Need your Disneyland fix? Even though Disneyland is temporarily closed, there's always something new hoppening at Downtown Disney. It's been our home away from home on the West Coast while the theme parks are still closed. Before we get onto the latest tips and details, we are frogcited to announce that outdoor dining has returned! Reservations for most Downtown Disney table-service restaurants are open now. Before we get into the general tips for visiting Downtown Disney, we'll go over what you need to know about visiting right now as we await official news about the return of more dining choices and vending carts (and new stores).
Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney Right Now
Now that the Regional Stay-at-Home Order has been lifted, you may now eat and drink on property when stationary and physically distanced. Most Downtown Disney table-service restaurants have reopened. Dining and vending carts have returned. There are a few new things to add to your to-do list. Hop down to "What's New" for a complete list. Here's information for visiting Downtown Disney while Disneyland is in a transition period as it leaves the order and moves into a period in which outdoor dining is allowed.
The vending carts also sell balloons. We are bouncing with excitement over the return of the Disneyland balloons! They definitely make us hoppy to get a little theme park magic while the parks are closed.
Open Dining Locations
Through March 14, 2021, you may notice a few Disney California Adventure Buena Vista Street restaurants mixed in with the Downtown Disney locations. We've enjoyed free access for the past few months as an extension of Downtown Disney. As of March 15, Buena Vista Street will close to prepare for a new ticketed event called A Touch of Disney. Until then, here's what is currently open or set to reopen:
- Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen
- Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express (Mobile Order available for the limited menu of beignets and gumbo)
- Black Tap Craft Burgers and Shakes
- Wetzel's Pretzels
- Jamba (Mobile Order available)
- Salt & Straw (Mobile Order available)
- Earl of Sandwich
- Ballast Point
- Naples Ristorante e Bar
- Tortilla Jo's
- Uva Bar & Cafe
- Starbucks (near World of Disney)
- La Brea Bakery
Buena Vista Street locations (though March 14, 2021):
- Carthay Circle Lounge — Alfresco Dining
- Award Wieners
- Smokejumpers Grill
- Vending carts inside Buena Vista Street
Note that if you are looking to apply a passholder discount, do not use mobile order. Pay at the counter or window and present your card.
Downtown Disney vending carts (outside of Buena Vista Street) are open, including:
- California Churro Carts
- Kayla's Cake
- Wetzel's Pretzels Stand
- Diggity Dog
- Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs
Speaking of vending carts, we are so frogcited that the carts inside Buena Vista Street have been open. You can once again enjoy Mickey pretzels, chimichangas, turkey legs, cotton candy, ice cream bars, popcorn and last but not least, churros. Yum! Just make sure to order at least an hour before the park closes because some carts close early.
This is a great time to do some shopping at Downtown Disney. We've seen some great sales. Looking ahead, the new 2021 merchandise and the Lunar New Year merchandise is now available. The "It's Reigning Cats and Dogs" merch is toadally cute.
Even though Disneyland Annual Passes are canceled, bring your old pass with you because you can still use it for discounts for food and merchandise at select Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street locations until Disney announces new membership offerings. Speaking of discounts, from Jan. 18 through March 11, 2021, Legacy passholders (people with a valid AP as of March 14, 2020) receive a 30 percent discount on select merchandise Monday through Thursday. (Passholders still get the normal discount Friday through Sunday.) Hop over to our Disneyland reopening post to learn more about the pass cancellation and more. Keep in mind that you will need to pay at a register to get applicable discounts. Mobile Order and Mobile Checkout will not apply discounts until a new membership plan is in place.
Legacy Passholders have a few other perks, such as early access to new shopping experiences and photo-ops.
Are you looking for balloons, popcorn buckets and sippers? You can find buckets, treats and balloons at the vending cart just past Carthay Circle on Buena Vista Street (near the future entrance to Avengers Campus). The buckets and sippers are also sometimes found in the stores.
There's always something new popping up (or should we say, hopping up!). Here are a few new changes you need to know:
- The Star Wars Trading Post moved to the old Rainforest Cafe location Feb. 19. You can spot Rey's Speeder out front.
