Travel: Buena Vista Street Project at Disney’s California Adventure Park

Disney's California Adventure - Buena Vista Street - Red Trolley Car

Disney’s California Adventure – Buena Vista Street – Red Trolley Car

You may remember that this time last month I was at the brand new Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure park (read: Photography: Disney’s CARS LAND Video Grand Opening Week). In addition to the new area of the park, Disney did some major revamping of the entrance to California Adventure. I didn’t know about it before my visit, but it was evident the moment I walked in the turnstiles.

1920's Hollywood Mickey

1920′s Hollywood Mickey

First I’ve always loved DCA. I’ve spent several vacations just hanging out there and loving all the nature available smack dab in the middle of Anaheim. In fact, on my last trip I took some amazing photos of the flowers, cats (near the winery under the bird houses), and butterflies hanging out by the Bug’s Life Theater (read: Wordless Wednesday – Disneyland Butterfly).  It’s such a great memory and a fabulous area of the park. I loved the open space and the leisurely stroll one could take throughout the center area and I loved the railroad-themed souvenir and ice cream shop near the entrance.

But not everyone loved the park like I did and Disney is never content with that. They continually work to change and improve their properties just as Walt did – Walt never saw his beloved park as being a finished project, but a work in progress.

Buena Vista Street Project

As I walked into the entrance of DCA, I couldn’t have been more surprised at the makeover Disney has pulled off that’s just taken DCA to the next level. The person responsible for the area, now named Buena Vista Street, is Lisa Girolami, the Senior Show Producer and Director with Walt Disney Imagineering. We got a chance to meet with Lisa and find out more about the project.

Girolami explained that Disney’s idea was to create a concept that identified the time and place of the area more effectively, as well as provide a stronger connection back to Walt’s days. They were also careful to complement the much-loved Main Street in Disneyland which is patterned after Walt’s boyhood hometown of Marceline, Missouri. They decided that the new Buena Vista Street would take visitors into Walt’s later life when Walt rode a train from Missouri to Los Angeles.

Buena Vista Street Fountain at night - Disney California Adventure

Buena Vista Street Fountain at night – Disney California Adventure

Walt arrived in LA with $40 in his pocket and his belongings in a cardboard suitcase. He also had a couple of reels of animated films he was working on. He made the trip in the 1920’s when Hollywood was just starting up. There was so much excitement about the opportunities available and it’s that time and place that is the basis for this new area that welcomes guests.

Buena Vista Street Streetmosphere

Buena Vista Street Streetmosphere

Girolami goes on, “… we want you, the guests, to walk down the street as Walt might have seen it and get inspired like he was.  And then when you get to the end of the street, just like Walt started his adventure, you get to start your adventure in California.” And you do get the feeling you’ve stepped back in time. As you walk down the street you’ll notice the 1920’s architectural ornamentation, music plays, and red car trolleys travel up and down the street – it was the only transportation back when Walt arrived.

Disney Imagineers are known for filling in the details and they’ve done that here. The “businesses” in this area are those you’d have seen as a resident of the area. They include an optician’s office, dance studio, and Mortimer’s Market. Even the name of the market reflects back to Walt. Mortimer was the first mouse Walt created but Lillian didn’t like the name. In fact, it was Lillian that came up with the infamous name Mickey Mouse.

Even the street numbers used in the area have significance in Walt’s life. They include his home addresses, the address of his first company, Elias and Co (Elias was Walt’s middle name and his father’s name), and other significant places in his life. Another business is called the Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical. It’s named after The Three Little Pigs – who knew they had names?  They also had a last name – Bounds – which was Lillian’s maiden name.

Carthay Circle Theatre

Carthay Circle Theatre

Then there’s Carthay Circle Theater. It’s considered the cornerstone of the new expansion and where Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered in 1937.  This was the first full-length animated film and launched Walt’s vision to create longer animated films. This Carthay Circle Theatre is a fine dining restaurant and lounge. We did stop at the lounge at the Carthay Circle Theatre (priority seating reservations are a must, but the lounge may have walk-in seating) and had some appetizers. I recommend the watermelon skewers and the deviled eggs – they’re really unusual!

Storyteller Statue on Buena Vista Street in DCA

Storyteller Statue on Buena Vista Street in DCA

Not far away is the Storyteller’s statue of Walt and Mickey which represents Walt during the studio years. The statue stands on the ground and is life-size – walk right up to him and take your picture with Walt!

The new Buena Vista Street entrance is worthy of a few hours – it’s a magical place with layers of details and history and such a wonderful addition to a park I already loved.


PHOTO CREDIT: Special thanks to Lolli of Better in Bulk for allowing me to use her photos. I had some fabulous shots of our food at the Carthay Circle restaurant and I’ve misplaced them. Thanks Lolli!

A Sampling of our Previous Disneyland Coverage:

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