Although the reason you're in Anaheim, California, is probably to visit the city's most popular attraction, Disneyland, there's more to do in this town than exploring the famous theme park.
While most of Los Angeles' main attractions are up to two hours away, there's plenty to do close by that will entertain the whole family. From performances at the House of Blues Anaheim to interactive exhibits at the Pretend City children's museum, you're sure to find something to enjoy without wandering too far from Disneyland.
The House of Blues in Anaheim moved from Downtown Disney to the nearby GardenWalk in 2017. The newer venue has four different live music rooms that each offer a different New Orleans-style dining and music listening experience.
From acoustic to rock and roll, you'll catch plenty of performances year-round at this popular venue. If you're in town for the weekend, stop by their signature Sunday morning Gospel Brunch for a real treat—both musically and in terms of flavor.
The Flight Deck 1 Air Combat Center is an authentic military flight simulation facility where you and your family can test their skills on the same equipment used to train fighter pilots. Open to the public but with a minimum age of 11 (or height of 41 inches), Flight Deck 1 isn't an attraction for all ages, but everyone who tries it out remarks that it's a truly unique experience for kids and adults alike.
The Los Angeles Angels are one of the city's two Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, and baseball fan can take in a game of this American League team at Angels Stadium in Anaheim during the regular season from late March through early October each year.
However, even if there's no game going on, you can take a souvenir photo with the giant Angels baseball caps that flank the entrance. Angel Stadium also offers public tours on specific dates and hosts special events throughout the regular season including family days, fireworks nights, and military appreciation games.
The Great Wolf Lodge California is an indoor waterpark resort just a few miles down Harbor Boulevard from Disneyland. However, the waterpark is only available to resort guests, so you have to stay here to play here. Fortunately, its convenient location near Disneyland makes it a great place to stay if you plan to visit both.
Rated as one of the biggest water parks in the world, the Great Wolf Lodge California features a lazy river, wave pool, water slides and a variety of signature attractions like the Howlin' Tornado, River Canyon Run, the Wolf Trail, and the Wolf Rider Wipeout, a surf-pond for boogie boarding.
While the Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center doesn't have a permanent collection, it does host a wide variety of traveling cultural exhibits throughout the year.
On the smaller side, this quaint museum is easy to see in just over an hour. Recent exhibits have covered everything from America's buffalo soldiers to the local history of the city of Anaheim. Other exhibits include "I am an America," which features artifacts, photographs, news clippings, and various other relics from Japanese incarceration in the United States during and after World War II.
Shop in Old Towne Orange Historic District
Old Towne Orange Historic District is a cluster of quaint antique shops and old-time diners and soda fountains centered around a traffic roundabout at the intersection of Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street.
It's a cool place to browse around, especially for people interested in antiques or historic home restoration. Many of the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the unique boutique shops feature artisanal crafts and local goods that are perfect souvenirs to commemorate your trip.
Located in nearby Santa Ana, Bowers Museum hosts internationally renowned traveling exhibits alongside permanent exhibits that include one of the best California Indian collections in Southern California.
The museum's exhibitions mostly cover culture and anthropology from around the world, but you'll occasionally find contemporary art galleries here as well. Bowers Museum also hosts elegant dinners, holiday gatherings, and other special events throughout the year, so be sure to check out the event's calendar on the official website when you're planning your trip.
Discovery Cube Orange County, also known as The Cube, is the OC's premier science museum. Located southeast of Anaheim in Santa Ana, this 10-story solar cube is a fun museum to explore with the kids. It offers over 100 interactive exhibits such as the Boeing Rocket Lab and a hands-on exhibit about hockey where kids can ride a Zamboni or play goalie.
Featuring special events geared toward kids throughout the year, there's no better place in the area to learn about the world while having a blast with your kids. During the summer, you can even send your kids to Summer Camps at the Cube, also known as Camp Discovery, where they'll have animal adventures, learn about space exploration, and engage in coding challenges for computer science.
The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, also known as the "The Muck," is housed in a 1920s Spanish Revival-style mansion surrounded by lush gardens in Fullerton, California.
In addition to traditional works of art shown in gallery exhibits, The Muck also hosts musical performances, festivals, and special events throughout the year. Be sure to sign up for Family Art Nights each season and check out the official website for gallery opening receptions and performance schedules before you go.
Even if you're not on a Disneyland budget, you can still have a little amusement park fun on a smaller scale at kid-friendly Adventure City. Here, a family of four can enjoy the park's rides and shows all day for about the same price as one major theme park ticket.
