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Anaheim & Orange County - California

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Orange County Attractions

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

Crystal Cathedral

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 (714-993-5075).

Disneyland

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 Disneyland.

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 heart.

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 entertainment.

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 Theatre.

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 castle.

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 freeways cross.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

Reserve hotel rooms in Anaheim

To search hotels, cruises,
and vacation packages around the world,

go to the Hotel Guide

For lodging in Newport Beach and Balboa,
go to the
Newport Beach page.

Camping

The Anaheim KOA is found at 1221 S. West St., (714) 533-7720. It has all the standard KOA amenities with 221 spaces, full hookups and store.

CCC Camperland, at 12262 Harbor Blvd. in Garden Grove (714) 750-6747, has RV sites with hookups and tent sites, a heated pool, store, dump station and transit service.

© 1997/2005 - Fraser Bridges


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