North County

North County

Long before orange groves and Walt Disney shaped the landscape of Anaheim, and before Napa Valley became a household name, German immigrants made the area California’s first wine country. It still fuels high times and joyful memories with world-class attractions that make it the gateway to endless fun.

Anaheim

Making millions of dreams come true every year, Disneyland is beloved by children of every age. Since Walt Disney opened the main gate in 1955, families have made the pilgrimage, starting on Main Street, U.S.A.; today they explore eight lands, from Frontierland to Toontown. Captured in countless vacation photographs, iconic landmarks such as the snowcapped Matterhorn, Sleeping Beauty’s castle and the Haunted Mansion beckon even as new attractions debut. Enjoy Mickey’s Soundsational Parade and, in the Fantasyland Theatre, the live show Mickey
and the Magical Map
. Travel to corners of the universe in 3-D on Star Tours: The
Adventures Continue in Tomorrowland.

Sister park Disney California Adventure launched Cars Land, adding 12 acres and three attractions—notably Radiator Springs Racers—inspired by the Disney-Pixar film Cars. Guests enter along Buena Vista Street, evoking the era when Walt Disney arrived in Los Angeles; Carthay Circle Theatre houses an elegant restaurant. World of Color wows nightly with choreographed fountains, lights, lasers, music, animation and Disney story-telling. The thrills never end at California Screamin’, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and, for the less daring, Soarin’ Over California, an amazing simulation of gliding above the gorgeous Golden State.

There’s no admission at adjacent Downtown Disney, but it takes restraint to avoid splurging in the lively promenade’s shops, cafés and entertainment venues such as House of Blues, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and ESPN Zone. Eateries range from fast to fancy, but none outclasses Napa Rose in the dazzling Grand Californian Hotel.

Shop, eat and play some more at Anaheim GardenWalk, a still-growing collection of shopping and dining options in an outdoor setting. For indoor entertainment, consider bowling at Bowlmor, viewing a first-run movie at UltraStar Cinemas—some with motion seats—or shaking your tail feathers at sultry Heat Ultra Lounge. Nearby, The Ranch, a sophisticated restaurant and super-fun saloon modeled on the late Crazy Horse, made the North County’s most smashing dining debut since Napa Rose.

Boldface names and sports action are the lure at Honda Center, home for the Anaheim Ducks ice hockey team and new L.A. KISS football team, host to touring acts such as Rihanna; Wolfgang Puck’s Puck Tavern is new. At Angel Stadium, “the Big A,” major-league baseball rules when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play; arena rock acts such as U2 invade when the team’s on tour; the Oakley store is new. Anaheim Convention Center unveiled a grand Grand Plaza; the Anaheim Bolts soccer team plays in the center’s arena.

The Anaheim Packing District downtown includes the hip shops and restaurants on Center Street Promenade; the historic
Anaheim Packing House reopens with foodie vendors of all kinds and it’s a smash—we want to try them all! Muzeo is a small museum in the Carnegie Library building (1908). Anaheim Ice, training facility for the Anaheim Ducks, is open for public skating daily.

Buena Park

Roller coaster, Old West and boysenberry jam enthusiasts flock to Knott’s Berry Farm, a theme park with roots back to 1934, when farmers Walter and Cordelia Knott opened a roadside stand selling berries and a diner dishing fried chicken. Diners still feast on drumsticks and berry pie at Knott’s Chicken Dinner restaurant, and shoppers wander through the California Marketplace; both enjoy the Independence Hall replica (1966).

Inside the park, a daunting collection of roller coasters separates the bold from the bashful. Xcelerator rockets to 82 mph in 2.3 seconds. Silver Bullet turns riders upside down six times. GhostRider is one of the world’s longest and tallest wooden coasters. Less hair-raising are the High Sierra Ferris Wheel and kiddie rides at Camp Snoopy.

Explore bygone eras without leaving Beach Boulevard. Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament revisits an 11th century castle. Audiences cheer jousting knights and pageantry starring Lipizzaner stallions while serfs and wenches serve a four-course feast. A banquet at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure fortifies guests for skirmishes aboard a replicated 18th century Spanish galleon in an indoor lagoon.

Orange

Old Towne Orange is often used for movies and commercials, thanks to its diligently preserved pre-1940 homes and buildings. Anchored by a picturesque traffic circle—oval, actually—at Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street, the district is on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes antique shops and restaurants such as Haven Gastropub and Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen. The Orange Chamber of Commerce (439 E. Chapman Ave.) offers a map of historic sights.

Chapman University, one of the state’s oldest private universities, marks its 150th year. To the east are the bucolic hills of Irvine Park; its petite Orange County Zoo is ideal for wee ones, who also enjoy the narrow-gauge train.

Big kids go for The Outlets at Orange, where draws include high-end discount retailers Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th. Families fall like pins for hip bowling alley Lucky Strike Lanes and flock to Thrill It Fun Center and Vans Skatepark.

Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove—formerly known as Crystal Cathedral—is a must-tour for architecture buffs. Philip Johnson’s striking structure has 10,000 silver-tinted windows. Also there are Richard Neutra’s Tower of Hope and Richard Meier’s International Center for Positive Thinking.

Fullerton

Most visitors to Fullerton, home of sprawling Cal State Fullerton, gravitate to the historic core along Harbor Boulevard, with its endless supply of boutiques and watering holes. South of Commonwealth Avenue, a short stroll from the historic train station, are night spots and restaurants such as Hopscotch.

Significant sights nearby include Fullerton Museum Center, offering dynamic exhibits including a gallery devoted to Leo Fender, native son and pioneer of the electric guitar. The museum offers maps pinpointing fine examples of architecture styles within walking distance. A short drive away, the stately Muckenthaler Cultural Center hosts varied design and art events and exhibits.

The Fullerton Arboretum at CSUF is a garden of delights, with streams, trails and a restored Victorian cottage. East in Yorba Linda is the birthplace of Richard Nixon. The tiny home and impressive rose garden are on the handsome grounds of the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, a rich repository chronicling the president’s public and private life.

Neighboring Brea, once an oil town, takes pride in its Birch Street Promenade, which offers retailers, restaurants such as Brunos Trattoria, cinema and stand-up comedy. New at huge Brea Mall is Kiehl’s Since 1851.

Click HERE for a detailed map of these neighborhoods.