Sitting in the middle of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Downtown Disney is a place outside the southern California theme parks where you can you can eat, shop, go to the movies, build your own teddy bear or race car - or just walk around and watch everyone else doing all that.
It's a good place get away from all the rides and attractions for a while and add a dash of something different to your visit.
Downtown Disney is open to the public, and there is no admission charge. If you want to eat, shop or go to the movies here, the first three hours of parking are free, and you can get more time free with validation from the movie theatre or some table service restaurants.
An easy way to get to Downtown Disney from Disneyland is to take the Monorail. Get on at the monorail station in Tomorrowland and you can get off right in the middle of Downtown Disney. From California Adventure, it's a short walk from the park entrance, or you can take a shortcut through the Grand Californian hotel.
Downtown Disney Dining
Downtown Disney restaurants include the Rainforest Cafe (a favorite of kids of all ages), House of Blues, Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria and Catal Restaurant. If don't want to wait for a table, but don't want to make do with a pretzel and lemonade either, try the Uva Bar. Located in the central courtyard, they share the same kitchen with Catal restaurant, and usually have a much shorter wait. You can call Disney Dining at 714-781-3463 to arrange for Priority Seating at any of the restaurants except the Rainforest Cafe (whose phone number is here).
A few years ago, meals in Downtown Disney were generally less expensive than comparable fare inside the parks, but now it varies. If cost is your primary consideration, it's worth the time to check the menus before making a decision.
Shopping at Downtown Disney
You'll find some unique shops into the Downtown Disney area, along with some popular chains. Most of the items sold fall into the category of home decoration, jewelry or toys.
The list of shops in Downtown Disney changes faster than I can keep up with it and I don't want you to be disappointed. To find out the current retail lineup, visit the Downtown Disney website.
The one shop that never changes is the big Disney store near the tram stop, offering a wide range of merchandise and souvenirs. Their high-end collectibles selection is good, but if you're a serious collector, you should also check the Disneyana store next to the train station on Main Street U.S.A. Also Disney-themed and targeted toward the trendy teen is Disney Vault 28, where you'll find famous designers' takes on Disney character style.
Downtown Disney Entertainment
If the two theme parks don't keep you entertained enough, you can indulge your inner jock at the Downtown Disney ESPN Zone, catch a movie at the AMC theatre (good way to rest those tired feet), or enjoy a musical performance or Jazz Brunch at House of Blues.
In the evening - and especially on weekend evenings - you'll find musicians performing at Downtown Disney, selling their music CDs to take home. It adds to the festive atmosphere and is another reason to stop by for a little while.
If you're in Downtown Disney and would like to watch the fireworks but you aren't going into the park, take the tram or follow the signs from Downtown Disney to the Mickey and Friends parking lot. Go to the lot's top floor and you'll get a great view of the pyrotechnics.
Downtown Disney Review
I rate Downtown Disney 3.5 out of 5 as a good place to escape the theme parks for a while, get a good meal or do a little shopping. Its open, airy design makes it a fun place to hang out, and it's very lively at night.
POLL: What do you think of Downtown Disney as a tourist destination?
Where Is Downtown Disney Located?
Downtown DisneyIf you're just going to Downtown Disney but not to the theme parks, follow the well-marked signs the self-parking lot on Disneyland Drive. You can also get to Downtown Disney from other parts of Anaheim on the Anaheim Resort Trolley
1580 S. Disneyland Dr.
Downtown Disney website