Where to Eat, Drink and Shop in Anaheim
Great shopping, fabulous food and culture, and it's all just 40 minutes from LA
Though he’s pretty fabulous, there’s definitely more to Anaheim than Mickey Mouse and his friends.
The Southern Californian city has plenty to offer the adults too, with sophisticated places to wine and dine, opportunities to take in an all-American sporting experience, great beaches, galleries and festivals and, best of all, access to some of the top outlet malls in the state.
If you’re in a rental car, Anaheim is an easy 40-minute drive from Los Angeles Airport (LAX); if not, there are some great shuttle and public transport options. Here’s what you need to know.
Eating and Drinking
One of your first ports of call should be the fantastic Anaheim Packing District and its historic Packing House, a former citrus packhouse built in 1919. Here you’ll find a brilliant food hall with plenty of communal dining options and cool bars.
At BXCR Wine Bar, you can sit in a 1920s train carriage and try artisanal wines from California and beyond; while The Blind Rabbit is an on-theme speakeasy, with a 90-minute time limit, accessed via a secret door hidden behind a wall of Japanese kegs. Pulling on a small statuette of a rabbit opens the door.
Think an authentic 1920s-30s vibe, with an innovative menu, excellent spirits list and fun handcrafted cocktails, such as Shiver Me Cucumbers (vodka, elderflower, lime, cucumber, soda water) and Sucking the Monkey (coconut and spiced rum, young coconut water, lime, pineapple, orange flower water), which are sometimes set ablaze by the bartenders, creating sparks and flames.
Outside the Packing House is Farmers’ Park where you can take part in yoga classes or learn how to create a butterfly garden — all free. In the adjacent Packard Building, pop into the Anaheim Brewery, a “revived pre-Prohibition brewery” with a tasting room and large beer garden overlooking the park. Drink a brew while watching some yoga.
Also worth a look is the Anaheim GardenWalk, an outdoor dining, shopping and entertainment precinct near Disneyland. It’s home to legendary music venue House of Blues Anaheim and has four different entertainment areas.
House of Blues throughout the US has hosted the likes of John Lee Hooker, Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros, the Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Janelle Monae over the years.
The GardenWalk is also home to bigger restaurant chains, including Johnny Rockets, California Pizza Kitchen, Roy’s Restaurant, P.F. Chang’s, The Cheesecake Factory and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
Go to a Game
Even if you have little idea of what’s going on, it’s fun to go to an all-American sports game. Local baseball team the Los Angeles Angels play regularly at Angel Stadium, and tickets are cheap and easy to get. In the cooler months (SoCal winters are very mild), head along to the Honda Center to see the Anaheim Ducks play ice hockey.
Make time to see Orange County’s stretch of golden beaches to Anaheim’s southwest, starting with Huntington Beach, about a 30-minute drive, and reaching down to Newport, Laguna and San Clemente.
At Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach, also a half-hour from Anaheim, stop by Ruby’s Shake Shack on the beach for an authentic diner experience.
Laguna Beach is an artistic community brimming with plein air painters who love its unique quality of light.
The summertime Pageant of the Masters is an outdoor event held in July and August that brings faithful recreations of classic and contemporary works of art to life using real people as the subjects during a 90-minute show featuring music from a professional orchestra; while the Sawdust Art Festival from June to the end of August sees more than 200 artists exhibit and sell original art and handcrafted items in Laguna Canyon.
Other attractions at the festival are live entertainment, art workshops, and food and drink stalls. Laguna Beach is home to some of the county’s nicest hotels, including a Ritz-Carlton, Montage Laguna Beach and the Monarch Beach Resort.
Set aside a day or two for a visit to historic Catalina Island, a very special place indeed. This mountainous desert island, an hour-long ferry ride from San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Pt, was once owned by chewing gum king William Wrigley jnr, who bought a controlling stake in it in 1919.
He built the island’s famous and fabulous art deco Catalina Casino — an entertainment venue, not a gambling house — in 1929, which attracted many Hollywood stars to its shores, including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe (actress Natalie Wood drowned off its coast in 1981).
The island’s charming Mediterranean-style township of Avalon is awash with souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants, and further inland you might get a glimpse of one of the buffalo that roam its hills, after being left there following a movie shoot for the silent film version of Zane Grey’s novel The Vanishing American, in 1924.
Catalina has plenty to offer more adventurous travellers too, with zip-line eco tours during the day and at night. There are five to choose from, all starting high above Avalon at 90 metres over the Descanso Canyon, reaching speeds of up to 70km/h, stopping at eco-stations along the way to learn about the island and its wildlife and history.
Outlet mall shopping could actually be considered a sport in the US — you need stamina, focus and determination to get the best deals and last the distance.
South Coast Plaza, 20 minutes south of Anaheim at Costa Mesa, is the largest mall on the West Coast of the US. This is retail heaven with everything from Balenciaga to Baby Gap, from Sephora to Stella McCartney.
Meanwhile, Citadel Outlets is situated between LAX and Anaheim. Here you’ll find more than 130 stores discounting wares from a variety of top fashion names. If you don’t have your own car, Karmel Shuttle offers a couple of packages to the outlet, including “Shop Until You Drop Off at LAX”.
The shuttle will collect you from your hotel and deliver you to the mall’s luxurious VIP Lounge, where you can store your suitcases while you shop. Then, when you’re done and your bags are repacked, Karmel will drop you at the airport.
Ten minutes south of Disneyland are The Outlets at Orange, which you can also get to on the local public transport system, Anaheim Resort Transit (ART).
There are more than 120 stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, restaurants and cafes, plus an indoor Vans SkatePark, Dave & Buster’s, Lucky Strike Bowling, Burke Williams Day Spa and a huge AMC 30 movie theatre with IMAX.
If outlet malls don’t appeal, there are plenty of other options. Anaheim’s Center Street Promenade has revived the downtown area by offering a more boutique experience — think unique stores and funky eateries.
At Newport Beach is Fashion Island, a high-end shopping centre featuring the likes of Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Kate Spade and Jonathan Adler.
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• To find out more, go to Visitanaheim.org