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California theme park fans can find magic outside the gates

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

Southern California theme parks have been closed for nearly a year. With re-opening dates still unknown, the Downtown Disney District at Disneyland Resort and Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood have come to the rescue for fans searching for a dash of pixie dust and a taste of the Wizarding World.

California theme park - Downtown Disney DIstrict
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort

Unlike their much larger counterparts in Orlando, the SoCal theme park shopping and dining districts are sometimes overlooked by local regulars or single-day guests who view them as merely walking routes from the parking structure to the turnstiles. However, with California parks closed, it’s not surprising that Universal and Disneyland fans have turned to these under-appreciated avenues to experience a bit of the theme park magic they’ve been missing.

When Downtown Disney was extended to include Buena Vista Street, park-starved guests eagerly queued up to pass through Disney California Adventure’s gates, even though not a single ride was open.

California theme park - Buena Vista Street
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort

While it’s no surprise that park fans flocked to the festively decorated shopping and dining districts during the Christmas season to bask in the special brand of holiday magic that only theme parks can provide, there were surprises to be found before December – even some that usually require an admission ticket.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Sweets & Treats at Universal CityWalk

California theme park - Universal CityWalk The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Sweets & Treats
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

In November 2020, CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood introduced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Sweets & Treats, where a few of Harry’s favorite magical treats from the Wizarding World could be found outside Hogsmeade Village for the first time. Here, witches, wizards, and even muggles can satisfy their craving for Butterbeer—available hot, cold, and (my personal favorite) frozen—or snack on Butterbeer ice cream and Chocolate Frogs.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Sweets & Treats - Butterbeer
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood

“While this has been an unprecedented time for our destination, we‘re grateful that Universal CityWalk can operate and welcome guests and fans of Universal Studios Hollywood to experience elements of the theme park they miss very much,” said Audrey Eig, vice president of Publicity and Public Relations for Universal Studios Hollywood. “In addition to CityWalk’s many shopping and dining offerings, The Universal Studio Store and the addition of ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Sweets & Treats’ are ways our guests can continue to engage with the theme park until we can re-open.”

Star Wars Trading Post in the Downtown Disney District

Downtown Disney Star Wars Trading Post
Photo courtesy of Disneyland Resort

Also in November 2020, a pop-up shopping location in Downtown Disney received a shipment of goods from a galaxy far, far away – some items that were previously only available at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge inside Disneyland Park.

Downtown Disney Star Wars Trading Post
Photo courtesy of The Disneyland Resort

On Feb. 19, 2121, the more substantial Star Wars Trading Post will open in the space formally occupied by Rainforest Café. This trading post housed in a hidden jungle Resistance base will allow fans to purchase items from Star Wars and “The Mandalorian,” as well as a selection of exports from the planet of Batuu, including the Batuuan Spira coin (Black Spire Outpost’s ancient currency that can be used as a gift card at participating Disneyland Resort locations).

On Feb. 8, 2021—the 20th Anniversary of Disney California Adventure—Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock wrote a letter to Disneyland cast members and shared information about a limited-time ticketed food and beverage event that will offer guests even more access to Disney California Adventure (rides and attractions will remain closed).

“Currently planned to begin mid-March, we will debut an […] experience, focused on our world-famous food and beverage offerings from around the resort, the latest merchandise, and unique, carefully crafted entertainment experiences… all to be offered multiple days a week,” Potrock wrote. “With limited capacity and enhanced health and safety measures in place, guests once again will get to step into a magical Disney environment – an environment that will provide memorable and fun experiences our Guests are craving.”

Be sure to check the most up-to-date policies and procedures for the Downtown Disney District and Universal CityWalk Hollywood before visiting.

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1 comment

Will February 10, 2021 - 8:20 pm

Even though I am not from California, I would say that Disney or Universal Studios should open (if they can depending on social distancing) with a huge re-opening ceremony, like Disneyland did in 1955 or like Universal Studios did in Florida in 1990., and televise or stream it online for the world to see.

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