Downtown Disney is fantastic dining, a shopper’s paradise, and entertainment filled village all rolled into on. It originally opened in 1975 as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village. It has always been aimed at providing shopping for Walt Disney World guests and as such it provides transportation to all Disney World resorts. Entry to Downtown Disney is free and there is plenty of free parking available. It has three major areas that each contain a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Downtown Disney is currently undergoing a transformation to make it even better. When the changes are complete, some time in 2016, it will be re-named Disney Springs.
The Marketplace is the ultimate place for souvenir shopping, it’s truly Disney gear on an epic level.
The flagship store here is World of Disney, a 50,000 square foot mecca of floor to ceiling Disney merchandise. It has literally everything you could imagine, that you could want branded with Disney characters and logos. Arribas Brothers sells beautiful Disney themed crystal and glass items for adults that want you to bring them something back. For the little princesses in your family head to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where she can get the ultimate in princess pampering from her fair godmother. It is extremely popular, so book a time in advance. For the ultimate Disney World Christmas items every day of the year don’t miss out a visit to Disney’s Days of Christmas. Other shops not to miss in the Marketplace, include LEGO Imagination Center, Marketplace Fun Finds where everything is less than $10, and Disney’s Pin Traders.
As far as food is concerned the most family friendly places to eat are located in the Mareketplace. It contains both the Rainforest Cafe with its jungle sounds and animatronics, and T-Rex, similar to the Rainforest Cafe, but featuring pre-historic animals.
Pleasure Island has fewer shops than the Marketplace with a focus on independent stores rather than Disney themed gear. You can find some pretty unique items here, such as the cigar specialists Fuego by Sosa Cigars. More shops are expected to open as the area is re-designed. There are a number of good restaurants here. Fulton’s Crab House is built in the style of a riverboat and specialises in seafood. Paradiso 37 boasts a tequila bar and street food specialities from Central and South America. If you’d rather some Irish fun, then Ragland Road Irish Pub & Restaurant is the place to go.
West Side has an excellent selection of shops selling items that you won’t find elsewhere and that don’t have a Disney theme. Though, there are a number of great Disney shops here too, such as Disney’s Candy Cauldron and D Street. For the most amazing collection of fridge magnets available to buy anywhere head to Magnetron. West Side is also where you’ll find Planet Hollywood restaurant, the House of Blues, and Bongos Cuban Cafe.