A note from Mommy Frog: Of course, 2020 is no ordinary year due to COVID-19. Disneyland theme parks have remained closed since March, but we can at least spread a little holiday cheer with some frogciting news. This season, you can step into the Buena Vista Street area of the closed Disney California Adventure Park as of Nov. 19, 2020, to do some holiday shopping and dining. Read on for those details. For Disneyland reopening dates and details, hop over to our Disneyland reopening post. It is not likely that Disneyland will fully reopen for the holidays this year, but Downtown Disney is open throughout the holiday season.
Obviously, Christmas at Disneyland is a little different this year, with the theme parks and hotels currently closed. Downtown Disney is open for shopping and dining. We have some exciting news to share that might help you get into the holiday spirit: The Downtown Disney District has expanded into Disney California Adventure Park as of Nov. 19! Plus, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas inside those gates (and all around Downtown Disney)! You'll see garland and red bows all around. The Red Car Trolley is on display in Hollywood Land. Christmas music is filling everyone with holiday spirit.
We hopped by Buena Vista Street on its opening day and in early December. Weekdays are not crowded, but pack some patience if you plan to visit on weekends of holidays. Budget enough time to shop and dine. Buena Vista Street has plenty of physical distancing space, tables for snacking, and it feels very safe. But with indoor shops limited to 25 percent capacity (by law), Disneyland is limiting capacity in the entire area and in Downtown Disney in general, so that means longer than usual waits to get in. Here's what to expect when visiting Disneyland's Buena Vista Street for holiday shopping and dining. Despite all the modifications, being inside Disney California Adventure struck a little joy in our hearts. We temporarily frogot about the outside world for a moment while we walked Buena Vista Street, hunted down our favorite treats and took in some much-missed views.
Holiday Shopping and Dining at Disneyland in 2020
As you may know, Downtown Disney is the only part of Disneyland Resort that has reopened since the Disneyland resorts closed due to COVID-19 in March. Guests have been getting their Disneyland fix by enjoying treats (such as churros or themed caramel apples, crispy treats and cookies), shopping, dining and simply hearing the Disney (and now holiday) music.
Holiday merchandise has arrived at Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street stores. Beginning Nov. 19, the Downtown Disney District expanded into the Buena Vista Street area of Disney California Adventure Park (though the theme park itself remains closed). Guests can access select shopping and dining experiences during that time.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Disney California Adventure, however, there is no Christmas tree on Buena Vista Street this year. If you want a tree photo, there is a large tree (and a snowman) between the Esplanade and Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney has multiple colorfully lit trees throughout the area. You can, however, take a distanced photo with the Red Car Trolley in Hollywood Land! Be sure to hop by the statue of Walt and Mickey. It's extra shiny after its refurbishment. Take a look at the holiday decor at Downtown Disney and the views of Buena Vista Street in Tad's video from our visit.
Downtown Disney hours are changing for the holiday season. Downtown Disney opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. It closes at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
Buena Vista Street Holiday Shopping
The following shops are open on Buena Vista Street:
- Elias & Co.
- Julius Katz & Sons
- Kingswell Camera Shop
- Trolley Treats (it's where to find all your favorite Disney treats such as caramel apples, crispy treats and baked goods)
- Off the Page (open as of Dec. 3)
The addition of Trolley Treats will hopfully relieve some pressure for Marceline's Confectionery, the candy shop in Downtown Disney. Since the reopening of Downtown Disney, Marceline's Confectionery frequently has implemented Mobile Wait Lists to enter the store at busy times. Hop over to our post on holiday treats at Disneyland to see what tasty treats are in store for you at Downtown Disney this season.
These shops are in addition to the already opened Disneyland Resort Backlot Premiere Shop at Stage 17. This shop is technically inside Disney California Adventure, but it opened to expand the shopping area of Downtown Disney. The entrance to this location is near the Harbor security area to the left of Disney California Adventure. You do not access Stage 17 from Buena Vista Street at this time.
We got an early look at some of the holiday merchandise that is available at Elias & Co. when we visited World of Disney and other shops. Lily would like to bring your attention to the snow blower wands that send a flurry of tiny bubble "snow" into the air. It's perfect for warm-weather frogs who do not get the cold kind of snow. You can find the silver and gold spirit jersey and Loungefly backpacks at Elias & Co. as well.
Because capacity in shops is limited to 25 percent, Elias & Co. and Trolley Treats can have lines to get in. If the lines get too long a Mobile Wait List may be instituted. If you join a Mobile Wait List, you will be allowed to leave Buena Vista Street if you like and return when it's your turn to enter the shop. Connected shops have one-way traffic with one entrance and an exit at the other end. That means there is a line for each set of stores on either side of Buena Vista Street. It also means you are going to keep spending money as you go and keep discovering must-have items before you make it to the exit. Or maybe that's just me!
Disneyland Holiday Dining on Buena Vista Street
The following quick-service restaurants, table-service restaurants and vending carts are open on Buena Vista Street:
- Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe - Grab a cup of Starbucks coffee, a cookie or a scrumptious artisan sandwich and just enjoy being inside the park.
