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Cross the Finish Line & Race to the ‘Happily Ever After Party’ at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 19th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


The Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, is almost here and at Downtown Disney, we’re already prepping for the post-race fun of the “Happily Ever After Party” taking place this Sunday, February 22 from 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Downtown Disney Marketplace. Whether runDisney athletes complete a 5K, 10K or 13.1 magical miles, this is the way to celebrate a race well run!

Having participated in several runDisney events, I know how much hard work and training it takes to get to the finish line. I totally believe in rewarding yourself for a great accomplishment, so here’s my advice to runners: don’t miss this party!

Indulge in Great Food at the Downtown Disney Food Trucks Grab runDisney Merchandise at D-Tech on Demand at Marketplace Co-Op Grab runDisney Merchandise at Downtown Disney

Here, you’ll have the chance to:

  • Indulge in Great Food – We’ll have one of the Disney Food Trucks on hand; show your finisher’s medal to receive a complimentary themed cupcake with entrée purchased during event hours. Additionally, several Downtown Disney restaurants from the West Side to the Marketplace will offer special discounts* for runners all weekend long.
  • Get the Goods – Need to get your finisher’s medal engraved with your race time? Stop by Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories. Want to make your own celebratory T-shirt? Do it at Disney Design-a-Tee presented by Hanes. Seeking a commemorative sketch? Find it at Art of Disney. Love the idea of a personalized phone case featuring runDisney art? Check out D-Tech on Demand at Marketplace Co-Op. Wish you had picked up more merchandise at the Expo? See what’s stocked on the Disney Merchandise truck. Plus, many retail locations are offering special discounts* for runners all weekend long. (And let’s be honest – Downtown Disney is THE place to let your inner princess shine. Tiaras from Arribas Brothers, anyone?)
  • Let Loose – Take part in the DJ Dance Party to get your post-race groove on. (I know, dancing may sound like the last thing you want to do after running a half-marathon, but it’s a great way to keep your muscles loosened up!)

Admission to the Happily Ever After Party is free and is open to race participants, their guests and the public. The best way for Disney Resort guests to join the fun is via complimentary Disney Resort transportation. If you’re driving, follow signs to available parking which may be located across the street in nearby lots or in the recently opened garage.

Have a great race this weekend and enjoy your happily ever after!

*Participating locations are listed in the Official Event Guide distributed at Packet Pick-Up. All offers subject to change and are at the discretion of individual locations. Runner must present race bib (if prior to race) or medal (post-race) to receive offer. Offer for race participant only unless otherwise noted. Offer valid February 20-22, 2015 unless otherwise noted. While supplies last.

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The Village Causeway Opens to Guests at Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 17th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Excited about the ongoing transformation taking place at the Downtown Disney Area? I am, too! Last Friday was an especially notable day as hundreds of cast members and partners gathered to celebrate the opening of the Village Causeway, a new bridge that connects the area near The LEGO Store across the water to Rainforest Café. Not only is this my new favorite route to work, but it’s quickly becoming a popular guest spot for photos, sunset viewing, and shopping – yes, shopping!

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I recently shared information on two new kiosks at the Downtown Disney Area, and four more have just opened on the Village Causeway:

  • Flour & Sugar – Perfect for guests who want to take a taste of the Sunshine State home with them, this new shop offers freshly baked cookies with Florida flavors like coconut, key lime and strawberry. (I hear the South Beach Toasted Coconut Key Lime Cookie is especially tempting!) You can buy them individually or in easy-to-transport canisters of six.
  • Florida Bath Co. — Lately, I’m loving specialty soaps, and this locale offers products made with home grown ingredients like organic vegetable juices and essential citrus oils. If you love Basin, you’ll love this – they share the same owners.
  • Icon Jewellery by Bico – Want your accessories to have meaning? Check out this shop where concepts like Love and Friendship, Protection, Strength and Luck are represented in pieces crafted from hand-polished fine grade pewter and enhanced with fine materials like Swarovski Crystals, New Guinea Rosewood and genuine leather. The best part … you can customize your jewelry just the way you like.
  • Kate & Leo – No doubt about it, I’ll be buying my nieces toys and games from this charming cart. With items designed to evoke a world of curiosity, creativity and imagination, you’ll find travel games, magnetic story boards, beautiful art supplies and more, no batteries required.
    New Flour & Sugar Kiosk at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort New Florida Bath Co. Kiosk at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort
    New Icon Jewellery by Bico Kiosk at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort New Kate & Leo Kiosk at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

    During your next visit to Downtown Disney Marketplace, be sure to stroll the Village Causeway – it’s my favorite recent enhancement to the neighborhood and I have a feeling it may become yours, too!

