Disney California Adventure Partially Reopening for Shopping & Dining

Another update in the Disneyland Resort reopening roller coaster, as Disney California Adventure will be partially reopening for Christmas shopping & dining along Buena Vista Street. This post covers dates, details, and what this could mean for future plans.

We aren’t going to recap the entirety of the “Disney v. California” closure/reopening saga. The most recent developments are documented in our recent Disneyland Closure Update: Reopening Rules Fallout & Litigation and Disneyland Unlikely to Reopen Before Summer 2021, which remains true for the theme park operations despite this move. Disneyland’s Wild Reopening Ride is worth the read if you want the full backstory of the drama.

What’s pertinent for the purposes of this news is that Downtown Disney reopened as planned over the summer and has been operating since. Restaurants are operating with outdoor seating and physical distancing, the use of face masks by employees, increased cleaning procedures, and limited-contact. Some retail locations, including the World of Disney, use a mobile wait list system to manage the number of guests shopping.

We have full details about all of this in our Guide to Downtown Disney at Disneyland. Worth noting is that on most weekends and some other days, parking at Downtown Disney has filled to capacity. That’s just for shopping in World of Disney and eating at some random third party restaurants. In other words, there’s clearly pent-up demand among Californians to get their “Disney fix.”

That’s good news for Disneyland Resort, because they also have a backlog of unsold souvenirs. Not only is there merchandise that was in the parks when they unexpectedly closed, but orders were placed for Halloween and Christmas items months ago when it was assumed Disneyland and Disney California Adventure would be reopening in July.

Even with Downtown Disney open and relatively popular, it’s obviously not as popular as the two theme parks, and thus, a huge surplus of merchandise continues to build. In an attempt to help remedy this, Disneyland Resort recently unveiled the Backlot Premiere Shop Located in Stage 17.

That store added needed shopping capacity, with the Backlot Premiere Shop featuring an assortment of merchandise from World of Disney, Disney Home, and the Disney Dress Shop. (While accessible from outside the park, this store is actually inside Disney California Adventure and was previously used for the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – Play It! attraction before the big overhaul of DCA.)

Unsurprisingly, the Backlot Premiere Shop was still insufficient and with a reopening date for California theme parks not until some point in 2021, Disney needed another solution for moving unsold merchandise. Enter the latest plan: reopening Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure.

Disney California Adventure’s version of Main Street will soon open select shopping and dining experiences, for visitors to enjoy a memorable meal or a fun shopping excursion.

Disneyland Resort has announced that beginning in November 2020 (specific date TBD–our guess is by Veterans Day at the latest), the Downtown Disney District will “extend” to Buena Vista Street. When it does, the following venues will reopen for shopping & dining:

  • Holiday shopping? Head to Elias & Co. The store is divided into distinct sections for men, women and children, so you’ll find something special for the entire family.
  • At Julius Katz & Sons, peruse even more holiday merchandise and Disney-themed home décor.
  • Kingswell Camera Shop offers great gift-giving ideas like frames, photo albums and more. Buena Vista Street stores have a variety of your Disney favorites.
  • If you are looking to tempt your taste buds with a snack, Trolley Treats offers classic candies, old-fashioned confections and all kinds of freshly made treats.
  • Vending carts will offer popcorn, churros, ice cream and other “must-bite” treats.
  • Swing by Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe for the enchanting sights and sounds of Buena Vista Street—and a cup of Starbucks coffee or artisan sandwich.
  • Sit-down dining options include Carthay Circle Lounge, where you can unwind in our expanded outdoor seating area featuring an all-new menu of cocktails and dining.
  • Smokejumpers Grill is serving up tasty American classics for lunch and dinner with a streamlined menu of burgers, fries, onion rings and craft beer, located just around the corner from Buena Vista Street. The primary way to place your order at this dining location is through mobile order on the Disneyland App.

