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New Garage Walkways Now Open at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

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


Everywhere you look at Downtown Disney, signs of the future are popping up as the area transforms into Disney Springs. The latest can be seen in the parking garage.

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As the first of two planned parking garages for Downtown Disney, the Orange Garage at West Side opened late last year and continues to introduce enhancements to surprise and delight guests.

My favorite addition thus far? The smart technology that clearly shows how many spaces are available at each level and even identifies open spaces with an easily recognizable green light above the spots. If you’ve parked in the garage recently, you know how awesome those little lights are.

This week, we’re celebrating another milestone – the opening of two new walkways that give guests a direct connection to the West Side promenade in two locations: adjacent to Splitsville Luxury Lanes and near Planet Hollywood. These new bridges to the property are accessible via the second level of the garage and give guests the option to use stairs, elevators or escalators (my go-to mode of arrival). With lush landscaping and new hardscape finishing out the space, the walkways are a beautiful new addition to what will eventually be Disney Springs.

To experience these enhancements for yourself, park in the Orange Garage during your next outing to the Downtown Disney Area and make your way to level two – with so much new to explore, hopefully your next visit is just around the corner.

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A Focus on Fascinators from Chapel Hats at Downtown Disney in Florida

posted on May 4th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced the name of their baby daughter today – Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. With all eyes on England, it’s the perfect time to celebrate one of Great Britain’s most time-honored fashion statements – the fascinator.

A Focus on Fascinators from Chapel Hats at Downtown Disney in Florida

A Focus on Fascinators from Chapel Hats at Downtown Disney in Florida A Focus on Fascinators from Chapel Hats at Downtown Disney in Florida A Focus on Fascinators from Chapel Hats at Downtown Disney in Florida

Sometimes referred to as a “cocktail hat,” the modern-day fascinator can be worn in place of a traditional hat at formal occasions such as weddings. They are also popular at horse-racing events, like the recent Kentucky Derby. (I love any excuse to wear a fascinator – it always makes me feel fancy and frilly in the best possible way!)

Interested in finding a favorite fascinator for yourself? Look no further than Chapel Hats, one of the new retails locations in the heart of Downtown Disney. If you’re not sure which headpiece fits you best, their friendly staff will help you decide. Trying on is encouraged, and with plenty of mirrors in the store, you’re sure to find something that suits you!

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Princess Perfection at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 21st, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Two years ago when I was new to the Downtown Disney team, my family visited with my then 2-year old niece. One of my first Disney Parks Blog stories was “Big Fun For Little Ones at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort.” Twenty-four months and two more kids later (my sister now has a 6 month old and an 18 month old, too!), I’ve seen hundreds of little princesses come out of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, but recently, it was finally MY little princess — my now four-year-old niece, Harper.

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As excited as Harper was about picking out her dress (she went with Princess Anna), she was equally as nervous about having someone brush her curly hair. For a minute, I thought we might have to cancel our appointment, and then we met her Fairy Godmother-in-training, Lydia. She was amazing! Before Harper got into the makeover chair, Lydia did a practice run to show Harper how gently she would brush her curly locks. To Harper’s surprise, it didn’t tug at all.

During her princess transformation, Harper got to pick out her hairstyle (I was thrilled that she went with the ever-classy “Fairytale Princess” option), choose her nail polish color, and select her make-up shades. The finishing touches were a shimmering princess jewel for her face, a rhinestone crown for her head, and a pink Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique sash to complete the look. When it was all over, she was invited to sign the “Princess Autograph Book” – she left her signature “H,” taking up a full page.

Later that afternoon, when I asked Harper what her favorite part of the day was, she said “being with my Fairy Godmother. I hope she will always be my Fairy Godmother.” I also caught Harper looking at herself in the full length-mirror, doing a twirl, and whispering to herself “today is my princess day” when she thought no one was looking. (This is a true story. And it was as adorable as it sounds.) Finally, on our car ride home, after a full day in the parks, she told me that when she grows up she wants to be a Fairy Godmother, too.

Harper left Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique with a princess backback filled with her remaining make-up and polish, which came in handy, because she wore her Princess Anna dress three days in a row! More importantly, she left with memories that will last for years to come and pictures that will always make me smile.

Have you taken your princess to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments below – I hope it was just as magical as ours was!

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The BOATHOUSE Makes a Splash at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 13th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


Over the past year, The BOATHOUSE: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats has been hoisting up along the Downtown Disney skyline. The venue, open today, is the first of several new restaurants coming to The Landing, a new neighborhood that will be part of Disney Springs.

The BOATHOUSE is an upscale waterfront dining experience showcasing steaks, chops, fresh seafood and a raw bar. Built over the water, the 600 seat nautically themed restaurant also features a display of rare dream boats from the 1930s – 1950s, a beautifully crafted water taxi and a fleet of amphibious autos, called Amphicars.

I had the chance to talk with Theron Skees, executive creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering to learn more about how The BOATHOUSE charted its course. Theron shared “It’s been such a team effort between WDI and the Schussler design team; to see Steve’s dream come to life is awesome. It’s been a true collaboration. Guests will experience rooms that represent different time periods in the history of the building, with a focus on a view of the water. Each design element: the height of the restaurant ceiling, the width of the deck, the transparency of the railing, it was all considered so guests would have maximum visibility to the water.”

I got to tour The BOATHOUSE recently, and if stunning water views and impeccable attention-to-detail were what they were aiming for, well, they nailed it!

