Walt Disney World/Downtown Disney
This article is about the Downtown Disney district at Walt Disney World. For the district at Disneyland, see Disneyland#Downtown Disney.
At Downtown Disney, you can design your own T-shirt or marvel at the biggest Disney store in the world; enjoy the fine cuisine of Wolfgang Puck or eat among the dinosaurs; visit a virtual-reality theme park or see incredible acrobatic feats; and in general just get away from the Disney parks for a while.
An outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment district in the southeast corner of Walt Disney World, Downtown Disney comprises the Downtown Disney Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and Downtown Disney West Side. Although it's geared primarily for adults looking for something to do away from the parks, kids will find several things to occupy their attention as well.
Nearby is the most popular water park in the country, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, as well as several resort hotels and golf courses.
Visitors to Downtown Disney will find that it has a split personality. During the day, it's a shopping district like no other on Disney property, with everything from mega-stores to smaller specialty boutiques. This is the place to go if you're on day six of your vacation and still haven't figured out what souvenirs you want, or if you decide you just need some good old-fashioned retail therapy. Most of the large stores are in the Downtown Disney Marketplace area, with the specialty shops concentrated in the Downtown Disney West Side.
At night, though, the lights come on and the place really gets hopping, with live music, stage shows, and sophisticated restaurant/lounges opening their doors to a primarily adult clientele. If you get tired of the relentlessly artificial environments of the theme parks, you can drop by Downtown Disney at night for fun of an entirely different sort. The strongest concentration of activity at night is on the West Side, but Pleasure Island gets its share as well.
Downtown Disney also serves as a major transportation hub (especially late at night when the parks are closed), as it's the most reliable way to transfer buses in order to travel between two resorts via Disney transportation.
In 1975, just a few years after Walt Disney World opened, Disney created a small shopping district far to the southeast of the Magic Kingdom, which was at the time the only developed area of the property. As the Walt Disney World Village, and later the Disney Village Marketplace, it remained a remote and rarely visited destination for many years. The only real attraction aside from shopping was the Empress Lilly (now Fulton's Crab House), a non-functional replica paddlewheel boat named after Walt's widow that featured three separate dining rooms.
Merriweather Pleasure's island
The back story of Pleasure Island held that the area was originally built around the turn of the 20th century by adventuring businessman Merriweather Pleasure. A severe storm destroyed Pleasure's business interests, however, and he disappeared, leaving behind only giant warehouses. In the late 80s, entrepreneurs "rediscovered" the warehouses and converted them into the clubs of Pleasure Island. The very popular Adventurers Club, uniquely, was set in Pleasure's time and featured many of his rich adventuring cohorts.
In the late eighties, however, as Walt Disney World prepared to open its third theme park, executives realized that adult guests would want to have a place to go after the parks closed, where they could have a drink or go out dancing. And why, they reasoned, should Disney force such guests to go off-property to the city of Orlando to find nightlife, when they could keep them (and their money) on-property? The result was Pleasure Island, a themed collection of nightclubs (with a few restaurants and shops scattered among them) built right next door to the Marketplace.
Even though Pleasure Island charged admission (although it was included in many vacation packages), it was a huge success, keeping Disney visitors on Disney property, and even attracting locals interested in unique nightclubs like the Adventurers Club and restaurants like Planet Hollywood.
The concept was expanded even further in 1997 with the renaming of the entire area to Downtown Disney, and the opening of the Downtown Disney West Side. The West Side, on the far side of Pleasure Island from the Marketplace, was anchored by the giant circus arena created for a Cirque du Soleil show, and the five-story indoor play area DisneyQuest. It also included several high-concept restaurants such as Bongos Cuban Cafe and House of Blues.
In 2008, Disney closed down the six remaining Pleasure Island nightclubs, leaving it relatively barren, although the restaurants and shops remain open. Disney then announced plans to convert Pleasure Island into a new district called Hyperion Wharf, but that plan appears to have been shelved in favor of a new idea. In March 2013, Disney released a plan to re-imagine the entire Downtown Disney area as Disney Springs, representing a town that grew around a natural spring in central Florida. The West Side and Marketplace will remain, while Pleasure Island becomes "The Landing", and a new "Town Center" is built to serve as the main entrance of the complex. To make up for the loss of parking caused by the construction, Disney will add two parking garages.
Even with the area's transformation in its earliest stages, though, Downtown Disney as a whole remains an active and vibrant district, with a variety of non-theme-park entertainment for Walt Disney World guests and off-property visitors alike.
Today, there is no admission fee for Downtown Disney in general, although individual attractions may carry a fee. Typhoon Lagoon admission is $49 for adults and $41 for children, unless you have added the Water Park Fun and More option to your Magic Your Way package.
Downtown Disney and Typhoon Lagoon are on Buena Vista Drive; drive east from Epcot Center Drive or west from Hotel Plaza Boulevard. Parking is free at both locations. Due to construction related to the development of Disney Springs, you may find certain parking lots at Downtown Disney closed; additional parking is available across Buena Vista Drive at the Team Disney building and at SunTrust bank. Shuttle service is available from those locations, or you can walk. During peak periods, valet parking may be available for $20.
By Disney transportation
Buses and ferries alike travel to Downtown Disney.
From any resort, you can take the Downtown Disney & Typhoon Lagoon bus from your resort's bus stop. The buses make stops at Typhoon Lagoon, at Downtown Disney Marketplace, and between the West Side and Pleasure Island.
Ferries travel the Sassagoula River from Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs to Downtown Disney. The ferry docks are at the Marketplace and at the far end of the West Side. You can't get to Typhoon Lagoon by boat.
Saratoga Springs and Downtown Disney Hotel Plaza guests can also walk to Downtown Disney.
