Downtown Disney

This is Walt Disney World Resort’s shopping, restaurant and entertainment district. It is definitely worth a visit and with free parking and no admission it’s a nice place to stop at if you’ve got a spare few hours.

The area is split into two sections; Marketplace and West Side. Both feature shops and restaurants but West Side has a slightly more
Mature feel to it. Between these is Pleasure Island which used to be bars and clubs for some grown-up evening entertainment but this area has been closed and will re-open with a different purpose.

Shopping

There are numerous shops here but here are some that really shouldn’t be missed:

  • World of Disney. This is the biggest Disney store in the world. It is the perfect place to shop for presents to take back at home or for that holiday keepsake. It sells exclusive Disney park merchandise from clothing to jewellery to kitchenware to toys.
  • LEGO Imagination Store. Worth a visit just to see the impressive Lego creations outside the front of the store. Plus if you’re a Lego fan they sell lots of kits and sets including Disney branded one, plus Duplo for the little ones.
  • Disney’s Pin Traders – if you’re a Disney pin collector this has to be a must for you – you wot find a bigger collection any where else and occasionally you’ll find ‘expert’ pin traders outside to trade with.
  • TrenD – a little pricier but way cooler than most Disney merchandise this is a clothes store selling Disney (and some non-Disney) clothing with an edge.
  • Team Mickey – a definite must for sports fans, you can get clothing and sports apparatus here, quite a lot of it being Disney branded although some of it is sports teams. It is pretty much just American sports though so a lot of baseballs and basketballs and a lot less “soccer” but you will find some catered to us.
  • Once Upon a Toy – a fun toy shop. You can create your own Mr or Mrs potato head or light sabre!
  • Disney’s Days of Christmas. I think this is probably my favourite store in Downtown Disney. I love shopping for Christmas decorations when it’s boiling hot outside!  All Disneyfied of course, but you have to buy at least one Disney bauble!
  • RideMakerz is fairly new and allows you to build your own car with numerous bodies, engines, tyres etc. to pick from. One warning is that this can get expensive very quickly so either go in with a set budget in mind and explain to the kids (or Dads!) how to stick to it, only make one per family or expect to make this one of your pricier shopping trips.

There are many other shops to explore, including sweets, kitchenware, jokes, art, design you’re own Tee, jewellery, soaps, magnets and more!

Restaurants

There are some fab places to eat in Downtown Disney, from cafes to fancy restaurants. One thing to note is that proportionally, less restaurants here accept the dining plan. So if you’re on it, you may want to check on advance before you book. And if you’re not, you might stand a good chance of getting a table if it’s during a free Dining promotion. I won’t list them all but here our some of our faves:

  • T-Rex, a dinosaur themed restaurant, complete with roaring and moving dinosaurs around you and above you.
  • Rainforest Cafe is owned by the same people as T-Rex and is the same concept. Expect lush jungle surroundings and listen out for the sounds and movements of the animals.   We also have one of these in London if you don’t want to give up your Disney time for it.
  • Fulton’s Crab House is located on a boat and is all lit up at night. We’ve had some really lovely meals there but I’ve also heard that not everyone thinks it lives up to it’s price tag.
  • Planet Hollywood is a burger and chips style meal but in the famous chain.
  • Bongos Cuban Cafe is owned by Gloria Estefan and is very tasty Cuban food.
  • House of Blues has southern-style food and has a grungy, blues feel to it. they also have live performances at various times throughout the week.
  • Wolfgang Puck Cafe is split into Express, Lounge and Sushi Bar, the Cafe and the Dining Room. I’ve never been, but mention it as its often cited as people’s favourite quick service meal in Downtown Disney, although it has a restaurant as well.
  • Ghirardelli Ice Cream and chocolate shop – a favourite of many!
  • Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant – to which you can drop by for a drink or a meal. I mention this mainly as its one of the very few places in Walt Disney World Resort that you can buy cider (the alcoholic kind – apparently cider in the States is apple juice). When we went they had Strongbow but not Magners or any of the better options but the bar tender did say they might be changing their range in the future as it was becoming a more common request.

Entertainment

There are 4 big ‘attractions’ and they’re all found at West Side.

Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba. A huge white tent looking building is the home to this permanent human circus theatre show. The show is expensive at west end type prices but is really incredible and I would definitely recommend it. Make sure you’re rested and relaxed when you go though as we went following a very busy day and my husband has the most expensive nap of his life!

DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park is essentially a huge arcade centre. Set over 5 floors you can play virtual games, build your own virtual rollercoaster and play regular arcade games. If you have one of the UK Ultimate Disney tickets then you will have unlimited access to DisneyQuest or it’s an option on the Premier tickets. Arcade games really aren’t my thing so I’ve only been here once but if you do like them then this will be right up your alley!

Characters In Flight. This is a tethered hot air balloon ride that takes you 400 feet I’m the air and gives you some amazing views of Downtown Disney and Walt Disney World Resort in general. The balloon won’t fly if the flying conditions aren’t right and for that reason, they don’t take bookings in advance.

There is also a 24 screen cinema in Downtown Disney, if you fancy catching a film while you’re away.