Though Downtown Disney retail stores open their doors at 10 a.m., security often allows guests into the area before that time.The singular Disney parking lot that's open to the public (which we outline here) usually opens at a varying time between 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The moment you park, you can go straight to security and enter into Downtown Disney.On Thursday, we arrived at the lot at 9:25 a.m. and there was already a good amount of cars parked inside.On the flip side, if you arrive too early, the lot may be closed (as we've experienced before). The perk, however, is that you can get a leg up on other guests and make a beeline to some of Downtown Disney's busiest stores.Most guests don't seem to spill into Downtown Disney until after 10 a.m., when the area officially opens because people may not be aware you can access it before then.Don't come too late or Disney may close the parking lot. By the time I left on Thursday at 2:30 p.m., the lot was already considered full for the day.And it's good to remember that Downtown Disney is limiting the amount of cars that come into the area even if the parking lot isn't at max capacity.There are two security entrances to Downtown Disney. One of those two is attached to the sole public parking lot that's currently available to guests.If you're not a local or staying in the area, you're likely driving a car to Downtown Disney and are parking in, what's called, the Simba lot. (Yes, it's named after The Lion King character.)Up until November 19, it was free to visit Downtown Disney and park in this lot. During my previous two outings, vehicles freely drove through the tolls without any hold up.On Thursday morning, however, I was met with new signs with the pricing. As far as I could tell, it doesn't matter if you're a Disneyland annual passholder. Everyone needs to pay the $10 fee to park. I previously visited Downtown Disney on a Sunday and, later, on a Wednesday. On the weekend I visited, I couldn't stand to be in the area past noon without it starting to feel a bit too crowded for my liking and I left. My Wednesday visit was the complete opposite. I barely felt like anyone was there. It felt like I and a few others had the run of the place with most people at school or work.From my experience, if you arrive right when Downtown Disney opens on any given day, you're able to immediately walk into any store without a wait. Lines really start to form around 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.A Disney cast member later told me they only try to visit Downtown Disney on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The line may look daunting when you first arrive.When we arrived Thursday at 9:30 a.m. we were surprised to see the line spill over into a parking lot. Though it looked long, guests were spaced out and the line rarely stopped. It took about 10 minutes for me to get to the front of this line after being about six rows deep into a parking lot.One of the first things you'll hear from a Disney cast member when entering the Downtown District area is to make sure your mask is always covering your mouth and nose. Anyone over the age of two must wear one.Guests were also reminded to not take masks off for photographs.There is no eating and drinking while walking around the area. You can only take off your mask to eat or drink when you're stationary or at a designated seating area.In order to even get into Downtown Disney, you'll have your temperature taken first by a thermometer held up to your forehead. After that, you walk past a security dog. If you have any bags on you, you have to take them off and hold them at your side. Afterwards, you'll arrive at a metal detector and bag search.Even on Thursday, the busiest day I was at Downtown Disney, I was impressed by how few people were going through the metal detectors at once.A lot of corporate employees were on hand Thursday in addition to regular cast members to make sure everything was going smoothly — whether that was making sure guests weren't bottlenecked in any area or asking them to stop drinking a beverage while walking.Each time I've visited Downtown Disney, I've arrived before 10 a.m. It's always pretty empty for about the first hour.If you enter Downtown Disney from this security entrance (if you arrive by car, you will), you need to walk past the area's many stores in order to get to the theme parks. It's about a five-minute brisk walk and timing means everything here. A cast member I spoke with was able to get in the queue and walk right into DCA when Downtown Disney opened at 10 a.m. without a problem. That's your best-case scenario. On Thursday, I just missed the cut off for the physical queue. If that happens, and it very well may, you'll have to do the alternative.Luckily, I was pointed in the right direction to where this was located. A few large signs were on the ground underneath the monorail track close to Disneyland. Guests had to scan the QR code and were then asked to enter their name, party size, and phone number. You're then given a group number