If you haven't been to the USA before there are some things you need to be aware of. This guide helps to explain what to expect on your holiday with some facts about Anaheim, some helpful tips, a list of things to do and links to some videos. We also have family travel deals to the US with a number of resorts to choose from close to Disneyland.
Anaheim, Los Angeles is the home to Disneyland and is a popular travel destination for Australian families. The flight time from Australia's east coast is around 14 hours.
USA family packages
Car Hire: All the major car hire companies have offices around the city. Prices start from around US$25 per day.
Passports and Visas: All visitors to the US must have a valid passport. Australian passport holders do not require a visa as long as your stay does not exceed 90 days, you have a valid passport and outbound ticket, have no criminal record and have never been refused a visa.
Health: There are no special requirements or inoculations required to visit the US. Make sure your travel insurance is adequate as medical treatment in the US is expensive.
Electricity: The standard US voltage is 110 volts (compared to Australia's 240 volts). If you are taking any electrical appliances make sure you get an adapter or two before you leave (you'd be very lucky to find an aussie power adapter in the US). For things like hair dryers, charging video players or cameras, handheld games and laptop computers. Light switches in the US are the opposite (up for on, down for off).
Holidays: Most government offices and many businesses will be closed on the following holidays: New Year's Day - January 1, Martin Luther King Jr. Day - the third Monday in January, Presidents' Day - the third Monday in February, Memorial Day - the last Monday in May, Independence Day - July 4, Labor Day - the first Monday in September, Columbus Day - the second Monday in October, Veteran's Day - November 11, Thanksgiving Day - the fourth Thursday in November, Christmas Day - December 25.
U.S. Measures: 1 foot = 0.3 metre, 1 mile = 1.6 kilometres, 1 pound = 0.45 kilograms, 1 gallon = 3.784 litres.
Driving: Los Angeles is one of the most car oriented cities in the US, with little public transport available. A valid driver's license and liability insurance is required to drive in California. Traffic flows on the right. Child seats are required for children weighing under 40 pounds and are available with car rentals. It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of .08% or greater. The number of freeways and interchanges in LA is quite daunting compared to what we are used to in Australia.
Taxis: Not the most economical way to get around because of the size of the city. Taxis cannot be hailed on the street but there are ranks at the airport at at major hotels.
Location: Anaheim is located approximately 28 miles south of downtown Los Angeles and 31 miles southeast of the Los Angeles International Airport. Anaheim is located only 13 miles from the Pacific Coastline.
Climate: Anaheim enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with an average temperature of 70 degrees and only 9.8 inches of rain per year. Winter temperatures range from a low of 8 degrees Celsius to a top of 20 while in summer it ranges from a low of 16 to a high of 29.
Currency: US Dollar. 1 cent, 5 cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter), 1 dollar, 5 dollars, 10 dollars, 20 dollars, 100 dollars. The dime is smaller than the nickel. All notes are the same size and colour which can be confusing.
Flights: A large choice of carriers with Qantas flying direct to LA. Others include Air New Zealand and Hawaiin Air, both with stopovers.
Population: Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US after New York. The total population for all counties is 16.4 million.
Time Zone: GMT - 8 hours; GMT -7 hours (from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Sport: Anaheim is home to the Anaheim Angels (baseball) and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (ice hockey), who play at Edison International Field and the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, respectively. Both of these facilities also regularly feature other entertainment such as concerts, circus performances, and family shows.
Most resorts are situated within walking distance of Disneyland and also offer free shuttle services. Some retail places offer free pick-up and drop-off from your hotel.
Local buses are available for travel around the area. The cost is $2.50 per adult or child over 5 and this allows unlimited travel for the day of purchase. The bus routes tend to cover a single road from end to end so you may need to change buses to get to your destination. More info on local buses can be found at www.octa.net.
Don't rely on maps from brochures etc. The scale is inaccurate and what may look like only a short distance on the map could be miles. Purchase a detailed map of the area before you leave or from your hotel.
Anaheim Resort Transit is a convenient way to get around Anaheim, offering transport from all the major hotels to Disneyland. A 5 day pass will cost you $12 per person and children under 10 years ride for free. More info at www.rideart.org.
Anaheim is also serviced by Amtrak for coast-to-coast travel needs as well as by Metrolink for commuting between Anaheim and other outlying areas.
Things To Do
The main reason for the visit is to see Disneyland and all it has to offer. We had a 5 day pass and to do it in anything less means that you won't get to see it all. Throw in the other attractions and you are looking at a 10 day minimum stay to see everything. Disneyland itself is divided into two theme parks, Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure Park. The parks open at 10am and have varying closing times depending on the day and the time of year.
