When the kids are wired from too much technology, and parents' stomachs are churning from too many unruly rides, it's time for a break from the theme parks. What should you do? One suggestion is to try Downtown Disney... it's a delightful change of pace!
Downtown Disney MarketplaceYou don't have to spend a dime to keep your small fry entertained at Downtown Disney. Stop by the Lego store in Disney Marketplace where kids can slide down a jungle gym, get their photos taken with dinosaurs or space aliens made from the colorful Lego blocks...
If you don't mind letting them get wet, little ones also can keep their cool in the reflection pool that circles the flag pole and giggle as they try to dodge or catch the intermittent spurts of the fountain.
Not far away are rides for the tiny tikes - an old fashioned glistening carousel and a cute-as-a-button train. These will cost you a few dollars but could be a nice reward for "not touching" while you are enjoying your shopping.
The shopping and entertainment zone at Downtown Disney offers weary parents plenty of sitting space to watch the young ones play. The complex is situated on Disney's own Bay Lake and the village of shops and eateries are the perfect spot to enjoy evening waterfront breezes and twinkling lights from across the Bay. During the day it is fun to watch the coming and going of small rental boats and other activities. When not in use, the waterfront entertainment stage area offers plenty of seating to allow the children a nap, or to enjoy an ice cream snack.
If sitting around taking in the sights is not your style, there are plenty of unique shops to stroll. They offer everything from kitchen utensils to Disney memorabilia, swimwear to bath accessories, and toys to stationery. Besides a fully stocked character store, there are a variety of shoppes where you can find that perfect souvenir, novelty keep-sake, or something for that hard-to-buy-for neighbor keeping an eye on your house back in Indiana.
You won't want to miss the Christmas Shoppe either!
The choices available for meals and snacks are sure to please any age. McDonalds moved off main street onto the Disney scene and will provide your young ones with familiar fare. Our favorite, and a worthwhile adventure, is the Rainforest Cafe, but make reservations or expect a long wait. If you like seafood, then dine at Fulton's Crab House – aboard a full-size replica paddle boat. Ice cream and chocolate shops are our favorite snack venues.
Downtown Disney's West Side and Pleasure IslandThe West Side of Downtown Disney features more entertainment, shops and restaurants. It is the location of Cirque du Soleil, Disney Quest, an AMC Theatre and House of Blues, that combines dining with nightly entertainment. The West Side and Pleasure Island are undergoing a makeover to make them more family-friendly, with new shops and restaurants replacing some of the night clubs associated with Pleasure Island.
If you're looking for something "Disney" but don't want to go the theme park route, this is the ticket. It's our favorite hang-out if we're only going to be in town a day or two.
Next Page: Downtown Disney Shops
As you stroll the streets of Downtown Disney, you will find extraordinary shopping experiences, including unique shops and a variety of outdoor artisans featuring cloth-covered balloons to creative hair wraps and silhouette portraits to personalized wood nameplates.
Downtown Disney Marketplace Shops
- Arribas Brothers - Glassware, crystal and metal artisan products.
- Basin - All-natural bath and skin care products in a rustic seeting.
- Disney's Days of Christmas - Christmas collectibles, ornaments and Disney character holiday items.
- Disney's Design-a-Tee - Customized T-shirts in a variety of colors, styles and themes.
- Disney's Pin Traders - The premier location for pin trading at Walt Disney World Resort.
- Disney's Wonderful World of Memories - Disney scrapbook supplies, stationery and postcards.
- LEGO Imagination Center - A showplace and retail store for famous LEGO bricks and toys with an interactive playground and towering indoor and outdoor LEGO displays.
- Mickey's Mart-Everything Ten Dollars and Under - Unique gifts, surprise grab bags and highlighted item of the week... all at value pricing.
- Mickey's Pantry - The family chef can explore culinary trends and find kitchen gadgets galore, from unique cooking utensils to mugs, teas and coffees.
- Once Upon a Toy - 16,000 square feet of fun new toys, games and collectibles, combining the magic of Disney and the fun of Hasbro.
- Pooh Corner - A friendly forest setting with Winnie the Pooh merchandise for the young and young-at-heart.
- Team Mickey's Athletic Club - Character apparel with Mickey and friends to suit any fan of any sport. Also a selection of golf, MASCAR and ESPN sporting goods. Baseball players can get customized baseball gear at the new Rawlings Making the Game sporting good shop.