Earlier today, Pam Brandon shared details on the menu, so now I’m giving you an early look at what else you can expect at this unique location:

Amphicar Rides – Is it a car? A boat? Yes. And yes! Guests can experience the thrill of a Captain’s guided tour aboard a rare Amphicar that drives on land and floats in the water. The $125 price tag includes your own Car Captain and seating for up to three guests. Along the way, you’ll have a great view of Downtown Disney, direct from the water. I tested the Ampihicars last week and had a blast; you literally drive into the lake with a splash – plus, I felt like a celebrity, waving to all the curious guests onshore! This is the only place in the world to ride in these vintage vehicles. Tours are available daily from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., weather permitting, and will be available soon.

The BOATHOUSE Is Set To Make a Splash at Downtown Disney In Florida

Italian Water Taxi Cruise – The Venezia, a breathtaking 40-foot wooden Italian Water Taxi also offers a Captain’s guided tour of Downtown Disney; this one is complete with live music, chocolate-covered strawberries and a champagne toast. Tours will be offered hourly from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., weather permitting, starting soon, for individuals and groups of up to 20. The cost is $75 per person or $50 per child under age 13. (Want a more private tour for two? Ask about the Antique Steamboat Tour aboard Lady Rose; the cost is $150 per couple.)

“Floating Art” – I knew they were beautiful, but I had no idea I was looking at a multi-million dollar fleet of rare boats. Gathered from museums, private collectors, and boat shows from around the world, be sure to take some time to stroll the marina. Photos are not only allowed, but encouraged, so have your camera handy.

Interior Décor – Boat motors mounted on the wall. Trophies from regattas of days gone by. Stunning photography and artwork, some historical, some richly modern. It’s all incredible. But perhaps my favorite décor element is the brand-new boat that the team modified so it could include a dining table. (I’ll just say it now, everyone will want to sit there, me included!) Of course, the true visual hero, even from inside the restaurant, is the water. The good news is that every single table has a great view, so there’s no such thing as a bad seat.

Entertainment – Harbor Master festivities take place throughout the day and evening, with flag ceremonies and lively musical performances of beloved bugle songs, performed aboard Lady Rose. Inside, live entertainment takes center stage with a variety of musical styles – during my “sneak peek,” familiar songs were floating through the restaurant.

Check out the gallery below for a glimpse of what you can expect when you visit.

It’s hard to guess what guests will love most about The BOATHOUSE. What are you most excited for? Tell me in the comments below – I’d love to know!

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A Rare Behind the Scenes Look at ‘La Nouba’ by Cirque du Soleil at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 7th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


As a longtime fan of “La Nouba” by Cirque du Soleil, I’ve always wondered what happens behind the scenes. How much practice do the performers need? What time do they start doing make-up? Who helps them with their costumes?

I never dreamed I’d get the chance to peek behind the curtain, but recently, I had the chance to do just that. And the best part? Photographer Matt Stroshane joined me and captured several rarely-seen moments to share with you.

On the day we visited, one of my favorite acts, fondly referred to as “the diabolos,” were working on their routine. The young quartet from China practices five to seven hours a week (and it’s not uncommon to see some of the other talent working out nearby). It was dizzying to watch them balance, flip and spin just a mere few feet away. Check out the photo below – if you look closely behind my shoulder, you’ll see one of the girls is in mid-air, halfway through her backflip dismount. Even in sweats and messy buns, their nearly flawless performance left me breathless. Most of the girls will spend one to two years as part of the show and some may return for a second stint. My favorite new fun fact? The current coach was part of the first diabolo team who originally opened “La Nouba.”

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Also getting in some pre-show practice were a few of the trampoline artists. And yes, we got to witness that, too! Looking down from the rafters, we got a bird’s eye view of them for an entirely new perspective.

The backstage area was a flurry of activity as the curtain call neared. We ducked into the dressing room and caught principal performers putting on their show make-up. We also saw a glimpse of the costuming team in action, fitting one of the aerialists, putting finishing touches on hand-painted sneakers and sewing on glittering rhinestones. (The wardrobe room was a utopia of color, filled with fabric, sequins, wigs, props, and more costumes than I could count!) All the while, technicians supporting everything from lighting to audio were hard at work, prepping for the performance.

Now that I’ve seen what it takes to make “La Nouba” a success, I appreciate it even more. After browsing the gallery below, hopefully you will, too!

Interested in seeing the show for yourself? Click here for tickets and more information.

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New Pedestrian Bridge Will Soon Open at the Downtown Disney Area at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on March 24th, 2015 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort


My office is smack dab in the middle of Downtown Disney Marketplace, so I have a front row seat to all the enhancements coming to the property as we transform into Disney Springs. Some days, the progress is subtle, but last week, there was no denying that change was in the air (literally). Towering above Buena Vista Drive, a new pedestrian bridge was installed in the early morning hours of March 19 – when I came to work on Thursday, there it was, extending from the Team Disney area across the roadway to Downtown Disney.

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Our friends at Reedy Creek Improvement District worked closely with Walt Disney Imagineering and the Disney Springs Project Team on this impressive piece of infrastructure. Upon completion, the bridge will weigh 190 tons (or as much 50 average-sized elephants!). While there is still work to be done, it’s expected to be open to guests and cast members later this spring. A second pedestrian bridge, located near Hotel Plaza Boulevard, will open later this summer.

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Have you visited the Downtown Disney area lately? With new retail locations now open, the Village Causeway now fully accessible, and a new restaurant – The BOATHOUSE – set to open next month, this pedestrian bridge is just one more sign of what’s to come. Which one are you most excited about? Tell me in the comments below, I’d love to know!

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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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