Monday, June 27, 2011


The first time I went to Downtown Disney, I didn't like it. I'd just driven 1 billion miles to get to Disney, and our rooms weren't ready and it was 5000 degrees Fahrenheit. (As you can see, I'm a bit loose with numbers.) So I was sweaty and crabby and just not in the mood. Downtown Disney was just some hot place that wasn't my air-conditioned room at the Polynesian.

Subsequent visits to Downtown Disney have changed my mind. It can provide a nice break from the parks while still "doing Disney." The family and I have seen movies in the comfortable, wine-serving theater and eaten good meals at Ragland Road and elsewhere. I've spent about 40 million dollars at the Lego store for my son. And for Dad, there is even a cigar bar.

So ... what are your good experiences at Downtown Disney? What are your suggestions for places to go (or avoid)?


  1. We've only been to Downtown Disney a couple of times; it seems to have more turnover in terms of attractions/restaurants than the rest of the resort (didn't they close Pleasure Island?). That said, we love the Cirque de Soleil show there and have seen it twice. Also enjoyed Wolfgang Puck's restaurant (the wienerschnitzel is quite good). Love the Lego store. Haven't been to Ragland Road yet but have heard good things.

  2. Most of my great memories of Downtown Disney were from Pleasure Island during my College Program days, which Disney has sadly now destroyed.

    And Virgin Megastore went out of business and was replaced by some kind of toy car shop. Even the McDonald's was replaced by some new nasty fried chicken joint.

    But I still love Downtown Disney. Ghiradelli's is AWESOME. I enjoy eating Planet Hollywood and the Rainforest Cafe, and I'd love to try the Dino-food-place. Whatever it's called.

    I often hold up Downtown Disney as something for everyone. By that I mean, it's an example of something free that you can do and still enjoy Disney. Between that and the hotels, you could have a whole day of Disney where the only thing you pay for is food.

  3. Also, Downtown Disney is a good option if you need something more than what the resort stores sell -- there's a whole shopping complex there if memory serves--I bought a suitcase there once to replace a damaged one. and you can take a bus there and back from a Disney resort.

  4. Adam,

    Good point about a free place to hang out and enjoy the Disney vibe without having to be an entrance fee.


    My wife's been on my ass to see Cirque de Soleil but I just can't quite pull the trigger on it. I just get the feeling it's not my thing.

  5. Virgin closing was a sad thing- nowhere to buy Disney movies at Downtown Disney now :(

    Still, it's a great way to spend a more low-key day, with the fun/excitement of Disney on a smaller scale. Whenever we're down, we usually spend a day there, or an evening Animal Kingdom closes [they go well together].

    I liked going to the AMC theatre- airconditioned, comfy seats, and a nice way to spend some quiet time on a vacation when combined with a bit of shopping and a lunch from one of the restaurants. We usually go to quick service spots, but it was worth going to T-Rex- the restaurant sort of is the ride with that one.

    The make-your-own t-shirt spot is notable too, just make sure your chosen words are Disney appropriate :) I also like how the stores are more spreadout/larger and allow for longer browsing then the more crowded theme park ones

  6. I'd echo what Adam said about it being free and still feeling like you are in Disney. And when weather is pleasant, it's a great place to walk at night. I also like the Christmas store. Purchased a handful of ornaments there which I know you can get elsewhere, but it's always fun to actually buy them in Disney.

  7. We've also talked about the Rain Forest Cafe when I asked the question about places to eat. I still say the food is just adequate, but it's a place my seven year old and I both liek to eat just for the environment and the "thunderstorm" every 20 minutes.

  8. Victor: Try Cirque. I can't imagine you will be disappointed. I have seen several of their shows (either the touring ones or in Vegas) and the one in Orlando, La Nouba, is one of the best. Wife and I saw it alone, then took the kids to see it when they were older, and they loved it. (But you risk losing your popcorn if you buy it before the show and don't notice a clown sneaking up on you. . .) The clowns interact with the audience before the show--one sat down next to my youngest and joked around with him and Youngest still talks about it. The mix of acrobatic skill, music, storyline, and showmanship is terrific.

  9. Downtown Disney is almost always our first stop after checking in at the hotel. After traveling to Orlando, it's a wonderful way to ease yourself into Disney without the nonstop action of the parks.

    The Earl of Sandwich is always a stop for us at Downtown Disney. The sandwiches are huge and I have never had a bad experience with the food there. Also, we enjoyed the Wolfgang Puck Express...great food at reasonable prices. the walk-up window at Bongos (Gloria Estefan's restaurant) has the best empanandas ever! The crabcake sandwich at Cap'n Jack's Oyster Bar is
    to die for. We avoid Rainforest Cafe....too crowded and the mediocre food at exorbitant prices is not to be born.

    Shops that are a no-miss for us...Disney's Days of Christmas for ornaments (great for gifts for new babies' first Christmas) and those exclusive Disney Christmas cards, Basin for bath salts and soaps, and the World of Disney (if Disney sells it...this store is where you'll find it!

    Downtown Disney is a great place to wander around!

  10. Debi,

    I think you're right about it being a good way to ease yourself in. I was really, really in the wrong frame of mind the first time I went. But since that first time, I've discovered it's a good place to get lunch or shop while waiting for your room to be ready.