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Let's Go Downtown
Downtown Disney (Florida, USA)
Member Name: Meggysmum
Downtown Disney (Florida, USA)
Date: 23/12/10, updated on 28/05/11 (92 review reads)
Advantages: Fun shops and street entertainment
Disadvantages: Pricey restaurants
On arrival it can be a little confusing as there are lots of entrances into the car park which stretches along the whole length of the complex. The Disney store is located near parking A,B and C, whilst Planet Hollywood, Disneyquest and Cirque du Soleil are the other end at parking I to N. Parking in the whole area is free.
There are several shops in the area but some are very distinctive and worth a visit.
World of Disney: This enormous store is a true Disney interactive experience. It is split into several distinct areas where little girls can revel in the delights of being a princess and swash-buckling pirates can find treasure galore. There is also an enormous selection of clothing for all ages, household items of every type adorned with Mickey ears as well as jewellery, bags, toys and gifts that suit every budget from a small set of pencils to gold-plated watches. The store is very disorientating and you can find yourself wondering around for ages as there always seems to be something else to see. The staff are delightful and there is never a problem with children playing with items or being photographed wearing a selection of Mickey Ears.
LEGO imagination centre: There is no way you can miss this store as a towering red robot made of Lego bricks can be seen from quite a distance. A LEGO Loch Ness Monster can be seen in the lagoon too. All around the outside of the building there are representations of various landmarks made of LEGO. Outside the store there are lots of tables for people to sit and play with the well stocked tubs of LEGO, these are nicely shaded from the Orlando sunshine. The store stocks every set of LEGO that you could imagine.
Team Mickey Athletic Club: Definitely aimed at the American market this store stock a huge array of sports merchandise, especially clothing.
Once Upon A Toy: A childs delight this is a toyshop that not only stocks the standard Disney range of toys but also stocks classic games such as Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit with a Disney makeover. You can make your own, customised Mr Potato Head which you can purchase or you can just play with all the variations in store. Children can be seen waving light sabres or trying on tiaras and there is never any problem with this.
Disney's Days of Christmas: A wonderful store devoted to all things Christmas. There are magnificent displays of baubles and other decorations. We usually visit in October and there is always a lot of Halloween tinsel etc on sale too. Decorations can be personalised by the decorators in store.
Disney Pin Traders: Pin Trading is a hobby that consists of traders buying small metal pins depicting characters, rides, films or parks and then either collecting or swapping them with others. The range is fascinating and there is also a pin-trading area where collectors can swap between themselves and cast members.
Moving further around Downtown Disney brings you to several more stores that stock specialist merchandise. The Harley-Davidson store is popular both for its gifts and the photo opportunity available on the two bikes that grace the window. Disney's Candy Cauldron is where you will find handmade sweets and candy apples of all types. You can stand and watch these candy apples being made and decorated in the window, some of them are true works of art. Magnetron is an unusual store that only sells decorative magnets, I didn't know there were quite so many available and they offer great multibuy offers that cover virtually every magnet they sell so they make interesting gifts at good prices. There are also stores offering premium cigars, magic gifts, sunglasses and artwork.
Walking around Downtown Disney is always entertaining as there are often street entertainers, even sometimes bands playing. However there are also more formal forms of entertainment on offer.
Cap'n Jacks Marina: All sorts of different boats are available for rental and lifejackets are provided. The Village Lake is quite large and my husband and son had a great time whizzing around in their small "speedboat" which was not very fast but still provided plenty of fun.
Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba is the presentation in this distinctive building. I have never been here and it is recommended that tickets are bought in advance. I have heard great reports of the physical acrobatic display but it has never really appealed to me.
DisneyQuest: This is a basically a 5 storey arcade. It is incredibly noisy and dark. Entrance is included in many types of Disney tickets and it proves a popular place, especially on rainy days. As well as normal arcade type machines (free to use) there are a few more unusual things as well. I particularly like the Pirates encounter where you man a boat and shoot at pirate ships using 3D graphics and interaction; it really is a fun family game as you work together. There is also an area where you design your own rollercoaster on computer consoles and then you get to ride it in a simulator, this was amazing when your child insists on putting in as many inversions as you are allowed! This is not my favourite place but my teenagers love it and it does make a change from normal theme park entertainment.
AMC cinema: I believe this cinema has 24 screens but I have never used it so can't comment on the comfort or the price.
Characters in Flight: This large tethered balloon rises 400ft to give great views across WDW. However it is greatly affected by the weather and most times we were at DTD it was closed.
This area offers lots of dining opportunities but I think that it is actually quite an expensive place to eat and there are much cheaper places offering a similar quality of food a short drive away. However some people like to eat here as they can use Disney transport if they are staying on site and also several of the restaurants participate in the Disney Dining Plan. Looking at the various menus all of the restaurants offer cheaper dining over the lunchtime period compared to the evening. If you wish to dine from about 6.30 onwards I would strongly recommend that you make reservations as the queues build up very quickly. Many of the restaurants are themed and there are several that are well known names.
Planet Hollywood: This globe-shaped restaurant houses three levels of dining and film memorabilia. We have visited a few times but on my last visit I thought the food had gone downhill, it was expensive and tasteless and the service wasn't very good either. It is quite tatty now and could really do with a bit of a revamp.
T-Rex Cafe: We didn't venture in here as it was very noisy. Children who love dinosaurs will be thrilled with the massive T-rex on the outside. The menu didn't look too expensive but some people moan that you can end up in the "ice-room" which is cold and bizarrely coloured. At regular intervals there is a "thunderstorm's and some young children find this a bit scary as it is very loud.
Rainforest Cafe: Another popular chain this can be easily spotted across Downtown Disney with its vast volcano. Seating outside gives a nice view across the lake but young children would probably prefer being inside with more of the animated animals and sound effects.
Fulton's Crab House: Located on a steam boat on the lake this is a beautiful looking restaurant but unfortunately I have never set foot inside. My husband hates seafood and since this is the house speciality he wasn't keen. I think if it hadn't been quite so expensive he might have venture in but at about $50 each before drinks it was out of our budget for the four of us.
There are several other places including Portobellos, Raglan Road Irish Pub and the Earl of Sandwich.
Downtown Disney is a lovely place to spend a warm evening. It is really buzzing with entertainment and it is always busy. The beautiful lighting creates a delightful image and many families are walking around which gives it a great friendly atmosphere and it is definitely worth a visit but be prepared to pay premium prices if you want to eat whilst there.
Summary: Nice place to spend an evening.
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