- The Art of Disney - Disney animation art and collectibles.
- TrenD - Hip apparel and novel accessories for women with a fashion sense.
- World of Disney Store - The centerpiece of Downtown Disney, this 51,000-square-foot retail space is the biggest Disney shopping destination on Earth. Specialties include Disney-themed merchandise rooms, each telling stories based on classic Disney films and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a magical salon for little princesses ages 3 and up.
Downtown Disney West Side Shops
- Hoypoloi - A gallery filled with an eclectic collection of uncommon art.
- Magic Masters - Magic shop inspired by Harry Houdini's personal library.
- Magnetron - Specialty refrigerator magnet shop with an assortment of collector-quality magnets.
- Mickey's Groove - Clothing, souvenirs, pins, toys and more in the shop dedicated all things "Big Cheese."
- Planet Hollywood on Location - Custom Planet Hollywood Orlando sweatshirts, leather jackets, T-shirts and movie-themed souvenirs.
- Pop Gallery - Original, artist-signed sculptures and paintings, as well as upscale gift items.
- Sosa Family Cigars - Premium cigar store features the art of hand-rolling cigars.
- Starabilias - Nastalgic iems including music, movie, political and historical memorabilia.
- Sunglass Icon - Designer sunglasses and eyewear.
- Virgin Megastore - A state-of-the-art music, video and book showplace with more than 300 audio and video preview stations and an in-store cafe that seats 50.
Downtown Disney Pleasure Island
- Orlando Harley-Davidson Store - Official Harley-Davidson apparel, from T-shirts to leather jackets, plus an array of gifts and collectibles from miniature motorcycles to products for pets.
Dining at Downtown Disney can be as casual as McDonald's, as entertaining as the House of Blues, or as fun as the new T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure.
Downtown Disney Marketplace
- Cap'n Jack's Restaurant - Fresh oysters or clam chowder with accompanying refreshments, sandwiches and other fare served around the Captain's copper bar.
- Earl of Sandwich - Prepared hot sandwiches, salads and delicious desserts in a casual restaurant setting. (Seats 220)
- Fulton's Crab House - Fresh seasonal seafood favorites, flown in daily from seaports around the world, and served in a three-deck riverboat setting. (Seats 700)
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop - Soda fountain casual features San Francisco's famous sweet-maker favorites, including its world-famous hot fudge sundae.
- Goofy's Candy Co. - An assortment of candy, cookies, taffy, chocolates, frozen drinks and more.
- McDonald's - The Golden Arches meets Disney in a showcase restaurant themed "Ronald's Fun House."
- Portobello - Authentic Italian fare in a rustic country Italian trattoria ambience featuring favorites wood-burning-oven pizzas, pastas and grilled fish. (Seats 350 with outdoor dining on the waterfront.)
- T-Rex: A Prehistoric Family Adventure - Casual dining in a prehistoric world of adventure with life-size animatronic dinosaurs.
- Wolfgang Puck Express - Fast service with signature treats of world-famous chef Wolfgang Puck, including pizzas, sandwiches, soup and fresh salads.
Downtown Disney West Side
- Bongos Cuban Cafe - The sizzle of Miami's South Beach comes alive with Latin rhythms in this restaurant created by Emilio and Gloria Estefan. (Seats 500)
- Disney's Candy Cauldron - An open candy kitchen featuring Southern-style sweets.
- House of Blues - Casual restaurant featuring Misssissippi delta cuisine and live music every night. (Restaurant seats 400, music venue holds 2,000)
- Planet Hollywood - Sandwiches, pizza and steaks served in a colorful three-floor restaurant decorated with movie memorabilia. (Seats 550)
- Wetzel's Pretzels - Fresh hand-rolled soft pretzels in a variety of flavors, fresh-baked pretzel dogs, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, fresh-squeezed lemonade and more.
- Wolfgang Puck Cafe - Classic Puck entrees and wood-fired pizzas in a boldly-colored, full-service restaurant. (Seats 552)
Downtown Disney Pleasure Island
- Fuego by Sosa Cigars - This upscale cigar bar/lounge features hand-rolled premium cigars, as well as wine, beer, spirits, specialty coffees and other non-alcoholic beverages. (Open to guests of all ages, however anyone under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult of 21 or older.)
- Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant - Authentic Irish food, drink and live entertainment. (Seats 600)