Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? When it comes to Disney Parks merchandise, my collection will never be complete! I love shopping in general, but shopping at Disneyland is on a whole other level. I am very strategic when it comes to tackling all of the stores within Downtown Disney, Disneyland and California Adventure (there’s over 60!), and I’m so excited to share all of my tips with you!
Downtown Disney District
My first order of business on any Disneyland trip is to visit the World of Disney store the afternoon or evening before our first day at the parks. This has been our annual tradition for many years, and it’s become something I look forward to the most! If you’ve never experienced the World of Disney store before, it’s like a normal Disney store you’d find at your local mall, but on steroids. I’ll paint you a little picture: upon walking in, you’re greeted by some friendly cast members, and you’re instantly immersed in an amazing land of the best and most expansive Disney merchandise you’ve ever seen. T-shirts, kitchenware, pajamas, kids clothing, stuffed animals, artwork, collectible items, pins, toys—honestly anything you can imagine is housed in this giant emporium! The store is laid out in different sections so like-items are grouped together, and when I say that I can easily spend 2 hours in this store, I’m not even exaggerating one bit. There’s so much to take in and look at, so I highly advise that you take your time because you never know what kind of hidden gems you might find! I almost always end up getting a couple of new shirts to wear to the parks the next day, because why wear an old shirt when you can wear a new one?! I also don’t feel as bad buying a ton of merchandise when I’m saving 10% on my purchase of $50 or more, thanks to our Disney Visa card! This isn’t an ad, but I will advocate this card to anyone who has ears and loves Disney—all purchases help you earn Disney dollars which you can redeem at the parks and the Disney store, and you also save 10% on most dining locations! Just a heads up before you make your way into the World of Disney store: it’s almost always super jam-packed with people, so arm yourself with that knowledge before you go in and you likely won’t feel as stressed or overwhelmed.
Aside from World of Disney, there are few other Disney shops within the Downtown Disney area, like The Disney Dress Shop! This is somewhat of a new addition to this shopping district and has been quite popular, especially for people who love dressing up to pay homage to specific characters or their favorite attractions. This shop specializes in vintage-inspired dresses that are very detailed and styled after certain characters like Minnie Mouse, Snow White and Alice in Wonderland to name a few. They also sell dresses that are themed after rides like “it’s a small world”, the Haunted Mansion and more! When we visited Disneyland last year, we happened to be there on Dapper Day and saw so many people dressed to the nines in all of their retro and vintage-inspired outfits—it was so fun! And in case you didn’t get enough of a fix on home and kitchen decor at the World of Disney store, you can also head over to Disney Home, the ultimate destination for all your home decor needs!
I also love visiting the WonderGround Gallery to browse all of the amazing Disney artwork and dream about it hanging on the walls of my future home someday! Every year I always see a new piece of art that sparks my interest, and I usually take tons of pictures so I can remember all of the ones I liked. The gallery also hosts artist meet-and-greets, so if there’s a favorite artist that you follow you can check out the website to se if they’ll be there during your visit. I also can’t resist checking out the Pandora jewelry store to see the latest and greatest Disney charms! Freddy gave me a Beauty and the Beast Pandora bracelet for my birthday 2 years ago, and we bought my first charms that same year at Disneyland, so I always feel the urge to get a new charm on our vacation every year.
Last but certainly not least, I can’t resist checking out the Disney’s Pin Traders kiosk to pick out new pins for my lanyard! I would say they have one of the best selections of pins out of any other location in the parks. I’ve been collecting pins for the last 17 years and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I love looking back on some of the first pins I bought and seeing how the character designs have changed and how the parks have changed over the years. If you love collecting pins like me, I highly recommend checking out this location!
Having a few hours to browse and shop all of the Downtown Disney locations the day before your trip definitely has it’s perks:
You can buy merchandise to wear to the parks the next day which is way fun. I love picking out a new outfit and practically ripping the tags off the second I walk out of the store!
If you buy a bunch of stuff, you only have to carry it around for a few hours and then you can drop it off in your hotel room—done and done!
Of course you’re going to want to buy some things at Disneyland and California Adventure, there’s no getting around it. But, if you can get the bulk of your shopping out of the way before you go to the parks, you’ll be less likely to buy a ton at the parks, which again, means less to carry around.
