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Sprawling Anaheim, like the rest of Orange County, was largely home to farmers and their verdant fields until a man named Walt Disney arrived and decided this fertile land — dazzled by sunshine and warm weather nearly every single day — was the perfect place to build his Magic Kingdom. Disneyland opened in 1955 and Anaheim has never been the same. If you’re planning a visit, it probably involves seeing a famous cast of rodents and princesses. But Anaheim is more than theme park razzle-dazzle. Over the years it’s nurtured hip new shopping enclaves, an energetic craft brew scene, and a major hockey and baseball team. And despite its reputation as a nexus for Technicolor fun, there are still pockets of natural idyll to be found.
John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana and Long Beach Airport (LGB) are the closest to Anaheim (both are less than a half hour drive), while Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the largest and farthest at 40 minutes. (Keep in mind that when it comes to car travel in the Los Angeles area, commute time fluctuates depending on road conditions and time of day.) While it’s nice to have a car to get around, it’s not a must-have, as taxis and rideshares are plentiful. Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) stops at major area attractions and the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) makes stops throughout Anaheim, as does the Metrolink rail service, which connects several southern California cities.
You can expect warm, sunny weather just about year-round in Anaheim. Temperatures are hottest June through October, so pack warm weather clothes and lots of sunscreen. The rest of the year you can expect temperatures in the 60s and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with occasionally cooler days in the 50s that call for pants and a light jacket. December through March can bring occasional rain showers, so pack an umbrella.
Since its humble-ish beginnings, Disneyland has grown into two full-fledged theme parks, the original and California Adventure, which celebrates the state’s many personalities, with zones dedicated to Hollywood, the redwoods, and an enormous boardwalk. Over the years the park has been modernized, but sweet, vintage touches are still the order of the day in historic Disneyland, where you can watch parades and firework shows from quaint Main Street. If you merely want to brush up against the magic, stroll the Downtown Disney District, located just outside the parks, which is packed with restaurants and shops, including a massive Disney store.
Formerly a citrus packing warehouse, this historic 1919 building in downtown Anaheim has been remade as a contemporary two-story food hall, packed with buzzy culinary spots. Here, in the airy, modern environs, you can order up a hotdog enrobed in sweet waffle batter, nosh on mole enchiladas and red snapper ceviche, or get fancy at a speakeasy serving artisanal cocktails and five kinds of absinthe. Walk two minutes down the street to sample the city’s booming beer scene at the local beer garden.
Drive just twenty minutes from downtown to leave the hustle of the city behind you, and hike into the rustic Anaheim Hills at Oak Canyon Nature Center. Four miles of trails criss-cross this 58-acre park, which is home to three canyons, oak trees, coastal sage, and native wildlife. Check the website for a schedule of ongoing programs, including outdoor movie nights.