By now, many of you know that we are quite the Disney family and have read my tips on both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Well, there is more. Between both parks, connecting the various Disney resorts is a magical little place called Downtown Disney. The first thing that makes this place one a HotMama Picks is that it is free to get in. Something at Disney, for free? Short answer, yes. Now, there are plenty of places to spend you money: restaurants, shops and bars, but if you want the Disney feeling without the expense of going into the parks, there are so many things to do in Downtown Disney Anaheim.
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Keep the Cost in Check:
First thing to know is that when you park at Downtown Disney, you receive 3 hours free and 5 hours with validation. If you go over the 5 hours, parking gets pretty expensive. Also, many of the restaurants offer happy hours, which is a great way to save a few bucks when checking out the venues. Be aware that they often change parking fee policies to discourage Disney park goers from parking all day at Downtown Disney, so check what the rates are upon arrival!
Drop Your Bags:
Since Downtown Disney is an Anaheim, the options for accommodations are endless. If you want to stay walking distance from all the action then you may want to stay at one of the three Disney resorts. I am not even going to sugarcoat it. The Disney resorts are expensive, but pass-holders receive special offers and discounts.
Disneyland Hotel: The OG of the Disney Resorts is the located at the opposite end of Downtown from the parks. The vibe is whimsical chic, but the pool screams pirate adventure. I like Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, because…well…this HotMama likes bars. Hehe. On the real though, this place is great for adults as well as kids. Not only do they have fun topical cocktails for mama and daddy, but exciting mocktails for the little ones. Happy Hour the whole family can enjoy! Also, at the Disneyland Hotel is Goofy’s Kitchen, where all the favorite Disney characters roam around, posing for photo ops, while enjoying a yummy buffet.
Grand Californian: Smack dab in the middle of Downtown Disney, this resort is my favorite location and one of my kid’s favorite things to do in Downtown Disney Anaheim. With the theme of a Mountain Lodge, Papa loves to hang out in the grand, yet cozy lobby listening to the live piano player. If you are heading to California Adventure, the Grand Californian Hotel has its own entrance to the park. Since that is usually where we are headed, we dodge the crowds at the main-entrance and sneak through the hotel instead (dropping Papa off along the way).
Paradise Pier: Since it is not directly connected to Downtown Disney (although still walking distance) I’ve listed this third. I personally love to stay at this resort for two reasons. First, I’m a beach girl so I just absolutely love the retro coastal décor of the resort. Second, Disney PCH Grill is my favorite character dining experience and we always take the kids there for their birthday breakfast. It is fun, lively and delicious. I prefer it over Goofy’s Kitchen (at Disneyland Hotel), because of all the music and dancing. It really keeps the kids entertained. So, bring on the mimosas!
Get Your Grub On:
You could spend the day (or night) just at Downtown Disney Anaheim; it also makes for a great meal stop before or after a day at the parks. With so many options it may be hard to choose.
ESPN Zone: During football season or baseball season, or…heck, any season really, the boys love this place. The food is yummy, but like anything in Downtown the food is pretty pricey. When we used to go to the parks on Monday’s, during football season we would always have dinner there so the boys could watch the game. If you plan on staying the whole game, beware ESPN has a $10 minimum per person per hour requirement.
Rainforest Café: The kids love the jungle vibe, the animated animals and the sporadic thunderstorms. In terms of things to do in Downtown Disney Anaheim with kids, this one is a must see. We have been there literally dozens of times.
Earl of Sandwich: Looks good, but honestly I haven’t tried it myself yet.
Jazz Kitchen comes with a New Orleans vibe and Creole cuisine and is more, well, jazzy with fashioned after French Quarter and offers live music select nights and offers a quick service option.
Tortilla Jo’s: You guessed it, Mexican food. Guests can opt for the dine-in or the quick service. I however, prefer the tequila bar.
Catal: Is more of a fine dining experience with Mediterranean cuisine. The dining room has an upstairs views of downtown, which makes for a lovely atmosphere for date night.
Naples and Napolini are both Italian, but Naples is a casual dining experience and Napolini is quick service. The pizza at Naples is really tasty and we love to relax on the patio after a day at Disneyland.
La Brea Bakery has two options, dine-in and quick service. Known for their scrumptious bread, sandwiches are a great menu choice.
For a snack, check out Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Haagen-Dazs and Wetzel’s Pretzel as well as the many kiosks with fun popcorns, cotton candy and much more.
Despite the word Disney, Downtown Disney has a very popular nightlife scene among adults. Doesn’t matter the night, traffic to hang out at Downtown is packed. Here are some of my favorite haunts.
My most favorite is the UVA Bar. It sits in the center of Downtown and is completely open-air with a 360 view of Downtown. I love it at night when all the lights are shining. It is great for people watching and listening the all the live music that fills the night sky.
Rainforest Café has a bar in front, which is great for enjoying tropical cocktails as you sit on the legs of a zebra. Yes, the barstools are the rear-ends of various animals.
The ESPN Zone has a great bar with a GIANT television for game viewing as well as an upstairs arcade and bar.
The tequila bar at Tortilla Jo’s is outside on the patio under a thatched roof. I really like the atmosphere and the all the tequila options makes me plain giddy!
Let’s just start with my favorite, shall we? Live music is everywhere!! At various points throughout Downtown there are artists performing outdoors. In addition, many of the restaurants offer live music as well. It is none stop entertainment and I love every freaking moment of it!
AMC Movie Theater is located towards the entrance of Downtown and is a fun place to catch a movie before dinner.
Shopping! There are tons of the shops to get some retail therapy in your day. Yes, there is a giant Disney Store too! I love the Sephora, because I’m a girl and what girl doesn’t?
During the holidays Downtown Disney even puts up a skating rink, which I am bound and determined to try this year with my kids! Stay posted!
That’s a Wrap!
See? You don’t have to go to a Disney park to have fun Disney day or night. Whether we are with our kids or on a date night, Downtown always makes for a great experience. There are so many things to do in Downtown Disney Anaheim, that probably couldn’t squeeze them all in one day. Known for entertainment, great food and tasty libations, next time you are in town, skip the park or just take a break and go have some fun at Downtown Disney y’all.