- You can get your Disneyland balloons on Buena Vista Street, so you can take a little Disney magic home with you.
- A WandaVision retro photo-op near Stage 17 Backlot Premiere Shop is here for a limited time.
- Spring has sprung with adorable spring treats at Trolley Treats and Marceline's Confectionery. Look for yummy cake pops, crispy treats, caramel apples and fudge eggs.
- Stage 17 entrance has returned to the Esplanade.
- Check out the LEGO Chewbacca in front of the LEGO Store.
- You can get your treats a little quicker at Marceline's if you know what you want and are ordering from the case, or a few other select items. There's a register outside with a photo menu so you can order without waiting to get into the shop. A few classic treats are available, including Tigger Tails.
- 2021 merchandise is available.
- WonderGround Gallery reopened Feb. 19.
- Enjoy the Mickey pineapple flavored sugar cookie — it reminds us of Dole Whip!
- New cat and dog merchandise for you and your four-legged friends is available.
- You can get snickerdoodle glazed beignets to-go at Jazz Kitchen Express.
- Annual Passholders get a free AP magnet (with purchase at select locations and while supplies last) and a 30 percent discount Monday through Thursday through March 11, 2021.
- Carthay Circle Lounge — Alfresco Dining reservations are open (for a limited time)
- There's a new option to join a walk-up list in the Disneyland app for Carthay Circle in case you do not have a reservation.
- Tickets go on sale for A Touch of Disney March 4.
- Buena Vista Street closes free access as of March 15, 2021 (last day to visit is March 14).
- March 18 though April 5, A Touch of Disney ticketed event takes place inside Disney California Adventure Park.
Downtown Disney District has been sustaining us with a little Disney magic until the Disneyland theme parks are able to reopen. Before COVID-19, we never really had to think about visiting Downtown Disney. It was a convenient place to grab breakfast before entering the parks or to get a quick bite or souvenir after exiting the parks. When we visited Downtown Disney to play or dine, we never worried about parking. These days, Downtown Disney has more and more Disney fans coming to shop, eat treats and gaze wistfully at the theme park gates. With less capacity to allow for physical distancing, on certain days, it can be downright tricky to get into Downtown Disney. But have no fear — your favorite frogs are here with our very best tips for visiting Downtown Disney!
Top Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney
Hop along as we go over our top tips for visiting Downtown Disney, including the best times to visit, best places to park and how to get into Marceline’s Confectionery, World of Disney store or Buena Vista Street at peak times. We’ll dig in to the ribbiting details of the expansion of Downtown Disney into Buena Vista Street for shopping and dining, as well.
Best Time to Visit Downtown Disney
One of our best tips for visiting Downtown Disney is to time your visit right. Ultimately, the best time to visit Downtown Disney is during the week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the least crowded of all, especially in the morning and afternoon. Holidays, weekends, and Fridays around lunch or dinner hit capacity throughout the day and even shortly after parking opens. People line up early to park on weekend mornings. Once the lot reaches capacity, it’s closed to new cars coming in, except for people with dining reservations.
The Downtown Disney District is usually open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and some holidays). You can always find the most up-to-date hours in the Disneyland app.
We have visited Downtown Disney on many weekdays with no problems with parking and no lines to enter security, although lately lines are forming as the day goes on due to the Legacy Passholder 30 percent discount Monday through Thursday until March 11. Arrive early to beat the crowds.
Digital message boards on Disneyland Drive and Katella Avenue indicate when entry is paused due to capacity limitations. Foot traffic may also be paused at times. The Disneyland app also indicated when the district hits capacity. At busy times, you'll find a much shorter wait if you enter security at the Harbor Boulevard side.
Where to Find Parking at Downtown Disney
One of the challenges to visiting Downtown Disney is the limited parking. Here are all of your options for parking at Downtown Disney (or nearby).
