From the esplanade, where huge block letters spelling CALIFORNIA originally stood, you now pass through a Streamline Modern entrance facade, designed after Los Angeles’s fabled Pan Pacific Auditorium. (If it looks familiar, that’s because it can also be recognized as the entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in Florida.)
Once past the turnstiles, you’ll find yourself on Buena Vista Street, a re-creation of 1920s Hollywood as Walt saw it when he first arrived. Immediately upon entering, to your left you’ll find Oswald’s Filling Station (a souvenir shop with a snazzy antique car parked outside) and the Chamber of Commerce. The street leading to the central plaza is lined on both sides with a variety of shops and eateries with backstories referring to Disney’s early biography. Among the shops on the east side is Elias & Company Department Store (the park’s largest shop, named after Walt’s father). The west side of the street features an indoor shopping arcade that leads to Kingswell Camera Shop (a PhotoPass printing location) and the Trolley Treats candy shop (check out the Big Rock Candy Mountain model in the window), among others.
The hub area, called Carthay Circle, is home to the Storytellers statue (depicting a young Walt Disney with an early version of Mickey Mouse) and a replica of the Carthay Circle Theater, where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937; in this incarnation, it encloses an upscale restaurant and bar.
Winding past the shops and facades, the Red Car Trolley transports guests from the park entrance to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and back again.
Together, Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle don’t simply serve as a point of departure for the park’s other various themed areas. They bring much-needed charm and warmth to DCA’s opening act, forming a fantastic improvement over the flat cartoon-postcard facades that framed the former entryway.