From the parks
From any of the four theme parks, you will need to make your way to a resort, then go from that resort to Downtown Disney or Typhoon Lagoon. For Downtown Disney, your best option might be to take a bus to Saratoga Springs and then walk to Downtown Disney.
Downtown Disney is very linear; you can just walk straight from one end to the other and see pretty much everything. The northeastern-most end is the Downtown Disney Marketplace, with the bus stops located at the very tip. The Marketplace curves down and around to the southwest, where it meets up with Pleasure Island. To the west is, of course, the Downtown Disney West Side, with the La Nouba arena at the far end near the ferry terminal.
The entire strip is sandwiched between parking lots on the south side and Village Lake on the north. From Village Lake, boats can travel the Sassagoula River, which provides access to the Saratoga Springs, Old Key West and Port Orleans resorts. The Downtown Disney Hotel Plaza, a set of inexpensive non-Disney resorts on Disney property, lies just to the northeast of the Marketplace.
If you're tired of walking and need to get from one end of Downtown Disney to the other, a free shuttle boat runs between the Marketplace and West Side docks every 15 minutes or so—make sure you get on the Green Flag boat.
See and Do
You may have come for the shopping or for the food, but you shouldn't overlook the other attractions of Downtown Disney. You can go to the movies, bowl a few frames, see a show, or even take a trip on the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World. You'll also find live entertainment—music and comedy—at various venues throughout the complex, especially at night. (For example, look for Nova Era, a chamber trio playing classical music with a modern twist, Thursdays through Sundays outside Fulton's Crab House.) And don't miss DisneyQuest, a theme-park-in-a-box that kids will love.
- AMC Pleasure Island 24 (West Side), ☎ . 10AM-2AM. Okay, so you're on vacation in Florida, with four theme parks, two water parks, and a host of recreational activities to choose from; why would you spend ten bucks to sit inside and watch a movie you could see just as easily back home? Good question. Admittedly, this is a very nice multiplex; all 24 theaters have stadium seating, surround sound, and digital projection, and theater one is the first "ETX" auditorium in the United States (providing enhanced audio, a bigger screen, and other improvements). And the air conditioning can be attractive on a hot day. Or maybe you just need a break from Disney. Whatever your reason, this is pretty much everything you could ask for in a multiplex. New in 2011: AMC's Dine-In Theatre concept has come to 6 of the 24 auditoriums; you can order food and drinks (including beer, wine, and cocktails) right from your seat while you watch a film. $8-10 (ETX $2 more).
- The Boathouse tours (Pleasure Island). The Boathouse, Downtown Disney's showpiece waterfront restaurant, also offers some unique boat tours. For starters, they have a unique stable of Amphicars, amphibious boats that look like mid-century automobiles. These captain-guided tours are 20 minutes long and cost $125. They also have an Italian water taxi called Venezia, for groups up to 20; the tour includes champagne and dessert, with live music, and costs $75/person ($50/child under 13). Both tours are available daily 10AM-10PM.
- Characters in Flight (West Side). 9AM-midnight, weather permitting. The only literal "ride" in Downtown Disney, but it's the tallest one on the entire property. This tethered hot-air balloon lifts you 400 feet in the air for a breathtaking bird's-eye view of Walt Disney World. Ages 3-9 $12, ages 10+ $18; $10 before 10:30AM.
- DisneyQuest (West Side), ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM; F Sa 11:30AM-11PM. A five-floor indoor theme park, filled with interactive virtual-reality thrills for the whole family. This is where the kids are going to want to go when you drag them to Downtown Disney, although the exterior is rather unassuming and you might get off easy if they don't know what's inside. Once inside, though, good luck dragging them out. Admission to DisneyQuest counts as one of your Fun Visits if you've added the Water Park Fun & More option to your Magic Your Way tickets. Otherwise: ages 3-9 $38, ages 10+ $44.
- Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride (second floor). A stationary unit uses a head-mounted display to let you pilot a flying carpet through the streets of Agrabah.
- Buzz Lightyear's AstroBlaster (third floor). You and a friend climb into special bumper vehicles, from which you can fire soft "asteroids" at other players, disabling their vehicles for a short time and scoring points. Chaotic but fun.
- CyberSpace Mountain (second floor). First, Bill Nye the Science Guy walks you through creating a fantastical roller coaster layout. Then you and a friend can climb into a pitch-and-roll simulation pod and ride your creation from start to finish!
- Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (fifth floor). Team up with friends to ride through an alien landscape and try to rescue colonists from evil aliens.
- Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam (third floor). Compete with 11 other players on a pinball-like board, controlling your ball by rocking back and forth on a platform.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold (first floor). In many ways a prototype for "Toy Story Mania!", this attraction puts you on the deck of a pirate ship. 3D headsets let you see the enemy ships; one player steers while up to four others fire the cannons. Can you plunder enough gold to defeat the powerful ghost ship? Great fun for groups, as cooperation is required and the action is fast and furious.
- Ride the Comix (fourth and fifth floors). Head-mounted displays let up to six players enter a comic-book-like world and use a laser sword to fight enemies.
- Virtual Jungle Cruise (first floor). Climb into a raft with your friends and paddle down a dangerous jungle river.
- The Create Zone on the second floor is a grouping of several attractions that allow participants to exercise their creativity. These attractions include Animation Academy, Living Easels, Radio Disney Song Maker, and Sid's Create-A-Toy. Many of these are good for younger kids because they can see and (in the case of Sid's Create-A-Toy) hold the products of their imaginations. Songs and toys are available for purchase after creation.
- On the third floor you'll find video game arcades, one with modern video games and one with classic arcade games, all free to play with admission.