Park On-Site at the Simba Lot
Downtown Disney parking moved its lot from Magic Way to a new location. The Simba Lot is just south of the Paradise Pier Hotel off Disneyland Drive. Parking opens at 9:45 a.m. (when Downtown Disney opens at 10 a.m.). If you arrive too early you will have to drive around the block. Parking is $10. You will pay upon entry to the lot. Even though we've seen new self-pay machines next to the lot as you enter and exit the path to the security area, a cast member said they are not in use yet.
Parking is limited in order to control capacity at Downtown Disney. If you’ve arrived and parking is full, you have a couple of choices. You can wait until more people exit and then enter the lot. You’ll see people circling the block and lined up along Disneyland Drive from the Mickey and Friends parking structure (which remains closed) to the Simba Lot entrance. At busier times, northbound drivers coming from Katella will be forced to head past the Simba Lot entrance all the way to Magic Way to make a U-turn. That’s why it’s best to approach Disneyland Drive from the north from Ball Road. The other options are to park somewhere else or avoid driving to Downtown Disney, which we'll break down below.
The best entrance to Downtown Disney may or differ from day to day and per time of day. At busy times, such as midday, you might find a two-hour wait to enter Downtown Disney from the Simba Lot while the Harbor Boulevard side has no line at all. If you want to access the Star Wars Trading Post, you may want to access it as early as you can from the Simba Lot or off-site parking at that end.
If you want to be one of the first people in Downtown Disney, get dropped off or park off-site. More on those options below.
Get Your Steps In
If you can catch a ride and be dropped off (or stay at a nearby hotel if you are from out of town), that solves the parking dilemma. You can arrive at one of two drop-off areas near each security entrance to Downtown Disney. One drop-off area is off Downtown Drive (near Magic Way and the Disneyland Hotel). The other is the Harbor Boulevard guest drop-off and pick-up location. If you are staying at a nearby hotel on Harbor Boulevard, you can simply hop in! If Downtown Disney reaches capacity, you will not be able to walk in until other guests exit.
There are other parking options in the area besides the Simba Lot. Now that parking is no longer free at Downtown Disney, these certainly seem more attractive and may even save time if Simba is closed. You can find off-site parking at locations along Harbor Boulevard or near the Simba Lot. Several hotels across the street from the Harbor security entrance offer paid parking. Here are a few options:
- Tropicana on Harbor Boulevard charges $15, and parking is subject to availability. (It's just across the street from Esplanade.)
- Anaheim Hotel on Harbor Boulevard and Disney Way charges $25, and at times requires advance reservations. It’s about a 5- to 10-minute walk to Harbor security.
- Best Western Stovalls Inn on Katella (just north of Disneyland Drive and the Simba Lot at Katella, by the Coco's) is $15. It's about a five-minute walk from the lot to temperature check.
- Best Western Plus Park Place Inn sometimes offers parking for $15. If the sign is out, pull in! (It's just across the street from Esplanade.)
- GardenWalk off Disney Way charges $3 an hour for parking (the first hour is free, with a $30 daily maximum). Some GardenWalk locations validate parking. It’s about a 10-minute walk to Harbor security.
If you want to be one of the first people to enter Downtown Disney, arrive at the Best Western Stovall's Inn about 45 minutes before Downtown Disney opens. You can line up in front of the temperature check, and security may let you enter about the time that the parking lot opens. You'll be ahead of people who have to pay and park.
ARTIC Lot A is a bit further away and is free. It has short-term parking via Katella Avenue or Douglas Road. You will have to catch a bus to Disneyland from there. The Fullerton Park & Ride has free parking, but you would need to catch a bus or pay for car service to get you to Downtown Disney. You'll need to plan extra time for this.
Dining at Downtown Disney Restaurants
Making a reservation for dining is the easiest way to access Downtown Disney on the weekend or busy times. If you can only visit on the weekend due to work or school, another one of our top tips for visiting Downtown Disney is to make a dining reservation. People who have reservations can enter the Simba Lot even when it temporarily stops letting people in. Show the police your reservation and they will let you in. Plus a reservation is kind of like a FASTPASS for getting to the front of the security line if there’s a long wait.
