Anaheim, California draws tourists from around the world. Sure, many of them are coming to immerse in all things Mickey Mouse. However, things to do in Anaheim besides Disneyland range from breweries to professional sports to cultural activities. Regardless of age interest, this Southern California city offers fun activities and an excellent base for your next getaway.
Best Things To Do in Anaheim
While visiting Disneyland Resort is every child’s dream, the park is just as fun for teenagers and many adults. It’s made up of multiple parts including two theme parks, three hotels, and the Downtown Disney entertainment area. I mention it first because it the top reason why tourists flock to this Orange County city and you can easily spend multiple days just here.
The original Disney theme park is Disneyland, which opened its doors on July 17, 1955, under the supervision of Walt Disney. The nine themed lands now include the popular Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge though many of the classic rides that you may remember as a kid, like Dumbo and it’s a small world, are still available at “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
Disney California Adventure Park
Disney California Adventure Park offers a few more thrill rides than Disneyland (in addition to more adult beverage opportunities). Marvel characters like Black Panther, Captain America, and Spider-Man hang out over here. It’s also where the new Avengers Campus Marvel-themed land will open and where you can find Cars and Toy Story attractions. Visitors also flock to the park in the spring for the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival.
If you can only visit one park, I have a Disneyland vs. Disney California Adventure comparison that you can refer to.
Tip: I have lots of advice on how to buy discount Disneyland tickets. One of the best sources is actually through me.
Downtown Disney District
Downtown Disney District is an outdoor shopping and entertainment center located steps from the entrance gates to both Disneyland Resort theme parks. While you can shop for plenty of Disney merchandise, there are other brand-name stores like Sephora and non-Disney restaurants like San Diego-based Ballast Point. Or you can brush up on your bowling skills at Splitsville Luxury Lanes. Plenty of activities here to keep the whole family entertained.
And, the Disneyland Resort Hotels are just steps away from Downtown Disney. In fact, you can enter the complex directly on one side of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.
Center City Anaheim
If you want a break from the theme park scene, head over to Center City. It’s one of the most interesting things to do in Anaheim for those who want to immerse themselves in the city’s diverse and lively culture. You’ll understand why they call it the heart of Anaheim because across the multiple city blocks here you’ll find live music, healthy and delicious food options, charming gift shops, art, and fitness studios.
Center City schedules a variety of events at different times of the year, including farmer’s markets, yard sales, and mic nights. Make sure you check out the calendar or download the City Center app to see what events are happening during your stay.
If you like craft beer, include Anaheim Brewery in your vacation plans. It’s a pre-Prohibition brewery that’s been restored and revived. The vibe is mellow and laid back, which makes it a perfect place to chill out with friends. There are no televisions here, so conversation is encouraged.
You can get fresh beer served on top in the Beer Garden and Tasting Room, which has an old-school vibe that people love. You can also purchase kegs, six-packs, and cases. Check out the brewery’s calendar to see if there are any special events or discounts available while you’re in Anaheim.
House of Blues
Located right on Anaheim GardenWalk, House of Blues is a colorful, blues-themed live entertainment venue and restaurant. Live acts include a variety of nationally touring bands, karaoke nights, dance shows, and comedy acts.
The House of Blues Restaurant and Bar features Southern-inspired dishes that warm and satisfy. The bar offers a wide selection of wine, beer and specialty cocktails. Many people come here for the food and end up staying for the entertainment. It’s important to make your reservation in advance so you have a guaranteed spot during your Anaheim vacation.
Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center
Have you always longed to fly a plane or fighter jet? Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center can bring your dream as close to reality as possible, but without the flight training. If you are traveling with kids 11 years of age or older, this is one of the top fun things to do in Anaheim.
Despite the fact that all flights that take place here are simulated, they are incredibly lifelike. You’ll feel what it’s like to control a Boeing 737 or fighter jet. Flight simulator experiences range from 30 minutes to 120 minutes, so you can choose the duration that you prefer.
Angel Stadium of Anaheim is home to the Los Angeles Angels. Thanks to the exceptional year-round weather Anaheim offers, you have little chance of being rained out when you go to a game here. Whether you’re just a casual fan or a die-hard groupie, attending an Angels game is a fun experience for the entire family.
Outside food is permitted, but a classic part of attending a ballgame is enjoying the stadium food. You can stick to the basics of hot dogs, pizza, and peanuts or go more gourmet with sit-down dining in spots like Saint Archer Brewing. If you’d like to take a tour of the stadium, you can do so between the months of March and September.
Angel Stadium and several other spots mentioned on this list are also included in my round-up of things to do in Anaheim with kids.
