If you're planning to be in Anaheim, California, you're probably visiting Disneyland. But there's more to do in this town than just the Mouse. While most of Los Angeles's main attractions are up to two hours away, there's plenty to do close by that will entertain the whole family. Here's our list of our 20 favorite things to do near Disneyland.
Go See a Show at House of Blues Anaheim
The House of Blues in Anaheim moved from Downtown Disney to the nearby GardenWalk in 2017. The new 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 and their signature Sunday morning Gospel Brunch.
Test Your Skills at a Flight Simulator
The Flight Deck Air Combat Center is an authentic military flight simulation center where you can test your skills on the same equipment that fighter pilots use to train. It is open to the public, with a minimum age of 11 and minimum height of 41" tall. The center is also available for group events.
Watch a Baseball Game at Angel Stadium
Baseball fans can take in a game at Angels Stadium in Anaheim. 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.
Play in the Water at Great Wolf Lodge
Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park resort is just a few miles down Harbor Boulevard from Disneyland. The water park is only available to resort guests, so you have to stay to play, but the convenience to the park (and added activity for the kids!) makes it worth it.
Check out the Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center
Muzeo in Anaheim doesn't have a permanent collection, but hosts various traveling cultural exhibits. It's a smallish museum, so most exhibits can be covered in an hour or so. Recent exhibits have covered everything from the history and commemoration of America's buffalo soldiers to the local history of Anaheim.
Shop in Old Towne Orange Historic District
Old Towne Orange 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 in the city of Orange, Calif. 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.
Visit the Bowers Museum
Santa Ana's Bowers Museum in Santa Ana hosts internationally renowned traveling exhibits, as well as having excellent permanent exhibits, including one of the best California Indian collections in Southern California. The museum's exhibitions mostly cover culture and anthropology from around the world.
Get Hands-on With Science
Discovery Cube OC, also known as The Cube, for its giant 10 story solar cube, is Orange County's science museum, located in Santa Ana, southeast of Anaheim. It's a fun museum to explore with the kids, having over 100 interactive science exhibits, such as the Boeing Rocket Lab, and a hands-on exhibit about hockey, where kids can ride a Zamboni or play goalie.
Explore the Muckenthaler Cultural Center
The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, also known as the "The Muck," is housed in a 1920s Spanish Revival-style mansion in Fullerton. In addition to traditional works of art show in gallery exhibits, The Muck also hosts musical performances, festivals and special events. Beyond the current exhibits, the mansion and gardens themselves are beautiful to explore.
Visit a Smaller Amusement Park
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. 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 the plenty of roller-coasters and other rides, Adventure City also has a petting zoo, a rock-climbing wall, and children's theater.
Escape From a Locked Room in Orange County
An escape room attraction gives a team of people a specific amount of time (usually an hour) to solve a problem using clues, deciphering codes and unraveling puzzles. 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. Are you up for the challenge? 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 doll house to a family-friendly Christmas-themed mystery game.
Visit Knott's Berry Farm and Soak City
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 and shows for younger kids. In October, they offer the Halloween-themed Knott's Scary Farm and November into New Year's weekend Knott's Merry Farm. They also operate Knott's Soak City during the summer months.
Eat Dinner on a Pirate Ship
Pirates Dinner Adventure is a live action musical theatre production with lots of acrobatics and sword fights. The show is very kid-friendly and is extremely interactive, with lots of volunteer kids and adults chosen to assist in the pirate expedition and the entire audience cheering and booing for your assigned pirate. Pirate attire is encouraged and if you don't have your own, there's plenty for sale in multiple gift shops. The action takes place on a pirate ship center stage surrounded by tiered seating, some with bench seats, some with chairs. The center sides have the best view, as some of the areas closer to the end are behind rope ladders and you see the whole show through a grid of rope.
Explore Orange County's Old Courthouse Museum
Southern California's oldest courthouse, the Old Courthouse Museum in Santa Ana, was built 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.
See Some of the World's Coolest Cars at Marconi Automotive Museum
Tustin's Marconi Automotive Museum celebrates historic, exotic and classic cars, as well as race cars including a large collection of Italian sports cars and American muscle cars. Housed in a former salad-oil manufacturing facility, the museum opened in 1994 to showcase founder Dick Marconi's extensive auto collection. Today, proceed from museum admissions benefit children's charities in Orange County.
Learn About President Nixon
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. The grounds include the First Lady's Rose Garden and the Rose Woods Walk.
Shop for Designer Duds at South Coast Plaza
South Coast Plaza outranks Rodeo Drive for the number of high end designer shops on its multi-block campus. Its swank retailers are a stop on many Asian bus tours of Southern California. In addition to 250 shops, there are 30 restaurants to refresh you. Don't have time to shop yourself? You can even take advantage of their personal shopper service.
See a Performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Located just across the street from South Coast Plaza, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, previously known as the Orange County Performing Arts Center, includes multiple performance venues offering concerts, Broadway shows, ballet, national children's performers and more. After shopping and dining at South Coast Plaza, head across the street to watch a show and rest your feet.
Shop for Antiques and More at the Orange County Marketplace
For fans of flea markets, swap meets and bargains, the Orange County Marketplace is shopper's paradise with more than 1,500 venders 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. In July, you'll find the Orange County Fair at the same location.
Let Kids Work Their Imagination at the Pretend City Children's Museum
Pretend City is a unique children's museum in Irvine that is set up as a Southern California beach town. Kids can shop at the grocery store, build in a construction zone, make art at the art gallery, man the gas station, clinic or emergency center, work at the post office or city hall, or just hang out at "home." If you want to avoid the crowds, try to go on a weekday.