Orange County/Anaheim: Top Attractions
Orange County, including its most notable city, Anaheim, is a dream destination for families. Dubbed Southern California's playground ever since Disneyland opened 50 years ago, the region combines top theme parks with 42 miles of wave-kissed, breeze-blown beaches.
Disneyland, packed with new rides, shows, and daily parades, is more festive than ever. Space Mountain sports new effects, the Castle's spiffed up with banners, and interactive kiosks show behind-the-scenes film footage. Much of this is in place for Disneyland's 50th anniversary (beginning May 5, 2005), but the classics still remain. Little ones love swirling on the Mad Tea Cup ride, watching the Henson Muppets 3-D show, and meeting Cinderella and Snow White. Teens especially like hitting the scene, browsing the shops, and enjoying the live blues, reggae, and rock music at the Downtown Disney District.
Disneyland: 714.781.4565, www.disneyland.com
Disney's California Adventure Park
This 55-acre park adjacent to the original celebrates the Golden State. Four, themed lands recreate California's history in rides and entertainment. Favorites include: Grizzly River Run, a whitewater-rafting ride; the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a 13-story drop in a ghostly hotel; and Soarin' Over CaliforniaÂ—a film that delivers the sensation of gliding over the scenic countryside. King Triton's Carousel keeps the little ones happy, where playful sea lions, dolphins, and seahorses replace the usual merry-go-round mounts.
Disney's California Adventure Park: 714.781.4565, www.disneyland.com
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Between opening day and the last home game at the end of April, the 2002 World Series champs play scores of home games 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 that spew water 90-feet high after key plays.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 714.940.2000, www.angelsbaseball.com
Knott's Berry Farm and Soak City
Supreme Scream, Knott's Berry Farm's newest thrill ride, takes you more than 200 feet in the air before dropping you straight down in three seconds. It's one of hundreds in this former berry farm's six themed areas. In Camp Snoopy, named after the lovable Peanuts dog, youngsters ride the Red Baron airplane and pedal a car on the Charlie Brown Speedway. Keep your family cool at Soak City by splashing in wave pools, sliding down flumes, and floating together on a lazy river.
Knott's Berry Farm and Soak City: 714.220.5200, www.knotts.com
Beaches at the O.C.
The classic California experience includes time on a longboard beach. Watch the experts catch waves at Surf City, aka Huntington City Beach, the site of the U.S. Open of Pro Surfing. Non-surfers can build sandcastles, fish from the pier, and bike the eight-mile trail along the ocean. Laguna's main beach, a swath of white sand in the heart of town, offers prime sunbathing and swimming.
Additional Info: Huntington City Beach, 714.536.5281, www.surfcity-hb.org; Laguna Beach: 949.497.9229, www.lagunabeachinfo.org
Find out about whales, dolphins, and other marine creatures on day sails with the Ocean Institute-Dana Point, an educational center open to the public on weekends. From January to March, the naturalist-led outings look for migrating gray whales. In summer the vessels search for blue whales near Catalina Island. Year-round children and their parents learn about dolphins by watching a playful pod arc in and out of the boat's wake, while nightly "bioluminescence" cruises unveil how billions of microscopic organisms create entrancing neon green flashes in the sea.
Ocean Institute: 949.496.2274, www.ocean-institute.org
Discovery Science Center
More than 120 hands-on exhibits in seven themed areas make learning about science fun. Find out why you can lie on a bed of nails without pain and just how shaky a 6.4-richter earthquake feels. In KidStation, a place for ages five and younger, little ones build with foam blocks, finger paint via computer, and dress up like astronauts.
Discovery Science Center: 714.542.CUBE, www.discoverycube.org
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Wax figures and weird stuff intrigue kids at this complex where movie and television stars from today and yesteryear are memorialized in wax. New additions include wax imitations of Julia Roberts, Keanu Reeves, and Jennifer Lopez. Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum features all kinds of oddities, among them a genuine 16th-century iron maiden and a model of the Last Supper made out of toast.
Ripley's Buena Park: 714.522.1152, www.ripleysbuenapark.com
Bring the kids where they can explore early Californian and pre-Columbian history and art. For a limited time, beginning in April, be amazed by the museum's first-rate mummy exhibitÂ—a major showcase of treasures from the British Museum entitled "Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt." Fourteen mummies and coffins and 140 related objects provide the backdrop for the fascinating story of how the Egyptians preserved and honored their dead.
Bowers Museum: 714.567.3600, www.bowers.org
Wild Bill's Wild West Extravaganza
Grade-schoolers love this dinner show, a two-hour mÃ©lange of dancing Native Americans, rope-twirling cowboys, sing-alongs, and can-can dancing cowgirls. The combination of headdresses, ten-galloon hats, and barbecued ribs and chicken keep kids happy (and full). A few lucky dudes (gender immaterial) are also chosen to come up on stage.
Wild Bill's Wild West Extravaganza: 714.522.6414
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication