Review of DownTown Disney Orlando
When discussing a possible vacation to Orlando, Florida certain attractions will always come up in the conversation. Universal Studios with their amazing coasters and comic inspired rides. The now controversial Sea World who, of course, is famous for their aquatic entertainment. But the name that will surely pass everyone’s lips is Disney! With four major theme parks filled with magic and princesses not to mention several water parks and hotels galore there is plenty to talk about. Last but certainly not least is the Downtown Disney. Soon to be called Disney Springs starting in 2016. Full of food and fun for all ages, DD has the added bonus of including both admission and parking absolutely free!
A Quick History
March 22, 1975 Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opened to provide shopping availability to Disney World property owners. This privacy was short lived however; by 1977 Disney wanted to do away with the exclusive thinking of the past and start including as many visitors as possible. Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village was renamed to Walt Disney World Village. Not to be outdone by local Orlando nightclubs: in 1989 Disney introduced a more adult section to the village known as Pleasure Island. Pleasure Island included several adult nightclubs with Walt’s creativity and flare. The addition also came with another name change. The commercial area was changed to Disney Village Marketplace. By 1997 DVM was again giving another name change, to Downtown Disney, with the enlargement of a third shopping area known as “The West Side”. The West Side, which included: additions to Cirque du Soleil, Disney Quest, and an upgrade to the very large World of Disney store. If you wish to enjoy Disney Quest I suggest you come quickly. Disney Quest is to be closed in 2016 to be replaced with a NBA tribute. As history shows with each growth comes a new name to go with it. In 2013 it was announced that Downtown Disney was to be renamed once again at the completion of its expansion to be finished in 2016. Disney Springs, as it will be called, will be double the size with two parking garages.
Downtown Disney, Orlando, FLorida
How Did You Like Downtown Disney?
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Restaurants in Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney offers everything under the sun for the food lover in all of us. Whether you like Italian, seafood, or even a little taste of Ireland. Don’t have time for a long meal? No problem, there are plenty of side venders, food trucks, and who could live without Starbucks? Did you miss the Starbucks at the beginning? Not a problem, there at least 2-3 stores floating around the complex. There are too many restaurants to break down all of them, but here are a few to give you a small idea of what to expect.
Do you have a love for coconut martinis and crab legs? Then you need to mosey on down to Fulton’s Crab House. Once known as the Empress Lilly. Designed by Walt Disney’s Imagineering crew to resemble an old riverboat. Unfortunately, the large paddle wheel and enormous smoke stacks were removed do to rust, but the boat shaped building still holds all the charm and appeal of a Mark Twain novel. Because this is a seafood restaurant the prices vary from as low as $12 all the way up to $99 for their Alaskan King and Queen Crab combination.
Fun Fact! Today this restaurant has been merged into one facility. However, when this establishment was still the Empress Lilly, it not only housed four separate restaurants, but was also one of the original locations for the Disney Character breakfast meet and greets.
Most people are familiar with the Rainforest Café’. Dozens of animatronic animals spring to life while lights flash and rain pours from the ceiling. T-REX is a newer additional to the Downtown Disney restaurant family and is very similar to the Rainforest Café’ except instead of gorillas and elephants you are surround by highly animated dinosaurs. Plus a giant octopus that attempts to catch you in his tentacles as you wait for your cold drink at the bar. Make sure to stay long enough to catch the falling meteor shower. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I believe it goes off every 15-20 minutes.
Not to worry though! If the original Rainforest Café’ is still near and dear to your heart it can still be found to the left of the Christmas store or just take the bridge directly behind Fulton’s Crab House. You can’t miss the smoking volcano just across the lake.
Now that you’ve had the main course it’s time for a fun dessert to take with you as you continue on your Disney shopping adventure. Down by the AMC Movie Theater is Disney’s Candy Cauldron. The store is a little small, but you and your loved ones can stand outside the window and watch the fun chocolates and creative candy apples being made right before your very eyes! Chocolate is not the only goodies featured in this store. You can purchase caramel corn, lollipops, and other sweet temptations too. Luckily there are NO witches to jump out and scare you, unless it’s Halloween.
So What Else Is There?