- La Nouba (Cirque du Soleil) (West Side), ☎ . Tu-Sa 6PM & 9PM. Famed contemporary circus company Cirque du Soleil created "La Nouba" especially for Downtown Disney, and Disney created the distinctive round tent-like theater just for them. Unlike a traditional circus, there are no animal performers, just an awe-inspiring troupe of athletes, acrobats, and clowns, performing specific characters in an overarching storyline. You'll have to see it to believe it. Ages 3-9 $62-109, ages 10+ $78-136.
- La Nouba: L'Experience. F Sa 6PM shows only. Get a backstage tour, exclusive goody bag, and a front-and-center ticket for the show. Ages 9 & under $215, ages 10+ $250.
- Splitsville (bowling), 1494 E Buena Vista Dr (West Side), ☎ . M-F 10:30AM-?; Sa Su 10AM-?. This growing chain of bowling centers seems like a perfect fit for the nightlife-and-entertainment atmosphere of the West Side—and with thirty lanes spread over two floors, this is the largest Splitsville ever built. Far more than just a bowling alley, Splitsville features bowling concierges who bring your shoes, balls, and food right to your lane; an extensive restaurant menu with both casual and innovative cuisine; a full bar; and live music every night. With so much to do, even people who don't bowl can have a great time. $20/bowler ($15 M-F before 4PM) for 60-105 min of bowling (varies based on party size); shoe rental incl.
- Car Masters Weekend (West Side). Annually, mid-Jun, 9:30AM-6PM. The Muscle Car Network of Central Florida comes to Downtown Disney each June for a classic car show, and the stars of Disney/Pixar's Cars films also make an appearance. There's a sock hop at Splitsville, and all sorts of other special events going on all weekend. Some events and experiences carry an extra fee, but viewing the cars (and the Cars) is free.
According to Disney Imagineering legend, years ago, a fishing trawler named Miss Tilly found itself caught in a powerful hurricane. When the torrent subsided, the boat found itself perched precariously atop Mt. Mayday, with water still gushing down through channels and valleys to a lake below. What else was there to do but for the survivors to create Typhoon Lagoon?
Typhoon Lagoon is the second-most-visited water park in the world (Chime-Long WaterPark in Guangzhou, China, just barely passed it in 2013), and is a great place to beat the Summer heat from June through September. While its theme is not as whimsically inventive as that of its sister park, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon excels at providing guests a consistent and energetic setting for some of the best water rides in the world. But do keep an eye out for the unique touches the Imagineers have brought to the decor, including scattered remnants of ships' cargoes and even palm trees supposedly bent low by the hurricane!
Typhoon Lagoon is not far from Downtown Disney, and the two often share bus routes. The park is usually open from 10AM–5PM, and admission is $52 for adults or $44 for kids ages 3-10. Admission to the water park counts as one of your "Fun Visits" if you've added the Water Park Fun & More option to your Magic Your Way tickets—and note that just one admission almost pays for the cost of the option.
The direct telephone number for Typhoon Lagoon is +1 407 560-4141. Typhoon Lagoon closes for annual refurbishment every fall or winter, almost always including the month of December (during which Blizzard Beach remains open to provide a bit of Christmas-in-Florida atmosphere). The scheduled closure for 2014 is October 26 – December 20.
- Castaway Creek. A 2,000 foot tubing river that winds through the whole park.
- Crush 'n Gusher Water 'Rollercoaster'. What do you get when you cross a water slide with a roller coaster? This!
- Gangplank Falls. A family ride, in four-passenger tubes.
- Humunga Kowabunga. Three 214 foot long slides send you plummeting straight down, at a terrifying five stories per second!
- Keelhaul Falls. A whitewater rafting experience.
- Ketchakiddee Creek. A children's play area.
- Mayday Falls. Inner tube slide winding down the side of an artificial mountain.
- Shark Reef. A snorkel pool featuring tropical fish, rays, small (non-threatening) sharks, and a mock sunken ship.
- Storm Slides. Three 30 mph slides through dark caverns.
- Surf Pool. One of the world's largest wave pools with some of the largest artificially created waves. Take advantage of the surfing lessons offered here.
There is one 18-hole championship golf course in the Downtown Disney area. See "Golf" in the overview for rules and regulations. Monday through Friday, 18 holes will cost $89 if you're staying at a Disney hotel, and $104 otherwise. On weekends, add $10. During the summer, 10AM-3PM tee times are discounted; ask for the "Summer Price Slice" when you call. Late afternoon tee times are $59 on weekdays and $69 on weekends for everyone. Call +1 407 WDW-GOLF (939-4653) to reserve a tee time.
- Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, 2200 Club Lake Dr (off Buena Vista Dr, north of Saratoga Springs). This golf course meanders throughout the area north of Downtown Disney, starting adjacent to the Saratoga Springs Resort, crossing the Sassagoula River, and running right through the middle of the Old Key West Resort. At 6,819 yards, with narrow fairways and even a challenging island green on hole 7, this golf course will give a great tour of the scenery around the Downtown Disney-area resorts.
- Senses – A Disney Spa (Saratoga Springs Resort), ☎ . 8AM-8PM. Saratoga Springs, New York, was once known for its healing and relaxing mineral waters, a tradition carried forward at this full-service spa and health club. The expected wide array of massages, facial and full-body treatments, and manicures and pedicures are all available here, and they're not restricted to guests staying at the resort. Expect to pay about $140 for a 50-minute treatment, or $200 for an 80-minute treatment, with plenty of more expensive packages available.
The Riverside section of Disney's Port Orleans Resort has an old-fashioned Fishin' Hole, with cane rods and plenty of bluegill, bass, and catfish to catch (though you may have some competition, in the form of a river otter). Hours normally 7AM-1:45PM daily.
Downtown Disney is a retail mecca, a strip mall done Disney-style. The highest concentration of shops—with predominately Disney-themed merchandise—is in the Downtown Disney Marketplace, the eastern part of Downtown Disney. The rest of Downtown Disney has fewer shops, with more specialty retailers and a lot fewer mouse ears.
For shops without direct phone numbers, you can call Guest Relations at +1 407 828-3150. Press '3' and tell the operator which store you wish to contact.
Marketplace shops open at 9:30AM and close at 11PM (11:30PM Friday and Saturday).
The Marketplace is anchored by the 50,000-square-foot (4,500-square-meter) World of Disney:
- World of Disney, ☎ . A Disney Store on steroids, with a truly stunning array of character and park merchandise. This is the place to go if you can't find a souvenir you like anywhere else.
If that doesn't suit your fancy, try out these other shops:
- Arribas Brothers, ☎ , fax: +1 407 828-8019, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Since 1967, Arribas Brothers has been crafting metal, crystal, and glass into works of art featuring iconic Disney characters and settings. The store sparkles with light refracted through the many creations; you have to at least wander through the place even if you don't intend to buy anything.
- The Art of Disney, ☎ . An art gallery a-la-Disney, filled with works that wouldn't look out of place in a museum, whether they had a Disney theme or not. Fun to browse, but don't think you can't afford the stuff in here; there's lots to be had for very reasonable prices. Of course, if you feel like splurging, you can't really go wrong here, either.
- Basin, ☎ . Bath and skin-care products.
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (inside World of Disney). 9:30AM-6PM. Just like the one at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is the place to go for a little girl who wants to get the full princess treatment. Her "fairy godmother" will do her up right with makeup, hairstyle, and other accouterments, although Mom and Dad will have to pay for the privilege. Very popular; appointments (call +1 407 WDW-STYLE (939-7895)) are strongly recommended. $50-250.
- Disney Design-A-Tee. Can't find a shirt with your favorite character in your size? Disney Design-A-Tee comes to the rescue! In this new, experimental shop, you can design your own T-shirt using a library of graphics, add custom text, and get it printed on a T-shirt in your choice of colors and sizes. The graphic selection is good but has some gaps; it's also hard to navigate. But once your design is finished, the shirt is ready within a couple of hours (depending on how busy they are) and the screen printing is high-quality. Well worth the time to stop in.
- Disney's Days of Christmas, ☎ . There are 365 days of Christmas at this shop, with a much larger selection than Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe or It's a Wonderful Shop.
- Disney's Pin Traders. The largest trading-pin store at Walt Disney World, which means it's a gathering place for pin trading as well as purchasing.
- LEGO Imagination Center, ☎ , fax: +1 407 828-0059. Here you can gawk at the LEGO sculptures, try your hand at building some of your own, or shop for that one set that you're missing from your collection. Don't miss the Pick-A-Brick wall, an entire section devoted to à la carte brick bins; replace that one missing piece or assemble your own custom set!
- Little Miss Matched, ☎ . Colorful and eclectic apparel for girls (and women) who don't subscribe to the idea that everything has to match.
- Magnetron. Formerly a full-size store on the West Side, this fan favorite is now just a kiosk in the Marketplace. Nonetheless, the sheer array of different kinds of refrigerator magnets is amazing, and the work is very well done. The food magnets are especially life-like.
- Marketplace Co-Op (former location of Team Mickey). The co-op location has been renovated from its former Team Mickey theme to incorporate a selection of small boutiques-within-the-store. This will allow Disney to change the concepts within more easily as the market demands. As of June 2014, the six boutiques offer wares such as women's accessories, girls' fashion, sportswear, home goods, and personalized electronic accessories.
- Marketplace Fun Finds, ☎ . WDW's only discount store, where everything is sold for $10 and under. There are some good bargains to be found here, so it's ideal for budget-conscious souvenir hunters.
- Mickey's Pantry, ☎ . Kitchen products and other housewares.
- Once Upon a Toy, ☎ . WDW's second-largest collection of Disney toys (after World of Disney). It may seem redundant with that mega-store next door, but Once Upon a Toy specializes in third-party toys with a Disney theme (like board games and Rubik's cubes) and non-Disney merchandise (check out the Mr. Potato Head parts bin and the My Little Pony dress-up area). The Wonderful World of Gaming is inside, with three Wii stations, seven Nintendo DSes, and of course, a whole passel of Disney Interactive video games ready for playing or purchasing.
- Summer Sands. Swimwear and beachwear.
- Tren-D. An eclectic shop with contemporary Disney-inspired designs for teenage fashionistas. The designs here tend to be unique to this store (except perhaps for D Street on the West Side); it's worth a look if you're in the market for less "touristy" fare.
Pleasure Island and West Side
Stores on Pleasure Island and on the West Side open at 10:30AM and close at 11PM (midnight Friday and Saturday nights).
You won't find a lot of items with Mickey or Donald on them in these stores; they tend to be independent businesses that are nothing more than Disney's tenants. In truth, that's part of their appeal. Plus, these are specialty retailers of the likes you probably won't find back home, so shop away!
- Apricot Lane (Pleasure Island), ☎ . A trendy women's fashion boutique, with apparel and accessories by a number of top brand names.
- Curl by Sammy Duvall (West Side), ☎ , fax: +1 407 842-1303, e-mail: email@example.com. A big name in water sports, Sammy Duvall lends his name to this high-end surf shop; it recently moved from Pleasure Island to a location next to Splitsville on the West Side.
