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Heading to Downtown Disney? Here Are Our Top Tips (Including What's New and Where to Park)

by Leap on January 4, 2022 7 Los Angeles

There's always something new hoppening at Downtown Disney. 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 things are always changing). Hop over to our Disneyland reopening post for more dates and details about Disneyland Resort! You'll also want to hop over to our post on mask policies, as Downtown Disney follows Disneyland's same rules, and the policies change pretty often. You likely need to bring a face covering to wear indoors.

It's an exciting time at Downtown Disney. Changes are to come, but that means closures of some businesses and new construction walls going up. The west end of Downtown Disney is undergoing a major renovation that means the closure of The Earl of Sandwich, the Starbucks in the area and Sugarboo. Those buildings and the former AMC Theaters will be demolished. The new project will bring new dining and entertainment options to Downtown Disney and have a midcentury modern aesthetic.

Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney Right Now

All Downtown Disney table-service restaurants have reopened. Stores and vending carts have returned. There are a few new things to add to your to-do list.

Our Top Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney - Mickey Cookie in Front of Disneyland EntranceWhat's New?

There's always something new popping up (or should we say, hopping up!). Here are a few new changes you need to know:

  • You can purchase Disney balloons in Downtown Disney.
  • Check out the seasonally changing on the old ESPN Zone building.
  • The Star Wars Trading Post moved to the old Rainforest Cafe. You can spot Rey's Speeder out front.
  • Two new shops are opened near the old VOID location: Pele Soccer (soccer gear and customized jerseys) and Lovepop (laser-cut, 3-D pop-up greeting cards, paper art and gifts).

Downtown Disney District sustained us with a little Disney magic while the Disneyland theme parks were closed. Now things have pretty much returned to normal, with Downtown Disney being a place we visit for food and shopping before or after we visit a theme park.

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 dinner can get more crowded. 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 hours vary slightly per day. Check the Disneyland app for the latest information. Downtown Disney hours are generally 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. on weekends and may close earlier during the week.

Where to Find Parking at Downtown Disney

Top Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney - New Self Pay Stations at Simba Lot

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 about 15 minutes before Downtown Disney opens. If you arrive too early you will have to drive around the block.

Here are the new parking prices:

  • The first hour of parking costs $10. Validations apply after the first hour of paid parking.
  • Enjoy an additional 3 hours of same-day parking with a $20-minimum purchase and validation from any Downtown Disney location — or up to 5 additional hours of same-day parking with validation from any Downtown Disney table-service restaurant.
  • Beyond these validations, each additional hour costs $14, charged in 30-minute increments, with a minimum $7. The maximum daily parking and lost ticket fee is $66. Parking is subject to capacity.
  • The new self-pay machines are available, although we have paid at the exit booths each time we visited. You can find them next to the lot as you enter and exit the path to the security area. Be sure to bring your ticket with you and get it validated.

Note that restaurants and lounges within Disneyland Resort hotels do not validate for Downtown Disney District parking areas. So if you are dining at a hotel restaurant, park at the hotel and get free parking with validation.

Park at the Disneyland Resort Lots and Structures

This is the best option for people who want to visit the theme parks and Downtown Disney.

  • Park at the Disneyland parking structures. It's $30 and is good all day long. It's the best option if you plan to visit the parks or hotels and Downtown Disney. If you have parking on a Magic Key pass, you can use your parking benefits here. There is a pedestrian ramp form the second floor of the Pixar Pals structure that takes you to the Downtown Disney security near the Disneyland Hotel. Soon parking trams return to take guests to the end of Downtown Disney closes to the theme park entrances.
  • The Toy Story lot is a bit further, off Harbor Boulevard, but it has buses to take to you to the Harbor side of the esplanade. Hop past the theme parks to enter Downtown Disney.

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 Downtown Drive by 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!

Park Off-Site 

There are other parking options in the area besides the Simba Lot. You can find off-site parking at locations along Harbor Boulevard or near the Simba Lot. Some nearby hotels offer paid parking. 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- to seven-minute walk from the lot to the security entrance near Disneyland Hotel.