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Top 5 Ways to Spend a Day at the Downtown Disney Area

posted on February 3rd, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


My non-Disney cast member friends think of me as their ‘insider’ expert on all things related to the four Disney Parks. Lately, with more changes coming to Downtown Disney during our largest-ever expansion, I’m getting plenty of questions about this property, too! Invariably, they want to know my top “can’t-miss” recommendations – the things they just have to make time for during their vacation. I’ve shared this list plenty of times with my loved ones, and today, I’m happy to pass it on to all of you.

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First things first, my ‘Top 5 at Downtown Disney” changes dramatically depending on who I’m talking to. Coming with kids? I’ve got you covered. Enjoying an adults-only escape? I’m on it!

Downtown Disney for Family-Friendly Fun:

  1. Shopping at Once Upon a Toy and The LEGO Store: Think kids and shopping don’t go hand in hand? At these two stores, they’re a perfect match. Once Upon a Toy houses the largest collection of Disney games and toys at Walt Disney World Resort. And at The LEGO Store, little ones can build to their imagination’s content in the (free) outdoor play area.
  2. The Marketplace Train and Marketplace Carousel: Don’t want to buy an extra ticket for yourself? Here’s a tip: parents ride free with little ones under 42 inches tall. This was my niece’s favorite part of her recent Walt Disney World Resort vacation. (Sorry, Mickey.)
  3. Ice Cream at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop: It’s ice cream; no explanation needed. Be sure to have the camera ready for those adorable hot fudge drips.
  4. Pin Trading: From the Marketplace to the West Side, look for cast members wearing pin-trading lanyards. Kids feel confident when their trade is accepted (and guess what? It always is!).
  5. Nightly DJ Dance Party at Waterside Stage: Admit it, your kid has moves. You might, too. This every-evening event is the perfect stage to let loose.

Adult Advice for the Downtown Disney Area:

  1. La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil: If you want to treat yourself to an unforgettable spectacle, this tops my list. Just be prepared … you’ll want to buy the soundtrack to take home with you.
  2. Splitsville Luxury Lanes: Here’s a secret: there’s more to Splitsville than bowling. This venue has become one of my “go-tos” when entertaining out-of-town guests. The food is impressive, the drinks are plentiful and the live entertainment rocks. And yes, if you want bowling or billiards, you can find that, too.
  3. Live Music at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant: I’ve actually been to Ireland and if you close your eyes while listening to the Raglan Road bands, you’ll think you’re there. Grab a Guinness on the patio or snag a table by the indoor stage for dinner – either way, this will become one of those “it-was-way-more-fun-than-I-ever-imagined” vacation highlights that you’ll want to repeat during every future trip.
  4. Dinner at Paradiso 37, Taste of the Americas: I’ve been known to crave the Central American Crazy Corn and I’m not alone. Other standouts include the Mexican Dipping Trio and Argentinean Skirt Steak. Thirsty? The P37 Swirl – a lively mix of Sangria and Margarita – is frozen fun in a fancy glass.
  5. Shopping at Marketplace Co-Op: I’m somewhat obsessed with Cherry Tree Lane and the ever-changing array of accessories there, but even if bags and baubles aren’t your thing, you’re bound to be impressed by one of the other five unique boutiques housed in this location. For me, the best finds are the ones you can’t get anywhere else on-property, and there are plenty of those here!

This shouldn’t surprise you, but it was really tough to narrow my choices down to the “Top 5” in each category. There’s plenty more I wanted to mention, including many of your favorite Downtown Disney destinations, I’m sure. So … tell me, what did I miss – I’d love to know in the comments below!

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New Merchandise Kiosks Set the Bar High at Downtown Disney

posted on January 27th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Unlike most people, I’m at Downtown Disney five days a week. I get to see the property transform before my very eyes on a pretty regular basis, and I can honestly say that one of my favorite signs of progress is the opening of new venues.