At security, if your reservation is approaching in about the next 15 minutes, just talk to a cast member about jumping to the front of the line. You can’t miss the cast members: They line the path from the parking lot through security to wave and welcome you back to Downtown Disney.
How to Get a Reservation at Downtown Disney Restaurants
The table-service restaurants at Downtown Disney accept reservations. Each restaurant is a bit different in terms of the reservation process. Some restaurants began reopening Jan. 30, 2021, but check the Disneyland app for the current status.
For Ballast Point (open as of Jan. 30), reserve through OpenTable or call (714) 687-9813. ballast Point serves brunch on the weekends from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The restaurants that use the Disneyland app for reservations include:
- Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
- Naples Ristorante e Bar
- Tortilla Jo’s
- Uva Bar & Café (now open for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays)
- La Brea Bakery Café (for brunch and dinner)
- Carthay Circle Lounge - Alfresco Dining (reservations are open now through March 14 and you can scan a QR code to check for same-day availability)
If you cannot get a reservation but have a particular dining establishment in mind, just show up and ask in person. We’ve seen the app have no reservations for Downtown Disney locations but then have plenty of available seating for walk-up, so reservations are not always necessary. But they definitely help with guaranteeing you'll get in during busy times! Book early for the best availability.
All of the restaurants have expanded outdoor seating with space between tables. Plexiglass barriers are installed in some locations. Plexiglass dividers separate diners at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen from people passing by. At table-service restaurants, be prepared to scan a QR code to pull up the menu on your phone. We've noticed that the menu items are more limited than normal, so check out the menus online before visiting. At Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, the hostess handed us plastic bags for our face coverings and a hand wipe. At Ballast Point, you can also order and pay on your phone. All wait staff and other employees wear masks. Catal and Splitsville remain closed.
Quick-Service Dining and Vendor Carts
You do not need a reservation for quick-service Downtown Disney restaurant locations. Look for signs with QR codes for Mobile Order for select quick-service locations. The following quick-service restaurants and food stands are open except where noted:
- Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes
- CrazyShake Window by Black Tap
- California Churro
- Earl of Sandwich
- Jamba (Mobile Order available)
- Jazz Kitchen Express (Mobile Order available)
- Kayla’s Cakes
- La Brea Bakery Café (currently closed)
- Napolini (currently closed)
- Salt & Straw (Mobile Order available)
- Splitsville (currently closed)
- Sprinkles (currently closed)
- Wetzel’s Pretzels
- Wetzel’s Diggity Dog
- Award Wieners in Buena Vista Street (through March 14)
- Smokejumpers Grill in Buena Vista Street (through March 14)
Shopping at Downtown Disney
Most of the stores at Downtown Disney are open. You may see a few modifications. The Star Wars Trading Post has moved to the old Rainforest Cafe location. Many more Star Wars items have been brought over from Galaxy's Edge to the much larger new location. You can purchase toys, clothing, legacy lightsabers and other items usually found only in Batuu, as well as other Star Wars merchandise. That move means the WonderGround Gallery has reopened as of Feb. 19. The LEGO Store no longer has play or self-serve areas to minimize contact. You can take a closer look at all of the retail therapy available right now in our Ultimate Guide to Downtown Disney at Disneyland.
The stores have to limit capacity to allow for social distancing. If a store is full, an employee will have you wait in a short line before entering. There are usually markers on the ground to tell you where to stand to allow 6 feet between you and the parties ahead of and behind you. For select popular stores, you may join a virtual queue.
Marceline's Confectionery has a new outside register for people who know what they want and do not need to go into the shop. That moves the line a lot quicker. The opening of Trolley Treats, which usually sells the same items, toadally helped too!
Virtual Queues and Mobile Wait Lists
In order to control capacity (currently, indoor shops are limited in capacity), certain stores — or areas such as Buena Vista Street — may offer a virtual queue to enter.
