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Memorabilia Memories at Planet Hollywood at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on October 2nd, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

I can still remember the first time I visited a Planet Hollywood restaurant. It was shortly after the Atlanta venue opened and the line to get in wrapped around the block. I was starstruck by the celebrity handprints outside and even more mesmerized by the treasures displayed once you got through the doors. Years later, my family went to the London location and I’ll never forget the strangers at the next table asking my mom if she’d like a taste of their chicken fingers (she did) – we still laugh about it!

Now that I work at Downtown Disney, I love knowing that our guests are making similar Planet Hollywood memories with their families. It had been a while since I took a good look at the memorabilia that I recalled so fondly from my earlier visits, so I recently made time to do just that.

Along the way, I learned some things. Here, a few of the most interesting:

  • Planet Hollywood has nearly 55,000 items in their collection, most stored in a central warehouse. The oldest and most valuable is Judy Garland’s “Dorothy” dress from “The Wizard of Oz,” valued at $311,500.
  • The memorabilia comes from a variety of sources including Studios and auction houses. Robert Earl, Chairman and CEO of Planet Hollywood International, ultimately decides what is featured in each venue, while Paul Hemus, Curator of Planet Hollywood Memorabilia, is responsible for maintaining the collection. (Sounds like a cool gig, huh?).
  • At the Downtown Disney Pleasure Island location, guests can see 576 items currently on display; they’re changed out on a regular basis, so you may see something different every time you visit! The newest piece is Sylvester Stallone’s prison costume from “The Escape Plan,” which debuts later this month on October 18.

Herbie,  a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle deluxe ragtop sedan, starred in several popular Disney films, starting with 'The Love Bug' in 1969.

Jimmy Carroll, General Manager of Planet Hollywood Orlando, shared that the “Terminator” figure in the lobby restaurant is a fan favorite. (Impressively, Planet Hollywood has 75 “Terminator” figures in its collection!) His favorite piece of movie history hangs from the ceiling; it’s a full-sized 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, as featured in the “Herbie” films. I love that one, too!

Check out a few of the eclectic pieces in the gallery below, then let me know which is your favorite in the comments. (And who knows, maybe one of these days, we can share Planet Hollywood’s World Famous Chicken Crunch as we admire their memorable memorabilia collection!).

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Top Tips to Make the Most of your Downtown Disney Visit at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on September 20th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Earlier this year, we announced Disney Springs, the exciting, multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney. If you’ve visited recently, you know that our expansion has officially begun. While we’ve been getting a lot of questions, one of the most popular topics seems to be parking: Will we have more spots? Where will they be located? And where should guests park in the meantime? Read on, because I’ve got answers …

Yes, more parking is coming! The best part: parking will continue to be complimentary. Work recently started on the first of two multi-level parking garages; it is expected to be complete in late 2014 near AMC Theatres and Splitsville Luxury Lanes. A second garage, closer to World of Disney, is set to open in 2016. Additionally, we’ll continue to offer surface parking.

Visiting Soon? (I hope so – because right now, you can enjoy over 70 venues filled with ways to delight you day and night!). I’ve got a few tips to help you make the most of your experience:

  • If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, leave the driving to us! When I’m a Disney Resort hotel guest, I love that someone else does the driving for me.
  • If you have tickets or reservations, arrive early – 60 minutes prior to your show time or reservation, just to be safe.
  • If you’re driving, here are a few ‘must-knows’:
    1. We’ve added additional parking options that will come in handy most Fridays, Saturdays and holidays – you can follow the signs to plentiful parking in the SunTrust and Casting Building lots across the street from Downtown Disney (see our helpful map below).
    2. On our busier days, guests parking in the Team Disney lot can enjoy a complimentary shuttle with direct service to Downtown Disney West Side or can take a short walk to their desired destination. (Hint: I’ve tried both, and it’s usually a little faster to walk – it only took me five minutes!)
    3. When in doubt, ask a Cast Member – they’re there to help!

