The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen used to describe Southern California as “the box that Disneyland came in.” That would make Anaheim the box top. Along with Orlando, Florida, Anaheim is the only place in America where it’s a compliment to hear a visitor remark, “Well, that was a real Mickey Mouse place to stay.”
But there is more to Anaheim than being the granddaddy of Uncle Walt Disney’s theme parks. Indeed, there is even more to Anaheim than its next two most well-known entities: the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks.
For instance, did you know the Anaheim Convention Center is the largest exhibit facility on the West Coast? Originally opened in 1967, the convention center spans 53 acres, offers 1.8 million square feet of function space and also includes an on-site Hilton Hotel with display and meeting spaces of its own. Located directly across the street from the Anaheim Resort District’s second theme park, Disney’s California Adventure, the convention center hosts such large events as Citrix Synergy, Disney’s D23 Expo and the Winter National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Show. Don’t let the roster spook you into believing the facility is solely suited for mega-tradeshows as it can also host small meetings and intimate industry gatherings.
Business travelers can choose from a plethora of lodging offerings as there are 111 hotels with 22,183 rooms within two miles of the convention center, including 41 (with 8,749 total rooms) within a half-mile walk of the meeting place. Besides Anaheim, there are hotels, motels and other lodging options in the bordering cities of Buena Park, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Orange and Yorba Linda. Beyond those, there are surrounding Orange County’s famous (and generally pricey) oceanfront resorts in Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Newport Coast and Huntington Beach. You might find a celebrity in these … checked in under an assumed name after having ditched the paparazzi an hour-and-change away in Hollywood.
Meanwhile, back in Anaheim, there is plenty to see and do locally. Most visitors do include at least a day at one of Uncle Walt’s parks, but those on a budget, tight on time or opposed to marathon standing sessions in attraction lines can get the Magic Kingdom flavor at the much mellower Downtown Disney shopping/dining/entertainment area that’s just steps from the main gates of Disneyland and California Adventure.
A similar destination on the other side of Harbor Boulevard from the Disney parks is Anaheim GardenWalk, which includes more great shopping and restaurants, as well as the House of Blues, live concert venue. Make sure to also check the entertainment listings for City National Grove, which is a couple of miles east on Katella Avenue from GardenWalk. And if you continue on Katella a bit you’ll hit the Honda Center, which draws arena acts when it’s not filled with conventions, Ducks games or other athletics.
Convention bookers should consider holding at least one gathering in The RANCH Restaurant & Saloon’s private dining and events center. Just two miles from the convention center—and five floors above The RANCH Restaurant (that is also available for buyout)—the exclusive sixth-floor venue offers spectacular views of Anaheim.
An even more unique outing can be had mere steps from Disney’s California Adventure. FlightDeck is the only simulator in the world that has visitors take a quick flight course, get fitted for a jumpsuit and experience mock flying that includes aerial maneuvers at 600 knots as well as air-to-air combat. Curse you, Red Baron!
Set about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Anaheim is intersected by the 5 Freeway, which runs from the Mexican border all the way up to the Canadian border in Washington state. There are four major airports just minutes away from Anaheim: John Wayne (Santa Ana) International Airport, Long Beach Airport, Ontario International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Buses and shuttles that pick up steps from those hubs’ terminals feed into the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), which is across the street from the Honda Center and nearly adjacent to one of Angels Stadium’s gates.
Much farther south, on the other side of the Orange County border, is San Diego County, which is home to the pioneering California craft brewing scene. But Anaheim is no slouch when it comes to suds. The city boasts numerous craft breweries, some of which have won national awards for their elixirs. I recommend an Uber or Lyft crawl that at the very least includes Bottle Logic Brewing Co., Noble Ale Works, Towne Park Brew Co., Bruery Terreux and, nearby in Placentia, The Bruery Tasting Room. As Charles Harris, senior vice president of Marketing with Visit Anaheim, puts it: “You don’t have to be a cicerone to appreciate the perfect pint in Anaheim.”
Another worthy beercation stop is Anaheim Brewery, a revived pre-Prohibition beer garden that is this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. But it’s recommended not only for the milestone and delicious brews (their Anaheim 1888 is a must pour). A small lawn area separates the brewery from Anaheim Packing House, an old citrus packinghouse that has been reimagined as a hip food hall. People watching while nibbling on artisan eats is the real treat.
You can usually pack light because Anaheim is graced with nearly 300 days of sunshine, a miserly 13 inches of annual rainfall (and no snow) as well as an average temperature of 67 degrees. The 42-mile-long Orange County coastline facing the Pacific Ocean is usually just 20 minutes. If traffic is heavy, skip the maddening freeways and take Harbor Boulevard south.
It’s little wonder you must plan ahead when getting around, given that 20 million people reside within a 90-mile radius of Anaheim. Guess it’s not such a small world after all.