Downtown Disney: A Complete Guide

by | Mar 14, 2024 | Disneyland Parks, Downtown Disney

Discover all of the exciting shopping, dining, and entertainment offered outside of Disneyland Resort’s two theme parks at the lively Downtown Disney District.

Step outside of Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park the next time you head to Disneyland Resort, because there’s so much more to explore if you head down the Esplanade and towards the Downtown Disney District! Sandwiched between the two theme parks as well as the resort hotels, Downtown Disney is a stretch of space that’s filled with restaurants, shops, and even some entertainment that can enhance your visit to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Below, we’re sharing everything you need to know about Downtown Disney, whether you’re planning a visit, checking out upcoming events, or checking out your dining options.

What is Downtown Disney?

Downtown Disney –– which is officially known as the Downtown Disney District –– is a shopping, dining, and entertainment destination within Disneyland Resort. It first opened back in January 2001 as part of the resort’s big expansion with the addition of Disney California Adventure Park and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Disneyland Resort got its very own Downtown Disney District thanks to Walt Disney World Resort, where a similar Downtown Disney featuring shopping, dining, and entertainment complex saw great success. So, Disney decided to replicate the concept in California. 

Disneyland’s version is, understandably, smaller than Disney World’s (which has since rebranded into Disney Springs). Here, Downtown Disney connects both theme parks, running right into the Esplanade to draw visitors right in with only a short walk. When visiting Downtown Disney, guests can easily walk to both the Grand Californian and the Disneyland Hotel, as well as the Disneyland Monorail and a pedestrian bridge that connects to the Pixar Pals and Mickey & Friends Parking Structures.

At Downtown Disney, you’ll find a range of different stores offering both Disney-themed items and non-Disney goods, plus numerous restaurants and entertainment options. You can enjoy a full day or evening here, with plenty to do for all age groups.

Thanks to its central location, it’s easy to visit Downtown Disney whether you’re already planning a theme park day, staying at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels, or simply dropping by for a meal or date night. With no theme park ticket required, all you’ll have to worry about when visiting is paying for parking!

Changes Coming to Downtown Disney

Currently, Downtown Disney is in the middle of a reimagining –– meaning there’s a lot that’s changing! When you visit, you’ll likely notice some areas of the District are under construction, while others have yet to be reimagined into their new forms.

Here’s a look at what’s coming to Downtown Disney in the months and years ahead:

  • Din Tai Fung, a family-run Chinese restaurant featuring soup dumplings
  • GG’s Chicken Shop, a restaurant featuring fried chicken sandwiches, salads, and comfort food table sides (which will be located within Parkside Market)
  • Parkside Market, which will feature four diverse culinary concepts in one (Seoul Sister, Sip & Sonder, GG’s Chicken Shop, and an overlook bar)
  • Paseo and Céntrico, an eatery and a courtyard bar serving upscale Mexican cuisine and tequila-based cocktails
  • Porto’s Bakery & Café, which features sweet pastries, desserts, and California-Cuban inspired dishes
  • Seoul Sister, a fast-casual restaurant featuring a Korean-forward, bibimbap-based menu (which will be located within Parkside Market)
  • Sip & Sonder, a Black women-owned spot to grab signature lattes, fresh treats, frozen drinks, and Caribbean-inspired bites (which will be located within Parkside Market)
  • Tiendita, a quick-service restaurant that will serve Mexican street food staples for on-the-go dining

While some of these concepts are underway (for example, Paseo and Céntrico are currently under construction), others have yet to begin taking shape. Keep an eye out for new additions during your future visits to Downtown Disney!

Dining at Downtown Disney Restaurants

Jazz Kitchen at Downtown Disney, interior seating

A look inside Jazz Kitchen Coastal Grill & Patio at Downtown Disney. Photo by Timothy Moore

Downtown Disney is home to a wealth of dining options –– and often, it’s easier to grab reservations here than in the theme parks! Whether you’re looking to grab a snack, something sweet, or a sit-down meal, you’ll find plenty of choices across a variety of cuisines.

At Downtown Disney, you’ll find a mix of quick-service restaurants, table service restaurants, and snack spots or carts. Table service restaurants will accept advance dining reservations, but quick-service restaurants will not.