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 for a small fee to Disneyland from there (on demand for now). 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.

If walking is a challenge for you, you can rent wheelchairs at several off-site locations across from the Disneyland Resort on Harbor Boulevard or next to the Disneyland theme park entrance. One Stop Mobility or Select Mobility are two nearby choices.

Dining at Downtown Disney Restaurants

Top Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney - Diner at Jazz Kitchen with food and plexiglass barrier

Making a reservation for dining is the easiest way to dine at Downtown Disney on the weekend or busy times.

How to Get a Downtown Disney Restaurant Reservation

The table-service restaurants at Downtown Disney accept reservations. Each restaurant is a bit different in terms of the reservation process.

For Ballast Point, 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:

  • Catal (serves dinner daily and brunch on Saturday and Sunday and is also on Open Table)
  • 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 breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Splitsville (bowling and food)

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.

The restaurants may have expanded outdoor seating. 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.

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:

  • Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes
  • CrazyShake Window by Black Tap
  • California Churro
  • Earl of Sandwich (closing in January 2022)
  • Jamba (Mobile Order available)
  • Jazz Kitchen Express (Mobile Order available)
  • Kayla’s Cakes
  • La Brea Bakery Express
  • Napolini
  • Salt & Straw (Mobile Order available)
  • Sprinkles
  • Starbucks
  • Taqueria at Tortilla Jo's
  • Wetzel’s Pretzels
  • Wetzel’s Diggity Dog

Note that if you are looking to apply a Magic Key discount, do not use mobile order. Pay at the counter or window and show your pass.

Shopping at Downtown Disney

Heading to Downtown Disney? - New Star Wars Trading Post LocationMost 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, and other items usually found only in Batuu, as well as other Star Wars merchandise. 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.

Be prepared to show your Magic Key on your phone to get discounts for food and merchandise at select Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street locations.

Our Top Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney - Mobile Order Sign and BagsMobile Checkout

World of Disney has been 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!

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.

Our Top Tips for Visiting Downtown Disney - Mom and daughter dressed vintage DisneyThe 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 indoors.

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 indoors. 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. Once inside, you can purchase Disney-themed cloth masks at World of Disney and other locations.

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. The latest has a Lunar New Year theme.

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

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
View Comments
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Mar 29, 2022 at 2:06 a.m. Nate Says...

Hi Momma Frog!

We will be visiting for spring break and were looking forward to taking our 2 kids (4 & 7) to Disney, only to find out that we now have to make a reservation to the park, and nothing is available the week we are in Cali. Is it still worth taking the kids to Disney Downtown for a day? Or should we just go to Universal? Your advice is welcome please :)

Mar 30, 2022 at 10:47 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Nate!

There is fun shopping and dining at Downtown Disney that the tadpoles may enjoy! If you're there between March 31 to April 17, you can participate in Eggstravaganza, an egg hunt that takes place throughout Disneyland Resort, including Downtown Disney. It's also worth continuing to refresh because sometimes availability changes.

Keep hopping!


Sep 12, 2021 at 3:58 p.m. Jessica Says...

This information is incredibly helpful! We are wanting to visit next summer and we’re debating on parking near downtown Disney or renting an Airbnb within walking distance. You gave us all the information me needed and more! I appreciate it!

P.S. There was a small typo in one of your headers. “Wear a face covering inddors.”

Sep 13, 2021 at 9:50 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jessica!

We are so hoppy to help - have a great trip! And OOPS :) Thank you for the heads up - we've adjusted!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 24, 2021 at 8:39 p.m. Stacie Says...

Hi, thank you so much!! I was planning a trip to come here with my boyfriend in the weekend. I would rather wait until a week day to go. Less crowds, less stress. May God bless! (:

Apr 10, 2021 at 3:10 p.m. Sarah Says...

Thank you for this! So much great info presented perfectly

Apr 11, 2021 at 2:13 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

That is high praise, Sarah - thank you so much! Thanks for taking the time to share with us! :)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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