Downtown Disney is the premiere shopping and nighttime entertainment complex located inside Walt Disney World. There is no admission fee for entering Downtown Disney, and many families use Downtown Disney on their final day in Orlando as a chance to pick up last minute souvenirs and their last bit of Disney magic before heading home. Downtown Disney is split up into three sections: The Marketplace, Pleasure Island and The West Side.
Most of Downtown Disney’s stores are located in the Marketplace, an outdoor shopping mall. The main attraction is the World of Disney store, the largest Disney store in the world with over 50,000 square feet of merchandise. Almost every souvenir sold at Walt Disney World is found inside, besides those related to specific theme parks and rides. In the various rooms the magic of Disney is represented through huge sculptures, giant screens and even Audio-Animatronics. World of Disney is also home to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a magical salon for girls wishing to become Disney princesses.
Inside the salon girls can receive a complete makeover from a “fairy godmother in training.” If you are on a budget, keep in mind that packages range from $45-$180. Booking in advance is essential to ensure an appointment. The reservation number is 407-939-7895. You will be asked to provide a credit card as a guarantee you will show up for your appointment. If you didn’t get your Disney fix through World of Disney, there are many other Disney stores to visit as well. Disney’s Days of Christmas celebrates yuletide all year long and sells ornaments, stockings, plush and other seasonal decorations. Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories is a great place for scrapbook makers, with a large supply of craft related souvenirs, frames and books. This location is also the only place where you can get a Disney postmark on your postcards. The Art of Disney store sells high end Disney merchandise for the Disneyana fan including paintings and sculptures from talented artists. Even if you aren’t a collector, it’s well worth of visit to enjoy the wonderful artwork. Goofy’s Candy Company is a wacky candy shop with all sorts of sugary sweets to sample. For those brave enough to tackle the sugar rush, the Oreo cookies with fudge center and elaborate toppings are heavenly. The budget-minded should head over to Mickey’s Mart, where all merchandise is under ten dollars. Pooh Corner is geared toward the stroller set, with merchandise related to the classic characters of Winnie-the-Pooh as well as Playhouse Disney characters from the Disney Channel. Those with pets at home should enjoy Disney Tails, which features Disney merchandise for your pet including costumes. Catering to the new fad of pin collecting, Disney’s Pin Traders offers a large selection of cloisonné Disney pins. Mickey’s Pantry is a one stop shop for Disney themed kitchen supplies, including ice cube trays that make ice shaped as the famous mouse himself. Team Mickey is a large sport store, with both Disney and non-Disney items related to all things athletic. Once Upon a Toy is full of toys and games for the young and young at heart.
There are other non-Disney stores at the Marketplace as well. Summer Sands is dedicated to the beach culture, and sells high end summer wear and Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts. At Basin, you can buy soaps and scrubs to pamper yourself with when you get back home. For the architect in all of us, the Lego Imagination Center is a large store dedicated to those wonderful colorful bricks. The impressively large sculptures outside the store made out of Lego are definitely worth a look over. At the Arribas Brothers glass shop, you can purchase beautiful works of crystal art. You can even get your crystal ware personalized from an artisan working at the shop. If you get hungry, there are also a few restaurants at the Marketplace as well. Rainforest Café immerses guests in a tropical rain forest, complete with animated figures and an occasional thunderstorm. Chocolate lovers will find heaven at Ghirardelli’s Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, which serves rich desserts and amazing ice cream sundaes. Delicious sandwiches, soups and salads can be found at The Earl of Sandwich. Pizza and pastas from the world famous chef Wolfgang Puck can be found at Wolfgang Puck Express. There’s also a large McDonald’s as well.
This area was once gated off and required admission to enter, now it’s free to walk through but admission is required to enter the nightclubs. Parents with small children might prefer to avoid walking through Pleasure Island at night and instead take the path around it as Pleasure Island can get quite rowdy sometimes. There are five dance clubs including the Rock ‘n Roll Beach Club, the 80s and 70s club 8 Trax, the top 40s club Motion, the hip-hop BET Soundstage Club and the techno-trance club Mannequins Dance Palace. There are also two comedy clubs. At the Comedy Warehouse, guests are treated to live improvisational humor and have an opportunity to affect the antics on stage. The most unique club on Pleasure Island is the Adventurer’s Club. Inside you’ll discover a bar themed to a 1930s gentlemen’s club where costumed actors perform cabaret style shows and interact with the guests one-on-one. While the humor and atmosphere may not appeal to everyone’s tastes, it is a very original concept and one-of-a-kind. There are a few shops at Pleasure Island, including one selling Harley Davidson merchandise. There’s also Raglan Road, an Irish pub with good food and great live entertainment. We recommend making a reservation for Limo Service with Orlando Limo Rental to avoid run-in with the law after leaving Pleasure Island. Or you can check the GOAA “Greater Orlando Aviation Authority” for a list of permitted companies in Orlando.
The West Side
The West Side is home to many entertaining places to visit and dine at. The AMC 24plex Theater is a great place to see a first run movie while visiting the Walt Disney World resort. The two-story Virgin Megastore has a large collection of CDs, DVDs, books and related pop culture merchandise. At the House of Blues, you may enjoy a live concert from various bands that come through on tours. The world-famous Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba show features impressive acrobatic stunts combined with dazzling theatrical artistry. Hollywood memorabilia lines all the walls of the restaurant Planet Hollywood. Bongos Cafe presents diners with some delicious Cuban cuisine. There are many other shops, including a huge selection of magnets at Magnetron Magnetz, tricks and gags available at Magic Masters, all sorts of sweets at Candy Cauldron, and authentic American collectibles and memorabilia at Starabilias.
An attraction unto itself, DisneyQuest represents a more interactive side of Disney. Where most Disney attractions take you along for a ride, DisneyQuest features attractions that put the guests in control of the experience. Cyberspace Mountain lets you design a roller coaster and then actually ride it via a high-tech simulator. Music lovers can attempt to create a top 40 hit at Radio Disney Song Maker. The award winning Pirates of the Caribbean sends guests on an adventurous voyage complete with 3-D effects. On the Virtual Jungle Cruise, guests travel back in time and use paddles to virtually sail down a turbulent river filled with dinosaurs. In addition to the original attractions, DisneyQuest also features a large collection of arcade favorites, both past and present. Nearly all of the attractions inside DisneyQuest are included in the general admission price ($38.34 per adults and $31.95 per children), making it near nirvana for video game fans.
If you want to avoid crowds, do not visit Downtown Disney on Friday or Saturday nights, as many Orlando locals also use it as a nightspot. Downtown Disney is often a choice of guests on rainy days, but is honestly no better than a theme park to visit considering it’s an open air environment. Downtown Disney has something for al
l age groups, but is probably best suited for pre-teens and older.