In addition to plenty of roller coasters and other rides, Adventure City also has a petting zoo, a rock-climbing wall, and children's theater. While it may not be able to compete with Disneyland in terms of size and features, you'll still have plenty to do with your family at this small amusement park.
For a unique experience in Orange County, you can head to one of several escape room attractions in the area. These unique spaces give teams of people a specific amount of time (usually an hour) to solve a problem using clues, deciphering codes, and unraveling puzzles in an interactive environment.
The end goal may be to escape the room—from a locked hotel room to a den of zombies—or it may be to solve a murder mystery, track down an ancient artifact, disable a bomb, or rescue a kidnapped starlet.
Orange County is home to a few different escape rooms, but PuzzleMazement, right next to Adventure City in Anaheim, has multiple experiences, ranging from a creepy three-story dollhouse to a family-friendly Christmas-themed mystery game.
If you're in the mood for more theme park thrills, you can head down the road to Knott's Berry Farm in nearby Buena Park. Knott's has a nice combination of thrill rides and attractions as well as shows for younger kids.
Pirate's Dinner Adventure is a live-action musical dinner theatre production with lots of acrobatics and sword fights as well as delectable pirate-themed dinner options.
The show is kid-friendly and extremely interactive. Several kids and adults alike are chosen to assist in the pirate expedition, and the entire audience cheers or boos for your assigned pirate teams. Pirate attire is encouraged, and there's plenty for sale in multiple gift shops on site.
The action takes place on a pirate ship center stage surrounded by tiered seating, which offers multiple views of the production. Reserve a table early to get the best seats. The center sides have the best view since some of the areas closer to the ends are behind rope ladders that partially block the show.
Southern California's oldest courthouse, the Old Courthouse Museum, was built in Santa Ana in 1901. This California Historical Landmark has been expertly preserved to look the same as it did at the turn of the century but also features modern exhibitions of art and other artifacts, all related to Orange County's history.
The courthouse is open to the public for free on Mondays through Fridays throughout the year but closes for all county and federal holidays.
Housed in a former salad oil manufacturing facility in Tustin, the Marconi Automotive Museum celebrates historic, exotic, and classic cars as well as race cars from around the world. Opened in 1994 to showcase the founder Dick Marconi's extensive auto collection, the permanent collection at the museum includes a large collection of Italian sports cars and American muscle cars.
The Marconi Automotive Museum is open for self-guided tours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on days when it's not hosting a special event. A portion of proceeds from museum admissions benefits children's charities in Orange County.
The Nixon Library and Museum is located at the former president's 1910 birthplace on a nine-acre estate in Yorba Linda, northeast of Anaheim.
In addition to the original home, the museum includes 22 high-tech galleries about the life and times of the 37th president Richard Nixon as well as grounds featuring the First Lady's Rose Garden and the Rose Woods Walk, which provide several gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
South Coast Plaza outranks Rodeo Drive for the number of high-end designer shops on its multi-block campus, and its swanky retailers are a stop on many Asian bus tours of Southern California.
In addition to 250 shops, there are 30 restaurants to refresh you, and if you don't have time to shop for yourself, you can even take advantage of their personal shopper service while you eat. If you do feel like shopping, though, you can spend hours at boutique, designer, luxury, and name-brand shops like Alexander McQueen, Ann Taylor, Dior, Diesel, Saint Laurent, and Tiffany & Co.
After shopping and dining at South Coast Plaza, head across the street to watch a show and rest your feet at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (SCA). Previously known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center, this space includes multiple venues that host concerts, Broadway shows, ballet recitals, and national children's performers, among others.
Check out the official website for all the latest shows and performances, including free activities on the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza attached to the main building of the SCA.
For fans of flea markets, swap meets, and bargains, the Orange County Marketplace is a shopper's paradise with more than 1,500 vendors selling new and used items—from clothing and shoes to furniture, antiques, and even prefab houses.
The swap meet takes place each Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa. The Orange County Marketplace also hosts various holiday celebrations and concert series throughout the year, including the e Orange County Fair each July.
Pretend City is a unique children's museum in Irvine that is set up as a Southern California beach town. Here, kids can let their imaginations run wild as they assume the role of workers across the lifelike Pretend City.
Activities in Pretend City include shopping at the grocery store, painting in the art gallery, pumping gas at the gas station, taking care of patients at the clinic or emergency center, or just relaxing in one of the kid-sized homes—everything you'd find in a real city for adults.