Are you one of 1,500 travel and tourism leaders jetting into Anaheim for Destinations International’s 2018 Annual Convention? CEO Don Welsh has promised four days of education and inspiration, including updates from Airbnb, Brand USA’s latest storytelling campaign and tips on marketing in times of crisis from Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Puerto Rico Destination Marketing organization.
It all sounds riveting, as does hearing all-time leading soccer scorer Abby Wamach talk about breaking down barriers on and off the field. But after stepping outside from Anaheim Convention Center’s 1 million sq. ft. of meeting space, where can you get some real Anaheim? Smart Meetings asked a local, Maureen Sloan, manager of global accounts at HelmsBriscoe, to share some of the special things to see, do and eat in her hometown.
Sloan suggests dressing in Orange County-casual when going out on the town. “We don’t really get too dressed up here,” she says. You might also want to pack sunscreen and Mickey Mouse ears. The city is known for 300 days of sunshine a year and easy access to the Magic Kingdom.
Ditch the car. Parking can be a challenge, and Anaheim Resort Transportation is the easy way to navigate from the convention center to Knott’s Berry Farm and Buena Park, Disneyland Resort, Gardenwalk, House of Blues and Angel Stadium. You can even access the beaches with a connecting train.
Anaheim Tour Company can take you beyond the city limits and behind the scenes to see Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theater and downtown Los Angeles’ Disney Concert Hall by day or night. Check out Walt Disney’s first house, find the best beaches and get the best views of the Hollywood sign. No need to hunt for a parking space.
Check out Splitsville for luxury bowling (truly). This indoor/outdoor space for up to 1,000 people elevates the game with chef-driven menus, signature cocktails and views of Downtown Disney District.
While Disneyland Resort offers endless options for exploring, Disney California Adventure Attractions’ Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: BREAKOUT! offers extra magic hours from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. for early risers.
Visit Anaheim counts 2,725 dining establishments within the city. Looking for a place that has something for everyone? Anaheim Packing District hosts 30 restaurants, three landmarks and the urban greens of Farmers Park in one of the last citrus packing warehouses. The food hall-style format is informal and sooo SoCal. Try Adya’s Indian-style watermelon chaat or step into Black Sheep GCB (grilled cheese bar to you and me), followed by some quality time at The Blind Rabbit speakeasy. Sloan calls it eclectic, but you may call the Japanese crepes at Crepe Coop the perfect pairing for a tour and tasting at Anaheim Brewery in Packard Building.
If you are looking to sample small plates and artisan cocktails with magnificent views, The Fifth on the roof of Grand Legacy At The Park is a 5,000 sq. ft. platform for creating memories. The chorizo mac ’n’ cheese and drunken donuts (tequila-lime or orange liqueur-soaked and coated in cinnamon, lemon zest and sugar) are specialties.
The craft beer movement started in Anaheim almost 150 years ago, with the opening of Anaheim Brewery. Though shuttered by Prohibition, it reopened in 2011 and is now joined by 15 other breweries; three more are on the way. Favorites include Asylum Brewing (based on all the things that drive you crazy) and JT Schmid’s Restaurant & Brewery (conveniently located across the street from Honda Center).
Every evening at 9:30, the skies light up with fireworks over Anaheim as Disneyland Together Forever-A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular turns heads up in a chorus of awwwwws. Most of the surrounding resorts offer balcony views upon request at no extra charge. Sloan suggests heading to the second-floor balcony at Catal Restaurant and Uva Bar in Downtown Disney for some of the best light shows around.
One of the most Insta-worthy spots in Anaheim is right outside the front door of the ballroom. Anaheim Convention Center Grand Plaza is part of a 6-acre site alive with water features by day and glowing lights at night that act as the perfect background for your event selfie.
Of course, Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland is a traditional fav, but you might just earmark a spot in your Instastory for a pic with Cap’n Jack on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. And the halo at Angel Stadium is always a winner with sports fans and L.A. advocates alike.