My straight brother doesn’t understand why you would want to visit Anaheim (most famous for being the home of Disneyland resort) if you don’t have children. He’s missing the point. Travel is always better without kids, and Anaheim’s magic is no exception.

Karmel Shuttle

Travelling through California on a road trip, we choose to drive long distances between cities, and then ditch our rental car when we arrive at a destination. So for visiting Anaheim’s more distant destinations, the Karmel Shuttle ( is an economical alternative to Ubers, offering a friendly and efficient pre-booked pick-up service.

The Anaheim Hotel.

Our first stop is The Anaheim Hotel (, an iconic accommodation that has been standing longer than Disneyland itself. The Anaheim Hotel sits just across the road from Disney’s gates and legend has it that their olympic-sized pool was put in because the owners were skeptical as to whether the theme park would last. Nearly 68 years on, they will still be glad of the pool as it is a perfect spot for enjoying Disney’s nightly fireworks on a balmy evening. As well as its ultra-convenient location, The Anaheim Hotel has a spacious and relaxed vibe that feels like a haven to return to after visiting bustling tourist attractions.

Downtown Disney.

On our first night we headed into the Downtown Disney District, the only part of Disneyland that can be accessed without tickets. Downtown Disney is a great spot for dinner as it offers a wealth of restaurants, late-night shopping for all your merch needs, and open-air stages with live music. The classic nineties R&B booming out of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes draws us in, and before you know it we’re consuming more calories than we’ll ever be able to walk off. We’re on holiday after all!

Nothing screams holiday more than an island jaunt so the next day the Karmel Shuttle drops us at Long Beach Terminal to catch the Catalina Express (, a luxury ferry that feels like a super yacht as it skims across the water to Catalina Island.

A gorgeous day trip, Catalina is Anaheim’s Waiheke and a popular getaway for Hollywood’s elite. Zac Efron, Demi Lovato, and Ben Affleck have all recently been papped there. Despite the swift journey, it feels like a million miles away from Anaheim’s rumpus. Its rugged sun-soaked coastline and crystal blue waters make it unsurprising that Catalina has been used as a movie location to depict Tahiti, North Africa, and even Atlantis!

Pleasantly, the island has very few cars, so golf carts (@catalinaislandgolfcart) are the recommended mode of transport. They can be rented in two-hour blocks and are a nifty way of taking in the sights; whether it’s a coffee in town, heading up to explore the botanical gardens, grabbing a selfie over Avalon Bay or visiting Descanso Beach. Doing all of this makes for a really pleasant afternoon’s activities, before sailing back to take in one of Anaheim’s popular rooftop bars.

Rise Rooftop Lounge.

With warm nights even in Winter, rooftop bars are the place to drink and our favourite was RISE Rooftop Lounge at The Westin Anaheim Resort (, just around the corner from The Anaheim Hotel. RISE’s view has to be seen to be believed as it looks right into Disney’s California Adventure Park with the Incredicoaster and Pixar Pier appearing so close you could touch them, but that might be the (excellent) Sangria. Settle in with a Charcuterie & Cheese Board, for a night guaranteed to end with a bang!

Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom.

The next day we have a one-day Park Hopper ticket for Disneyland ( While two days would be optimal to spread your time across the two parks (Disneyland and California Adventure), if you get up early and stay late, doing both in one day is a pretty wild and magical ride. Upgrade your tickets with Disney’s Genie+ Service, which allows you to pre-book your spot on some of the park’s busiest rides. This allows you to enter the Lightning Lanes which doesn’t eliminate queuing entirely, but rarely leaves you waiting more than 15 minutes, so you can pack in a lot more adventure.

We see lots of childless gay couples enjoying Disneyland and they all seem to be having a better time than the straight parents, with good reason. The first ride we jump on is Radiator Springs Racers themed around Pixar movie Cars. It’s immersive. First gently initiating you into the Cars’ universal, before hurtling you around the tracks as you race other riders. I can only imagine what the stimulation is like for a young mind, particularly on a first visit. Unsurprisingly we see a lot of overwhelmed kids having meltdowns as we gleefully head into the next park.

Star Wars Rise of The Resistance.

Many of the childless gays are making a beeline for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. A jewel in Disneyland’s crown, this jaw-dropping area transports you into a galaxy far, far away. Having grown up with movies it’s an unreal experience to walk around Planet Batuu passing an X-Wing and the Millennium Falcon while drinking Blue Milk. Ride-wise, expect Rise of Resistance to have the longest queue you will encounter. ‘Is it worth it?’ You ask. Well, you travel into the enormous interior of a Star Destroyer gazing up at sky-high ceilings, past vast armies of Storm Troopers as you flee from a light-sabre-wielding Kylo Ren. It’s a visual feast, but it’s not our favourite ride. We bestow that honour on the Guardian of The Galaxy – Mission: Breakout which sits in Avenger’s Campus (another must-see area for geeks of all ages) and drops you 40 metres at over 60 kms.

Having entered Disneyland’s gates at 8.45am, we departed at 12.45am. Sixteen hours well spent!

Laguna Beach.

For longer stays Anaheim offers plenty of reasons to keep exploring. Before we leave we hit the shops at Outlets at Orange for the sort of big brand bargains that you just don’t get in New Zealand. Had time permitted, we would have liked to continue our thrill-seeking buzz and visit California’s original theme park Knott’s Berry Farm, at nearly 100 years old it’s amazing how many generations of Kiwi’s have ridden their roller coasters which offer a higher adrenaline shot than most of Disney’s. Meanwhile, if we wanted to experience a queer scene, Laguna Beach offers a wealth of LGBTQ+ options including legendary gay bar’s The Anchor Line and The Seahorse, and beautiful gay beach, West Street.

Hawaiian Airlines.

Located in close vicinity of San Diego, Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Anaheim ( is a must-visit destination for any Californian road trip. We flew in with Hawaiian Airlines ( which has three weekly flights from Auckland to Honolulu, all offering convenient connections to Anaheim’s Long Beach Airport, along with seven other California cities. Hawaiian Airlines offer 64kgs of luggage per passenger, so you can make the most of Anaheim’s extensive retail therapy options. We purchased a second suitcase!

For more information on all of Anaheim’s amazing attractions check out