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7 days of family fun in Anaheim, California

A trip to Disneyland Resort in California is a rite of passage experience for Australian families, but there’s plenty more to do while you’re in the neighbourhood. It’s worth staying for a week and breaking up theme park visits with day tours, road trips and shopping and discovering Anaheim’s hidden gems!

How to spend seven days in Anaheim with kids

Mickey Mouse in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park in California. Image Joshua Sudock Disneyland Resort ©Disney
Mickey Mouse in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park in California. Image: Joshua Sudock Disneyland Resort ©Disney

Day one

Of course, the kids will be chomping at the bit to get to see Mickey and co., so devote the first day to Disneyland Park — the original theme park opened by Walt Disney in 1955. The 3-Day Park Hopper pass allows you to space your visits out over up to 14 days, so you have plenty of downtime between braving the thrill rides and seeing the spectacular shows. 

This is the quintessential Disney experience, with classic rides like the Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight and it’s a small world through to Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones Adventure and the immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land. You can also pose for photos outside Sleeping Beauty Castle and meet Disney princesses and other characters. 

It’s a big day, so if you have little ones it could be worth taking them back to your hotel for a nap before returning for the nighttime spectaculars, such as Fantasmic! or fireworks (on select nights).

Jurassic World The Ride
Jurassic World The Ride

Day two

Anaheim feels like a respite from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, yet this dynamic city is less than hour’s drive away. You can book a tour to see the Hollywood sign, stars honouring celebrities on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and drive past the homes of actors such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Cameron Diaz and Johnny Depp. 

See the Friends Central Perk and The Big Bang Theory sets and discover the DC Universe on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, or brave the Transformers, Jurassic World and King Kong rides at Universal Studios Hollywood, where you can also see where blockbuster movies such as Jaws were filmed and explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure Park. Image Christian Thompson Disneyland Resort. ©Disney
Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure Park. Image: Christian Thompson Disneyland Resort. ©Disney

Day three

Enjoy a full day of fun at Disney California Adventure Park, which opened next to the original park in 2001. This is where you’ll find rides such as Toy Story Midway Mania! and The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, as well as Pixar Pier, Cars Land and the Marvel Avengers Campus, which is home to rides such as Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

Make sure you stick around for the World of Color nighttime spectacular, which celebrates movies like The Lion King, Moana and Star Wars with fountains, fire, lights and laser beams.

A family walking through the Packing House District in Anaheim
A family walking through the Packing House District in Anaheim

Day four

Spend today in Anaheim, including a visit to the Anaheim Packing House, which is located in a restored fruit-packing building built in 1919. There are more than 30 vendors in Orange County’s original food hall, with offerings ranging from soul food at Georgia’s Kitchen and Mexican at Tacos El Gringo to gelato on a stick at Popbar, frozen treats at Hans’ Homemade ice-cream and craft beer at Unsung Brewing Company.

You can also enjoy a quintessential American experience – seeing the Angels baseball team or Anaheim Ducks ice-hockey team competing live on their home turf. Plus, head to California’s first theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm, which offers both big theme park thrills on attractions such as the iconic Ghostrider through to family-friendly favourites at Camp Snoopy.

Or with many Anaheim hotels boasting pools, water parks and games rooms, you may want to have a relaxing day chilling out at your accommodation and regrouping.

Kids can learn to drive at LEGOLAND California
Kids can learn to drive at LEGOLAND California

Day five

It’s time to hit the road! Jump on Highway 1, which hugs the coast, and check out some of California’s gorgeous stretches of sand, including Huntington Beach (also known as Surf City USA), Newport Beach (where TV drama The OC is set) and Laguna Beach (made famous by another small screen series of the same name).

If driving on the right hand side of the road isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy the views from the comfort of the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train ride, which takes you south from Anaheim to Carlsbad or San Diego, where you can visit LEGOLAND California, San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego.

The Magic Happens Parade at Disneyland Park. Image Joshua Sudock Disneyland Resort ©Disney
The Magic Happens Parade at Disneyland Park. Image: Joshua Sudock Disneyland Resort ©Disney

Day six

After a couple of day’s break, head back to Disneyland, using your 3-Day Park Hopper Pass to tick off any rides and attractions you missed the first-time round – and go on those you really loved again!

Your third day at Disneyland Resort in California is often the most relaxed, so also allows more time to check out the Downtown Disney District. After purchasing some souvenirs in the LEGO Store or Star Wars Trading Post, take in the tunes at Jazz Kitchen Coastal Grill & Patio, try New Orleans-style pastries at Beignets Express or colourful milkshakes at the CrazyShake window at Black Tap Craft Burgers and Shakes.

A family shopping in Anaheim. Image Visit Anaheim
A family shopping in Anaheim. Image: Visit Anaheim

Day seven

Anaheim is brimming with shopping centres – known as malls in the US – where you can grab a bargain (or two) before flying home. Peruse the stores at The Outlets at Orange, Anaheim GardenWalk and South Coast Plaza.

If you are on the redeye back to Australia, you can also book the Shop Until You Drop Off… At LAX day tour of Citadel Outlets, which includes complimentary luggage storage, all-day access to the centre’s VIP lounge with Wi-Fi, snacks and drinks and a US$20 gift voucher for adults and US$10 for kids aged three to nine, plus a transfer to the airport when you’re done.

Plan your Anaheim family holiday

united airlines

How to get there

Qantas, Virgin Australia, United, Delta and American Airlines are among the airlines that fly from Australia to Los Angeles International Airport. If you’d rather avoid LAX, fly via Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines to Long Beach Airport, which is around 25 minutes’ drive from Anaheim. Book an airport shuttle with Karmel Shuttle in advance to get to your accommodation.

Palm trees in Anaheim Image Visit Anaheim

Best time to visit

Anaheim’s moderate climate makes it a great year-round destination. It is generally less crowded in spring and autumn than in the warmer months over summer. Travelling during a festive celebration such as Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas can be an even more magical time to visit the theme parks, with a range of special shows, colourful decorations and fairy lights.

Waterslide fun at Great Wolf Lodge
Waterslide fun at Great Wolf Lodge

Where to stay

Anaheim offers a range of accommodation options – many within walking distance to Disneyland. Anaheim accommodation is also generally more affordable than many other Southern California destinations, with larger rooms that feel like a home away from home for longer stays. Many hotels have family rooms and suites, some have pools and water parks, and there are options to suit all budgets.

Some great Anaheim family accommodation options include: 

More information

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