The latest use of the virtual queue is for the new (and popular) Star Wars Trading Post. In order to scan the QR code and join a Mobile Wait List, make sure your phone is set to "Allow Location Access" for Safari. You will enter your name and number and party size. You'll receive an initial text. The second text indicates it's time to check-in and join a line to get in. For the shop's opening weekend, people waited hours to enter Downtown Disney from the Simba Lot, and then joined a virtual queue. It took hours to receive the return text and then the physical queue took over an hour. So budget plenty of time to visit Star Wars Trading Post.
Here's a hop tip. Use another device to scan the QR code in the above photo as soon as you arrive on property. You may be able to save yourself a few hours of waiting. Ribbit!
Our froggy tip is to make sure you plan for the Mobile Wait Lists and give yourself enough time to visit all the locations on your wish list. Mobile Checkout
World of Disney is testing a new Mobile Checkout system via the Disneyland app. To use it, grab a Mobile Checkout shopping bag. Scan items with your phone as you add them to the bag. Tap Check Out when finished to pay on your phone. Show your QR Code to a cast member as you exit!
Did you have an annual pass that was active when the parks closed or a Disney Visa? Your discount will only apply if you pay at a register (and you'll need to show your card).
Limited Shopping Events
If you enjoy acquiring rare and limited Disney items, you might be lucky enough to hop on a reserved shopping event. At times, you may make a reservation to do some Disney shopping in Downtown Disney. You can make an online reservation at the Disneyland site to purchase featured products in the former ESPN Zone. Each event is usually offered for a couple of days and reservations fill up quickly. You can usually book the week before an event goes live.
Buena Vista Street
The gift that keeps on giving is the expansion of Downtown Disney into Buena Vista Street. We were so hoppy to enjoy those Disneyland snacks we were missing! The tadpoles were so excited to eat churros, popcorn, Mickey ice cream bars and corndogs. We always enjoy our snacks from Trolley Treats. No, the rides are not open, and characters are not there to greet us (Mickey and Minnie are 92 years old and in a high-risk group after all), but it still brings us joy to be inside the theme park.
Buena Vista Street Restaurants
The following dining establishments and vending carts opened as of Feb. 5 on Buena Vista Street inside Disney California Adventure and are accessible through March 14, 2021:
- Carthay Circle Lounge — Unwind 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. 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 amazing views of Buena Vista Street. You'll need a reservation.
- Smokejumpers Grill — Get your tasty American classics for lunch and dinner with a streamlined menu of burgers, fries, onion rings, chocolate and vanilla shakes, and craft beer. The primary way to place your order at this dining location is through Mobile Order on the Disneyland app. If you want your Legacy Passholder discount, order in person to get the discount.
- Award Wieners — Have you missed your Disneyland corn dogs? Us too! The wait is over as corn dogs (and cheddar cheese sticks) take the stage at this Hollywood Land hot dog stand! Add apple pie funnel cake, beer or the popular Backlot Michelada. Mobile Order is faster, but if want the Legacy Passholder discount, order in person to get the discount.
- Vending Carts —The food carts are open so you can get your Disneyland popcorn, churros, Mickey pretzels, chimichangas, ice cream, cotton candy, turkey legs and other classic Disney snacks we know you miss so much. Oh boy! You can also purchase select sippers and popcorn buckets and other food accessories at the carts. (Watch the hours at night because they can close early.)
Keep in mind that even though Smokejumpers Grill and Award Wieners offer Mobile Order, you'll want to wait until you get into Buena Vista Street before you order. Having a Mobile Order does not grant you entrance into Buena Vista Street if it hits capacity.
Buena Vista Street Shops
Buena Vista Street shops include:
- Trolley Treats — Sweet treats
- Kingswell Camera Shop — Gift ideas such as frames and photo albums
- Elias & Co. — Headware, handbags, vintage-style clothing, Disney dresses, jewelry and more for the whole family
- Julius Katz & Sons — Home decor, kitchen gadgets, Disney pins, art and collectibles
- Off the Page — Gallery with art, figurines and collectibles (opened Dec. 3)
Keep in mind that shop capacity is limited indoors, so expect to wait in lines to enter shops at busy times. If the store lines get too long, there could be a Mobile Wait List.