Here’s a look at all of the current dining options and restaurants within Downtown Disney:

  • Ballast Point Brewing Co.
  • Beignets Expressed
  • Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes
  • Blue Ribbon Corn Dog
  • Clyde’s Hot Chicken
  • CrazyShake Window by Black Tap
  • Diggity Dogs
  • Earl of Sandwich
  • Earl of Sandwich Tavern
  • Jamba
  • Jazz Kitchen Coastal Grill & Patio
  • Kayla’s Cake
  • Naples Ristorante e Bar
  • Napolini Pizzeria
  • Pizza Counter
  • Salt & Straw
  • Splitsville Luxury Lanes
  • Starbucks
  • Taqueria at Tortilla Jo’s
  • Tortilla Jo’s
  • Wetzel’s Pretzels

Shopping at Downtown Disney Stores

Downtown Disney, World of Disney store exterior

The exterior of World of Disney at Downtown Disney. Photo by Jaysen White

Sprinkled throughout Downtown Disney are a number of stores that make it easy to pick up souvenirs and items you can’t find anywhere else –– and you won’t want to miss the opportunity to explore Disney offerings from a wide array of brands. 

With a mix of stores offering toys, home goods, clothing and shoes, and Disney-themed merchandise (of course!), you can find almost anything. Here’s a look at the stores you can shop at Downtown Disney:

  • California Sole
  • Curl Surf
  • The Disney Dress Shop
  • Disney Home
  • Disney’s Pin Traders
  • Kaman’s Art Shoppes, Inc. Characters and Letter Brush Art
  • The LEGO Store
  • Lovepop
  • Marceline’s Confectionery
  • Pandora Jewelry
  • Pelé Soccer
  • Sephora
  • Star Wars Trading Post
  • Sunglass Hut
  • Sunglass Icon Open Air
  • WonderGround Gallery
  • World of Disney

Downtown Disney Entertainment

There’s always something to do at Downtown Disney, with entertainment and activities –– and even special events –– taking place both within shops and restaurants and across the entire property. For example, on weekend nights you can catch live musical performances at locations throughout Downtown Disney; for festivals and holidays throughout the year, food trucks can change to offer a rotating selection of grab-and-go meals.

You can spend time at Splitsville Luxury Lanes, which offers both dining and bowling for the whole family. Or, stop by the new dynamic open lawn that stretches out before the LIVE! Stage, which hosts both daytime and nighttime entertainment throughout the year.

Check the entertainment schedule and calendar before your next visit to see what happenings might be taking place!

Downtown Disney Parking

Downtown Disney Parking

Photo courtesy of Disney

When visiting Downtown Disney, you have a few different parking options. You can:

  • Park at one of Disney’s dedicated parking lots or parking structures
  • Park in the designated Downtown Disney parking lot (the Simba Lot)

If you choose to park in the designated Downtown Disney parking lot (the Simba Lot), you’ll park just past Pixar Place Hotel, right off Disneyland Drive. To get to Downtown Disney, you’ll be able to walk from the lot past the Disneyland Hotel, then arrive right at the security screening area. 

Just note that while Disneyland’s parking structures and lots charge a per-day rate, the Downtown Disney parking lot charges an hourly rate. The first hour of parking costs $10 –– each additional hour costs $14, with a maximum daily fee of $66.

Restaurants and shops do validate Downtown Disney parking tickets, though. You can enjoy three hours of same-day parking with a $20 minimum purchase from any Downtown Disney location (and up to five hours with validation from a Downtown Disney table service restaurant). 

For more information about parking at Downtown Disney or anywhere within the Disneyland Resort, check out our parking guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Downtown Disney Free?

You don’t need a theme park ticket to visit Downtown Disney –– it’s open to all guests, free of charge! You will, however, want to keep parking fees in mind when planning your visit. If you aren’t already staying at a Disneyland hotel, a local hotel within walking distance, or visiting the theme parks, you will need to pay for parking.

What is the Difference Between Disney Springs and Downtown Disney?

Downtown Disney is a shopping, dining, and entertainment district located at Disneyland Resort. Disney Springs is a shopping, dining, and entertainment district located at Walt Disney World Resort. The two are opposite coasts, and each boasts its own offerings (for example, Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs is much larger and features more shops and restaurants than Disneyland’s Downtown Disney).

However, Disney Springs used to be named Downtown Disney! So, if you’re wondering why some mentions of Downtown Disney online may reference Walt Disney World instead of Disneyland, that’s likely where the confusion comes from.

Can You Walk Through Downtown Disney?

Anyone can walk through Downtown Disney! Like we mentioned above, it’s free to visit. We definitely recommend spending some time walking around the District, checking out stores, and seeing what entertainment is happening.

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu

Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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