How To Conquer Downtown Disney During Pandemic
California’s Downtown Disney is open and receiving limited visitors as of February 2021. We share here what we learned on our recent visit to help you conquer Downtown Disney during the pandemic!
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What is available at Disneyland?
At the moment, you can visit both Downtown Disney and parts of California Adventure. Outdoor dining is open as of this writing, but please verify before heading out if you want to dine at Downtown Disney. As you probably know, California guidelines result in frequent changes to establishments being open.
Downtown Disney and parts of California Adventure are both open for shopping and dining. There is currently no live entertainment. All rides are currently closed as well.
Despite the limitations, visiting Downtown Disney and California Adventure is a nice outing to get out of the house and feel a sense of normalcy in these times. There are also some nice photo opportunities.
Tips to conquer Downtown Disney:
There are definitely some things you should be aware of before heading out Downtown Disney. There WILL be lines. I mean, would it be Disney without them? 😉
Our tips will help you to conquer Downtown Disney and therefore make sure your drive out is worth it. You want to visit all of the stores you want, am I right?!
In no particular order, here are my suggestions to ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
1. Visit BEFORE March 14th!
As you might have heard, Disneyland is going to be hosting “A Touch of Disney.” According to their website, Buena Vista St. will remain open to guests through March 14th. After that, this area will remain closed to prepare for the Touch of Disney event. At that point, you will only be able to enter this area with paid admission to the event. You can read more details about this event HERE.
Visit on a weekday, before early evening
Everyone has caught on that Downtown Disney is open and limiting guests. This definitely makes even the most cautious germaphobes (ahem, like ME) comfortable and eager to visit Downtown Disney. Factor in that Downtown Disney opened the Star Wars Trading post last week AND is about to require paid admission to enter the currently open part of California Adventure? It will be harder to get in.
We visited this Monday at 2:30 p.m. Upon arriving at the parking lot ($10 at the Simba Lot), we were told the wait (after parking) to get in would be 45 min. It wound up taking us 25 minutes standing in line to get into Downtown Disney.
Although it was pretty easy to get in on a Monday afternoon and the line was well-spaced out, I found the following:
- It definitely got busier as we got closer to night time
- Lines for stores were longer and virtual queues were being shut down due to capacity
- Individuals that came later were less likely to respect the social distancing requirements in the common areas
Please note: Entrance and parking at the Simba Lot are closed down temporarily when Downtown Disney is at capacity per local regulations. I witnessed it first hand when we happened to drive by on Valentine’s Day. It was crazy ya’ll!
2. Get a spot in virtual queues to conquer Downtown Disney!
The virtual line allows you to reserve yourself a spot in line using your cell phone number. You scan a QR code, enter your phone number and the size of your party. You’ll receive a text when it’s your turn to stand in line. Yes, you read that right. You are getting in a virtual line, to then snag a spot to stand in a physical line. You do not know when you’ll get called back. However, once you receive the text calling you back, you have 60 minutes to claim your spot by physically showing up.
Note the following:
- I did not notice a limit on virtual queues. I was able to put myself in 2 virtual lines within 5 minutes of each other.
- As the day goes on, things get busy and you cannot get in line (virtually or physically) because there are no spots left.
- You have to be in Downtown Disney to scan the code in front of the store. You can’t get in line before entering Downtown Disney (I looked 😉
3. If you want to visit Star Wars Trading post…
Arrive early and be prepared to wait!
When we arrived on Monday at 3:30 p.m., their option to join the virtual que was closed. We were not allowed to get in the regular physical line to get into the Star Wars Trading Post. You basically have to get a spot in the virtual line in order to get into the physical line.
At a minimum, ask a cast member BEFORE you stand in line! I probably would have waited in line unknowingly if I had not asked a cast member. I would have been pretty upset if I had waited in that line only to find that I could not enter the store when I got to the front.
Consolation prize: Take some fun pictures with the speed racer in front of the Star Wars Trading post, and with the LEGO Chewbacca in front of the LEGO Store!
4. Go to World of Disney FIRST if you want to enter that store
It goes without saying, but get your spot in the Star Wars Trading post virtual line before you do anything else. Once you’ve done that, got to World of Disney store first if you want to conquer Downtown Disney.
- There is no virtual line option available for the World of Disney store.
- The lines were crazy long, even on a Monday afternoon!
How bad can the line be? Well my friends, I saw a line along the the front of the World of Disney Store that extended to the Starbucks, THEN, after a gap in the walkway, a line that extended past the entrance of the shuttle stop and all along it to the very front of the shuttle stop. If you are someone that has been to Disneyland in the past few years, you KNOW that this is insane.
Granted, there are 6 foot markers that people must abide by and therefore there is plenty of spacing. However, this still made for a very long line. Each store is limited in capacity, and therefore the next person can enter only when another has left.
5. Head to California Adventure
California Adventure has some fun extras that were not there before (at least when I was a passholder 😉
You do not want to miss the Wanda Vision photo opp. The line is right after the hot dog place (“Award Weiners”). We had fun taking some pics of a show that we had just binge-watched the Friday before. If you’re a Marvel fan and have Disney+, I highly recommend this show!
Another great spot is the Disneyland Backlot Premiere Shop! There were some fun items there that I haven’t seen in Disney Store at the mall in recent visits. My favorite was the Indiana Jones items! The Backlot store is right next to the Monster’s, Inc. ride. You can head there right as you exit the Wanda Vision photo opp.
6. If you want have a special lunch or dinner…
Let’s say you want to eat at Carthay Circle in California Adventure. You will want to hop on the Disney reservation website and make a reservation 60 days in advance. Believe it or not, they are already fully booked. I’m not kidding. Other spots were available to just walk up and buy though, so not to worry.
The name of the game is to plan SUPER FAR in advance if you want to eat at a restaurant that requires reservations.
7. If you want to eat at Downtown Disney without reservations, we recommend…
We did not have reservations when we went. We also had no intention of eating at a restaurant there (I told you, I’m in germaphobe overdrive here). But the kids were hungry and the opportunity presented itself.
We walked up to La Brea Bakery and were able to walk in and order. We grabbed a seat away from the walk way (basically the inner most part). The other tables were well spaced away from us, nobody walking by, and I therefore felt comfortable eating there. The food is great and it felt nice to “eat out.”
8. If you value your comfort…
WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! LOL. I mean it. I didn’t worry too much about my feet because I figured it wasn’t a full day at Disneyland. However, the fact is, you will be standing in quite a few lines and comfortable shoes are a must if you don’t want to be in pain by the end of your visit 😉
Enjoy your visit!
I hope that you find this guide helpful when planning your visit to Downtown Disney. Stay safe and stay healthy.
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