and will be texted when it's your time to enter the physical queue. If some of this sounds familiar, it's because Disneyland Resorts has a similar virtual queue process in place for one of its most recent attractions, Rise of the Resistance, with which I'm very familiar.The only difference is that, for now, Disney doesn't tell you what groups they're currently boarding so you have no idea what your wait time is in the digital queue. I was in group 90 (which didn't sound great) and wasn't sure if I had an hour or three wait time. Note: If you're having issues scanning a QR code, I heard cast members offer to manually enter guests into the digital queue.After a 90-minute wait, I received a text reading, A Cast Member is available to assist you! Please return to the Buena Vista Street queue within 60 minutes of receiving this message. This message does not guarantee access to Downtown Disney.Once you find a cast member, they'll verify your name and status and let you into part one of a two-part queue.It took me about 40 minutes (a normal attraction wait time) to get into Disney California Adventure. But the line was moving every few minutes so it never felt like I was standing in one spot for too long. This is the view down Buena Vista Street when you first enter DCA.Disney Parks opened up quite a large space for guests to wander, larger than I initially thought would be available to guests.The above shows the view down Buena Vista Street into Hollywood Land.This is one of three directions you can walk in once inside DCA.DCA's Buena Vista Street opening extends straight down the park until you reach Cars Land, and spills into Hollywood Land and Grizzly Peak past the popular attraction, Soarin' Around the World.I was surprised that you could nearly enter Cars Land.This decor was put up over the past two weeks or so. Upon my previous visits, none of the holiday trimming was up yet.Here, you see the Oswald gas station, a nod to Walt Disney's first animated character before Mickey, which greets you upon entering DCA.Elias & Company, Julius Katz & Sons, Kingswell Camera Shop, and Trolley Treats are all open to the public. Smokejumpers Grill and Carthay Circle Restaurant are the two main food offerings. Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe has hot chocolate and cranberry orange scones and Award Weiners has soft drinks and hot dogs.Since the park's been closed for eight months, you may have deleted it from your phone or, like me, you may have been logged out of your account. You won't need it to get into Downtown Disney or into DCA. However, if you make it inside DCA and want to order food through a mobile app, it's extremely helpful to order through the Disneyland app to avoid waiting in lines. Cast members added so many extra seats and standing tables throughout the park.While most people stayed concentrated towards the center of the park, I found fewer people made their way down toward Soarin'. The attraction now doubled as a place where you could sit and eat. So I did. Mickey's PhilharMagic outdoor entrance in Hollywood Land also had some additional seating that was a little more hidden.You may see people working on Avengers Campus, which is taking the place of A Bug's Land.The Marvel-themed area was originally supposed to open in July 2020 and will have an Ant-Man and the Wasp-themed dining area along with a Spider-Man ride. That's what you're able to spy in the photo above.Read more: Inside Disneyland's upcoming Marvel land where you'll be able to sling webs like Spider-Man and meet superheroesI was initially deterred by the long, winding lines outside of two stores in DCA. I thought the line was going to resemble the inside of the store, but that wasn't the case at all.I was surprised to find that there weren't that many people inside of the rather large store at all. It was almost like I reserved my own personal shopping spree with the Mouse. A person here or there would pop up, and toward the end when I reached the exit room I finally found some more people. But when I entered the store during the 1 p.m. hour it felt like I had it largely to myself.That's a bizarre feeling if you're a frequent Disney Parks' goer. Before March, it was tough to walk through Disney Parks stores without bumping into someone.Disney appears to really be making sure there aren't too many people inside of a store at once. That may result in more people waiting outside.Regardless, the line I waited in moved fairly quick. I waited a maximum of 20 minutes to see what it was like inside.I visited the park twice before my visit to DCA. I was extremely anxious on my first visit, not knowing what to expect or if I'd hate the entire experience. But I was much more relaxed and comfortable by the time I visited earlier this week. (I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good or bad thing).By the time my Thursday visit came, I wasn't phased by the idea of the three-part security checkpoint, the numerous safety signs, and handwashing stations throughout the area. I was able to be focused on the end goal of getting to DCA.