Downtown Disney Parking Map

Want a few more of my favorite secrets? Arrive before 5 p.m.; look for parking at Entrance 5, behind Cirque du Soleil in lots O, P & Q (it’s a lot closer than you think!); and lastly, don’t forget you can always take the complimentary Boat Transportation between the West Side, Pleasure Island and the Marketplace, weather permitting.

I know I’ve just shared a lot of information – check out the map above for more.

Now that you know the latest, I hope you’re as excited as I am. I look forward to seeing you out and about at Downtown Disney soon!

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New Food Trucks Set to Roll into Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on September 11th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

A few years ago, I visited Austin, Texas; I was there for a music festival, but one of the things I remember best is the food trucks. It was the first time I had seen anyone serve “grown-up” food from a vehicle. (Trust me, these were nothing like the ice cream trucks I chased as a kid!) Today, Food Trucks seem to be everywhere, though much to my dismay, they’ve been in short supply at the Walt Disney World Resort. Until now.

I’m delighted to share this delicious tidbit: Food Trucks are coming to Downtown Disney! Even better? They’re rolling in faster than you might expect, with the first truck expected later this fall.

I recently sat down with Chef James Kleinschmidt and Downtown Disney Area Manager for Food & Beverage, Matt Fisher, who have been working closely with our Walt Disney World Food & Beverage partners on the concept. They shared some early details with me and, of course, I wanted to pass along every morsel of information to you! According to the duo, there will be four trucks, each themed to portray the essence of a different Disney Park. Here’s what’s in the works:

  • “Enchanted Fare” will serve favorites from Disney Parks around the world; think Croque Monsieur from Magic Kingdom Park, Glass Noodle Salad from Hong Kong Disneyland and (my favorite!) Hand-Dipped Corn Dogs from Disneyland park.
  • “The World Showcase of Flavors” is expected to feature items from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival such as Grass-Fed Beef Sliders, Pierogies with Kielbasa and Lobster Rolls. Yum!
  • “Superstar Catering” will shine the spotlight on a wide array of meatball options fit for a Hollywood set; the Lamb Meatball Flatbread with Tzatziki sounds especially credit-worthy.
  • “Namaste Café” plans to feature a nice mix of spices with dishes including Butter Chicken, Slow-Cooked Beef Short Ribs and Tandori Spiced Shrimp. (I hear they’ll all come with Naan Bread, so you can’t go wrong!)

In the coming weeks, we’ll share additional details about the food trucks and hope to have photos of the menu items to whet your appetite. In the meantime, I’d love to know which truck you’re most excited about – I honestly can’t decide!

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‘Drawn’ to Each Other – A Magical Proposal at Downtown Disney Marketplace

posted on August 30th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for a good love story. Every time I hear about a proposal in the Magic Kingdom Park Rose Garden, or see a photo of a bride stepping from Cinderella’s Royal Coach at the Disney Wedding Pavilion, I’m reminded that even in real life, fairytales can come true.

That’s probably why I was so smitten when I heard about a proposal that recently took place at Airbrush Caricatures here at Downtown Disney Marketplace.

Guest Ben Landaal orchestrated everything to perfection to surprise his girlfriend of a year and a half, Paige Lawton. A few days before the big night, Ben made arrangements with Airbrush Caricatures, sharing his “perfect proposal” vision. Fast-forward to engagement night: Paige thought they were simply having a regular caricature created, but instead they were capturing one of the biggest moments of their lives.

As Ben tells the story, “I sat down by the artist right away, so that he could draw my head first. He then had Paige sit down and proceeded to draw her face and both of our bodies while she was still sitting. As you can see in the picture, the artist had me on one knee holding the ring out, and he wrote on the picture, “Will you marry me?” When the caricature was complete, he told Paige that she could get up. She immediately turned around and looked at it. At this point, I went down on one knee and pulled out the ring.”

Based on the smiles, I think you can guess what she said?

Ben Landaal and His Now-Fiancée Paige Lawton ‘Drawn’ to Each Other – A Magical Proposal at Downtown Disney Marketplace

Sure, magical Disney moments will always happen under castle archways or beneath glowing fireworks, but it makes me happy to know they can happen in sometimes-unexpected places, like Downtown Disney, too!

I love a happy ending and couldn’t be more thrilled for Ben and Paige. (Did I mention that I love love?)

