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Travel Guide: California

Orange County — Disneyland Area
Sightseeing Suggestions & Links

Amtrak Sightseeing Trips from Disneyland

Anaheim—the area around Disneyland—makes an fine base for a visit to Southern California, especially if you have younger children.

Even if you have a car, you may wish to use some of the sightseeing tours readily available from this area.

BidonTravel also recommends Amtrak train trips to the San Diego Zoo, Tijuana, Hollywood, and San Clemente State Beach. Your kids will love these; you'll save over guided tours; and you won't have to drive and park.

Let's start with Amtrak sightseeing trips, and then move on to links to some of the most popular trips by auto or guided tour.

Amtrak trips from the Disneyland area

Without a car or guided tour, you can easily reach the following places via Amtrak.

Frequent trains depart for Los Angeles and San Diego from Anaheim or Fullerton (both near Disneyland) and Irvine stations. Service to San Clemente Beach is less frequent. On busy travel days, you may wish to pay extra for reserved business class seats.

San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park

Unlike driving Interstate 5, the Amtrak trip between the Disneyland area and San Diego takes you along the Pacific shoreline. You can almost reach out and touch the waves. On warm days, you'll pass thousands of people enjoying the beaches.

Be sure to sit on the right for best views.

In San Diego, Amtrak arrives at the old Santa Fe Depot, within easy walking distance of Balboa Park, the location of the San Diego Zoo.

The San Diego Zoo ranks as one of the top five in the world. Some rank it number two after Berlin. This zoo provides a simply wonderful place to visit. One of its nicest features is that so many of the animals are kept in natural settings.

Because there is so much to do in San Diego, you may wish to stay several nights.

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Tijuana, Mexico

The same Amtrak train you take to San Diego for the zoo can also help you easily reach Tijuana, Mexico.

From the Amtrak terminal in San Diego, use the San Diego Trolley light rail line to the Mexican border. On the San Diego Trolley site, scroll down to "Santa Fe Depot" for schedules.

Although the main tourist area of Tijuana is just a one mile walk from the border (turn right and go across the bridge), opt for taking a border shuttle to Revolucion Avenue downtown once you pass through Mexican immigration.

Tijuana can be exciting and fun if you go with the flow, but too intense if you balk at its lively atmosphere. Your main concern is pickpockets, so avoid keeping valuables in back pockets or easily accessible in purses.

Use a border shuttle or taxi to return to U.S. Customs at night, and be sure to bring along proof of citizenship to re-enter the U.S.

YOU MUST HAVE A PASSPORT or an approved alternative.Your driver's license does NOT prove citizenship!

Foreign nationals will want to make sure they have the necessary paperwork to re-enter the United States.

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Olvera Street and Hollywood, Part I

A fun Amtrak rail trip from Anaheim, Fullerton, or Irvine takes you to downtown Los Angeles with a subway connection to Hollywood. You'll find more frequent bus and subway service once in Los Angeles if you do this trip on a weekday.

Unlike the coastal route to San Diego, Amtrak between the Disneyland area and downtown Los Angeles runs mostly past factories and other commercial buildings, which can be exciting for children. You and your family will enjoy great views of the downtown Los Angeles skyline, including its distinctive city hall.

You'll also parallel and cross the concrete Los Angeles River, where some of the most exciting scenes from Governor Schwarzenegger's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" were filmed. Thousands of films and television productions have used this portion of the river, which stays mostly dry during the summer hence its use by a malevolent semi truck driven by a robot up to no good in Terminator 2.

You'll arrive at the art deco Los Angeles Union Station, which has also been featured in many films and television shows, including, of course, the film Union Station. Take a peak into its historic lobby and ticket area.

Exit the front of Union Station, and cross the street for a brief visit to El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, where many buildings from the original Spanish settlement have been preserved.

Within the park, be sure to explore the interesting shops of Olvera Street, which is especially well known for its candles. But, do not venture beyond the immediate area of Union Station or the historic monument. On Olvera Street, you'll find a variety of food choices.

Back at Union Station, take the MTA Red Line subway to the Hollywood and Highland station. Be sure to board a Red Line train that actually stops there, as some don't.

