Florida Guide > Disney General
Downtown Disney is one of our favourite places to go especially in the evening. Beside a lake that connects with Disney resorts it is divided into three linked areas, West Side, Pleasure Island and Marketplace. Plus a Wedding Pavillion for that lakeside fairytale wedding! Car parking is free and covers a vast area, so make sure you make a careful note of where you’ve parked!
West Side has themed restaurants, many with live music, including Wolfgang Puck Café, The House of Blues, Bongos Cuban Café and Planet Hollywood. There is a vast Virgin Megastore, the largest music store in Florida where you can listen to music at one of their 100 listening stations or have a drink and a snack in their café. This is probably the best kept secret of Downtown Disney, as located on the first floor, it has a balcony overlooking the area, here with a bird’s eye view you can sit and watch the world go by.
There are several shops selling everything from fine art and movie memorabilia to candy made in front of you. There’s even one shop dedicated to fridge magnets and another demonstrating and selling magic tricks. West Side also has a 24 screen cinema complex, Disney Quest (an interactive arcade game complex) and best of all, a purpose built theatre for the not to be missed Cirque du Soleil show ‘La Nouba’.
Moving on to Pleasure Island, this area has 7 nightclubs, two of which you have to be 21 to enter. The area also has a Harley Davidson store where you can pose for photos on two bikes and Raglan Road an Irish pub, with Cooke’s of Dublin, a fish and chip shop alongside. For a more gastronomic experience board the paddle steamer of Fulton’s Crab House for great but fairly pricey seafood.
Finally the Marketplace has more shops, mainly Disney themed and yet more restaurants. Surprisingly this is one of the cheapest places to buy Disney merchandise and there are often amazing discounts to be had. Our tip is to shop here and give the many tourist stores a miss as their prices are usually much higher. The largest Disney store in the world is located here and includes the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Here your little princess can have her hair, nails and makeup done to match one of the Cinderella dresses on sale in the store. The Marketplace is also the location of the Lego Imagination Center. We love the Lego family outside complete with dogs and the huge Lego monster in the lake, both great photo opportunities.
Restaurants at the Marketplace include, the popular Rainforest café complete with trumpeting elephants, huge cocktails and a ‘storm’ every half hour. There is a McDonald’s, Wolfgang Puck Express, Earl of Sandwich, Ghiradelli’s for ice cream sundaes and shakes and Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant on the waterfront. The Rainforest Café group are opening T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure restaurant in early 2008 that promises to be quite a dining adventure.
Downtown Disney is a great area to visit at any time but it really comes alive at night. Although there are many places serving alcohol we have never seen any rowdy or drunken behaviour, families with small children will feel perfectly at ease here. Live music, street entertainers and brilliant lighting effects add to the laid back atmosphere. Best of all if you are able to resist all the temptations on offer you can have a great night out for free!
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