- DisneyQuest Emporium (at DisneyQuest's exit), ☎ . After leaving DisneyQuest (or just walking in off the street), you have the opportunity to buy a variety of Disney merchandise.
- Disney's Candy Cauldron (West Side), ☎ . There's no shortage of candy shops in Walt Disney World, but here's another one. There's a show kitchen here, too, if you care to watch the sweet stuff being made.
- D Street (West Side). A hip and trendy boutique for Disney fans, similar to "Tren-D" over in the Marketplace. One unique feature is the Vinylmation Creation Station, where you can design and decorate your own three-inch Mickey-shaped vinyl figurines.
- Erwin Pearl (Pleasure Island), ☎ . An "affordable luxury" jewelry chain
- Orlando Harley-Davidson (West Side), ☎ . Okay, so you can't actually buy a Harley here, but you can buy Harley logo merchandise and drool over the custom hogs on display.
- Pop Gallery (West Side), ☎ . Pricey art and other items of high caliber; if that sounds beyond your means, just grab a complimentary glass of bubbly and treat it like an art gallery!
- Something Silver (West Side), ☎ . Men's and women's jewelry, much of it made from recycled or renewable material.
- Sosa Family Cigars (West Side), toll-free: , fax: +1 407 828-0162, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A smoke shop? At Disney? Yep. Sosa is a premium Dominican brand, if that sort of thing strikes your fancy. After you make your purchase, head over to Fuego on Pleasure Island to have a drink and try out your new stogie.
- Sunglass Icon (West Side), ☎ . Just what it says on the door: all the sunglasses you could possibly want.
- Super Hero Headquarters (West Side). A high-tech shop featuring all sorts of Marvel superhero merchandise.
- United World Soccer (West Side), ☎ . Soccer gear from around the world, including both equipment and logo merchandise.
Downtown Disney is Disney World's largest dining destination, and while it is geared primarily towards adults, all of the restaurants are family-friendly (at least before nightfall). You won't find many "generic" restaurants here; each one has a distinct hook or drawing card that brings in the crowds. If you run out of time to try them all, well, now you have something to look forward to on your next visit, right?
See Eat in the main Walt Disney World article for information on the Disney restaurant pricing system, character dining, dietary restrictions, and advance dining reservations. The telephone numbers below are for extraordinary circumstances only; for reservations and most health or diet issues, call the main Disney Dining number at +1 407 WDW-DINE (939-3463).
Although most of these restaurants are run by outside companies, they all now accept the Disney Dining Plan. Wolfgang Puck's The Dining Room, Fulton's Crab House, and The Boathouse are Signature Restaurants and require two table-service credits; the other table-service restaurants require only one.
The Downtown Disney Marketplace is where you'll find the kid-friendliest food options; the restaurants close earlier so they don't have as many late-night entertainment options. Marketplace restaurants are open from 9AM to 11PM daily.
- Earl of Sandwich, ☎ , fax: +1 407 938-0123. This very popular eatery comes by its name honestly: this is the flagship location of a growing chain of sandwich shops co-founded by John Montagu, the 11th Earl of Sandwich himself. Far more than your ordinary sandwich shop, these are some of the best hot sandwiches you'll ever have the pleasure of biting into. The house specialty is "The Original 1762", with roast beef, cheddar cheese, and horseradish. The line is long but moves steadily; there are so many choices you may have trouble deciding before you reach the front! $6.
- Rainforest Cafe, ☎ . One of two WDW locations for this chain restaurant, which features animatronic animals, thunderstorms, and good food. There's a big gift shop packed with Rainforest Cafe logos, too. One word of warning—the animatronics can be a bit startling, as they sometimes come to life suddenly; some kids might find them unsettling. $13–32.
- T-Rex, ☎ . This new restaurant, the second one in the chain, is a lot like Rainforest Cafe, but with prehistoric creatures instead of modern animals. The "Dino-Store" gift shop features just about what you'd expect, but don't miss the Build-A-Dino area, run by Build-A-Bear Workshop. It tends to be one of most popular restaurants in Downtown Disney, so reservations are highly recommended. $12–30.
- Wolfgang Puck Express, ☎ . Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has his name on three restaurants at Downtown Disney. This is the most casual of them, with a variety of traditional favorites including Italian and barbecue entrees. They're all expertly prepared and some have added just a little twist from Puck. $10–16.
Pleasure Island may have lost its nightclubs, but some very good restaurants have begun taking their places. They're not really themed at all, but they're well worth checking out if you're in the mood for high-quality food without loud music—or loud dinosaurs—interrupting your meal.
- The Boathouse. Daily 11AM-2AM. Just opened in Spring 2015, The Boathouse is an expansive upscale waterfront dining location, the new showpiece restaurant for what will be The Landing section of Disney Springs. With five dining areas, three bars, outdoor seating, and live entertainment daily, it's sure to be a popular destination. The casual/fun boathouse atmosphere is already drawing raves—there are vintage and classic boats all around the docks, and some of the seating is constructed from actual boats! On the menu, steaks and seafood are the specialties, served simply but with excellent quality and preparation. $19-62; Dining Plan requires two credits.
- Fulton's Crab House, ☎ . Daily 11:30AM-11PM. A long time ago, before Pleasure Island was even a glimmer in anyone's eye, this was the Empress Lilly, a replica (but non-functional) paddle-wheel steamboat named for Walt Disney's widow. Today, the paddle-wheel is gone and the three restaurants inside replaced by one: Fulton's Crab House. It's a multi-floored seafood restaurant with high-quality selections, but the view pales in comparison to the Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot. $20-52; Dining Plan requires two credits.
- Paradiso 37, ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-midnight; F Sa 11:30AM-1AM. Pleasure Island's newest eatery features selections from throughout the Western Hemisphere: from burgers to burritos, and from Chilean salmon to Coney Island corn dogs. $10-27.