Only the shopping and dining locations along Buena Vista Street will be accessible from the Downtown Disney District at this time, as Disney California Adventure is currently closed. (Presumably, access will be via the corridor behind Soarin’ Over California that was used during the big DCA 2.0 overhaul several years back.)

In addition to the rest of Disney California Adventure being closed, the number of guests visiting the Downtown Disney District and its locations, including the shopping and dining experiences along Buena Vista Street, will be limited to promote proper physical distancing. We’re guessing there will be multi-hour waits to enter DCA.

Honestly, we are way more excited than we probably should be about this news. We also have more thoughts than are probably necessary–we’ll spare you many of those. Suffice to say, we see this as a really positive development. One small step that opens up the possibility for a huge leap in the right direction.

First and foremost, this means some Cast Members can get back to work. This might seem like a “little thing” but in addition to the Cast Members working the retail and restaurants, this will support jobs for security, parking, custodial, and so many other roles. That’s not an insignificant number of jobs.

Second, this paves the way for the return of even more at Disneyland Resort. While this is an “extension” (Disney’s term to sidestep the theme park reopening rules) of Downtown Disney, much more of the park could conceivably reopen in the very near future.

Disney managed to throw this together in the few days since California released its rules; there’s nothing to say they can’t roll out more plans between now and the normal start of the holiday season (November 6, 2020).

There is a ton of demand for the return of Disneyland Resort in any form, even limited to shopping and dining. The big issue is not a lack of enthusiasm–it’s a lack of capacity. Opening up Buena Vista Street alone won’t be enough to absorb the crowds that will descend upon Disneyland.

If you’re a Walt Disney World-centric tourist who visits those parks primarily for the attractions, this may not make sense to you, but the way many Californians visit Disneyland is fundamentally different. These are locals parks, and there’s not nearly as much of an emphasis on attractions. Heck, many Californians already treat Disneyland like a mall or hangout spot. (We’ve derided this practice in the past, but holy cow will it work to Disney’s advantage right now!)

It would be incredibly easy to extend the portion of Disney California Adventure that’s open even further into the park. Hollywood Land and the entertainment corridor that runs from Buena Vista Street to Cars Land would be prime candidates and would allow DCA to up its capacity and open more dining options.

The latter is an especially attractive, as that’s normally where the Festival of the Holidays food booths are located. And of course, bringing back the national treasure that is Award Wieners would result in multi-mile lines.

At this point, unloading the excess merchandise is probably priority number one, which explains why Disneyland isn’t charging admission for visiting Buena Vista Street.

However, it wouldn’t be surprising in the least to see Disneyland Resort take this a step further, and open deeper areas of the park as part of a hard-ticketed dining event, a la Taste of Knott’s. That has been incredibly successful for Knott’s Berry Farm, which has a passionate local fanbase, but not nearly as passionate as Disneyland’s.

We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but things could snowball from there. It’s conceivable that Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa could reopen (or at least the Disney Vacation Club portion of the property) along with more around Disneyland Resort–basically anything that isn’t a ride or a show.

This in turn brings more traffic to the Anaheim Resort Area, which means spillover guests for the family-run businesses along Harbor Boulevard and elsewhere. Obviously, this small development is not going to magically “save” all of them, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and offers a glimmer of hope.

All of this might sound overly optimistic, but it’s impossible to overstate the level of excitement and pent-up demand among locals for Disneyland. It’s simply not the same dynamic as in Florida for Walt Disney World. Disneyland is a Southern California institution, and even something like this that might seem insignificant to you is colossal for many Californians. This incremental progress will not only draw a ton of people to Disneyland, but it also could be the starting point for much bigger things. Stay tuned, as we’ll keep you posted on further announcements!

If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Do you think the “extension” of Downtown Disney to Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure is a big development for Disneyland? Expect that Disney will ramp things up from this if it goes well? Think there will be big crowds to experience Buena Vista Street shopping & dining? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!


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