Visiting Downtown Disney with kids and toddlers is a right of passage when visiting the original Disneyland and California Adventure with toddlers or kids. In this guide we will tell you the best places to eat at Downtown Disney with kids, what to do and where to shop.
Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you!
What you need to know about Downtown Disney
Note: This guide is for Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Parks in Anaheim. Orlando used to have a Downtown Disney area but this has been renamed Disney Springs since 2015.
Downtown Disney is the area outside the two Disneyland parks (Disneyland and California Adventure), not dissimilar in contents to Disney Springs at Disney World but smaller. It is basically a great mixed retail, dining and entertainment area that has something on offer for the whole family.
Do we need to buy tickets to go to Downtown Disney?
No you do not need to buy tickets to go to Downtown Disney. Tickets are only required to enter the park themselves. However you will need to pass through Disney security to enter the Downtown area where your bags will be searched by security personal and you will also be required to walk through a metal detector.
Best things to do in Downtown Disney with toddlers and kids
Shop at World of Disney
If you want to stock up on Disney souvenirs or get some Disneyland clothes such as a much coveted Loungefly backpack or a Disneyland spirit Jersey then the World of Disney is the place to go in my opinion.
Although you can buy souvenirs and clothing in the park themselves we actually prefer to buy our souvenirs in Downtown Disney.
The reason for this is because we think the World of Disney shop has the best selection under one roof and also because you don’t have to carry your goodies with you around the parks al day.
Head to the Star Wars Trading post
As we said above we like buying our souvenirs in the Downtown Disney are for ease of carrying them around. Therefore it should come as no surprise that we also like to do our Star Wars shopping at the Star Wars Trading post in the downtown area.
There is an extensive selection of merchandise at the Trading Post as well as a Build Your Own Lightsaber station.
See the Statues at the Lego Store
When we visit Downtown Disney with our toddler, her favourite thing to do was look at the amazing Lego Statues of the Disney characters. Now she is older she loves going to have a look in the shop and picking herself out a new lego set.
There aren’t many exclusive sets available at the Downtown disney Lego Store but they do have a really good Disney lego set collection.
Pin trading is a Disney institution. Possible the best place to do pin trading in Disneyland is at the Pin Traders in Downtown Disney. The Pin Traders kiosk is next to the Monorail station and if you are lucky you might be able to find a rare one here.
Grab Some Food
Downtown Disney has some great restaurants and we always eat at a Downtown Disney restaurant at least once during our Disneyland vacation. We usually arrive in the Anaheim area the day before our first day in the park and will eat in this area on this night but you can pick whatever day works best with your itinerary.
You can read our favourites in the next section but all the downtown disney restaurants are great with kids and toddlers.
Watch some live Music
One of the things we love about the Downtown Disney area is that in the evenings there is live music being played. We will normally stop and listen for a couple of songs after dinner while our little ones enjoy having a boogie to the tunes.
Do some Bowling
Not everything in Downtown Disney is Disney themed and one of the best non Disney things to do in Downtown Disney is to head to the Splitsville Luxury Lanes to do some bowling.
There is also an eatery here too.
Grab Forgotten Items
It is really important that you pack for Disney correctly, especially that you correctly pack for toddlers at Disneyland. But if you forget something important like Crocs, layers of a poncho then the best place to grab these is in Downtown Disney.
Where to Eat in Downtown Disney with Kids and toddlers
We have never had a bad meal in the Downtown Disney area and we have tried most of them with our kids. However our favourite family friendly restaurants in Downtown Disney are:
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express
No trip to Disneyland with toddlers for us is complete without a trip to Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express. There is a full blown Ralph Brennan restaurant but our kids just love the beignets at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchens Express.
As we like to rope drop at the parks we never have time to visit here in the morning but we will grab some beignets as we park hop or as we walk back to our hotel in the evening.
Our family love Mexican food and the fare at Tortilla Jo’s is pretty good and the kids menu is really extensive. And for parents they make a mean margarita.
You can’t make reservations here but we find the line for tables usually moves quite quickly but I wouldn’t bank on that if you are visiting on a very busy day such as Disneyland on Halloween or Disneyland at Thanksgiving.
CrazyShake Window by Black Tap
As an adult I am not a fan of CrazyShake but my kids just love to try these. They basically sell milkshakes combined with donuts, brownies and anything else sweet you can find.
I recommend splitting one of these between your kids otherwise you may never get them to sleep with all that sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions about Downtown Disney
Is it free to get in Downtown Disney?
Yes Downtown Disney is completely free to visit and you do not need a ticket to enter either even though you have to pass through Disney security.
Are there any rides in Downtown Disney?
No there are no rides at Downtown Disney
What can we Do at Night in Downtown Disney?
My favorite time to visit Downtown Disney is at Nighttime. My favourite things to do in Downtown Disney at night are:
- Grab a bite to eat
- go shopping
- listen to some live music
- watch the fireworks from outside the parks
Can you See the Fireworks from Downtown Disney?
Yes you can indeed see the fireworks from Downtown Disney. In fact there are three recommended places to watch the fireworks from in Downtown Disney which are:
- the area between the two parks
- the area between Tortilla Jo’s and Black Tap and Splitsville
- the parking lot near security
While I wouldn’t recommend making a trip to downtown Disney to specifically watch the fireworks, if you are in the area it is worth knowing where you can watch them from if you are in the area at the right time.