Downtown Disney district sits in between Disneyland, California Adventure and Disneyland hotel. The area is full of entertainment venues and restaurants.
The best things are free at Downtown Disney: You can stroll around, enjoy the scenery or listen to street performers. At around 9:30 PM you can catch the great fireworks display right from the district. The fireworks are launched above the sleeping beauty castle, but very prominent from several locations in the district.
If you feel like a big spender, you can indulge yourself with fine dining and happening shows.
Some of my favorite venues:
You can catch the latest movie releases at Downtown Disney’s AMC theaters. You can pick from 12 different movies to watch. The theater uses stadium seating and offers digital 3D movies when available.
This store is part of a worldwide chain in which kids and adults can stuff their own teddy bear then dress it up and officially adopt it. The store has a large selection of teddy bears (or other animals). You start by selecting your favorite bear/character. Then you go to the stuffing machine. You will get help in stuffing the bear. The next step is to pick a heart for your bear. Now that the bear is alive, you need to dress it up. You can get lost in the 2 story shop trying to find the right outfit for your bear. With the right outfit in hand, you can now pay for your purchase and print a birth certificate for your new friend.
Tip: Each May, there is a weekend known as Stuffed For Hugs Weekend. Guests at Build-a-Bear are given the opportunity to stuff a preselected animal for charity. The entire process is free, and is very popular. Some people even dress up the donated animal before sending it to charity. There is also a similar weekend that occurs in late October known as "The Spirit of Giving".
The LEGO Imagination Center
If you never played with Legos raise your hand. Well, you must be the only one. This store is a unique interactive experience where the whole family can try out different Lego construction or just drool about the latest Lego sets. Don’t forget to take a picture with the 23-foot Giraffe.
The restaurant is decorated as a rainforest with plants, trees, waterfalls, robotic animals and insects. This place is very popular with families. You should expect a long wait, but while waiting you can enjoy the huge aquariums. Members of your party can shop in the souvenir shop connected to the restaurant. The menu is extensive and includes tropical treats along with traditional American cuisine. While enjoying your meal you will witness a simulated thunderstorm. Kids of all ages love to eat here, and they do have their own menu. Some examples from the menu: Alaskan King Crab Legs, Amazon Fajitas, BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger, Caribbean Coconut Shrimp, Fish and Chips. Reservations are accepted and suggested.
Catal is my favorite restaurant in Downtown Disney. The place offers American and Mediterranian cuisine with a large selection of wine and beer. Sitting the balcony, you can enjoy your dinner while watching the Fireworks Show.
Some of the dinner choices are Filet Mingon, Rack of Lamb, Steelhead Salmon, and the Chef's Steakhouse Burger.
To end a very satisfying meal, I always order the Tres Leches - a Spong cake soaking with three kinds of milk.
La Brea Bakery Café
Another great place to eat. It offers sandwiches, pastries, and delicious desserts. Sit in the outdoor patio, watch the herds of people going by and if you time your dinner just right you will be able to watch the fireworks from your table.
Tip: The Disneyland Monorail has a station at Downtown Disney. You take the monorail from Tomorrowland or Toontown and stop at Downtown Disney for lunch. Also, when you are first starting your day at Disneyland, you enter the park from this station and land straight into Tomorrowland.
World of Disney
If you are really dying to buy that Disney souvenir before you head home, then this is the store for you. It is one of the largest World of Disney stores, second only to the one in Florida, with a huge selection of character merchandise. You can find backpacks, books, boxers, children’s apparel, clocks, collectibles, costumes, dolls, figurines, gifts, hats, jewelry, luggage, photo albums, plush toys, sleepwear, slippers, socks, souvenirs, stationery, sunglasses, sweatshirts, T-shirts, ties, videos, watches and other items branded with Disney characters and theme park icons. Even if you are not ready to buy, browsing through this huge selection is an entertaining experience by itself.
House of Blues (Restaurant and Night Club)
Note: House of Blues moved to the near-by Garden Walk.
This a great place to catch the hottest bands and enjoy good food and a few drinks. You dine at the restaurant or take advantage of the food and beverage service at the music hall. Some of the menu items are Southern-style favorites such as Pan Seared Voodoo Shrimp, Rosemary Cornbread, Tennessee Style Baby Back Ribs, Creole Jambalaya, and White Chocolate-Banana Bread Pudding. The house of blues at Downtown Disney is famous for its unique quilt decorations and rose terrace. Local Tip: If you are planning to attend a concert at HOB, go to dinner first. When they open the music hall doors, you can be first in.
Other places worth mentioning
Get a snack on the go at Häagen-Dazs, Marceline's Confectionery (watch Candy being made) or Jamba Juice (take your snack next to one of the fountains). Watch a game and dinner at ESPN Zone. Find more souvenirs or a unique gift at Disney's Pin Traders, Illuminations, Sephora, or Something Silver.
Books about the Disney Resort:
Disneyland Anaheim Vacationland
Everything Family Guide to the Disneyland Resort
Birnbaum's Disneyland Resort 2009
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