On this day two decades ago, January 12, 2001, Disneyland Resort opened its new shopping, dining, and entertainment mall, the Downtown Disney District for Disneyland Park Guests and those just looking to get a piece of Disney magic without heading into the park (or paying for a theme park ticket).
This remains true on this very day, especially since on its 20th anniversary, Downtown Disney (and, by extension right now, Buena Vista Street inside Disney California Adventure) is the only spot at Disneyland that is currently open to Guests and keeping the Disney magic alive. Disneyland Resort is not expected to reopen its theme parks and hotels until later in 2021. For now, let’s take a step back in time and see how Downtown Disney began and how far along its come.
Downtown Disney Opening Day
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa started welcoming Guests just ten days prior to the opening of Downtown Disney, and some balcony rooms Guests were surprised with a wonderful view of the new bustling center. Disney California Adventure opened up its gates just a month after Disneyland Resort unveiled Downtown Disney. The once Disneyland Hotel Station for the Monorail into Disneyland Park became the Downtown Disney Station. What a big year 2001 turned out to be for the Disneyland Resort!
Downtown Disney is the home of over two dozen retails shops and dining, but it has changed over the years. What did Downtown Disney Guests get to enjoy on opening day? Shops included the flagship World of Disney, Lego Store, Disney’s Pin Traders, Fossil, Disney Vault 28, Sephora, and Marceline’s Confectionary. Restaurants included Rainforest Café, Napolini, Naples Ristorante, La Brea Bakery, Catal Restaurant, Uva Bar & Cafe, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express, and Wetzel’s Pretzels. Entertainment included ESPN Zone, AMC Theaters, and House of Blues.
Downtown Disney Changes Over The Years
Over two decades, things were bound to develop at Downtown Disney, as local Southern California news source the OC Register notes. Guests interests and excitement changes over the year and of course, Disney kept up with the demand. New stores and restaurants went in and some were removed. Stores that were once there that have since been removed are Build-a-Bear and Ridemakerz. Full and quick service restaurants that have changed are Y Arriba! Y Arriba! and Haagen-Dazs, but some existing restaurants even got an upgrade. The prior entertainment of House of Blues, ESPN Zone, and AMC Theaters are all no longer there.
This 20th anniversary year should have marked the opening of Disneyland’s fourth hotel where ESPN Zone used to stand right at the end of Downtown Disney. In 2018, that vision was discarded as taxes, permits, and other factors seemingly made this an impossible reality for the time being. Instead, we’re dazzled by the occasional pop-ups at this location.
Downtown Disney Today
Over the last year, it’s been a bit of whirlwind with the state of the world. After an extended closure, Downtown Disney District was able to start a phased reopening in July of 2020 which has even extended in Buena Vista Street of Disney California Adventure over the last few months. So, where is Downtown Disney at now? Here’s a full list of all the shopping, dining, and entertainment you can experience and savor. Grab your cup of coffee from one of the two Starbucks locations — yes two — and get going!
Note: Not all locations are currently open amid the ongoing pandemic. For the current operating schedule, visit the official Disneyland Resort website here.
- California Sole
- Curl Surf
- Disney Home
- Disney’s Pin Traders
- The Lego Store
- Marceline’s Confectionary
- PANDORA Jewelry
- Rinse Bath & Body Co.
- Sugarboo & Co.
- Sunglass Icon
- The Disney Dress Shop
- WonderGround Gallery
- World of Disney
- Pressed Coin Machines
- Ballast Point Brewing Co.
- Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes
- Catal Restaurant
- Crazy Shake Window by Black Tap
- Earl of Sandwich
- La Brea Bakery Cafe
- La Brea Bakery Express
- Naples Ristorante e Bar
- Napolini Pizzeria
- Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
- Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express
- Salt & Straw
- Starbucks West
- Taqueria at Tortilla Joe’s
- Tortilla Joe’s
- Uva Bar & Cafe
- Wetzel’s Pretzels
- Splitsville Luxury Lanes
Downtown Disney 20th Anniversary
With ever-changing pandemic-related orders and restrictions, there are many restaurants listed above that aren’t opening currently, but that isn’t stopping Downtown Disney from celebrating and encouraging Guests to come for a visit.
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One of the original restaurants from opening day, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express, is celebrating by offering 20 beignets for $20 for today only from 12-8pm. Snag them while they’re hot! We’re all missing those Disneyland beignets.
Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock also shared a happy message:
Twenty years ago today was a big day at the Disneyland Resort — we debuted the Downtown Disney District, a place for guests to shop, dine, listen to music and play outside of our theme parks. We congratulate the incredible businesses and amazing cast members who continue to serve our guests while the rest of the resort remains closed. Thank you for maintaining the magic!
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Happy birthday, Downtown Disney!