With gifts galore and barware to please every beverage connoisseur, two new kiosks at Downtown Disney have put a big smile on my face; and I’m not the only one … they’ve been hugely popular with guests since their opening late last fall. Aptly named “Sublime” and “Set the Bar,” both venues are located at the recently remodeled Riverboat Square, between Fulton’s Crab House and Portobello.

Find a Unique Gift and More at Sublime

Need to find a unique card with just-the-right sentiment? Or gift a candle that will remind your recipient of you every time she lights it? Searching for a magnet that will make you chuckle? Or a book that’s sure to inspire? Find this and more at “Sublime.” In just a few short months, it’s already become one of my “go-to” stores when I need to find something fun and fanciful.

And while there are also gifts aplenty at “Set the Bar,” I think I’ll opt to keep most of what I buy there for myself, thank you very much. From bottle openers to flasks, shot glasses to copper mugs, this is a perfect perch to find the latest “must-haves” to transform your Saturday-night at-home-cocktail-hour into a truly sensational soiree. (Feel free to add me to your guest list!)

Have you had the pleasure of purchasing at these new retailers yet? If so, let me know which products you loved most … I’m almost due for another shopping spree and I could use a few ideas!

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Splitsville Hits a High Note with New Saturday Night Bands at Downtown Disney West Side

posted on January 20th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


In early November, Splitsville Luxury Lanes quietly introduced a new offering inside their venue – live bands on Saturday nights. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I only recently had the chance to experience it for myself. Three months after the first band took the stage, I can attest that “quiet” isn’t an adjective I’d use to describe it—it’s loud, bright and totally fun!

On the night I visited, The Jimmy James Band covered everything from The Beatles to Taylor Swift. Taking requests and encouraging guests to sing along and get out on the dance floor, the high-energy enthusiasm in the air was contagious. My party of four was perfectly positioned to catch every shake of the tambourine, and when the bass guitarist came on the floor to rock with the crowd, I was just inches away!

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Of course, we bowled, too. And had dinner. And drinks. With three sushi lovers and a full-throttle carnivore, our table was covered with edamame, a variety of rolls, and the Bacon Cheeseburger. Oh, and let us not forget a few Frozen Schooners – I really do think Splitsville serves the coldest beer in town! The only downside? The food was so good that everyone missed my strike.

With a new year here, Splitsville is rolling into 2015 with even more enhancements. Their menu now includes Crispy Wings, a Sushi Tuna Rice Bowl, a Foghorn Burger, Steak Alfredo and a California Crunch Roll. New drinks include a Cinnamon Toast Colada (I’m so regretting not trying that one during my last visit!) and Sangrita (Margarita meets Red Sangria). They recently expanded their first floor Bullet Bar, too, so there’s more space than ever to catch your game, people watch, or – my new favorite – enjoy live music on Saturday nights!

Want to check out the bands during your next West Side visit? The Jimmy James Band, Blonde Ambition or another guest group will perform 9 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. every Saturday night. There’s no cover charge and there are plenty of tables, bar seats and lanes on the first floor with great views of the stage and dance floor. To guarantee a spot and reserve a lane, contact kingpin@splitsvillelanes.com or call 407-938-PINS; for dinner only, you can book online here.

Now, more than ever, Splitsville really is my favorite Downtown Disney West Side spot to “Roll In & Rock Out!” Would you agree?

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Winter Fitness Fun with Fit2Run at Downtown Disney West Side

posted on January 6th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


This weekend, I’ll be participating in the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. Like thousands of other runners taking part in runDisney races this Marathon Weekend, I started my training months ago. Not a runner? I wasn’t either. But now is a perfect time to start!

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With temperatures dipping around the country, I decided to talk with Fit2Run store manager, Gary Robinson, to get his take on winter fitness. Gary thinks that winter is a great time to start a running program, as long as you have the right gear. For runners who live in colder climates, long sleeve shirts or jackets with thumb holes can help keep you warm (there are some seriously cute options); running hats that cover your ears are a great addition, along with running gloves (some even have LEDs built into them for extra visibility!). I’m lucky to live in Florida where shorts and tank tops are the norm most of the year, but the bright selection of winter apparel makes me want to sign up for a race up north.

