excellent outdoor activities, and laid back lifestyle.

Stretching over nine miles in length, its palm-tree lined beach is ideal for lounging lazily and superb surfing is to be had offshore. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean is the city’s iconic pier with walking, biking and rollerblading also possible along the beach’s boardwalk.

In addition to its sun-kissed sands and surf spots, the seaside city has countless beachside bars and nightclubs to enjoy. Main Street is also home to brilliant shops and restaurants.

5. Angel Stadium

Angel Stadium© dreamstime

Home to Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels, the atmospheric Angel Stadium is just ten minutes drive southeast from the center. One of the oldest ballparks in the league, its action-packed games make for an exciting affair. Other sporting events and concerts also regularly take place at the stadium.

Completed in 1966, ‘The Big A’ exhibits some arresting architecture with two enormous Angels hats lining its entrance. The stadium’s standout sights are its 230 foot sign and striking centerfield rock pile which erupts from time-to-time and is known as the ‘California Spectacular’.

Thanks to its electrifying atmosphere, it is definitely well worth attending a baseball game at the Angel Stadium when in town.

4. Downtown Disney District

Downtown Disney District© dreamstime

Home to countless shops and restaurants, Downtown Disney District attracts both locals and tourists alike with all the enticing attractions that it has to offer.

First opened in 2001, the expansive outdoor shopping center connects both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park to its three nearby resort hotels. Lining its esplanade are fabulous restaurants and eateries, with unique boutiques, clothes outlets and souvenir shops.

These include not only The Lego Store and a World of Disney shop, but a Star Wars Trading Post too.

3. Anaheim Packing District

Anaheim Packing District© dreamstime

Full of trendy restaurants, cozy cafes and lively bars, the Anaheim Packing District is a treat to explore. Set right in the heart of the city, the happening area not only encompasses a wonderful food hall and farmer’s market but gorgeous outdoor areas and an orange grove too.

Sprawling over several blocks, the district’s forty or so unique eateries occupy a number of historic buildings that have been wonderfully restored and reimagined. For instance, the Spanish Colonial Revival-style Packing House is full of diverse kitchens and cocktail bars, while MAKE, a former marmalade factory, now hosts a barbecue joint, brewing company and winery.

In addition, Farmers Park has pretty plots and gardens with a market selling fresh produce taking place each Saturday. With live music, cultural events and festivals also regularly held, the Anaheim Packing District is not to be missed when in town.

2. Disney California Adventure Park

Disney California Adventure Park© dreamstime

The larger but less crowded Disney California Adventure Park is right next to Disneyland. Opened in 2001, the amusement park’s enticing attractions celebrate the history, culture, peoples and nature of the Golden State.

One of the most popular parks in the world, it now has eight themed lands to explore with each section packed with shops, restaurants and of course rides. While Hollywood Land is home to film and theater-related attractions, Pacific Wharf is reminiscent of the old waterfront in Monterey with Grizzly Peak taking you to the wilderness of Yosemite and Redwood national parks.

Besides these delightfully decorated districts, there are also areas dedicated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Pixar, with amazing sights, sounds and smells wherever you go.

1. Disneyland

Disneyland© dreamstime

The most famous theme park in the world, Disneyland has been delighting generations of guests ever since it first opened in 1955. The ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ has innumerable attractions, rides and spellbinding shows for everyone in the family to enjoy.

The only Disneyland designed by Walt Disney himself, the humongous park now encompasses nine themed lands, each with their own unique look and feel, characters and landmarks. These include not only Main Street, USA and Adventureland but Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge too with attractions such as Space Mountain and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

To top it all off, Disneyland also has countless parades and fireworks shows with iconic characters ambling about here and there. With so many rides and rollercoasters, restaurants and shops on offer, it is no wonder that Disneyland’s enduring magic attracts so many visitors every year.

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