What You Need to Know About Visiting Downtown Disney Right Now
Our Disneyland reopening post has all of the details on the health and safety protocols and rules for visiting the property. The same theme park rules that apply in the theme parks apply to Downtown Disney, as you pass through the same security and health screening as you would if the theme parks were open. Here are our tips for visiting Downtown Disney right now.
Follow the Disneyland dress code.
The Disneyland costume and dress code guidelines apply to Downtown Disney, as well. As a refresher, adults 14 and up may not wear costumes or clothing that drags on the ground. They can, however, DisneyBound to use street clothes to channel a favorite Disney (or Marvel or Star Wars) character’s colors or patterns. We saw some salty pirates “walking the plank” when they were turned away from entering Downtown Disney around Halloween. Your Disney clothes, ears and Disney masks are always welcome at Downtown Disney.
Wear a face covering.
The mask policy is nonnegotiable. Everyone from employees to guests age 2 and up must wear a facial covering made with at least two layers of breathable material. It must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face. The covering must be secured with ties or ear loops. Gaiter-syle coverings, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not allowed. Even if you receive the COVID-19 vaccine, you will still need to mask up.
Signs and cast members will remind guests to follow the social distancing guidelines and wear a facial covering. If you somehow forget your mask, you can purchase a disposable mask from a vending machine outside security for $2, so you can get into Downtown Disney. Once inside, you can purchase Disney-themed cloth masks at World of Disney and other locations.
You cannot remove the mask to take a pic. A cast member told us to make sure we could “only see our smiling eyes in photos.” You may remove the mask once seated in a restaurant (Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen provided mask bags and a hand wipe). You may also remove the mask when stationary and physically distant from other guests to enjoy food and treats.
Be prepared to undergo temperature checks and changes to security.
Prepare to have your temperature checked by a health professional. If you have a fever of 100.4 or above, you and your party will be pulled aside. You may encounter a sniffing dog. Carry your items past the dog and do not interact with the working dog. Bring as little as possible so security does not need to search through all your belongings. You’ll place your items on a table, slide them forward and walk through the metal detector. At times, Disney has been testing a contactless security screening. Selfie sticks are not permitted at Downtown Disney.
Bring credit, debit and gift cards for contactless transactions.
The stores prefer contactless forms of payment. Annual passholder discounts still work, so bring your annual pass card even if it expired during the pandemic. Look for Mobile Order opportunities for contactless ordering (but pay at the register if you want to apply discounts).
Scout out which stores require a virtual queue upon arrival.
Depending on the day and time of your visit, the stores or areas you want to access may or may not have a virtual queue. The locations where you may have to join a mobile waitlist include Marceline's Confectionery and Buena Vista Street, but other shops also use the virtual queue at peak times. Join those first and then dine and shop while you wait your turn to enter. Carthay Circle Lounge does not take reservations, but does offer a Mobile Wait List. Hop on it early in case the wait gets long.
Be prepared for limited capacity for physical distancing.
As mentioned, capacity in Downtown Disney is limited to promote physical distancing. That means at peaks times, you may experience delays getting in. Mostly this occurs on holidays, weekends and Friday nights. Buena Vista Street has its own capacity limits. Plan extra time to park, make reservations and try to visit during weekdays if you can to avoid crowds.
Pay attention to where you sit and stand. There are markings on benches and on the ground to separate parties. Take advantage of hand washing stations and sanitizer stations throughout Downtown Disney.
Get those photo-ops.
You can use the Disney backgrounds on the former ESPN Zone building as backgrounds for your photos. The one on the corner changes.
Hopfully, our tips for visiting Downtown Disney help you prepare for your visit. If you are looking to stay at one of the hotels near Disneyland when you visit Downtown Disney, your froggy friends can help you jump on a hoppin' deal.
Related: Disneyland Reopening