When you think of the words “Disney” and “California,” my guess is that there is exactly one place that comes to mind. And while Disneyland is indeed the happiest place on earth, there are sprinkles of happiness all over the LA area. This is especially true of Hollywood, an already major tourist attraction, which has several Disney experiences that will please any Disney fan, and almost all of them will make your wallet much happier than if you purchase a park ticket.
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop
Ghirardelli Exterior | © Charlotte Perkis
Located on Hollywood Boulevard, you can get a lot more than just chocolate at this soda fountain. (Don’t worry, there is still a ton of chocolate you can get here.) This is also a hot spot for unique merch, including ornaments, accessories, and even spirit jerseys. This is also the place to be if you are an avid pin collector. Almost all the pins located here cannot be purchased anywhere else, with exclusive drops every month. And, of course, there are tons of Ghirardelli chocolate squares and ice cream treats. It’s a win-win!
Ghirardelli Pins | © Charlotte Perkis
Hollywood Spirit Jersey | © Charlotte Perkis
Ghirardelli Chocolates | © Charlotte Perkis
El Capitan Theatre
El Capitan Theatre Exterior | © Charlotte Perkis
Ever see red carpet pictures of a Disney, Marvel, or Disney-Pixar Hollywood premiere? This is where it happened. Disney purchased this single screen, 1100-seat historic theater in the late 1980s, and it’s been home to countless premieres and events since then. But you don’t need to be surrounded by A-list stars to have fun in this theatre. While it usually plays the latest Disney release, it often hosts screenings of classic films, as well as holiday events. They also are famous for their epic preshows, which feature a live organist, and, depending on the film, live actors and dancers. No matter what is playing when you visit, it’s quite an experience!
El Capitan Theatre Interior | © El Capitan Theater
Who doesn’t love cute photo ops? This place is PACKED with them. And you don’t have to drop $30 to take them (*cough cough* Downtown Disney's Mickey Celebration). Brought to you by the company that makes those black-eyed little figures of any character you could possibly imagine, this store is a hidden gem. While not exclusively Disney properties, it also includes areas themed to Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, anime characters, and horror icons. This shop leads you through a maze of incredibly detailed environments, such as an entire Disney village, the Mos Eisley Cantina, and Ariel’s sunken ship, complete with life size Funko Pop characters. Though you could spend hours just walking around and snapping pictures (as I did) the store is full to the brim with merchandise, including purses, backpacks, pins, both related to Pops or simply fandom themed items, to browse through.
Loungefly Backpacks and Purses | © Charlotte Perkis
Funko Pop! Star Wars Scene | © Charlotte Perkis
Funko Pop! Disney Villians Photo Op | © Charlotte Perkis
Funko Pop! Black Panther Scene | © Charlotte Perkis
Hollywood Pantages Theatre
This is definitely the priciest place on the list, but also can be the most magical. The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is home to many Broadway touring productions and currently is hosting Frozen the Musical until February 2, 2020. This production is truly magical and perfect for all ages. Disney musicals can often be hit or miss, but through new songs, stunning production design, and an amazing cast, this is one I cannot recommend enough – both for theater fans and Disney lovers.
Hollywood Pantages Theatre Exterior | © Charlotte Perkis
Frozen Live at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre | © Deen van Meer
California is packed to the brim with tourist attractions, and even when you can’t make it up to Anaheim (or your budget will not allow you to visit The Happiest Place on Earth), it can be important to find a little bit of Disney magic in your vacation. So next time you take a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, keep your eyes peeled for these hidden Disney gems!