photo of Anaheim

Sunset in Anaheim, California. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Anaheim

Anaheim, including surrounding Orange County, is a dream destination for families. Dubbed Southern California's playground ever since Disneyland opened more than 50 years ago, the region combines top theme parks with 42 miles of windblown coast.

The classic California experience includes time on a long-board beach. Watch the experts catch waves at Surf City, aka Huntington Beach. Non-surfers can build sandcastles, fish from the pier, and bike the eight-mile trail along the Pacific coastline. Laguna's Main Beach, a stretch of white sand in the heart of town, offers prime sunbathing and swimming. Dana Point has great tidepools to explore.

Ship out from Dana Point's Ocean Institute, an educational center open to the public on weekends, for a fun-filled day at sea. In summer, cruise out into the Pacific to search for blue whales near Catalina Island, and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins year-round.

Along with its coastal delights, Anaheim is a theme-park paradise, with Disneyland being the grand dame. Little ones love swirling on the Mad Tea Party ride, watching the Henson Muppets 3-D show, and meeting Cinderella and Snow White. Gradeschoolers will make a beeline for Space Mountain, and the whole family will enjoy the restaurants, shops, and music at the Downtown Disney District. Disney's California Adventure Park, a 55-acre park adjacent to the original, celebrates the heritage and glory of the Golden State. Four themed lands recreate California's history in rides and entertainment, with favorites including Grizzly River Run, a whitewater-rafting ride, and Soarin' Over California, a film that delivers the sensation of gliding over the scenic countryside. New in 2006 is Monsters Inc.: Mike and Scully to the Rescue, a ride based on the popular movie.

Once you've exhausted Disneyland, check out Knott's Berry Farm, where the Supreme Scream catapults you more than 250 feet in the air before dropping you straight down in three seconds. The ride is one among hundreds in this former berry farm's six areas. In Camp Snoopy, named after the loveable Peanuts' dog, youngsters ride the Red Baron airplane and pedal a car on the Charlie Brown Speedway. Keep your family cool at Knott's Soak City by splashing in wave pools, sliding down flumes, and floating together on a lazy river.

Enjoy a day at the ballpark, cheering on the Anaheim Angels at Angel Stadium. Seats in the Family Zone, located in left field, are the least expensive and sport a good view of the Outfield Extravaganza's water geysers, which spew 90 feet after key plays.

Two Anaheim museums are especially appealing to kids. At the Discovery Science Center, more than 120 hands-on exhibits in seven themed areas make learning about science more than just classroom note-taking. A new dino exhibit uses a life-size T-Rex to teach kids about the skeletal system and a life-size Argentinosaurus to explain digestion, locomotion, and circulation.

The Bowers Museum, which focuses on early Californian and pre-Columbian history and art, continues its major showcase of treasures from the British Museum, entitled "Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt," through April 2007. Fourteen mummies and more than 120 related objects provide the backdrop for the fascinating story of how the Egyptians preserved and honored their dead.

Tip: The Southern California CityPass (www.citypass.com) bundles three-day admission to Disneyland Resort Park with tickets to San Diego's SeaWorld and other area attractions.

Recommended Side Trips: San Diego, Los Angeles

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