This is the original Disneyland theme park. Divided into a number of different theme worlds, the park has a magical feel about it and you can't help being caught up in the emotion and history of the place. We spent 3 days here, the first two visiting each of the theme worlds, and the final day making sure we hadn't missed anything and revisiting our favourites. The park opens at 10 am and depending on the day and time of year it can get very crowded. The park is divided into a number of worlds including Mickey's Toontown, Fantasyland, Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Critter Country and Main Street,USA. For more information on visiting Disneyland Park check our review. Further information can be found at the Disneyland web site
Disney's California Adventure Park
Next door to Disneyland Park is Disney's California Adventure Park. This park features some amazing rides and shows. Allow 2 days to see and do everything. Some of the better attractions include A Bugs Land for the younger kids, California Screamin', a massive rollercoaster, Hollywood Pictures Backlot, with shows and the Twlight Zone Tower Of Terror, Golden State, with the Grizzly River Run and Paradise Pier with plenty of rides for kids and adults. For more information on visiting Disney's California Adventure Park check our review. Further information can be found at the Disneyland web site
An hours drive from Anaheim, Universal Studios is a must see attraction. The highlight is the popular studio tour which is a bus ride with a difference through some of Hollywoods famous movie sets. There are plenty of attractions for the kids, especially the Nickelodeon Blast Zone, The Wild Thornberrys Adventure Temple, the Shrek 2 4D show and the popular Animal Planet Live show. Heaps of rides for the older kids and adults with the Jurassic Park ride and the new Revenge Of The Mummy indoor rollercoaster. For more information on visiting Universal Studios check our review. Further information can be found at the Universal Studios web site.
The Downtown Disney area is located next to Disneyland park and they are connected by a monorail service. It features a number of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. The dining facilities include character dining at Goofy's Kitchen, Breakfast With Chip 'n Dale and Minnie & Friends Breakfast. Other places to eat are the Rain forest Cafe, with it's own rainforest weather and animals, ESPN Zone and a plenty of other restaurants and cafes. There is a large mix of shopping experiences, including the huge World Of Disney with an amazing number of Disney items to pick from. The Build-A-Bear workshop is where the kids can make their own teddy bear and the Lego Imagination Centre is another popular choice for the kids. Downtown Disney is open from 8am till 2am each day. For more information check the Downtown Disney web site.
The Hollywood entertainment district is located on Hollywood Boulevard, about an hours drive from Anaheim. Here you'll get to see the stars on the two and a half mile Walk Of Fame. Some of the attractions include Grauman's Chinese Theatre, The Hollywood Museum, the Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley's Believe It Or Not and the Egyptian Theatre.
Knott's Berry Farm
Knotts Berry Farm is located just 10 minutes from Disneyland and offers 160 acres of rides, shows and attractions celebrating the American West. The park is divided into a number of theme areas including Camp Snoopy, with over 20 rides and attractions for young kids, Ghost Town, a wild west town from the 1880's, Fiesta Village, Boardwalk, Wild Water Wilderness and Indian Trails. The California Marketplace offers shopping and dining facilities. Next door is the popular Soak City USA water park. For more information check the Knott's Berry Farm web site.
There are plenty of other things to see and do around Anaheim including: The Santa Ana Zoo, Anaheim Angels Baseball at the Angel Stadium, horseracing at the Los Alamitos race course, Six Flags Magic Mountain Park, and the Anaheim Convention Centre. San Diego, just 200km south of LA, features the world famous San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California.
Some services that you receive in the US require that you pay a tip. In particular, restaurant waiters, bus drivers, taxi drivers and hotel porters. The wages paid to these people are calculated based on the fact that they will receive a tip for their services. The accepted tip for restaurant services is 15% (doesn't include fast food like McDonalds or KFC). The easy way to calculate the amount you need to tip is to double the sales tax on the docket. Some restaurants will automatically take the tip out for you, especially if you are part of a large group (8 or more). For porters the tip is about $1 per suitcase. A fiver usually keeps them happy. For public transport tips are not required, but for hired bus trips (like the transfer from the airport) a dollar per person will suffice. Service in general is excellent and the fact that the people providing the service are looking for a tip is probably the main reason.
