Anaheim Without Disney Is Still Interesting

I spent two interesting days exploring hot, sunny downtown Anaheim while Robyn was enjoying the air conditioned VidCon conference at the Anaehim Convention Centre. I’d walk with her for the first two blocks, then she’d head off, I’d stop for my morning cappuccino and then head north to the city centre.


A nice California ranch house in central Anaheim

The Anaheim Resort District, aka Disneyland, a city of hotels, fifteen Denny’s and a dozen IHOP’s isn’t actually the city of Anaheim. There’s a real town centre that pre-dates Walt’s Big Dream by 60 years or so, but it’s separated from the Resort District by the massive I-5 Freeway. Harbour Drive crosses the I-5, and so did I.

It was a long hike in the hot sun. It took me 3/4 of Blonde on Blonde to make it (all but Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands) and honestly, it’s just hot walking. I got to see the back side of Disney though, which is interesting in its own way. If I was ever making a James Bond film, I’d film it there; all the unmarked white vans, security checkpoints, severe tire damage gates and electrical generators would make a great villains lair.

Once across the I-5, I thought I was coming up to a light security prison, or a half way house maybe. I saw a cluster of low, long army-green barracks with a tall wrought iron fence all around it. I was shocked to find it was a school! Each building was two or three classrooms with private entrances and a asphalt playground in the middle. Whoo boy would it be hot on that playground! I know security is a big thing in schools these days but man, they are taking it a little far at Orange Grove School if you ask me. Maybe it’s colourful on the inside.

Cindy had done some recon for me and told me about a downtown farmer’s market on Thursday. So that was my first port of call. It was also my fourth port of call, since there was nothing going on at 10AM when I first arrived. I guess it’s geared toward the office workers and doesn’t really get going until noon. But it was worth the wait.

The market was laid out like a Y. The long bottom bit was the farmers; tables piled with melons and peaches and onions and strawberries. Lots of the fruit was spilled out cornucopia style, rather than the neatly stacked fruit at European markets, but it was all fresh and yummy and was all grown by the people selling it (which is rarely the case in Europe too.)

The left arm of the Y was the artisans; jewelry, knick knacks and designer kibble for your pooch. and the right arm was the food trucks. Yum! Fried chicken, barbecue, falafel, wood fired pizza and more.


The travelling pizza oven

Sadly, it was so hot that I couldn’t really work up an appetite, or a big sausage on a bun would’ve been my lunch. Instead, I bought a baguette from the bread booth and a basket of strawberries and ate them in the shade. It was the right call; I still had to walk back over the I-5 to get back to the motel.


Don’t stay in jail. Jail sucks!

The next day, I hiked back downtown. After stopping at the public library to write a post and flip through a few books, I walked one block further than the farmer’s market site to the Anaheim Packing House. This huge building was once the Sunkist citrus packing house, where oranges and lemons would get packed in crates and put on trains. Now it’s a gourmet food centre.


Anaheim Public Library


Instead of shipping oranges on train cars, now you can sit on a train car and eat

There are 20+ food stalls inside, selling everything from sushi to ice cream. There’s even a booth dedicated to variations of grilled cheese sandwiches. I walked around both floors twice before buying a barbecue chicken sandwich and a local beer, and then an ice cream cone for good measure.


Hey Robyn! Grilled Cheese!

It’s not easy to get to downtown Anaheim without a car. But if you need a break from Disney and can’t handle yet another trip to Denny’s or IHOP, it’s well worth checking out. It doesn’t take me long to need a break from Fantasyland, so I’m glad I went exploring.