It’s one of the most-visited US destinations for Australian travellers, and while Disneyland Resort certainly helped put Anaheim on the map, much has changed in the Los Angeles suburb, which now offers so much more beyond the magical theme parks.

Anaheim continued to transform throughout the pandemic, with amazing new attractions, and one-of-a-kind experiences ready to welcome back Australian travellers.

Visitor numbers from Down Under are only set to rise further in 2023, with new and returning airline routes, a stellar event line-up led by Disneyland celebrations for Disney’s 100 Years of Wonder, the Honda Center’s 30-year anniversary, and new luxury hotels.

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Daytime ground level view of the skyline of Anaheim, California, USA.
Anaheim has continued to transform throughout the pandemic. (iStock)

Walt Disney once remarked “Disneyland will never be completed. It would continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world”.

“67 years later, that mantra holds true, and just like Anaheim’s most famous attraction, Anaheim itself also continues to evolve and develop,” Visit Anaheim Senior Director, Tourism & Partnership, Pepe Avila, said.

In the last three years alone, Anaheim has welcomed two new premium hotels, The Westin, and JW Marriott, both with stunning roof-top bars that overlook the entire Anaheim resort area.

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Anaheim remains one of the most-visited US destinations by Aussies. (Supplied)

So if you’re planning to visit the area (whether or not you’re heading to Disney), if you’ve got an extra 48 hours to spare, here’s a few things to add to your to-do list.

Where to stay

The first JW Marriott to open in Orange County, brings a new level of luxury to Anaheim.

JW Marriott prides themselves on infusing modern art with augmented reality and providing seed to table culinary offerings for their restaurants with fresh produce and herbs from their beautiful gardens.

The hotel is perfectly located close to the main 101 highway and within a 10 minute walk to the Disney parks. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy a little luxury in between the magic.

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The Theme Park View room has views of Disneyland. (JW Marriot)

We’d recommend staying in a Theme Park View room for a few reasons. The King-sized bed is what you’ll need to rest those sore feet, and the giant bathtub will help there as well.

And if you can’t quite make it to Disney, or won’t last until the evening show, you can watch the fireworks from your window!

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JW Marriott Anaheim Resort SNAJW
JW Marriott Anaheim Resort is the first of its kind in Orange County. (Supplied)

Eat and drink

It’s worth noting that if you enjoy fireworks better with a cocktail in hand then you can’t go past a visit to one of the city’s brand new rooftop bars.

On top of your own hotel, Parkestry Rooftop Bar at the JW Marriott is a must-visit. Plus you can also check out RISE at the Westin Anaheim, and The 5ifth at the Grand Legacy at the Park Hotel.

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Incredible new rooftop bars have opened in Anaheim. (Supplied)

The city’s craft beer trail also continues to grow with 19 breweries all within 15 minute-drive, or accessible on one of the city’s new Craft Beer tours.

Plus there is the incredible Anaheim Packing District, which is full of delicious food and dining establishments including Umani Burger, 18 Folds, Rolling Boil, and The Blind Rabbit.

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Anaheim Packing District, which is full of delicious food and dining establishments. (Supplied)

Things to do

Of course, the regions world-famous theme parks have also evolved throughout the pandemic.

Last year, Disney California Adventure Park assembled Avenger’s Campus – just two short years after the original Disneyland opened the mind-boggling Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Also, Mickey’s beloved Toontown will re-open at the Disneyland in March, with all new interactive play areas, including CenTOONial Park, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Goofy’s How-to-Play Yard and Donald’s Duck Pond. Guests can also look forward to reimagined attractions, such as Chip ‘n’ Dale’s GADGETcoaster, Goofy’s House and Donald’s Boat, as well as returning favorites such as Mickey’s House, Minnie’s House and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin.

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Disney California Adventure Park opened Avenger’s Campus in 2022. (Supplied)

To top it all off, The Walt Disney Company is celebrating its 100th anniversay with special events, experiences, and limited-time offerings at the Disneyland. There will be two all-new nighttime spectaculars, never-before-seen parades, special food offerings and more. The celebration will take place throughout the resort all year long.

If you’re a lover of theme parks, your can’t go past a trip just down the road in neighbouring Buena Park, to visit California’s first theme park, Knott’s Berry Farm, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2021.

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It’s no wonder that most Australian visitors stay between five to seven nights to allow them time to explore the theme parks and then take in everything else there is to do.

You can hit up an Anaheim Angel’s or Ducks Baseball or Ice Hockey game. Honda Center, which is home to the Anaheim Ducks hockey team and entertainment hub, is celebrating its 30th anniversary with new food offerings at their concession stands, restaurants and suites as well as the food trucks at Puck Drop Patio.

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Honda Center, which is home to the Anaheim Ducks hockey team is celebrating its 30th anniversary. (Supplied)

You’ll also have time to do some outlet shopping, take to the Coast to explore neighbouring Newport, Huntington, Laguna or Long Beaches.

You can take an easy day trip up to Los Angeles or down to San Diego to explore nearby attractions like Legoland California, Universal Studios Hollywood, San Diego Zoo or jumping on a WB Studio Tour.

Karmel Shuttle are a perfect choice for transfers and sightseeing tours to a number of Southern California’s best attractions, and day trips to the stunning Catalina Island via their Extreme Tours brand. Plus it’s a stress-free and seamless way to get to and from the airport to make even that part of your trip a great experience.

With all these new things going on, plus Anaheim’s central location, it’s no wonder the destination is the perfect base for a Southern California stay.

The writer was a guest of Visit Anaheim and JW Marriott.

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