Anaheim for Families

More to discover beyond the Happiest Place on Earth

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “Anaheim, California”? For most people, the “happiest place on Earth” is top-of-mind, and for good reason.

My husband Vic, daughter Bailey, and I were in Anaheim recently and spent a day at Disneyland® Park. We spun ourselves dizzy on the Astro Orbitor, found Nemo on a submarine voyage, and practiced our pirate voices on The Pirates of the Caribbean.

As we headed back to the car, bedecked in the classic Mickey Mouse ears, Bailey asked what we were doing the next day.

Disney has put Anaheim on the map for many families, but there is so much more to the city than the theme park, and, as we were to discover, plenty to keep a young family engaged.

Stoked on skateboarding

Taking the advice of a local at our hotel, we headed out to Vans Skate Park the next morning. This is one of those hidden gems that most locals seem to know about, but visitors rarely discover. Vans Skate Park is at The Outlets at Orange (shopping, anyone?) and has more than 20,000 feet of courses, indoor and outdoor, for skaters of all levels.

Bailey had her own board, but affordable rentals and lessons were also available. As a relative newbie to skateboarding, she stuck to the warm-up course, which is an area specifically designed as a less-intimidating course for beginners. My daredevil daughter was soon whizzing down ramps (or sliding on her backside), with a huge grin on her face.


There is something here for every taste, but my favorite was the delicious tikka masala from Adya. Vic and Bailey (with distinct sweet-tooths), gaped in awe at the array of artisan cronuts (a croissant- doughnut hybrid), bubble teas with cotton candy toppings, and ice creams. Vic promised he would share when he saw me eyeing the gigantic cronut he had bought!

Regional park magic

With stomachs full of amazing food, it was tempting to find somewhere to take a nap, but we decided we could use a bit of exercise to work it off. Our next stop was Yorba Regional Park, a mile-long sliver of well-kept land south of La Palma and North of the 91 freeway.

The park is an oasis in the middle of the city. It features an array of play areas and trails for hiking or biking, along with kayak and paddle board rentals. We opted for a brisk walk, followed by a paddle in kayaks, all the while appreciating the lush, green surroundings.

Upon returning our kayaks, Vic chatted with the attendant and discovered that one of the park’s “Sunset Cinema” evenings was about to start. We took the opportunity to stay for this free event. Vic ducked out to grab us a picnic dinner, and we settled in for a kid-friendly screening. It was a relaxing end to the day in a beautiful setting.

Circus lessons

The following morning, we had something really special planned. We’d heard of SwingIt Trapeze before our trip and had booked ahead for a Flying Trapeze lesson. I’d dreamed about joining the circus as a kid, so it was a childhood dream come true to get the chance to soar through the air.

SwingIt caters to all ages and abilities, which immediately put us at ease. Our instructors challenged us, but didn’t push us to try anything we weren’t comfortable with.

Bailey was slightly nervous at the height, but Hal, the instructor, was patient with her. My daughter was soon swinging, and even managed to progress on to catches. She came down euphoric.

Disney was amazing, but we loved discovering how much more the city has to offer beyond the legendary theme parks. Now when I think of Anaheim, I think parks, artisan culture, good food, kid’s activities, and, of course, Disney.

“Let’s come back,” Bailey said enthusiastically. You can bet we will.

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