- Portobello, ☎ . 11:30AM-11PM daily. A fine Italian restaurant. Most of the entrees are quite pricey, but a few (like the pizza) can be had for less. The bar area is even better—there, you can order meatball sliders (made from pork, beef and veal, chicken, or salmon) for just $2-$3 each, and pair them up with local organic beers. $5-30+.
- Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant, ☎ . Daily: lunch 11AM-3PM, dinner 3PM-11PM, bar menu until midnight. You ought to feel "lucky" to dine at this Irish restaurant, which of course wouldn't be complete without a full-service bar. Live entertainment from 6PM until midnight, six nights a week. $14-29.
- Cooke's of Dublin. Adjacent to Raglan Road, Cooke's is known for its fish and chips. In fact, there's not much else on the menu, but what they do have, they do very well. $9–12.
The West Side is the home of the celebrity restaurant. Movie stars, comedians, singers, and even a celebrity chef have all created venues here that reflect their own personalities and proclivities. West Side restaurants are open from 11AM to midnight daily.
- Bongos Cuban Cafe, ☎ . Singers Emilio and Gloria Estefan established Bongos to be a nightspot with authentic Cuban flavor, both in the food and in the entertainment. Behind the two-story pineapple that marks its entrance is one of the most vibrant, energetic venues in all of Downtown Disney, and that's saying something. $16–29.
- Food Quest (DisneyQuest, fifth floor). noon-9PM. Hungry, but don't want to leave DisneyQuest just yet? Head up to the top floor and find a little cafe with some surprisingly good options for a counter-service restaurant. (Or, if you just want a snack, try Wonderland Cafe on the fourth floor.) $5-8.
- House of Blues, ☎ . You can't miss this place; just head for the 100-foot water tower! Dan Aykroyd—that's right, Elwood Blues himself—co-founded this chain of rocking establishments that are both restaurant and live music venue. You'll find some free music in the various dining rooms every night, with major acts booked in the main hall that have a separate admission fee. But don't overlook the food—you'll find a variety of hearty down-home Southern meals from burgers to jambalaya. $11–27.
- The Smokehouse. If you hanker for some barbecue but don't want to wait for a table at the Crossroads (the main House of Blues dining room), try this new counter service location at the side of the building.
- Planet Hollywood, ☎ , fax: +1 407 827-7847. Originally founded by Demi Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis, this chain has never been as successful as they hoped, but it's still a great place to gawk at celebrity paraphernalia and enjoy a good meal at the same time. This giant spherical structure sits right out in front between Pleasure Island and the West Side, and it's usually pretty busy. Just like at a Hard Rock Cafe, part of the appeal is buying a T-shirt identifying the location you visited; if you don't want to brave the crowds at the restaurant, you can check out their standalone store just down the street on the West Side. $12–27.
- Wolfgang Puck Cafe, ☎ , fax: +1 407 828-0090. If Wolfgang Puck Express over at the Marketplace whetted your appetite, come on over here for a more substantial taste of this celebrity chef's innovative dishes. Everything from pizza to Tuscan rigatoni to Chilean salmon receives Puck's treatment here. And if you're really in the mood for something special, head upstairs. $14–29.
- Wolfgang Puck's 'The Dining Room' (upstairs from the Cafe). The most high-end restaurant in all of Downtown Disney, this is where Puck's chefs go all-out, creating unique dishes for discriminating palates. In addition to the regular menu items, which range from steak and chicken to goulash and wiener schnitzel, two special prix fixe options are available: a four-course 'California Tour' for $60/person and a 3-course 'Austrian Tour' for $50/person. And the kids aren't left out either; the kids' menu offers four entree options and even 'smiley fries'. $27–43; Dining Plan requires two credits.
- Wolfgang Puck Express. Just like the one on the Marketplace side of Downtown Disney. $10–16.
Disney's dipping their toe into the food truck phenomenon. They've constructed a Food Truck Park on the West Side near Bongos Cuban Cafe. There are four Disney food trucks, each one representing one of the four theme parks, but since they're mobile they may or may not be present on any given day. Non-Disney trucks may also be found on occasion, especially if one of the Disney trucks is elsewhere. The trucks serve food daily, opening between 1PM and 5PM (depending on crowd levels) and closing at 11PM. For the four Disney food trucks, entrees cost $8–15, or you can use a quick-service credit from the Dining Plan.
- Fantasy Fare (Magic Kingdom). Popular dishes from Disney's worldwide theme parks that aren't usually available in Florida, like Disneyland's hand-dipped corn dogs.
- Namaste Café (Animal Kingdom). Butter chicken, slow-cooked beef short ribs, and tandoori spiced shrimp represent the flavors of Asia and America.
- Superstar Catering (Hollywood Studios). Specializing in meatballs in a variety of presentations.
- World Showcase of Flavors (Epcot). Select fan-favorites from the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will now be available year-round, including lobster rolls and pierogies.
There are several food locations at Downtown Disney that don't really qualify as restaurants, but a couple are of particular note:
- Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and Soda Fountain (Marketplace), ☎ . Enjoy chocolates, ice cream, and other great desserts at this San Francisco legend. Ghirardelli is the first name in chocolate for good reason. $3–30.
- Starbucks (West Side). 10AM-midnight. It's Starbucks; you know the drill... but this one is a bit special. There's tons of seating indoor and out, living botanical murals, and an interactive 'chalkboard' that's directly connected to one at the Starbucks in Disneyland's Downtown Disney district! This is also a Starbucks Reserve location, one of their select shops that offers exotic brewed-to-order beans from a specialty counter. (Note that there's another Starbucks at the Marketplace near World of Disney, but it's much smaller and has no seating; it's open 8AM-midnight.)
