It’s almost a Canadian rite of passage: the family trip to Disneyland. Brace for impact, just like the waves that break over Huntington Beach, you’re in for a swell of fun. Mickey ears, princesses, mouthwatering churros and attractions - both high-tech and kitsch – are the stuff of Disney magic.

Disney may lead you to Orange County, but what to do with the rest of your visit? Simple: A-B-C, easy as 1-2-3.

A is for Anaheim

Anaheim Packing HouseAnaheim Packing House |  Jennifer Hubbert

Disney is located in Anaheim, so there’s a good chance you’re staying in close proximity. The question is, will you maximize time spent in the park by choosing accommodation in Downtown Disney? Or will you maximize value by lodging nearby?

Whichever option you choose, mom and dad will want to enjoy some unscheduled play of their own. Let that playground be the Anaheim Packing District. Located in downtown Anaheim, just 2.5 miles from Disney, this hip, pedestrian-friendly enclave is home to two craft breweries (kids and pups welcome), shops, a hidden speakeasy, and the Anaheim Packing House, a two-storey food hall stuffed with 20+ artisanal eateries. $10 meal options abound. 

crepe anaheim packing districtCrepe Coop | Jennifer Hubbert

Anaheim Packing District K2 dornut cronutK2 dornut from Pandor Bakery |  Jennifer Hubbert

Save room for a myriad of desserts that are as fun to look at as they are to eat. We suggest tackling the K2 Dornut (a croissant dough cronut) from Pandor Bakery and “smoking” like a dragon while munching on liquid nitro rice puffs from I Am.

 

B is for Buena Park

Knott's Berry Park, Buena Park Orange County© Sean Teegarden

There’s plenty of wholesome, old-timey fun to be mined in Buena Park.

Start your day at Knott’s Berry Farm. Explore Calico, the park’s clapboard ghost town, and then board the authentic, narrow-gauge train for a lap around the park. (Mind the bandits!) From here, tots and preteens can head to Camp Snoopy to meet the Peanuts gang, while thrill-seekers test their nerves on Supreme Scream, Xcelerator and Silver Bullet. Before you leave, try a Starbucks boysenberry Frappuccino. They’re a nod to the farm’s agricultural roots and are blended exclusively at Knott’s. 

Knott's Berry Park, Buena Park Orange County

If Knott’s Berry Farm and Disney are both on your itinerary, warm up at Knott’s. Cheaper, less hectic and boasting easier parking, it’s a good way to introduce your family to a big theme park.

Hot tip: Save up to $30 per person by purchasing tickets online. (Purchases can even be made same-day.)

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour RestaurantFarrell's | Jennifer HubbertFarrell's Ice Cream Parlour RestaurantFarrell's | Jennifer Hubbert

Buena Park’s nostalgic fun doesn’t stop at Knott’s. Take lunch at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurant, a proper, old-fashioned candy and ice cream shoppe. In the evening, marry dinner and raucous theatre at Pirate’s Dinner Adventure or Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. Your kids will never forget the night they ate with their hands.

 

C is for Costa Mesa

SegerstromThe Gruffalo

Does taking your young family to the theatre sound like a melodrama in the making? Not in Costa Mesa - City of the Arts™ - where performance art is B-Y-O-Brood. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is the beating heart of the city’s arts district and offers kid-focused programming. The 2017-2018 Family Series invites children 4-8 to attend a Discovery Series performance, while the Explorer Series entertains those 7 and older. From interactive storytelling to sing-alongs, shows are designed to be enjoyed as a family outing. Peruse the complete schedule at SCFTA.org.

 

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