Oak Canyon Nature Center
Want to get away from busy Anaheim city life for a while? Head over to Oak Canyon Nature Center, where you’ll feel like you’re miles away from civilization. The park sits on 58 acres of land that’s dotted with hiking routes, wildlife, and beautiful flora. There’s also a day camp here for children ages 5 to 12.
Park walking areas consist of various trails that stretch across four total miles within the park. A small museum called the John J. Collier Interpretive Center is located on-site and features regional natural history in addition to live animal exhibits.
City National Grove of Anaheim
Not far from the Santa Ana River and Angel Stadium is an impressive event center that seats over 1,500 people. City National Grove of Anaheim is a popular venue for some of the most popular entertainment acts. Stevie Nicks, Prince, and Ray Charles have all performed here in the past.
There are more than 250 concerts held at City National Grove every year. The event center does a good job scheduling a wide variety of entertainment options, so you’re sure to find something that appeals to you. Keep in mind that tickets sell out in advance, so you should reserve them early.
Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center
Do you want to infuse a little culture and history into your vacation? There’s no better way to do so than by visiting the Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Anaheim for free.
At first glance, the building seems rather small, but it extends into a separate building located directly behind it— both located in City Center. The exciting exhibits in this museum change frequently so there will always be something new to see.
Center Street Promenade
Looking for a hip, trendy scene? Head over to Center Street Promenade, also in downtown Anaheim, where you’ll be greeted by a variety of local eateries, boutique shops, and local treasures.
This is the place where locals and tourists mingle to enjoy some of the best food and entertainment Anaheim has to offer. Walking through the promenade is free, but you’ll want to bring extra cash so that you can take advantage of the unique gifts and souvenirs you’ll find. Whether you’re on the hunt for a trendy new handbag or an exceptional piece of artisanal jewelry, this is a great place to locate it.
Honda Center is a huge indoor arena that’s the home of the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks. You can find affordable tickets to any event, which makes the Honda Center a great destination for family activities.
If you’re not into hockey, don’t worry! Other events held here include USA Basketball, professional wrestling, festivals, and comedy shows. There are also kid-friendly performances.
Yorba Regional Park
Anaheim offers plenty of park areas that are secluded from the rest of the bustling city. Yorba Regional Park is one such park and is one of the most popular free things to do in Anaheim.
There are a variety of paved bike paths that wind whimsically through the park. You can use the paths for cycling, jogging, or walking. Observe plenty of ducks, birds, and other wildlife while you meander or enjoy the four different lakes and multiple picnics areas.
Spend some time letting kids get their energy out at one of the numerous playgrounds at this park, or try your skill at the horseshoe pits or volleyball nets.
Anaheim GardenWalk is a family-friendly outdoor entertainment district that includes many different attractions. The pedestrian-friendly site includes 430,000 square acres of restaurants, live music acts, and arcades. Many of the walls are painted with beautiful murals that make your walk more enjoyable and provide plenty of Instagram photo opportunities.
To make the most of your time here, check the calendar in advance to see if there are any upcoming festivals or events that you’d like to see.
Anaheim Packing District
The Anaheim Packing District contains different attractions and features, including Farmers Park, three national historical landmarks, and a variety of culinary creations.
While you’re here, make sure you visit the Anaheim Packing House Food Hall. It’s an impressive modern food hall that features stylish eating spaces and multiple stalls that serve a variety of specialty foods. The surroundings are bright, airy, and atrium-like.
Sky Zone Anaheim Indoor Trampoline Park
If you’re on a family vacation with energetic kids, you can help them expend some of that energy while getting healthy exercise at Sky Zone Anaheim indoor trampoline park. There are plenty of attractions here, including a zip line, ninja warrior course, warped wall, and freestyle jump. There’s also a toddler zone where young kids can play safely without getting in the way of older kids.
In addition to plenty of free play opportunities, Sky Zone also offers a variety of programs that offer guided play opportunities. Sensory hours, toddler time, and overnight lock-ins are all available.
Adventure City is a relatively small Anaheim, California amusement park that provides plenty of fun for the whole family. There are over 15 attractions here, including the Freeway Coaster, Rewind Racers, and Party Tree House in addition to a petting farm and rock-climbing wall.
Though this park may not be very much fun for an older crowd, it’s a perfect choice for families with young kids. The rides are not very scary when compared to typical theme park rides.
Concourse Bowling Center
Concourse Bowling Center is one of the most popular places to bowl in Anaheim, and you’ll know why when you step inside. The atmosphere is decidedly hip and exciting, with a full-service bar and a cosmic bowling alley lit by black lights.
Outside of bowling, people can spend time in the billiards and arcade area. You can also watch games and television shows on the high-definition plasma screens throughout the center.
Anaheim has pretty pleasant weather for the most part, but it can get hot in the summer. If you’re looking for creative ways to cool down, plan a few hours of fun at Anaheim Ice.