The first thing you need to know is that shops in the US don't usually open till 10 am. But you can shop till late at night, every night. Most of the shopping centres around Anaheim are far enough away from the hotels to require some sort of transport to get to them. If you don't want to hire a car and drive, then buses are the best option. Some shops offer a free shuttle from your hotel - check with your hotel reception and get them to arrange a pick-up. The main shopping centres around Anaheim include the Anaheim Plaza, with a number of shops including Wal-Mart, The Block At Orange, with a large number of speciality shops, a large complex on Orangethorpe Ave, with Target, Shoe City, Disney discount shop, Circuit City and a number of others and the Anaheim markets, with heaps of market type stalls with clothing, souvenirs, luggage, jewelry etc.
Some things in the US are very cheap compared to what you will pay in Australia, even allowing for the weaker aussie dollar. Most notably clothing, some electrical goods (especially computers, laptops and TV's).
However there are some things to remember. DVD's may not work in Australia, unless you have a multi zone DVD player, Playstation games also won't work in Australia. Remember to check that electrical items can handle 240 volts as well as 110 volts. For items that use low voltage, adapters can be purchased in Australia. Pin converters are around A$10 but adapters that convert 240v to 110v are expensive.
The other shopping area is Downtown Disney, and while you may pay a bit more here, it's certainly worth a look around. The World Of Disney shop is massive, with every type of Disney souvenir you can think of. Other shops worth a visit include the Lego Imagination Centre and the Build A Bear Workshop.
A sales tax of 7.75% is charged on all purchase items. Unlike Australia's GST this tax is not shown on the ticked price for the item, but added with payment.
You'll need cash for things like bus fares, tips etc. Shop around for the best rate before you get to the airport prior to departure. Travellers cheques are a good option but cashing them may be a slight problem. The hotels we've stayed at will only cash up to $100 US per day, which may not be enough to see you through if you plan to pay everything by cash. Otherwise you'll need to visit one of the major banks or change at the airport. The most widely accepted credit cards in the US are Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club. The best option would be to pay for most things by card and only pay cash when necessary.
Food And Drinks
There are plenty of places to eat in the vicinity of Disneyland. Nearly all restaurants cater for kids with special kid's menus available. Some restaurants are open 24 hours which is handy when you arrive late at night and are looking for somewhere to eat. Food servings in the US are generally big and comparatively cheap. The first bit of confusion you'll find is that their main meals are called entrees and their entrees are called appertisers. The meals are generous - I don't think we had room for desserts once. Most menus feature standard US fare - hamburgers, hot dogs, pancakes, steaks and fries. Fried food is abundant however you can get a healthy meal. They're also big on low carbohydrate food. For a family of four you can get away with a decent meal and drinks for around US$40 which represents good value. Prices shown on menus don't include sales tax and remember you need to add a tip. Some of the better quality family restaurants around Anaheim include Millies, Mimis, IHOP and Denny's.
There are also plenty of fast food chains like McDonalds close by. One thing you'll notice is that you only pay for soft drinks once, then it's free refills for the rest of the meal.
Make sure you visit Goofy's Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel for a memorable night with all the Disney characters. The meal is reasonably expensive but the kids will have the time of their lives when Goofy, Pluto and a number of other Disney characters visit your table.
The trendy Downtown Disney also has some great places to eat, especially the Rainforest Cafe, with it's own weather, including rain and storms and plenty of rainforest animals.
Depending on the night and the time you may need to wait to be seated at these restaurants, especially on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Get in early if you can or be prepared to wait up to an hour to get a table.
There are not many supermarkets around Anaheim, at least not in walking distance. There are some smaller grocery shops and liquor shops and it's worth the effort to pick up some essentials because they are a lot cheaper that you'll be paying at your hotel.
Tea (as in a cup of tea) is usually served with lemon - you'll need to ask for milk. And getting fresh milk can be a challenge, with the popular Coffee mate or cream usually the only choices.
Things To Remember
When crossing a road, look left first, then right. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is something you need to be aware of all the time - and its easy to forget.
You need to tip for some services, including taxi and bus trips, porterage and in restaurants.
A sales tax is added to most purchases but not shown in the ticketed or menu price.
Disneyland Park is divided into a number of different theme worlds: Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Mickey’s Toontown, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Adventureland, Critter Country and Main Street USA. Continue reading
Universal Studios is the worlds largest Movie Studio and Theme Park. It is located at Universal City in Los Angeles, about one hour's drive from Anaheim. It features the famous Universal Studios Tour which takes you behind the scenes of some famous movies. There are plenty of attractions and rides to suit all ages, and it is one place you don't want to miss if you are visiting Los Angeles.Continue reading