Adjacent to this subway stop, the Hollywood and Highland entertainment and shopping complex recently became home to the Academy Awards. It is fascinating and fun to visit. There's a great view of the Hollywood sign from the courtyard. Aim your camera between the arch.

Out front, you'll find Hollywood Boulevard with its famous celebrity stars in the sidewalk, as well as the venerable Mann's Chinese Theatre, once home of the Academy Awards for decades.

In the patio of the Chinese Theatre, movie stars have left greetings and imprints of various body parts (some quite interesting) in concrete. Admission is free.

At the restored Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel across from "Hollywood and Highland," Marilyn Monroe once lived. You can visit its historic lobby and poolside patio.

In this neighborhood, be somewhat cautious and stay among other tourists. Do not walk more than several blocks eastward along Hollywood Boulevard.

The Hollywood and Highland complex offers an unusually varied selection of places to dine—in various price ranges.

When done here, you can either take the subway back to Union Station and your train, or continue on to Part II below.

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Olvera Street and Hollywood, Part II

For lunch and additional sightseeing, take a bus (see directions below) or a taxi to the nearby Los Angeles Farmer's Market.

Often called the "Hollywood Farmer's Market, this place has numerous prepared food stalls of unusually excellent quality and attracts many celebrity shoppers. It's packed at lunch, and you'll see why.

This famous outdoor market is adjacent to CBS Television City. Check a list of the famous shows produced there on Wikpedia, including Fox's American Idol. There's a ticket office onsite.

Less than a block up Fairfax Avenue from the market and Television City sits Canter's Deli, where you'll also sometimes see celebrities if you dine in the late evening or middle of the night.

Canter's offers sit down dining (go for the informal side on your left), as well as a take out deli and bakery.

Although situated in the center of Los Angeles' main orthodox Jewish neighborhood, Canter's strangely does not keep Kosher. Moreover, come for the atmosphere and the chance to see stars, not for the food, which in my opinion does not rival NYC quality.

In back of Farmer's Market, on its southeast side, you'll find the "Grove," an upscale shopping mall that serves the affluent Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood Hills areas. Jay Leno tapes "Jaywalking" episodes there for the Tonight Show. Also, Mario Lopez's "Extra" very frequently tapes outdoors here in the central plaza.s

As of this writing, on weekdays, you can take MTA "Metro Bus" 780 from the northwestern corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue every 10 to 15 minutes or so to the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the location of the Los Angeles Farmer's Market. This trip takes around 15 minutes, and the fare is $1.25.

From the Farmer's Market, you can either (1) return to Union Station via Hollywood and Highland via the route you came—usually the fastest option—OR (2) board MTA "Metro Bus" 14 at the southeastern corner of Beverly and Fairfax—the corner closest to CBS Television City. (Beverly runs in front of Television City; Fairfax runs on the west side of Farmer's Market.)

Ask the driver of #14 to let you off at the Vermont Beverly Station of the Red Line. Then hop on a Red Line "Metro Train" to Union Station. The entire trip costs $2.50, and usually takes 30 - 50 minutes depending on connection time.

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San Clemente State Beach

From Anaheim or Fullerton (both near Disneyland) or Irvine, your family can take Amtrak trains to San Clemente.

Amtrak stops right on the beach in San Clemente. You'll step off the train virtually onto the sand.

Because San Clemente Beach is not sheltered from powerful waves, be sure to keep an eye on your younger children. And, as the trains bring you in the morning and take you back in the late afternoon, be sure to bring sunscreen.

On visits to his western white house—Casa Blanca, on the cliff in the distance— President Nixon used to love walking along the southern end of this fine beach. The President was born and raised near Disneyland—unfortunately before there was a Disneyland. His birthplace and presidential library in Yorba Linda are open to the public.

During the summer, don't worry if you wake up to low clouds or fog in the morning. These usually burn off by the time you reach San Clemente.

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Other trips

Area shopping malls

From your Disneyland area hotel, you can hop on free transfer buses or pay for tour buses to take you to various shopping malls.

Two of the most well-known are the upscale Fashion Island in nearby Newport Beach and Ontario Mills, a huge discount outlet mall that draws bargain shoppers from throughout southern California.

Organized sightseeing tours

From your Disneyland area hotel, guided sightseeing tours take you to following places:

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