Bellies are full and it’s time to enjoy the available DD activities. First stop, the AMC! AMC stands for American Multi-Cinema, Inc. Today AMC has over 300 locations under their belts, but the first multiplex theater was born from humble beginnings. Forged from the innovation of a former soldier, Stanley Durwood transformed single-screened buildings into multiple hubs for the human imagination. Durwood didn’t stop at just multiple screens, over 30 years; he also helped contribute stadium seating, cup holders (it’s the little things that mean so much), and the first rewards program. The AMC at Downtown Disney is a great way to spend the afternoon with your family catching up on the latest cinematic thrill.
Wish to get a better look of the Downtown Disney area? Hop aboard the Characters in Flight Balloon. Prices range from $12-18 a person, but you won’t be able to dismiss the wonderful view.
These were too nifty to pass up. Next to the Boathouse restaurant is a line of brightly colored antique looking cars. Obviously there isn’t enough room for it to be a slow moving tracked cars ride like in magic kingdom…then what? These white rimmed beauties are cars that double as boats! That’s right you can ride them right into the water and enjoy your hour or two on the blue waters.
Now what day would be complete without the magic ingredient? What is that you say? The magic ingredient is…
LEGOS LEGOS and more LEGOS!
The Lego Store
What child hood dream would be complete without Legos! Before you even enter the store, there is a station set up outside for your little one (or big one) to build race cars and have a multicolored thrill ride to the finish line. Loser buys the ice cream. Inside the store you’ll find box sets, display models, not to mention a very large Lego Hulk that easily stands about a foot taller than me. Missing a special part in your personal collection? Not a problem! One wall is dedicated to every piece you could possibly want already separated into colored coded capsule for your convenience.
Shop, Shop, SHOP!
With every store you can think of residing in Downtown Disney there is a little something for every member of your household.
To reward our beloved, husbands, fathers, partners for their tolerance of the glitter colored princess madness they’ve endure all week several stores are available just for them. Probably the favorite of all these stores is Harley Davidson. Full of all the HD inspired apparel any man could ever want. If motorcycles are not your forte do not fret. Along these brick streets also resides: a Sunglass Hut, Chapel Hats, and a store devoted only to men’s shaving needs including wonderful smelling colognes.
For the Ladies
No shopping trip would be complete without clothing, jewelry and bath time goodies! Unlike regular commercial shopping in Florida, the jewelry shops scattered around DD are loaded with not only generic jewelry, but also one of a kind pieces by local artist. Not to mention the Disney inspired gems located in The World of Disney’s Ursula inspired coven. Clothing ranges anywhere from tourist focused Disney apparel to running outfits to hand painted shoes. There are even a few spots to find fun themed kitchen necessities to include spices! And for those extra hard days there is Basin. A store filled with the delicious smells of flowers, honey, and multi colored scrub salts. Right as you walk in you can’t help but notice the softball sized fragranced bath balls. Across the way, patterned soap with anything from red and black Mickey heads to anchors that the kids will love.
For the Kiddies
And for the Kids! While there are plenty of stores for kids to find magnets and have their caricatures made, no store matches up to the Word of Disney in either size or content. Marked as one of the largest Disney Stores to date this emporium has everything! You name it: Kitchen supplies, stuffed animals, jewelry, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Anna and Elsa, and freshly stock characters from the new movie “Inside Out.”
For every little girl wanting to be a princess here is her chance. At the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique you can purchase a complete make over for your little one including an outfit and hair makeover. Unfortunately, do to legal reasons I was unable to take pictures of inside the boutique while the “Princesses” were present, but one of the staff members was more than happy to let me take a photo of her. As I was leaving three recently finished girls in matching Anna dresses passed by with ribbons in their hair and huge smiles upon their bright glitter covered faces. Depending on the packages pricing can start at $59.95 (plus tax) up to $194.95 (plus tax) Photos are also available at additional cost. Here is the link to the BBB at Downtown Disney.
Whether you are currently on vacation, planning your next big Orlando adventure, or just a fun local like myself, Downtown Disney is well worth taking a look at. With a little something for everyone, and with parking being absolutely free, there is nothing to lose but a few hours of your time.
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