What’s going on with Downtown Disney’s west end at Disneyland?

in Disney, Disneyland Resort, Food

Downtown Disney District

Image copyright OC Register

Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney District has a well-deserved reputation for wonderful shopping, dining and more. Disney has breathed new life into the district with the newly remodeled World of Disney Store. The area feels exciting and fresh, until you find yourself at the west end. Since Disney cancelled their plans to construct a luxury hotel at Downtown Disney, it is unclear what will become of Downtown Disney’s west end, which had been cleared out earlier this year to make way for the proposed hotel. 

Starbucks West, ESPN Zone, Rainforest Café, AMC Theaters, and Earl of Sandwich closed when the company broke ground on the fourth on-property hotel at Disneyland Resort. Earl of Sandwich has since reopened, and now we know the Starbucks West (the second Starbucks store in Downtown Disney), will reopen on December 10. The café, which has been an empty storefront since it closed earlier this year. The reopening of Starbucks will likely bring more traffic to the west end of Downtown Disney, but the other storefronts, as well as a few other locations on the west end, remain empty.

Guests continue to voice their opinions about the current state of Downtown Disney, with many sharing sentiments of disappointment and longing for more entertainment and dining locations. While it is clear that Disney has made an effort to decorate a majority of Downtown Disney for he holiday season, the west end still remains relatively empty and silent.

Before the plans for the fourth hotel on Disneyland property were officially canceled, Disney had made efforts to bring more to the west end in the form of food trucks and the continuation of nighttime entertainment. It seems that until Disney officially announces additional plans coming to Downtown Disney, we can expect these offerings to continue for the time being.

Food trucks are brought into Downtown Disney daily at 3 p.m., occupying the walkways outside of what were previously Rainforest Café, AMC Theaters, and Disney Vacation Club. Though the food trucks change periodically, guests can expect the Habit, Mad Dumplings, and Crepes Bonaparte (the latter two having been featured on Food Network) to be regulars.

In addition to food trucks, the previously closed Earl of Sandwich reopened at Downtown Disney in early October. The restaurant chain is highly popular among Disneyland and Walt Disney World regulars, as Earl of Sandwich has been a staple of Downtown Disney and Disney Springs for years. While neither Earl of Sandwich nor Disney has announced the permanence of the dining location, fans and employees alike remain hopeful that the location will not close again. Until further notice, guests can continue to dine at Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney. 

But while the reopening of Earl of Sandwich (and soon Starbucks West) has brought some joy and traffic to the west end of Downtown Disney, the area still feels empty and silent during most times of the day. Downtown Disney also continues to offer nightly live entertainment, as it has for years. The live music and dancing bring a nighttime energy to the area that is clearly lacking during the day, making guests more inclined to spend time in the area in the evening rather than the morning or early afternoon.

Several guests took to social media to express their reactions and hopes for Downtown Disney after Disney officially canceled their upcoming hotel construction. Many fans hope for the reopening of Rainforest Café, the immersive chain restaurant that had previously continued to draw new and regular guests despite a lackluster menu. Rainforest Café also has locations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World in Florida, and many fans expressed their disappointment with the Downtown Disney location closing. Landry’s, the parent company of Rainforest Café, has expressed their desire to reopen the Downtown Disney location, but neither restaurant officials nor Disney has confirmed the location’s reopening.

The AMC Theaters had also closed when the new hotel construction had begun, though it is highly doubtful that it will reopen at Downtown Disney. Anaheim Gardenwalk, the outdoor dining, and entertainment district within miles of Disneyland Resort, recently announced their 2019 opening of an AMC Theaters, so many locals believe that it is unlikely that Downtown Disney would get another AMC Theaters.

Fans also continue to urge Disney to reopen ESPN Zone, the dining and sports entertainment location that occupies a rather large space on Downtown Disney property. Disney has yet to announce their plans for the building, as company officials stated last week that there are no conversations taking place regarding the reopening of ESPN Zone.

Hopefully, the upcoming reopening of Starbucks West will continue to bring more traffic and happy customers to the area, just as Earl of Sandwich did when it reopened. Plans for the other empty storefronts remain unclear for the time being.

Disney also announced their plans to construct a pedestrian bridge in time for the 2019 opening of their new parking structure. The walkway will be constructed over Magic Way and will connect guests from the new parking structure (which is currently being constructed on the current Pinocchio parking lot) to Downtown Disney and the theme parks. Disney announced that this walkway will enhance pedestrian safety, as it will eliminate the need for guests to cross the street at Disneyland Drive and Magic Way and create better traffic circulation. And since the new walkway will allow for more foot traffic to Downtown Disney, Disney may be inclined to increase dining and entertainment on the west end of Downtown Disney as they have done with the rest of the district.

pedestrian bridge
Concept art for the new pedestrian bridge (image copyright Disney)

Disneyland fans continue to speculate about the state of Downtown Disney and voice their opinions of what should become of the entertainment district. With Disney’s announcement that they will rethink their plans Downtown Disney, and with the upcoming construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting the new parking structure to Downtown Disney and the theme parks, we are hopeful that more good news regarding Downtown Disney will be announced soon.

Last updated 12/2/18

Source: Orange County Register

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