This huge sprawling suburb south
of Los Angeles was, until the 1950s, a farming area noted
for its vineyards and wineries. But that was before the
two Walters (Disney & Knott) created the world's
first theme parks in Orange County. Disneyland changed
the course for theme parks and Knott's Berry Farm has
kept pace, expanding greatly over the past 30 years.
Launched in 1955, Disneyland became
the most popular destination attraction in California.
The orange groves and vineyards which covered Anaheim and
Buena Park disappeared, replaced by miles of asphalt,
hotels, convention centers and suburb after suburb,
including Westminster, home to many of the Vietnamese who
have settled in the county.
Orange County includes several spectacular
beaches, and these are covered on other on-line pages,
including Newport Beach.
That leaves the major attractions of Anaheim, Buena Park
and Yorba Linda: the secular urban theme parks
(Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm) the religious theme
park (Crystal Cathedral) and the political theme park,
the Richard Nixon Library and Museum.
What to See and Do
The church is an impressive building, seen
often on television and for real at 12141 Lewis Street in
Garden Grove, the suburb south of Anaheim. Dr. Robert
Schuller's glass monument is open daily for tours. Sunday
services are usually packed. Monday through Saturday
tours begin at 9:00 am with the final tour at 3:30 pm.
Nixon Library and Museum
With the death of Richard M. Nixon, the
library in Yorba Linda has received increased interest. A
15-minute drive from Anaheim, the nine acres of
beautifully landscaped grounds contain Nixon's boyhood
home (assembled from a Sears and Roebuck kit), galleries,
exhibits including interactive video displays and
gardens. You may even ask questions of the ghost of
Richard Nixon, which he answers through a video
unit&emdash;a fascinating but eerie experience indeed
Having undergone major expansion with the
addition of a second theme park, Disney's California
Adventure, Disneyland is located at 1313 S. Harbor Blvd.
in Anaheim, close to the Convention Center and the larger
hotels in the area. The Disneyland Hotel is across the
street from the theme park and is connected to Disneyland
by a monorail. Shuttle buses run between the hotels and
What can one say about Disneyland that
hasn't been seen on television a thousand times? A few
time-management tips are in order. Arriving at the
parking lot early in the morning will save you a lot of
time (waiting in lines). Long line-ups are the norm an
hour after the park opening. Many long-running and very
popular rides, including Space Mountain, the Peter Pan
Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean, have long lines most
days. There are more than 60 attractions in all, with
places to eat throughout the park. Adult single-day
tickets are in the $40 range with children (3 through 11)
charged slightly less. The park opens at 9 am and closes
at midnight during summer months, with opening at 10 am
and closing at 6 pm the rest of the year. For Disneyland
information, call 714-999-4565.
Other attractions include the Matterhorn
Bobsleds, Mickey's Toontown, Disney's Aladdin-a Musical
Spectacular, Small World, and a fascinating look at life
from a bug's view, plus the famous Electrical Parade at
night, and the Grizzly Bear Run.
The Downtown Disney shopping and
entertainment area offers great dining including at
Brennan's (new Orlens style). House of Blues, and the
Rainforest Cafe. Shoppingis a major activity here.
Admission to Downtown Disney is Free and this is a good
place to watch the nightly fireworks.
You can also shop and dine in Disney's
California Adventure -- the other theme park -- which
is often less crowded than the Disneyland side, and has
more attractions directed at adults including its own
very fine hotel -- the Grand Californian -- good
dining places, and shopping. There's another hotel here,
called Disney's Paradise Pier. A popular
attraction here is The Twilight Zone Tower of
Terror, which offers a tour through the bizzare
Hollywood Tower Hotel, and then a 13-floor freefall
elevator drop. Not for the very young or the faint of
Knott's Berry Farm
This amusement park is actually older than
Disneyland. Walter Knott's dream was to build an
attraction that would feature the history and lore of the
American West. Six themed areas provide glimpses into
Americana, including the Ghost Town, a tribute to the
pioneer era, and Fiesta Village&emdash;focussing on
America's Spanish heritage. Camp Snoopy is a six-acre fun
park for very young people. Wild Water Wilderness offers
water rides, including the Bigfoot Rapids raft ride.
There are several places to eat.
Knott's Berry Farm is less slick and
sanitized than Disneyland and, for me, this was a plus.
The pace is less frenetic and the lineups are shorter.
The historical focus is also a bonus for parents wishing
to combine a history lesson with their children's
Day tickets to the park are slightly less
than at Disneyland with children's tickets in the $15
area. Seniors also get a break. During the busy summer
months, the park opens at 9 am and closes at 11 pm
(midnight on Fridays and Saturdays). Call (714) 220-5220.
Eating with Entertainment
Two places where you can eat and enjoy an
evening's entertainment are Medieval Times Dinner and
Tournament, at 7662 Beach Blvd. just off the Hwy. 91
freeway in Buena Park, and The Curtain Call Dinner
Medieval Times is set in the 11th
century, with knights on horses re-creating tournament
games including jousting in a huge, 70,000-square-foot
Curtain Call Dinner Theatre serves
up nightly broadway musicals with waiter-served three
course dinners. Tickets start at $36.95. The dinner
theater is the winner of Best in OC by the Orange County
Register in 2005. It's located where the I-5 and 55