Anaheim, the 10th largest city in California, is located southeast of downtown Los Angeles in the middle of Orange County. It's synonymous with Disneyland, which opened in 1955 on the site of a former orange grove and changed the city's profile forever. Disney's Magic Kingdom soon became the most-visited place in all of North America. It is continually expanding and updating its facilities. Disney's California Adventure debuted a US$1 billion renovation and expansion project in 2012. Together, the two Disney parks draw nearly 50 million visitors a year.
Still, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Anaheim. In the late 2000s, the city completed a US$5 billion investment anchoring Anaheim to Downtown Disney and The Shops at Anaheim GardenWalk shopping, dining and entertainment districts, as well as the Anaheim Convention Center. Investment in Anaheim has continued at a brisk pace. Knott's Berry Farm, a few miles/kilometers northwest in Buena Park, adds another dimension to the theme park motif.
Sports fans will also find favor in this city that is home to two notable professional sports teams: the MLB Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; and perhaps the quirkiest team in the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks.
Covering some 50 sq mi/130 sq km, Anaheim (the second most populous city in Orange County after Santa Ana), lies about 26 mi/42 km southeast of Los Angeles. It is bisected by Interstate 5 (the Santa Ana Freeway), which runs northwest-southeast and links Anaheim to Los Angeles and San Diego. Elongated east-west, Anaheim extends from prosperous Anaheim Hills (part of the Santa Ana Mountains) in the east to the city of Cypress in the west.
To the north side of I-5, the 19th-century downtown Colonial District is anchored by Pearson Park and forms the administrative center, with City Hall, the library and the Chamber of Commerce. The Anaheim Resort district (anchored by Disneyland, Anaheim GardenWalk and the Anaheim Convention Center) lies due south of I-5, with the ancillary Platinum District (anchored by Angel Stadium, the Honda Center and The Grove of Anaheim) to the east.
The city of Anaheim was founded in 1857 by Bavarian and German farmers, who established vineyards along the banks of the Santa Ana River. In the 1880s, a plague destroyed the vines, which were replaced by citrus orchards. Citrus soon came to dominate the local industry, leading to the name Orange County (established in 1889). The city of Anaheim was primarily an agricultural town until 1954, when pioneering Hollywood producer Walt Disney bought 160 acres/2 hectares of orange groves in order to build a fantasy theme park. Disneyland opened the following year and immediately established itself as the city's largest employer.
Anaheim's theme park history predates Disneyland, however. In 1934, Cornelia Knott established a fried-chicken restaurant on her husband's berry farm. Her boysenberry pies and jellies were a smash hit, and customers often waited in line. To keep them amused, Walter Knott built a Wild West Ghost Town. Additional themed attractions soon resulted in California's first theme park, known as Knott's Berry Farm.
The Disneyland resort area expanded rapidly in the 1990s with the backing of the city of Anaheim, which recognized the city's marketing value as a resort center. In 2001, Disney California Adventure opened. The Anaheim Walk of Fame opened in 2007 for the city's sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), along with The Muzeo, a major fine-art museum with a permanent collection and three rotating exhibits each year.
Anaheim spreads over 50 sq mi/130 sq km, so a bit of planning goes a long way when it comes to sightseeing. The most interesting sites are arranged in three regional groupings: Downtown Anaheim, Disney Resort to the south and the Platinum District. To save time and energy, group your sightseeing according to geography. For example, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Anaheim GardenWalk should naturally be done together—although Disneyland itself is so large that many visitors spend the entire day, or even a weekend or longer there.
Try to visit Disneyland and the other theme parks during midweek; avoid public holidays, when the parks can get crowded. Summer months are the busiest because of school holidays. During these times, delays for the most popular rides can be as long as one hour or more.
Anaheim offers dining options that span the globe. Many restaurants are family-focused, with the lion's share of options concentrated near Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center.
There's something for every taste, be it Chinese, Italian or Thai. Special theme restaurants abound, from Goofy's Kitchen to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where Knott's Berry Farm got its start.
Expect to pay within these general guidelines for a single dinner without tax, tip or drinks: $ = less than US$10; $$ = US$10-$20; $$$ = US$21-$30; $$$$ = more than US$30.
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