Now that 2015 is here, I’m guessing many of you have New Year’s resolutions? If running is on your list, here are some tips from Gary especially for beginners:

  • Limit yourself when you first start out. Start slowly and build from there.
  • Once you have a base weekly mileage, only increase it by 10% each week. This will always save you from injury.
  • Get the correct shoes. Shoes can make a world of difference.
  • Talk to people who are successful in running. You may want to ask them how they stay motivated.
  • Consider running with a group – they’ll keep you coming out each week.
Winter Fitness Fun with Fit2Run at Downtown Disney West Side Winter Fitness Fun with Fit2Run at Downtown Disney West Side

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of running, stop into Fit2Run during your next West Side visit and talk to the staff … from 6 hour marathoners to state champs in track and field, they represent a variety of fitness levels who all embrace the culture of fitness. (My tip? Ask about their weekly Fun Runs … they’re free, untimed events open to anyone!)

Whatever your goals for the year ahead, I hope you reach them. And for anyone participating in the runDisney events this weekend, I’ll see you at the finish line! (Oh, and runDisney athletes, don’t forget to join us for the Downtown Disney Cool Down Party on Sunday, January 11th from 2 – 8 p.m., where your race medal will score you goodies and discounts including a free drawstring bag from Fit2Run.)

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It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas throughout the Downtown Disney Area

posted on December 9th, 2014 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas throughout the Downtown Disney Area

Sure, Thanksgiving was just last week, but already, the Downtown Disney Area at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is bustling with holiday excitement. The Festival of the Seasons is now underway and new holiday décor is lighting up the Marketplace.

Read on for some of my favorite festive fun:

  • Meet Santa: Naughty or nice, you can share your wish list with Santa Claus through Christmas Eve (Santa Goofy Steps in December 25th – 29th)! New this year, guests can check in at the Santa Chalet podium to receive a pager that buzzes when their turn to meet Santa is near. It’s a great opportunity to snag a family photo, too, with Disney’s PhotoPass photographers on standby. (12pm – 9:30pm daily).
  • Enjoy Holiday Entertainment: Pick up a times guide to discover the sounds of the season. From carolers to stilt walkers, live musicians to DJ dance parties, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. My favorite new spot to catch a performance is Exposition Park on the West Side – and while you’re there, you can indulge in fresh fare from the Disney Food Trucks!
  • Shop the new Marketplace Co-Op: Of course, World of Disney will always be a ‘must-do’ for holiday shopping, but I’ve added this new venue to my shopping list as well. With six distinct boutiques, some featuring items that can’t be found anywhere else at Walt Disney World, this is the place to find unique gifts for loved ones. Want even more gift-giving inspiration? Follow us on Twitter at @WDWDowntown and look for hashtag “#25daysofDTD” to see some of our top picks.
  • Indulge in Holiday Treats: Peppermint Mocha from STARBUCKS? Decadent hot chocolate from Ghirardelli? A homemade treat from Goofy’s Candy Company or Candy Cauldron? Whatever you fancy, you’ll find something sweet to tempt your taste buds! (Me? I’m partial to the Olaf-inspired specialty apples.)

With a portion of the West Garage now open to guests and boat transportation available for travel between the West Side, Pleasure Island and Marketplace (weather permitting), it’s easy to explore all of Downtown Disney.

For tips on visiting the property, click here.

Happy Holidays, and I hope to see you out and about at Downtown Disney enjoying the season soon!

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New Holiday Decor Coming to Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on November 4th, 2014 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


It’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially at Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort. With new decor coming to the Marketplace this holiday season, there’s even more to celebrate!

Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the Holiday Services Warehouse to get a sneak peek at what’s coming. Can you imagine a giant treasure trove of holiday magic, filled from top-to-bottom with sky-high trees, larger-than-life snowmen and thousands of ornaments in every size and shape imaginable? I couldn’t, until I saw it for myself!

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I was able to get permission to share some early photos of the new enhancements coming to Downtown Disney. The new look and feel is tied to the idea of a ‘uniquely handcrafted’ Christmas. Many of the elements use found objects such as yarn, spools, buttons, burlap and the like. Remember making felt stocking ornaments as a kid? Or creating reindeer keepsakes out of clothespins? These ornaments are similar, but on a much grander scale.

Keep in mind that many of these images showcase works in progress, so what you see in the gallery below is just the start of what’s to come.

