Disneyland Resort is home to two theme parks, three resort hotels and the shopping district, Downtown Disney (DTD). This area is open to the public and separates The Disneyland and Paradise Pier Hotels from the entrance of both Disneyland and California Adventure.
To access Downtown Disney you can easily park at the Simba parking lot next to Paradise Pier Hotel if you’re not staying on property. Parking for the first hour is $10, but after that, as you shop and eat in Downtown Disney, you can get the rest of your parking ticket validated. A $20 purchase will give you three hours of free parking after the initial $10, and eating at a table service restaurant will give you five free hours. Simply ask for your ticket to be validated when making your purchases. If you forget to validate, take your parking ticket and receipt back to the location where you purchased, and they will validate it for you (learned that from experience).
If you park in the theme park parking lots and take the tram you will be dropped off near the end of Downtown Disney, with only a short walk to the parks from there.
After passing security in front of the Disneyland Hotel (if coming from the Simba lot), you will have before you a variety of eateries, shops, and entertainment. There are nightly shows on a small stage by the monorail station, and also street entertainers farther down the walkway.
The end of Downtown Disney is marked by Disneyland ticket booths and the entrances to both Disneyland Resort theme parks. I would say it only takes about five minutes to walk the entirety of DTD, if you were going straight through, and there were no crowds. Since there are usually plenty of people blocking the walkways and lots of distracting things to look at, I would say the journey averages about 15 minutes.
There are a couple of entertainment options in Downtown Disney that are more than just food or merchandise. There is a bowling alley and a virtual reality experience where you can step into the world of Star Wars or Marvel. Of course, these entertainment options will cost you some extra moola.
Even though there is a ton of merchandise in the parks, there are a couple of spots in Downtown Disney that are great places to find some unique Disney themed items. Disney Home, a shop located near the middle of Downtown Disney, offers Disney inspired home decor for all the rooms in your home. Kitchen gear, wall art, pet supplies; you want it, they’ve probably got it!
Another Downtown Disney shop that deserves to be checked out is the WonderGround Gallery. This shop features amazing artists, and allows you to buy prints or the originals of Disney themed art. The best thing about this store is that they have a corner for Disney artists to draw in. You can watch them create pieces of art, or even get a custom piece done! This is truly a unique store that should not be overlooked.
The newly opened Star Wars Trading Post takes over the spot where Rainforest Café used to reside. While you might be able to find some similar merchandise throughout the parks, there’s no shortage of Star Wars specific items here! It may be a makeover but the shop looks pretty good overall and is a nice taste of the galaxy far, far away if you aren’t able to go in the parks.
Of course Downtown Disney also has the World of Disney store, which has a lot of the merchandise that can be found in the parks. This isn’t really a must-see store if you’re spending time in the parks because it’s all of the same merchandise piled into one place, but if you can’t get into the parks then this store is where all the classic Disney merchandise will be.
While we haven’t tried all (or even that many) of the dining options in Downtown Disney, there are a few that we’ve eaten at. Splitsville, the aforementioned bowling alley, has a vast menu and some surprisingly good sushi. I know that bowling alley and sushi are not words that usually, or even should, go together but what we’ve tried here is good and we’d recommend it. The table-service restaurant and bar also specialize in pizzas and sandwiches along with a few nicer entrees. The Happy Hour menu is strong here if you like sushi. It’s not the best restaurant at Disneyland Resort by any means but it’s a solid option.
We’ve also tried a few of the counter-service restaurants including steady Earl of Sandwich. I enjoy this place but find it to be a little overhyped. The prices are okay and they serve pretty good sub sandwiches but it’s not some great value or anything. It is a good option if you’re looking for something quick, safe and relatively cheap. We have also tried Tortilla Jo’s which is (in our opinion) an average Mexican restaurant, albeit a little overpriced.
There is, of course, a Starbucks in Downtown Disney, as well as tons of other food options that we haven’t tried yet. I do though fully recommend the beignets from the Jazz Kitchen!
Since you do not need a theme park ticket to enter Downtown Disney, you often find a bit of a rowdier crowd here than in the parks, though it is still within the confines of Disney security. Downtown Disney also stays open later than both theme parks, as it is open until 11 p.m. every night (as of July 2021).
Overall, Downtown Disney isn’t a horrible place to spend your time, there are definitely good options there in terms of food and merchandise. But, when you compare those options to the ones in Disneyland and California Adventure, we would recommend spending more time in the theme parks than out in this shopping district.
Do you spend a lot of time in Downtown Disney during your vacation? Let us know your thoughts or any questions you might have in the comments below. Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our planning guide to help you along the way. If you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages which you can find on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!