By Claire Newell
Dec 4, 2021
I recently had the pleasure of taking the Air Canada flight between Vancouver (YVR) and Orange County (SNA). This was the first time I have flown on the new A220 – a gorgeous aircraft! And what a treat flying directly into John Wayne Airport (Santa Ana) which is the closest airport to the most popular destination in the O.C., Anaheim. It’s a destination that I have been to many times over the years. However, it is not the same place I visited just 3 years ago. It is growing, evolving and transforming quickly, in fact, on this trip I visited 3 luxury hotels that hadn’t even opened the last time I was in Anaheim. These 3 properties along with the expansion of the convention center and the investment in Downtown Anaheim have really elevated the city as a destination.
During the 4-day trip I got to see & experience all sorts of new things…as well as some old favourites. In Disneyland I visited Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and fly a the Millennium Falcon for the first time. In Disney California Adventure I got to spend some time in the new Avengers Campus as well as got to go on my all-time favourite ride, Soarin’ Around the World. If you are heading to Anaheim here are some must-visit locations you may want to add to your list.
WHERE TO STAY
The Westin Anaheim Resort
The Westin Anaheim Resort is a beautifully designed AAA Four Diamond hotel located across from the Disneyland Resort. The resort occupies eight lush acres and features a modern design inspired by Anaheim’s historic orange grove roots. This hotel features 618 stylish guest rooms including 121 suites, a resort-style heated outdoor pool with 5 private cabanas, and 7 signature restaurants and bars, including Anaheim’s only exclusive rooftop bar overlooking Disneyland® Resort.
JW Marriot Anaheim Resort
JW Marriott Anaheim Resort is 466 rooms, luxury hotel located outside of Disneyland and the first JW Marriott to open in Orange County. It is an exquisite addition to the Orange County skyline with careful attention to detail embedded in every aspect of the hotel experience and the utmost in guest service. One of the most unique features of the hotel is JW Gardens, an outdoor experience including the Secret Butterfly Garden, where inspiring art installations come to life through innovative augmented reality technology. There is also a fantastic rooftop bar/lounge with amazing views of nightly Disneyland fireworks and surrounding mountain and city elements. There are 3 dining options in the hotel all with chef-crafted menus including a modern and stylish Italian chop house, an eclectic lobby bar and quick-service market café.
Radisson Blu Anaheim
Radisson Blu Anaheim which recently opened in November 2020, has received the coveted AAA Four Diamond designation. The Anaheim hotel is ideally situated just four blocks away from Disneyland and minutes from the Honda Center and Angel Stadium, offering guests ample options for dining, entertainment, sporting events and more. The 326-room property delivers a one-of-a-kind experience with three new distinct food and beverage offerings: BluSky Restaurant & Bar, FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar, and Oasis Pool Bar; two outdoor heated pools—one being an adults-only; a stunning 12th story rooftop; and thoughtful art elements throughout.
WHAT TO DO
Avengers assemble at Disney California Adventure® Park, an all-new immersive land where guests can team up with their favourite super hero. Avengers Campus, a Marvel-themed land, features new attractions, experiences, plus retail and dining experiences.
Put your spidey skills to the test in the 3D attraction WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure. Guests aboard Web Slinger vehicles experience virtual and physical sets plus dazzling effects as they assist the WEB open house gone haywire by fast replicating Spider-Bots.
Refuel at the Pym Test Kitchen with an innovative menu inspired by Ant-Man and Wasp’s growing ability. Guests dig into culinary “science” in the lab where traditional food is presented at untraditional scales.
Then, roam the highly detailed land, always on the lookout for nods to Marvel films both past and future, and unique character interactions.
Photo Credits: @joshuamellin
Angel Stadium Expansion
We’re ready for a home-run expansion at Angel Stadium. With the Angels committed to running the bases and knocking ‘em out of the park until at least 2050, Anaheim will also see an expansion of the surrounding area. Like Petco Park in San Diego, this Platinum Triangle master plan includes Angel stadium, Honda Center, homes and businesses making the surrounding area transit-oriented with connected walkable living, dining, and entertainment.
Photo Credits: @joshuamellin
Modern Times Leisuretown
Dive into a new brew at Modern Times Leisuretown, now open in CtrCity Anaheim. A craftsman home located across from the Anaheim Packing House has transformed into the ultimate backyard hang that features Modern Times brews, vegan bites and even a swimming pool. Sip, savor and splash amidst an eclectic decor and plenty of California sunshine.
Find unforgettable flora at the Fullerton Arboretum, located on the Cal State Fullerton campus. Explore the diverse gardens and natural habitats, learning about preservation around every corner. Admission to the non-profit oasis is free.
At the heart of the city, you’ll find Center Street Promenade and the Anaheim Packing District. Artisan eateries feature everything from smoked barbecue to vegan offerings and reside in historical buildings like a citrus packing plant turned food hall. Stroll through CtrCity Anaheim for the weekly Farmer’s Market for fresh produce or wares, and unearth treasures at RARE by Goodwill.