- Tea Traders Cafe by Joffrey's (Pleasure Island). Teas from around the world, in a World War II era warehouse setting.
- Vivoli Il Gelato (Pleasure Island). Su-Th 10AM-11PM, F Sa 10AM-11:30PM. The word "authentic" is thrown around a bit too often these days, especially at Disney, but this Italian establishment comes by it honestly; Vivoli is the oldest gelateria in Florence. Gelato, if you're not familiar with the term, is simply ice cream made in a traditional Italian style, and Vivoli has 24 flavors of it ready for scooping. The recipes and some of the more important ingredients are imported from Italy; other ingredients are locally sourced where possible. In addition to the divine gelati, Vivoli serves up panini, biscotti, and espresso. Gelato $5-10, sandwiches $4-5.
All restaurants at Disney resorts accept the Dining Plan.
Disney's Port Orleans Resort
Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter used to be two separate resorts, so they each have their own food courts for quick counter-service dining. They share a table-service location, though:
- Boatwright's Dining Hall (near the Riverside main lobby). 5PM-10PM. This may be the largest restaurant on the property, serving Southern fare such as ribs, chicken, steaks, etc. Great for families or groups of adults, as the large restaurant is big enough to absorb a lot of noise. $18-27.
Disney's Old Key West Resort
Goods To Go is your standard basic counter-service location with burgers and chicken nuggets and not a whole lot else. For more substantial fare:
- Olivia's Cafe. 7:30AM-10PM. Strongly meat-based entrees with substantial Caribbean accents. $17-28.
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort
Artist's Palette serves hot sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads from a counter. For table-service:
- Turf Club Bar and Grill. through Sep 29: noon-9PM; starting Sep 30: 5PM-10PM. American fare with a sophisticated twist. Reportedly has good views of the Buena Vista golf course. $12-29.
- Leaning Palms. Park open-park close. This is the main eatery at Typhoon Lagoon, and the only one open during the slowest parts of the year. It's also the only one with indoor seating. Burgers, pizza, chicken, and tuna. $6-8.
- Typhoon Tilly's. Open seasonally, park open-park close. This is the secondary meal location, located near the Shark Reef. BBQ pork, hot dogs, even PB&J if you want it. Outdoor seating. $6-9.
Not too many years ago, this section would have been chock full of unique late-night venues, with comedy, music both modern and classic, and even (briefly) rollerskating. Now, the nightclubs are gone (though you can find a couple over at Disney's BoardWalk: Jellyrolls and Atlantic Dance Hall), but you still have some options if you're looking for nightlife.
- Dockside Margaritas (Marketplace). A mid-century Floridian fruit stand is the setting for Downtown Disney's first standalone bar. Unique Flordia-themed margaritas are the specialty, and Floridian craft beers are on tap. Live waterfront entertainment daily, in the afternoon and evening until 10:30PM.
- MacGuffins Bar and Lounge (inside the AMC multiplex). Hang out with friends before the show, or grab an after-movie cocktail in AMC's full-service bar. In addition to the drinks both hard and soft, the full "Fork & Screen" menu is available as well, with burgers, pizza, and other casual-restaurant staples. Meals $9-$12.
- Fuego by Sosa Cigars (Pleasure Island). If tobacco is your thing, you'll definitely want to stop at this cigar bar, pretty much the only place in Walt Disney World that you can smoke indoors. But don't pull out your Camels; they've got a wide selection of cigars ready for smoking, stored in custom humidors. You can have some wine or spirits with your cigar as well, but you should probably steer clear if you're just here for the alcohol.
If you're looking for good drinks without the pungent aroma of cigar smoke, you could do worse than Raglan Road, Pleasure Island's Irish pub. Between pints of Guinness, you may catch some live music on selected nights.
On the other hand, if you're really in the mood to rock the night away, head over to the House of Blues on the West Side. They've got live music every night, though you'll have to pay extra to catch the best shows in their main hall. And if all you want to do is get your groove on, your best bet is Bongos Cuban Cafe; the music is deejayed but the dance floor is ready and waiting.
And don't forget the AMC Pleasure Island 24 movie theater and the incredible La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil, both of which keep guests entertained well into the night.
The resorts all have pool bars available with a small selection of refreshments. In addition:
- The Gurgling Suitcase (Old Key West). 11:30AM-midnight daily. A small but serviceable bar with the most bizarre name on property.
- River Roost Lounge (Port Orleans-Riverside). 4PM-midnight daily. The lounge at Port Orleans-Riverside has a full bar and offers specialty drinks and a few snacks and appetizers (until 10PM). Sing along with pianist "Ye Haa" Bob Jackson from 8:30PM-close, W-Sa.
- Scat Cat's Club (Port Orleans-French Quarter). 4PM-midnight daily. Scat Cat, featured in the animated classic The Aristocats, must have moved to New Orleans after the events of the film, since this lounge in the French Quarter resort is named for him. Their specialty is any drink served in a hurricane glass, an innovation developed in the real New Orleans.
- The Turf Club Bar (Saratoga Springs). Adjacent to the Turf Club Grill, this lounge takes you back to a time when horse racing was the domain of the well-to-do, with leather seating and billiards tables.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
There is a full range of hotel options near Downtown Disney, unless you're looking for a Disney Value Resort like Pop Century. The low-end options in this area are non-Disney hotels with none of the theming or amenities provided to Disney resort guests. The Moderate and Deluxe resorts, however, are Disney through-and-through, and possibly the most scenic and most tranquil resorts on the entire property.
