Even though the theme parks at Disneyland are temporarily closed, you can actually enter parts of Disney California Adventure Park for free right now! The Downtown Disney District borders expanded into the closed theme park for shopping and dining. Being able to go inside the park certainly helps lift our spirits even though rides are closed and there are no characters.
If you want to visit for free, you'd better hurry as Buena Vista Street closes March 15 to make way for the new A Touch of Disney limited-time ticketed event. The upcoming food and beverage event takes place in the Disney California Adventure Park on select days March 18 through April 5. Woohoo! Tickets go on sale March 4. In the meantime, here's what you can expect from a visit to Downtown Disney right now.
Visiting Buena Vista Street for Shopping and Dining
One of the things we've loved about visiting Buena Vista Street is getting the Disneyland snacks we've missed such as corndogs, popcorn and churros. It's all about those snacks! Those yummy treats and other dining options returned Feb. 5. Carthay Circle reservations are now available. They filled up pretty quickly for February through March 14. People who have tickets for A Touch of Disney can make reservations for Carthay Circle or Lamplight Lounge during the event. Reservations open March 11. Don't have a reservation? Look for a QR Code to check for same-day availability, or open the Disneyland app and select "Join Walk-Up List." You have to be on property to join. Hop over to our most recent Downtown Disney post to find out other Downtown Disney dining options that available during this time.
You can get popcorn buckets, sippers and balloons at the vending carts. We found these items at the vending that is just past Carthay Circle near the future entrance to Avengers Campus. That cart also sells ice cream bars, Mickey pretzels, turkey legs and chimichangas. You can find popcorn and churros at other carts. Locations are subject to change, so simply ask if you cannot find them. You can also find balloons in the street near Carthay Circle. There's a plexiglass barrier to keep you and the balloon seller safe.
Spring has sprung with adorable spring treats available at Trolley Treats or Marceline's Confectionery in Downtown Disney. You can find themed caramel apples, cake pops, the cutest bunny tail crispy treat and fudge easter eggs (in chocolate and vanilla).
Any fans of WandaVision on Disney+ out there? A WandaVision retro photo-op is located near Stage 17 Backlot Premiere Shop for a limited time. But bring someone to take pics! Cast members cannot use your camera to take a pic, and you cannot employ other guests in line to do it for you. It's actually pretty cool, though. If you angle it just right, you can make it look like you are on television. If you do not have someone to take your pic, there is a stand to place your phone and you can set a timer to take it. You can edit your photo to make it black and white for that authentic 1950s feel. Well, minus the mask part anyway. You may not remove your mask for the photo. We saw cleaning crews disinfecting the set periodically.
We've hopped by Buena Vista Street quite a few times. Weekdays are generally not crowded; however, Legacy Passholders can enjoy a 30 percent discount on shopping Monday through Thursday though March 11, 2021, so that is motivating some weekday visits for some shoppers. That means you may find long lines to get into Downtown Disney midday. We've enjoyed some frogtastic sales during the last few months, so it's a great time to shop.
Pack some patience if you plan to visit on weekends or holidays. People are returning to get that yummy Disney food in their bellies and to discover new shopping opportunities! That means longer lines just to get into Downtown Disney. Budget enough time to get through security, wait in lines to shop and dine. (Psst ... the Harbor Boulevard Downtown Disney entrance is the way to go midday to skip the lines.)
Buena Vista Street has plenty of physical distancing space and tables for snacking, and it feels very safe. But with indoor shops limited in 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 the shops.
Here's what to expect when visiting Disneyland's Buena Vista Street for 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. It feels particularly festive at night — and Avengers Campus is all lit up too!
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, Mickey pretzels or themed caramel apples, crispy treats and cookies), shopping, dining and simply hearing the Disney music. There are plenty of seats for guests to relax and enjoy their Disney snacks. Guests may remove facial coverings only when stationary to eat and drink.
The holidays have ended, but you can take a look at the holiday decor at Downtown Disney and the views of Buena Vista Street in Tad's video from our November visit.
Downtown Disney's hours are generally 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On weekends and holidays, it closes at 9 p.m. You can always check the Disneyland app for the latest hours.
Buena Vista Street Shopping
There's a lot of new merchandise available now. You can find items for 2021, Lunar New Year and the cutest stuff for the "It's Reigning Cats and Dogs" promotion. There's new MARVEL merchandise about, as well.
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
- Studio Store In Hollywood Land
- Disneyland Resort Backlot Premiere Shop at Stage 17 (now accessible from Hollywood Land)
The addition of Trolley Treats has been hopful in relieving pressure for Marceline's Confectionery, the candy shop in Downtown Disney. Since the reopening of Downtown Disney, Marceline's Confectionery has added an outdoor register to save you the wait and enable you to purchase goodies without waiting to enter.
Because capacity in shops is limited, 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'd 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!
Dining on Buena Vista Street (through March 14, 2021)
In terms of food accessories, look for a sapphire light-up glow cube, Sleeping Beauty Castle snow globe sipper, Disneyland Resort stainless steel tumbler, Mickey Mouse ear hat bowl, and a Mickey & Minnie straw and clip. You can find some of these items at Award Wieners, Smokejumpers Grill and at the vending carts. You may find some items, such as the tumbler, in shops. You'll save money because there's no drink involved. Plus if you receive Legacy Passholder discounts, you'll get a bigger discount in the shop!
You can use Mobile Order at Award Wieners and Smokejumpers Grill, but pay in person if you want your Legacy Passholder discount. The following quick-service restaurants, table-service restaurants and vending carts are open on Buena Vista Street:
- Carthay Circle Lounge — Alfresco Dining - 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. If you are missing a favorite hidden drink menu item from Lamplight Lounge, just ask your server. You can get them at Carthay Circle Lounge too!
- 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.
- 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.
- Vending Carts - The carts are open so you can get your Disneyland Mickey pretzels, popcorn, popcorn buckets, churros, ice cream, smoked turkey legs, cotton candy, chimichangas and other classic Disney snacks we know you miss so much. Oh boy! Be sure to check out the Fluffernutter churro! It's a cinnamon sugar churro that's topped with peanut butter sauce, marshmallow sauce and chocolate chips. There's also a WandaVision inspired specialty chocolate pineapple churro in Hollywood Land.
You may order alcohol — Backlot Michelada from Award Wieners, anyone? However, you must order an adult meal with it.
Carthay Circle Lounge reservations (available now) fill 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. Scanning a QR code may help you score a same-day reservation.
Guests with proof of dining 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. Same-day reservations may be made if there are cancellations. Admittedly, those same-day reservations 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 from the popcorn cart. (Keep in mind that popcorn and churro carts may close early.)
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. There is a $10 fee to park in the Simba Lot at Downtown Disney, which you pay upon entry. We offer more parking and arrival tips in our Downtown Disney post.
Mobile Wait List
Everyone is hopping with excitement to 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. We really have not seen this in use since Buena Vista Street first opened.
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.
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 hits 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 until the parks are able to reopen. 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