- Carthay Circle Lounge - Kick back in the expanded outdoor seating area. Carthay Circle presents an all-new menu of cocktails and food. Dine on the patio as you and enjoy small plates and shared items of Mediterranean-California light fare and desserts. The seasonal menu features the Carthay shrimp roll, harissa-roasted lamb, soy-glazed salmon, lemon-crusted fish of the day and an artisan cheese board. Kids can dig into orecchiette pasta with marinara and orange dragon chicken skewers. Unwind with a glass of wine, craft beers or a cool cocktail, enjoying expanded outdoor seating and amazing views of Buena Vista Street.
- Smokejumpers Grill - Get your tasty American classics for lunch and dinner with a streamlined menu of burgers, fries, onion rings, shakes and craft beer. The primary way to place your order at this dining location is through Mobile Order on the Disneyland app. You can get the Jingle Bell sipper at this location.
- Award Wieners - Have you missed your Disneyland corn dogs? Us too! The wait is over as corn dogs take the stage at this Hollywood Land hot dog stand! Mobile Order is recommended. You can get the Jingle Bell sipper at this location.
- Vending Carts - The carts are open so you can get your Disneyland popcorn, churros, ice cream, smoked turkey legs, cotton candy, hot dogs, Angry Dogs and other classic Disney snacks we know you miss so much. Oh boy! The food carts had short lines during our visit! The Jingle Bell sipper and a Mickey peppermint candy bottle topper with straw are at the carts. The Jingle Bell sipper is also sold at World of Disney in Downtown Disney. The light-up popcorn buckets have arrived to the Grizzly Peak Airfield popcorn stand (you may need to use Mobile Order)! You can purchase a Jack Skellington bucket if you have an annual pass, and anyone can buy the white Christmas tree with Minnie and Mickey on it. The white tree bucket is also available in World of Disney and Jack Skellington is also available at the Backlot Premiere Shop and Kingswell Camera Shop (sold without popcorn in the shops).
Carthay Circle Lounge did not take advance reservations initially, although reservations went live Nov. 25 and booked up quickly. There are generally two seatings a day for lunch and dinner. The seating is outside on the patio on the Hollywood Land side of the restaurant. Guests with proof of reservations may enter the Simba Lot even if entry is paused. If Buena Vista Street is at capacity, guests with proof of reservation may enter Buena Vista Street with their full party an hour before the reservation. Reservations for Carthay Circle filled up pretty quickly. Same-day reservations may be made if there are cancellations. Admittedly, those will be hard to come by.
There are various seating locations for the other restaurants and vending carts. All dining seating is outdoors. You can also use the cocktail and lower tables set out around Buena Vista Street to enjoy your churros, corndogs, popcorn and treats. Remember that you must be stationary to remove your mask and eat or drink. You can get popcorn to enjoy right away frot he popcorn cart. But there are boxes of popcorn also available at the vending carts that are past Carthay Circle and across from the waterfall in case you want to take it with you to enjoy later.
As the theme park is technically closed, there are no characters, rides or entertainment available. Admission is free since this is simply considered an extension of Downtown Disney. Beginning Nov. 19, there is a $10 fee to park in the Simba Lot at Downtown Disney. Pay upon entry.
Mobile Wait List
Everyone is hopping with excitement to once again step inside the gates of Disney California Adventure Park. Once Buena Vista Street hits capacity on busy days, you may have to join a Mobile Wait List to wait your turn to enter that area. When you receive your second text to call you back, you'll hop in a shorter line to get in. On day one, we joined the virtual queue at 10:30 a.m. and received our text at 1:15 p.m. We cannot yet predict how the crowds will be on other days, but weekdays in early December have been uncrowded. If you are visiting on a weekend or holiday, expect to wait several hours to get in. Definitely give yourself enough time to wait so you can enjoy your time on Buena Vista Street. If you happen to get in quicker, consider yourself lucky!
Make sure your phone is set to "Allow Location Access" for Safari so you can join a queue. you will use your phone's camera to focus on the QR Code. Then open Disneyland.com in Safari from the message that pops up and tap "Join Waitlist." It will ask you to type in your name, phone number, party size and email address. When you join the queue, it tells you how many parties are ahead of you. In our case it was 300! After a few hours, we asked a cast member what our status was and she was able to guesstimate that we would get texted in the next 20 minutes, so we knew to stick around.
Want a Frog hack to save time? Do you see our photo of the sign? Use your phone camera to scan the QR Code of that photo (pull it up on a family member's phone and use your phone to scan it). You'll need to be close by or on the Disneyland property, or you'll get error message that says, "Oops! Looks like you are too far away to join the virtual waitlist. Please move closer to the Front Entrance and try again." We do not know how far away you can be, but you can give it a try when you arrive to try to save some time in walking over, especially at a busy time when many people are joining the list. We Frogs are all about skipping the lines — even virtual lines! Of course, if they switch out the QR Code, you're out of luck there.
Don't rush to Mobile Order food at Buena Vista Street until you have entered the area. Having a mobile food order will not grant you access if the land is at capacity. Nobody likes cold food or missing a pick-up window! The exception is once you have entered Buena Vista Street, if you have joined any Mobile Wait Lists for Carthay Circle or a store, you may leave the area and return to Buena Vista Street once you receive a text.
No doubt Buena Vista Street and Downtown Disney will continue to be hoppening spots this holiday season. Hop over to our new Top Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney post. It offers our insider tips and advice for visiting at this time. You can find out where to park, when to visit and how to maximize your time at Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street.
Will you be visiting Buena Vista Street? What are you most looking forward to? Drop us a line in comments below and share your excitement!
Related: Favorite Disneyland Holiday Treats