The Lab Anti-Mall
Imagine a shopping center that is equal parts fun photo ops and eclectic vendors, and you have yourself the Lab Anti-Mall in nearby Costa Mesa. Select what’s spinning next on your turntables in the vintage trailer vinyl shop, stop for a photoshoot in the CD tunnel or against the mural backdrops, and grab an iced chai at the Nook Coffee Bar.
Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center
You’re cleared for takeoff. Climb into the cockpit of a fighter jet or Boeing 737 at the Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center. Your aerial adventure includes classroom training, plus in-flight instruction, as you pilot your way through the skies. This experience now available at Anaheim GardenWalk located a short walk from the Disneyland Resort and many of the new and favourite Anaheim hotels.
La Palma Beer Trail’s Craft Brewery Tour
Home to dozens of craft breweries, Anaheim is bubbling with excitement as guests enjoy the La Palma Beer Trail. Numerous breweries on La Palma Ave. mean you can raise a glass of your new favorite IPA or Sour before easily walking to the next location.
With roots going back before prohibition, Anaheim has a long brewing history. Hidden in plain sight is Blind Rabbit, a speakeasy located behind secret doors in the Packing House. Once inside, you’ll be delighted by the swanky decor and custom cocktails.
Okayama Kobo Bakery and Café
Start your day at the Japanese Okayama Kobo Bakery and Café. Their preservative and additive-free dough yields the freshest and lightest bakery items like milk bread, paired perfectly with coffee drinks like a Matcha Sea Salt Coldbrew.
Joe’s Italian Ice
If you ask a local, they might just tell you that Joe’s Italian Ice is the coolest place in town. Grab a Joe Latti made with soft and creamy Italian ice with flavors changing daily.
QUICK TIPS FOR LAGUNA BEACH & SURROUNDING AREA
Must-dos for any visitor:
- Visit StarWars: Galaxy Edge and ride Rise of the Resistance
- Visit Avengers Campus and ride WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure
- Enjoy a hockey game or baseball game depending on the season
- Become a local at The Anaheim Packing District
- See the fireworks from Disneyland’s Main Street and/or one of the four rooftop bars
- Try the famous Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner
- Visit one of over 20 breweries in the Anaheim Area
- Drive and enjoy a day at one of the Orange County Beaches
- Take a day trip to Catalina Island
- Shopping at South Coast Plaza and/or Outlets at Orange
Best beach: Each beach in Orange County has its unique personality. If I describe each beach with one word, I would say Huntington Beach is “laidback”, Newport Beach is “sophisticated” and Laguna Beach is “eclectic”. If I have to choose one beach, I would select Laguna Beach. It is a nice walkable downtown and filled with boutiques, restaurants and art galleries.
Best walk/hike: Anaheim Coves, it is a nice 2.5 miles (4 km) multi-use trail along the Santa Ana River between Ball Road and Frontera. The trail part of 26-acre nature park is used for walking, running, bird watching and road biking and accessible from dawn to dusk.
Best local shopping area: South Coast Plaza with over 250 stores and more than 30 distinct eateries.
Best mall: Outlets at Orange, the closets outlets to the Anaheim Resort with over 120 stores, restaurants, and entertainment.
Best coffee shop: Urth Café in Old Towne Orange.
Best lunch spot: The Anaheim Packing House offering over 20 different food outlets.
Best tea house: Almond Haus in Garden Grove is a little “hole in the wall” Thai tea house.
Best ice cream/gelato: Joe’s Italian Ice with all the recipes created and exclusively sold at Joe’s and with daily new flavors and always including a free-sugar option flavor on the menu.
Best casual restaurant: Anepalco is a modern Mexican cuisine restaurant with a French twist. The restaurant is located at the ALO Hotel in Orange.
Best nice restaurant: The Anaheim White House is a unique boutique restaurant offering fine dining northern Italian cuisine and a 1909 Anaheim historic house.
Best sunset spot: BluSky Restaurant and Bar at Radisson Blu and the only rooftop bar in Anaheim with a restaurant, bar and pool.
Best place to see the fireworks: Parkestry, the rooftop bar at the JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort.
Best speakeasy: The Blind Rabbit at the Anaheim Packing House.
Best restaurant bar: Strong Water Anaheim is a tiki bar with Asian inspired cuisine, nautical décor, serving the Miehana (Anaheim backwards) is a tiki rum drink.
Best local bar: The Fifth is a rooftop bar at the Grand Legacy at the Park Hotel.
Best roof top bar: RISE Rooftop Lounge at The Westin Anaheim Resort.
Best spa: Tenaya Stone Spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.
Best golf: Pelican Hill Golf Club, and golf experience with ocean view.