New Holiday Decor Coming to Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort

As you visit Downtown Disney this holiday shopping season, be sure to keep an eye out for all that’s new. With over 70 venues open for your enjoyment, plus the opportunity to meet Santa during Festival of the Seasons (November 14 – December 30, 2014), Downtown Disney is a ‘must-do’ during this festive time of year!

Tips for visiting during the holidays:

  • Arrive earlier in the day for a more leisurely shopping experience.
  • If you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel, take complimentary transportation, as parking may be limited.
  • Follow the signs to available parking, which may be located in adjacent lots across the street.
  • Allow extra travel time for reservations or showtimes; we suggest 60 minutes in advance.
  • When driving via I-4, take exit 67 for the most efficient route to property.

I love the holidays … the shopping, the music, the and yes, the peppermint lattes from Starbucks! Luckily, I can enjoy all that (and much more) right here at Downtown Disney, which makes me a happy little elf.

What’s your favorite part of the holiday season at Downtown Disney? Please share in the comments below – I’d love to know!

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Water Tower History Stands Tall at House of Blues at Downtown Disney

posted on October 14th, 2014 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Like many of you, I’ve walked by the signature House of Blues Water Tower countless times. It’s a landmark, an icon and a work of art, all rolled into one. But have you ever thought about where it came from? Or how it ended up at Downtown Disney West Side? I did. So recently, I set out to find answers.

A few friends from House of Blues who all share a passion for their company’s history – Jennifer Hinckle, Maggie Sumner and Charles Spellman – were happy to enlighten me. The story was too good not to share …

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It all started with Issac Tigrett, one of the eccentric co-founders of House of Blues. An avid fan of rail travel, Tigrett would tour the country in his lavish, expertly curated train car. He was known for his keen eye and unique style; his journeys often led to the purchase of one-of-a kind art and unique memorabilia. During one trip out west in the late 90’s, he spotted the water tower and realized he had to have it for his next-to-open House of Blues venue. At the very next town, he disembarked the train, hired a car, and went back to seek out the owner of the water tower. Tigrett knew it would make the perfect welcome statement for the Downtown Disney West Side location, set to open in 1997. And he was right. Originally three sections tall, only two were approved for the property. Blade signs, light cans and artistic flames were added, giving the structure its current-day look.

Though Tigrett is no longer with the company, his influence is everywhere; perhaps most prominently in the House of Blues courtyard where recent enhancements include the quick-service Smokehouse, expanded seating, and evolving live entertainment. Though the patio has changed, the Water Tower is constant – an appropriate reminder that (at House of Blues, at least) good art, no matter the form, can withstand the test of time.

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‘Fall’ in Love with Pumpkin-Inspired Delights at Downtown Disney

posted on September 30th, 2014 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Living in Florida, fall is my favorite time of year. Temperatures start to dip, the humidity (sort of) takes a break and autumn is in the air. Fall has already arrived here at Downtown Disney – and I know this because I’m surrounded by pumpkin-tinged treats. See a few of my top picks below:

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  • Pumpkin Spice Caramel Squares from Ghirardelli – you can only find these bites of amazingness in September and October, so stock up while you can. My fellow Disney Parks Blog author Jennifer Fickley-Baker introduced me to these mouth-watering morsels and I love/hate her for it!
  • Pumpkin Shampoo and Conditioner Bars from Basin – with potassium, alpha-carotene, zinc, beta-carotene and lutein, they make your hair strong, soft and silky – a perfect complement to any Halloween costume you may be considering. (Rumor has it Basin also has a “Pumpkin Patch” soap, too. So fun.)
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks – this caffeinated favorite needs no explanation; my motto: once you’ve taken your first sip of the season, cute boots, bulky sweaters and festive scarves are fair game, no matter what the thermometer reads.
  • Sweet Treats from Goofy’s Candy Company and Candy Cauldron – luckily, we’ve got eight weeks to sample the latest concoctions from my go-to candy shops. First up? Pumpkin fudge. (Review: Amazing.)

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Keep up with the latest seasonal offerings from Downtown Disney via our Twitter handle, @WDWDowntown. In the meantime, tell me which pumpkin product you can’t wait to try in the comments below.

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Happy fall, y’all! (I’m originally from Georgia, so I can say that.)

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