The price you pay for tranquility, however, is remoteness; with the exception of Downtown Disney itself, the parks are all a fair distance away by bus or car, with no monorail or boat transportation available. If this doesn't trouble you, however, it's hard to go wrong with any of these resorts.
The Downtown Disney Hotel Plaza, located adjacent to the Marketplace, is made up of seven franchised or independent hotels. These are fairly generic hotels that lack most, if not all, of the theming and amenities of their Disney-owned counterparts. They are, however, ideal for guests who are on a tight budget or who prefer a more traditional hotel experience. The Best Western, Buena Vista Palace, Doubletree, Hilton, and Wyndham have car rental kiosks in their lobbies.
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, 2000 Hotel Plaza Blvd, ☎ . A tall hotel, but other than that, it's your average Best Western. $86–150.
- B Resort and Spa (formerly Royal Plaza Hotel), 1905 Hotel Plaza Blvd, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. After extensive renovations, the former Royal Plaza is now part of the B Resorts chain. It features a 3,000-sq-ft saltwater pool, a spa, and a BBQ restaurant. Some rooms have bunk beds for kids; some suites available. $90–170.
- Buena Vista Palace, 1900 Buena Vista Dr, toll-free: . The closest of the seven to Downtown Disney. $104–260.
- Doubletree Guest Suites, 2305 Hotel Plaza Blvd, ☎ . The only all-suite hotel of the seven, also the closest to the exit; you can just walk from here to the off-property shops and restaurants nearby. $100–354 (2-room suite).
- Hilton Resort, 1751 Hotel Plaza Blvd, ☎ . The second closest, just across from the Buena Vista Palace. $140–240.
- Holiday Inn, 1805 Hotel Plaza Blvd, ☎ . Also tall just like the Best Western, but again, it's your average Holiday Inn. $93–160.
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort (Regal Sun Resort), 1850 Hotel Plaza Blvd, toll-free: . Great resort, offers Disney character breakfast. $100–270.
A pair of "Moderate" resorts lie at the northern end of the Sassagoula River (with boat access to Downtown Disney). Between the two of them, they cover all of the iconic aspects of Southern living, from the Mississippi bayou, to massive plantation mansions, to the lively French Quarter of New Orleans. Rooms at these resorts are smallish but adequate, with basic amenities and exterior entrances.
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside, 1251 Riverside Dr (adjacent to Port Orleans-French Quarter), ☎ . Experience the gentle feel of the mansions and towns along the lower Mississippi River. Originally called Dixie Landings, Port Orleans Riverside has two distinct sets of buildings: Alligator Bayou features rustic cottage-like buildings with lots of water and reeds surrounding them, and Magnolia Bend is the home of stately southern mansions on neatly-manicured grounds. Ol' Man Island is a pool and fishing area themed as a sort of "swimmin' hole". The food court, Riverside Mill, is spacious, as is Boatwright's Dining Hall, the only table-service restaurant in the Port Orleans area. Outstanding theming here for the price, very laid-back and relaxing. The whole resort is heavily wooded, so it really feels isolated from the general bustle of Walt Disney World. As of March 2012, some rooms have been converted to Royal Guest Rooms, each themed in the style of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, or The Princess and the Frog. $150–250.
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter, 2201 Orleans Dr (off Epcot Center Drive), ☎ , fax: +1 407 934-5353. Take a walk down Bourbon Street. Visually much livelier than Riverside, this resort once had the Port Orleans name all to itself, but it became the French Quarter when Dixie Landings was renamed. French Quarter is smaller and more intimate than its sister resort, and you'll need to walk to Boatwright's to have a table-service meal, but it's closer to Downtown Disney so it's a shorter trip on the ferry. Keep an ear out while wandering the French Quarter; you might hear a live Dixieland band on selected days. $150–250.
The Deluxe resorts near Downtown Disney are both dedicated Disney Vacation Club resorts, which means there are no basic hotel rooms. The smallest villas are studios, which have a kitchenette but no separate living room. It also means that DVC members get first crack at the entirety of both resorts, but they're both so large, especially Saratoga Springs, that you shouldn't have any problem getting a room.
At both resorts, you'll find a full array of amenities and recreation, including boating, tennis, basketball, playgrounds, and of course swimming pools. There are also special activities that vary each day; you'll get a full schedule at check-in. Both resorts also have general stores for stocking their villas' kitchens; prices are high and selection is poor, but they're awfully convenient.
- Disney's Old Key West Resort, 1510 North Cove Rd, ☎ . The spirit of the Florida Keys embodied in a Deluxe resort. The villas here have a contemporary, airy beach house feel, with scenic views of the woods, the river, or the golf course—or all three. Probably the least popular of the DVC resorts, but sometimes it's the only one left with villas available during peak times. That's not to say it's not worth booking a room here, just that it lacks some of the panache of the other Deluxe Villa resorts. $295–425 (studios).
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, 1960 Broadway, ☎ . A lush country retreat capturing the heyday of Upstate New York and the Saratoga Race Course. This sprawling resort with a horse-racing theme is often overlooked but offers a wide range of views and amenities. You can get a room just steps from Downtown Disney, or one that looks across Village Lake at the bright lights there. If you prefer more peace and quiet, go for a room along the Sassagoula River or adjacent to the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. Either way, you'll be within walking distance of the relaxing and rejuvenating services at Senses, Saratoga Springs' day spa. $295–425 (studios).
- The Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. These treehouses—octagonal cabins on stilts—deviate from the normal villa layouts, sleeping nine in 1,074 square feet (100 sq m) of space. The unique setting and rustic atmosphere, along with the novelty of the elevated treehouses, mean you'll have to get lucky, or know a DVC member, to get a reservation. $545–900 (up to 9 people per villa).