The next evolution of the Downtown Disney District is planned for Disneyland, and demolition is already underway. This article shares an update on the multi-year reimagining project with new concept art, as well as details on California’s upcoming collection of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences.
The concept art above was released last fall and features the space that will replace the old AMC theater. Previously, this area was closing to become a new luxury hotel – a plan that was ultimately scrapped due to a standoff between Disney and the (former) Anaheim City Council.
The demolition of the old buildings began a few months ago, and the site is now completely cleared. While it will likely be a while before new construction goes vertical, we have another update from Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock’s meeting with Anaheim community leaders on upcoming plans. for new experiences at Disneyland Resort. Here’s a behind-the-curtain look at what’s on the horizon for Downtown Disney…
Disneyland management says they’re happy to share another new look at the exciting shops and restaurants on the west side of the Downtown Disney District. While Downtown Disney’s evolution began in 2018, the company recently began working on the latest transformation to introduce more innovative shopping, dining and entertainment experiences.
Drawing inspiration from the mid-century modern architecture of Southern California, the West Zone will be a beautiful blend of vibrant color palettes, design elements and patterns influenced by the region, and will feature an open lawn for relaxation and future events, and even a larger and more diverse collection of restaurants and shops.
Disneyland Resort is investing significantly in Downtown Disney District to continue to develop a vibrant and exciting destination with something for everyone. The company is also intentionally diversifying its offerings to meet the needs of today’s customers, with one example to share.
The world famous restaurant Din Tai Fung will join the neighborhood to offer customers their handcrafted soup dumplings on site! This family-friendly restaurant will bring tasty Chinese cuisine to Downtown Disney, where guests can enjoy food served family-style in a creative space near our new lawn pavilion.
Michelin-starred chef Carlos Gaytan will bring his inclusive vision of Mexican cuisine to Paseo and Centrico in the premises currently occupied by Catal & Uva Bar, powered by Patina Restaurant Group.
The restaurant and central courtyard bar and dining room will offer guests a multi-sensory journey to the heart of Chef Gaytan’s homeland.
Disneyland Resort is also working with Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen to finalize an evolution that incorporates the vibrant energy of California and a new approach to the menu, while staying true to the heart of New Orleans for this guest favorite spot.
In other news, fan-favorite Earl of Sandwich will also make an appearance in the Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort. It will return to a special sandwich spot, offering customers the classics they know and love for a limited time starting later this year.
My reaction to this Downtown Disney news is pretty much the same as to the news on Paradise Pier Hotel reinvents itself with a Pixar theme: It can always be better.
We were at Disneyland Resort over the weekend and found ourselves with the unpleasant task of navigating Downtown Disney. This wasn’t our first rodeo, but it was the first time we’ve been through Downtown Disney on a weekend since the streetcars resumed, as we previously used this walking trail from the parking lots.
The crowds at Downtown Disney never cease to amaze me. It’s one thing to meet people wall to wall in Disney Springs. Not only is it a real tourist destination, but it is also one of the best outdoor shopping centers in the region.
Disney Springs is also objectively better than Downtown Disney by orders of magnitude.
Conversely, I will never understand why Downtown Disney is treated as a destination by locals. It’s definitely not one of the top 5 outdoor malls in Orange or LA counties. No matter where you live in Southern California, you have a superior option about as close – a more convenient option, with better deals, or both.
Much like Paradise Pier Hotel, I suspect the “Disney” brand does the heavy lifting – if Downtown Disney were essentially the same but instead called Anaheim Marketplace, it would see a fraction of its current traffic.
That said, I’m legitimately excited about the addition of Din Tai Fung. This instantly becomes one of the top 5 restaurants in Disneyland Resort – possibly the top 3. Din Tai Fung is so good and is literally world famous.
A word of warning: Din Tai Fung has a huge following in Southern California. Last time we went to the South Coast Plaza location was around Christmas, and the wait time we were told was literally 4 hours. This is not abnormal, and although reservations are accepted, they are not easily scored.
We ended up bailing out and going to a nearby grocery store for some ramen. A bit apart, but if Disneyland is “intentionally diversifying its offerings to meet the needs of today’s customers,” they should add this grocery store. It would also instantly become one of Downtown Disney’s top dining options. (Okay, I’m talking about Mitsuwa Marketplace and its food court, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, so calling it “grocery store ramen” is reductive and sells both short.)
The only thing I don’t like here is the concept art of Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen. The current restaurant looks like something out of the French Quarter, a perfectly fitting setting for the Creole and Cajun cuisine served there. It’s not an example of a themed design, but it has personality and charm. In contrast, the modern look that replaces it is relatively cold and generic (and I say that as someone oriented towards modern design).
Other than that, I like the mid-century style of the open area. It’s not fancy, but it’s an improvement over the vaguely ’90s Art Deco ornamentation of Downtown Disney’s current main hallway.
In the end, mostly good news here. Downtown Disney could really benefit from a better placement if it wants to compete with the real-world outdoor malls of Southern California. Ditto for a more diversified and ambitious cuisine. On both fronts, it’s a start, but that’s it.
Downtown Disney needs a complete aesthetic overhaul and a new lineup of restaurants and retail stores…pretty much in every area. It’s not 2001 anymore. The competition has intensified, while Downtown Disney has remained in the past. Fortunately, Imagineering won’t have to venture too far on “research trips” to figure out how to improve Downtown Disney – Southern California’s best shopping mall is just a few miles from their Glendale offices.
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips to Save Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn more about onsite and offsite hotels in our Anaheim hotel reviews and ratings. To find out where to eat, check out our Disneyland restaurant reviews. For unique ideas of things that will enhance your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For full advice see our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for the guides beyond disneycheck out our Southern California itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach and tons more!
What do you think of this news about Disneyland Resort? Are you excited that Downtown Disney is being reinvented (in some way)? Or do you think DtD is already perfect, by far the best mall in Southern California? Will Din Tai Fung inspire you to visit Downtown Disney? Are there any other restaurants or outlets at the Glendale Galleria/Americana at Brand that Disney should bring to Downtown Disney? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Questions? Hearing your feedback – even when you disagree with us – is both interesting for us and helpful for other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!