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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Visiting Anaheim GardenWalk 11.10.12

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I’ve always been a big fan of shopping malls, but when I moved to Portland where the climate isn’t a million degrees 98% of the year, I was able to full appreciate shopping outside. Collections of stores coming together without a roof overhead that aren’t outlet stores have become more and more popular in Oregon. Being able to appreciate the weather while getting to window shop or getting in a bit of retail therapy. Our vacation rental in Anaheim was right across the street Anaheim GardenWalk, which thrilled me to no end, because it had restaurants, shops and entertainment all in one spot. We found ourselves there on at least three occasions.

Even though we were just a short drive from Disneyland and it could have everything you want in terms of entertainment and food, the parks close at some point and you can’t find discounts to dining establishments there and you always feel compelled to be on the move. Since we travel during the shoulder season, attractions aren’t open as long as they are during the summer and holidays. Because of this, we found ourselves with a bit more downtime than we could have had. This gave us a chance to try out some new restaurants, browse in stores we don’t have at home and get in a movie or two.

Our first trip to GardenWalk found us having dinner at Bubba Gump. Even though it’s a chain, we never get a chance to eat there. The last time we dined at Bubba Gump, we were in Cancun celebrating getting engaged, so it has been a while. (Portland really needs some of those great chains like Hard Rock and Chili’s.) We grabbed a coupon for a free appetizer from our lobby and then ordered coconut shrimp – how can you NOT? – and a chipotle chicken salad. The free app turned out to be their signature dip and chips that was worth $10.50. Score!

The next time we headed over to GardenWalk, we were going expressly to see a movie, so we showed up a bit early to grab a bite to eat. We weren’t starving and we had decided to split an entrée somewhere. We chose Bar Louie, since it was close to the theaters, had a simple menu and, being a bar, seemed to have fairly fast service. We split a yummy turkey and brie sandwich with some fries and then went up to the third floor to the UltraLuxe Cinemas.

UltraLuxe movies don’t start until mid-afternoon, but go late into the night. It may not be in Hollywood, but they make you feel like a celebrity. When you purchase your tickets, you pick the seats you want to sit in, almost like going to a live production. You see what’s available and choose your seats on the touch screen. UltraLux theaters are also the only ones to have special theaters with seats that move! If you’ve gone to a theme park 4D production, like Captain EO, Shrek 4D or Star Tours, you’ve enjoyed these seats before. You don’t get things sprayed at you, but your seat moves in reaction to things happening on the screen. We went to see Hotel Transylvania, which was not in the moving seat theater, but I was able to test out the seats in the lobby with a preview of Frankenweenie. It was pretty awesome, though I’m not sure 2 hours of that would be all that fun after a while.

Our last night in Anaheim found us at GardenWalk again. We decided to live it up with a trip to Fire + Ice. If you’ve eaten at a Mongolian Grill, you know how it works. You choose the meat, veggies and other toppings, along with a sauce and the chefs cook it up for you on a giant round flat top while you watch and wait. It’s great, because you can choose everything that goes into your meal. The downside is that it takes quite a while to get your food and if you don’t step up the grill with your party, you may not end up eating together at all. I enjoyed a great salad and several plates of different combinations. (Yes, there’s no mystery as to where my extra weight came from on my vacation.)

Other cool stuff in Anaheim GardenWalk includes a gym, bowling alley, fountains and murals done by local artists. While we were there, there was also a haunted house (with it being Halloween time and all). Even if you buy nothing while you’re there, you can still browse at unique shops – Fresh Produce and Hello Tokyo – and your favorite brand shops – LUSH Cosmetics and Skechers.

If you visit the Anaheim area, GardenWalk can be a great way to spend some time and also save some money on dining over the theme parks.

What do you think would be the most beneficial part of having GardenWalk so close to the theme parks?

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