This world-class facility features adult and youth hockey games as well as public skating opportunities during certain hours. If you don’t know how to ice skate, you can enroll in ice skating lessons. These are conducted in a group setting and can help you gain greater confidence on the ice.
Do 19 acres of beautifully landscaped areas, picnic shelters, and children’s play areas sound appealing to you? If so, you need to take the time to visit Pearson Park while you’re in Anaheim. It has a lot more attractions than some of the other parks in the city, including a swimming pool, recreation center, concession stands, lighted soccer and football areas, volleyball courts, a children’s play area, tennis courts, and more.
The park was first opened in 1927 and has been providing families with healthy outdoor activity opportunities ever since. If you’re looking for things to do in Anaheim for free, this is one of your best options.
Fun Things to Do Near Anaheim
While there are plenty of things to keep you busy in the heart of Anaheim, it’s worth exploring coastal and nearby cities. From free beach areas to immersive dinner experiences, here are some of the top things to do near Anaheim.
I was born in and grew up in Huntington Beach. This laid-back city is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and surf culture thanks to its waves.
The beach is massive here and that’s why most people come. You can get some famous cheese strips from the concession stand at Jack’s in addition to renting boogie boards and other beach gear. Along the coast and in the revitalized downtown area, you’ll find some shops, bars, and restaurants.
South Coast Plaza
There isn’t a mall anywhere in the world like South Coast Plaza. And, I can say this having shopped here since before I could walk. It’s massive, with a well-curated collection of shops and department stores in all price ranges (though there are quite a few luxury brands represented).
You’ll also find highly-acclaimed restaurants ranging from fine dining to take-out. It is the place to shop in Orange County and you never know who you might see. If the weather isn’t cooperating (rare) you can seek shelter at this indoor mall.
It’s also adjacent to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts which hosts shows that appeal to a wide variety of audiences, including Tony award-winning theater, music, art, and dance.
Fashion Island is yet another highly acclaimed shopping center near Anaheim. Located in Newport Beach, this shopping center mostly features high-end names such as Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. The difference between South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island is that the latter is a smaller (though not small) outdoor mall with a more relaxed, yet still-upscale vibe, and it’s closer to the ocean.
There are many exceptional restaurants on-site, including Great Maple, Lemonade, and R+D Kitchen.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Though it’s not talked about as much as Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park one of the best theme parks in California. It was the first theme park in the country. Older kids enjoy the variety of roller coasters while younger kids spend most of their time on rides and meeting characters in the Camp Snoopy area.
The boysenberry was created here, so you definitely should also take home some jam or sample a slice of boysenberry pie.
Tip: I have advice for how to buy discount Knott’s Berry Farm tickets and one of the best places is through me.
Tired of predictable dinners? Make a reservation at Medieval Times in Buena Park, where dinnertime becomes an exciting, tournament-style experience. I used to love coming here as a kid.
Sit back and relax while you’re served medieval-inspired food that you must eat entirely with your hands. Watch one-of-a-kind live entertainment while you dig into your meal. Knights joust, play games, and sword-fight right in front of you. Cheer for your favorite knight and revel in the raucous atmosphere.
Catalina Island is last, but not least on our list of fun things to do near Anaheim. You can reach it by helicopter or the hour-long Catalina Express ferries that depart from Dana Point, Long Beach, or San Pedro.
Tourists come here to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches, take land tours to see wildlife and scenery, play golf, rent cabanas, and partake of the many entertainment options available. You can make it a day trip or perhaps spend the night.
Tips for Getting to and Around Anaheim
The closest airport to Anaheim is John Wayne Airport (SNA) which is just over 11 miles away from Anaheim (about 15 miles from Disneyland Resort). You can find flights to SNA from many major cities in the United States.
The issue though is the traffic which can be brutal through this corridor at rush hour. There is no longer an official shuttle service to Disneyland Resort from the SNA so you will need to find your own transportation. I have a discount at Karmel shuttle (a service that you’ll also see recommended on Disneyland’s website). Many simply Uber if it’s not rush hour.
You can also fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), about 40 miles away. Again, it’s an easy drive without traffic. With traffic, it can take hours. You can take public transportation by Metro and bus, but I recommend booking Karmel shuttle, a rental car, rideshare, or private car service like Blacklane.
You may also fly into Burbank, Long Beach or Ontario Airports.
Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) buses connect visitors to most major things to do in Anaheim and beyond. It’s an awesome service that makes it easy to go carless. You can use their online planner to figure out exactly how to get from one place to another.
It’s VERY easy to travel between San Diego to Disneyland on the train. We do it all the time. You can easily take an Uber or ART from the station to wherever you need to go. If you take ART, show your Amtrak ticket and your ride is free.
What are your favorite things to do in Anaheim or nearby?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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