Highlights From My Trip to Anaheim, California

Me and MickeyWhen you think Anaheim, your first thought is probably Disney and that’s sorta what brought me there. A work conference. At the most magical place on earth 😉 The last time I was in Disneyland, I was still a teenager and Disney had taken a more important role in my life since. I worked at the store on Champs Elysees during summer offs from college and I worked in the offices at Disneyland Paris right after graduation. So I was pretty stoked to be reunited with my old boss Mickey even if I didn’t have a ton of time for non work-related activities.

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO ANAHEIM?

To this tune… work work work work work work! The trade association I worked for was hosting its annual conference at the Disneyland Hotel so I got to spend a few days there, mostly locked up in the hotel hosting luncheons, workshops and meetings. 

HOW I GOT THERE

I could have flown to SNA, closer to Anaheim, but opted for a direct flight to Los Angeles International instead. My friend Lindsay picked me up and I spent one night with her in Santa Monica. She dropped me back off at LAX the next morning, and I caught the magical Disneyland Resort Express bus from there to the parks. The shuttle departs every hour from LAX and only sets you back $48 round trip, which is nothing compared to what a taxi would cost for the 35+ miles trip. 

Taking the bus to Disneyland

 

WHERE I STAYED

Since I spent a LOT of time inside the hotel, it’s a good thing we stayed in a really nice one, the Disneyland Hotel.  If you’re looking to do Disney on the cheap, this isn’t going to be the place. The rooms are pricey, buy hey, I wasn’t picking up the tab 😉

disneyland-hotel

Here’s a couple of things I loved about the hotel: it’s within a quick walk to Downtown Disney District (perfect spot to grab a bite, a drink or do a little Disney shopping after work-hours!) and both the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks. The hotel is also considered the original Disneyland Hotel (not the flagship one, that would be Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa next door) and is full of Disney-history. There’s a strong Mickey Mouse motif throughout the rooms, with Mickey accents and details here and there, though my favourite “disney” touch was the “goodnight kiss,” where “when you wish upon a star” star playing along with fireworks in your headboard when you turn off a switch.

Disneyland headboard

The hotel also has a really nice pool (not that I ever went) and boasts one of the only decent bars in all of Disney, the legendary Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. I would have spent a lot more time there, except after a long day of work everyone had the same idea and the last thing I wanted was to hang out with colleagues and other conference attendees 😉 

Tiki Drinks at Trader Sams

 

BEST THING I ATE

So, let’s be honest, people don’t come to Disney for the food. To be fair, there are a few decent meals to be had around the resort. As I mentioned earlier, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar makes a mean cocktail. There’s also Napa Rose, Disneyland Resort’s flagship restaurant, located at the Grand Californian. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to squeeze in a meal there…. I did have an unexpectedly decent meal at the UVA bar, right in the middle of Downtown Disney District. I had gotten up super early that morning and I’d been indoors in the air conditioning all day. I had an hour window to relax before a diner organized by one of my colleagues. I knew the food would be bland at best (hello conference chicken my old friend!) if I even got to sit down long enough to eat any of it so I took a chance on UVA’s chorizo burger with UVA fries and a glass of rosé that surprisingly was one of my better meals at Disney.

UVA Burger

I also loved the beignets at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. But when I got a little bit of free time, I hopped in a Lyft (I was able to activate a $50 Promo Code at LAX since I was a new user) and explored Anaheim beyond Disney a little bit. I had a lovely breakfast one morning (when work started a bit later) at Ink & Bean’s Coffee Saloon and Wordshop and an equally lovely lunch at the Anaheim Packing District, a food hall a bit like our Union Market, with an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants inside a two-story renovated Sunkist packing house from 1919.

Anaheim Packing district

I had a great meal there, a lemongrass beef bun at Sawleaf Vietnamese café, though I was really tempted to get the poutine at Kroft too! I also would have loved to check out the Anaheim Brewery right around the corner, but somehow it wasn’t open at 11AM on a weekday… 

Fireworks at disneyland

BEST FREE ACTIVITY

Hum… Disney and free don’t really go hand in hand 😉 However, if you’re staying at one of the hotels near the parks like I was, you can experience the fireworks from the Esplanade between the Disney California Adventure and the Disneyland parks. You don’t get to hear the music or have the stunning cinderella castle as a backdrop, but it won’t cost you the $97 admission to the park.  

 

BEST SPLURGE ACTIVITY

My best splurge was definitely going into the California Adventure park for an evening and seeing the World of Color nighttime show (you can see it here on YouTube too). Having been in Las Vegas the summer before (also for work) it made the Bellagio’s fountains look like amateur hour… The park opened in 2001 so I had never been, though I had done some of its ride like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (which is closing soon at Disneyland!!) at Disneyworld in Florida.

Me at Disney's California Adventure

A smaller splurge was this $25.99 Disneyland 60th Diamond Anniversary Minnie Mouse Headband with Ears that allowed me to fit right in and pretend I was on vacation too! I mean, EVERYONE is wearing some kind of Mickey or Minnie ear accessory on their head, it’s not something I had ever seen at Disneyland Paris when I worked then (doesn’t strike me as something the French would be into, even today!) Also, using Lyft to get outside of the resort on occasions was also totally worth the (small) splurge.

 

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO ANAHEIM

Well, obviously that all depends if you’re there with kids or grown ups, for work or for fun. If you can, definitely stay at one of the two hotels on the Disneyland Resort. Not only are they beautifully designed, but you’ll save a lot of time on transportation if you’re headed to the parks. Also, they offer a special extra hour to patrons where you get to go to the park a whole hour before everyone else. The parks get so crowded, it’s totally worth it! Buy some Mickey and Minnie ears and embrace the whole Disney thing, they have some for everyone, including some really cool star wars stuff now that Disney owns the franchise. And if you’re not going to the parks, or want a break from them, there are lots of other things to do in Anaheim. If you’re into sports, Anaheim is home to two teams: the Mighty Ducks hockey team and the Angels baseball team. See a game if you can! There’s also the Anaheim Packing District for food, a couple of breweries, a museum (the Muzeo) . And if you didn’t rent a car, don’t let that deter you from getting around with Lyft or Uber! 

Have you been to Anaheim for work and/or fun? What was that like for you?

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