The main store I love going into happens to be on Main Street, naturally. Emporium is the largest store in the park and houses pretty much everything you could ever need! The store isn’t as quite as big as World of Disney, but they house similar merchandise like ears, stuffed animals, tons of apparel and toys. They even sell Pandora charms—this is where I bought my very first charms from a couple years ago. Across the street you’ll find Disney Showcase which is a bit smaller, but again you’ll find similar merchandise and even some of the Disney Dooney & Bourke collection bags. My recommendation when it comes to the Main Street shops is don’t buy the first thing you see! Unless there’s a specific item you’re looking for that you know you want, I would hold off and wait to do your big shopping later in the day for a couple of reasons:
Unless it’s something you plan on wearing right then and there, the last thing you want to do is carry around a big bag of merchandise and lug it on all the rides or put it in your backpack. Not fun!
The merchandise you’ll see in the Main Street shops is not going anywhere, so don’t worry about something “selling out” or not being able to find it again. Wait til you explore the shops in the rest of the park because you might find something else you’ll like even more!
What I love about shopping at Disneyland (and California Adventure) is that different shops in different “lands” carry merchandise that’s themed to that particular area. It’s in these stores that you can get unique merchandise that you may not otherwise find in the main shops on Main Street or in the World of Disney store. For example, the shop right outside Space Mountain and Star Tours (The Star Trader) is going to have more Star Wars merchandise and some Buzz Lightyear gear to stay “on theme” with its location. The same is true for Bonanza Outfitters over in Frontierland—they have more Western-inspired apparel and accessories to suit the miners and cowboys that live around those parts. I talked about the Pin Traders kiosk in Downtown Disney being one of my favorite places to buy pins, but the pin store that’s right next to the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition is my 2nd favorite! I sadly can’t find the name of the store, but I’ll be sure to share it on my Instagram Stories when I’m there next week—they have tons and tons of pins for all the collectors out there!
California Adventure Shopping
Shopping at California Adventure has a more relaxed vibe in a way that I can’t totally explain. It doesn’t feel like you’re in a tizzy to go crazy and buy all the things like you can sometimes feel when you’re at Disneyland. Plus, California Adventure has some really cool and unique stores that I just love! First stop is definitely Elias & Co. on Buena Vista Street when you first walk in—you can’t miss it! This store is very similar to Emporium at Disneyland in the fact that you can find all of the “main” items here like apparel, toys, stuffed animals, etc. This is your “back to basics” store if you’re looking for the standard Disney merchandise.
Cars Land is one of my favorite areas of this park—I really love the movie Cars and it’s so neat feeling like you’re actually in Radiator Springs. Ramone’s House of Body Art is the main store over in this area and it has some awesome Cars-themed merchandise like apparel, mugs, accessories, collectibles and more! For the Cars fan in your group, you definitely need to check out this store ‘cause Ramone’s got the hook up! I also love heading over to the Rushin’ River Outfitters store by Grizzly Peak because the apparel is more outdoorsy and camper-esque—it just makes me want to go live in NorCal and make s’mores by a campfire. Midway Mercantile is another great themed shop for all of your rootinist, tootinist cowboys that can’t get enough of Toy Story! When you’re getting off the Midway Mania ride it leads you directly into the shop, so that’s a great time to browse and check it out.
I’m a sucker for Disney artwork, specifically the Thomas Kinkade Disney collection! I’ve been obsessed with his art for a very long time (my mom and aunt love his work so I grew up with it from a young age), so when he started his Disney series I was smitten. At Off The Page in Hollywood Land, you can get an up-close look at some of his collections, as well as other Disney artwork. It’s also a great store for Jim Shore collectibles and Disney books! This is a store I must visit every single time. When it comes to pins, my 3rd and final favorite location to shop for them is at the pin cart located just outside Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Again, I can’t find the name of this one online either, but it has a dragon on the logo and I’ll be sure to share it with you guys next week :) My shopping game is definitely more subdued when I’m at California Adventure, which is usually because I’ve already spent a day at Disneyland and feel like I don’t truly need to buy anything else. That being said, here are my shopping strategy tips:
Check out the unique gift shops first, like over in Cars Land, Pixar Pier, Hollywood Land and Grizzly Peak. You’ve likely seen most of the standard Disney merchandise at this point, so you might be in need of something more unique that you won’t find in the main gift store. If you see something you like but aren’t totally sure, my answer is pretty much always “just get it!”. These smaller shops have very specific merchandise that isn’t always sold at the larger stores, and you don’t want to regret your decision to not purchase later on.
Hit up Elias & Co. and Julius Katz & Sons (also on Buena Vista Street) towards the end of your day if there’s any last-minute merchandise you really want. The latter also has a great assortment of seasonal merchandise depending on what time of year you’re visiting!
Now that we’ve got whozits and whatzits galore (and def more than 20 thingamabobs), be sure to come back and be part of my world tomorrow as I share the final installment in this series: navigating the parks! Grab your dinglehopper and I’ll catch you on the flip side!