Downtown Disney

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Posted on August 27th, 2005

Downtown Disney isn't a theme park but is well worth a visit. Set round a lake, it consists of 3 areas, Disney Marketplace, Disney West Side, and the adult playground of Pleasure Island.

You can't miss Downtown Disney as you approach it, you will see the huge globe that is Planet Hollywood. There is free car parking right behind the whole area so make sure you remember where you have parked!!

First is Disney Marketplace. As the name suggests there are plenty of shops here, but it is much more than that. There are great restaurants, stalls, and the biggest Disney store in the world. This shop is seriously BIG, parents beware, it will cost you a small fortune if you take the children in here. Mind you, we never seem to be able to pass by without just having a "quick peek" and a lot later, weighed down with bags and promising to stay away next time, we leave the shop. Once upon a toy is a huge toy store with some wonderful things for kids big and small.

The restaurants here vary from fine dining at Fulton's Crab House, (a replica paddle steamer) to themed dining at Rainforest Cafe; to snack's at Earl of Sandwich. There is also Captain Jack's restaurant, where if you’re lucky you can see the fireworks from Epcot. If you want a chocolate overload try one of Ghirardelli’s wonderful sundaes, you won't be disappointed.... Of course there is also the obligatory McDonalds.....

Among the choice of shops there is a Winnie the Pooh shop, Disney at Home with everything for the home all with the trademark Disney schmaltz. The Basin shop sells organic bath and beauty products. Although most of the shops are Disney based, there are some that have nothing to do with the mouse.

The area is lovely for a leisurely afternoon or evening stroll and there is often a concert at the lakeside stage.

Walking on past Fulton’s Crab House you cross a bridge to Pleasure Island. This place only really comes to life in the evenings. There are music clubs here to suit every taste, from the latest chart hits at Motion, to "real music" from the 70's and 80's at 8 Trax (you can guess my age now LOL) and everything in between. There is also The Adventurers Club, a themed club with different "rooms", each one hosted by its own Adventurer with tall tales to tell. Of course Disney has its own Comedy Warehouse too.

Entertainment is often provided on the huge stage. Not as many restaurants or eating places as the Marketplace or West Side but you can get snacks and take away from stalls around the area. Remember children are allowed into Pleasure Island but most of the clubs are over 18 only and you can only get a drink over 21. If you are lucky enough to look young for your age then take ID as you will not be served without it.

Leaving Pleasure Island by another bridge at the other end of the complex you reach Disney West Side. Here there is more shopping and restaurants and you can't miss it as it has the huge Planet Hollywood globe at one end and Cirque du Soliel at the other.

Planet Hollywood is stuffed with movie memorabilia and is usually very busy so it’s best to make a reservation or get there early. The food is typical American fare and slightly more pricey because of the name. It is worth a visit if you’re a movie fan but don't expect a gastronomic feast. For something a bit different try the House of Blues, with its Cajun, Creole and southern cooking. Great if you like it spicy...

Among the other eateries are Wolfgang Puck's and Bongo's Cuban Cafe.

The shopping in West Side is more adult orientated generally. There is an excellent movie memorabilia shop with lots of signed posters etc. A massive Virgin mega store complete with coffee shop, the biggest selection of fridge magnets you’re ever likely to see in one place, a guitar shop for budding musicians, and a magic shop if you fancy yourself as the next David Blaine!!

For entertainment there is a 24 screen cinema and of course the unforgettable Cirque de Soleil .

This is a very brief introduction to Downtown Disney, try it for yourself. We always make a point to visit here at least once or twice during our holiday, its laid back and relaxing after charging round the parks, and offers a good chance to sit and watch the world go by while sipping a margarita or a coffee.

Highly recommended :-)
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