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Florida Guide > Disney General

Does Downtown Disney constitute a Family Day Out?

The Downtown Disney complex, consisting of the Marketplace, Pleasure Island and West Side, is treated by many tourists as an afternoon or night out; however the variety and richness of the area mean that it represents a day out in and of itself. It has all the ingredients: activities, distractions, shops, restaurants that you might find in the parks – and is frequently quieter with the added bonus of being free.

The Marketplace has become busier in the last few years – particularly in the evening, but it still has a relaxed feel until early afternoon and offers excellent shopping, including Disney memorabilia and clothing that won’t be found anywhere else. The most famous store is the World of Disney but other wonderful places to shop or just browse include Once Upon a Toy, Disney’s Days of Christmas, The Art of Disney (a unique gallery) and the aromatic Basin. It makes for a busy morning and if you have a small girl, her whole vacation can be made by a visit to the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. On the dining front the Marketplace is an excellent area for snacks with The Earl of Sandwich and Girardhelli’s making a delightful savoury/sweet lunch double whammy.

Until last year, Pleasure Island clubs were open to those under 21 accompanied by an adult with the exceptions of Mannequins (The most conventional dance nightclub) and the BET Soundstage (Hip-Hop). However recent changes in the admission mean that the Rock and Roll Beach Club (Self-Explanatory), 8-Trax (70s/80s), Motion (Pop) and the club area of Raglan Road (Mostly up-tempo folk, but various) are now out of bounds to under 21s. The Adventurers’ club and Comedy Warehouse are still open to this age range though under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.

As a direct result of this the two clubs to which children are permitted have become more family friendly, particularly at the beginning of the evening. Pleasure Island is therefore – with the correct ticket – a great option for a couple of hours in the evening with a family.

Even more family activity options exist on Disney’s West Side – one of Walt Disney World’s greatest triumphs in the opinion of this writer.

DisneyQuest is a (separate admittance OR mixed ticket) virtual reality playground covering five floors where the more energetic children can spend a whole afternoon while parents try their hands at various computerised games as well.

The AMC is a tremendous 24 screen cinema which is VERY affordable for a family trip – a matinee ticket (before 4) is cheaper than any city centre cinema ticket.

West Side’s shops have more of a novelty to them than most of the Marketplace shops: rendering them as distracting for children as for adults. These include the Candy Cauldron, where kids can watch toffee apples and other candy being made fresh; Magic Masters, where the Cast Members will keep everyone dazzled; and Magnetron, which possibly contains every fridge magnet in the World.

West Side’s outstanding restaurant options include House of Blues, Wolfgang Puck’s Café and Restaurant and Bongo’s Cuban Café. All great choices.

Finally there is of course the Cirque De Soleil, though I believe the show is deserving of its own trip on another evening.

Downtown Disney truly represents a potential day out for all the family.

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Page added on: 9 March 2007
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