Have you been lucky enough to witness a “dream come true” moment during a previous Disney vacation? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Let’s Hooley! Don’t Miss the Fun at Raglan Road this Weekend – Only at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on August 28th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Ask any one of my friends and they’ll tell you that I love a good party. Who doesn’t? So it should come as no surprise that I gobbled up every detail of Pam Bandon’s recent story on The Great Irish Hooley, a boutique Irish festival with authentic Irish food and top Irish entertainment happening this coming weekend.

Let’s Hooley! Don’t Miss the Fun at Raglan Road this Weekend – Only at Downtown Disney Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World Resort

I’ve marked my calendar and you should, too! Here are a few of the highlights I’m most excited about:

Dancing: Like many little girls, I took dance lessons growing up. It’s been a while since I’ve slipped on my jazz shoes, but I can’t wait to take part in the Irish Dance Workshop, “From Our Roots to Riverdance,” led by renowned choreographer Ronan McCormack of the original Riverdance cast. The workshop is open to the whole family, and while I don’t have kids of my own, I may insist that a few friends join me. (I figure if I don’t get any early takers, I can bribe them with Guinness!) While we’re at it, we’ll probably kick up our heels during structured set dancing known as the Ceili (pronounced kay-lee) – my friend Jennie tried it last year and promises that the Raglan Road dancers will be “sweet and helpful.” She had a blast and especially loved seeing guests going up on stage to enjoy the spotlight with Ronan McCormack himself.

Music: There’s nothing like a live show, is there? Seven bands will take the stage over the course of the weekend including Scythian, with rock-infused Celtic and world music; Garry O’Meara, who this year debuted his critically-acclaimed album “Pickin’ Time” with a lively mix of mandolin, banjo and other instruments for a modern take on traditional Irish music; and the world’s leading U2 Tribute Band, Elevation. (I’ve seen Elevation and if you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were mere feet away from Bono.) For the ultimate Irish music mash-up, catch the Electric Ceili – a wrap-up performance on Monday night featuring members of all seven Hooley bands!

Food and Drink: As Pam Brandon shared, it’s good news for brunch lovers … Raglan Road’s popular brunch will be offered Saturday, Sunday and Monday during the event from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., alongside their regular offerings. As for me, there’s no bar I’d rather belly up to than the 130-year old imported-from-Ireland bar inside the restaurant. It’s my favorite spot to grab a cold Guinness and an order of fish-and-chips. For dessert, I’m partial to the Bailey’s Iced Shake, though let’s be honest … it’s a party and you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu!

John Cooke, a Raglan Road founding partner, tells me that this caliber of talent and entertainment is typically experienced only at the major Irish Festivals. Lucky us – we’ve got it right here at Downtown Disney, and with no cover, I might add!

If you’re looking for a good time over the upcoming long weekend, add The Great Irish Hooley to your agenda. The event runs from 5 p.m. on August 30 until midnight on September 2, 2013, and you can get the schedule and event details here.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d say this beats another Labor Day cookout any day! Agree?

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Building Imagination with Monthly LEGO Mini Builds at Downtown Disney

posted on August 7th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

When my 2-year-old niece visited me earlier this year, her favorite Downtown Disney stop was the LEGO Imagination Center. I had forgotten how much fun playing with LEGOs could be and I had a blast getting down on her level and building my own masterpiece.

Shortly after her trip, I found out about the Monthly Mini Builds that take place here at the Marketplace LEGO Store, and I finally made time to check one out for myself. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out the LEGO figure for August was a flamingo … my favorite pink bird!
Monthly Mini Builds at the LEGO Imagination Center in Downtown Disney

Here are a few things you should know about the Monthly Mini Builds:

  • The event is designed for kids ages 6-14 years old. I got special permission to build a figure as part of this story, but the offering is really intended to be a treat for kids. Parents can help, and LEGO staff are on hand to guide children along each step.
  • Builds happen on the first Tuesday of every month from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. I suggest you get there early, as there are a limited number of kits and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
  • There’s a different theme every month. Guess who got a sneak peek at next month’s figure? Me! And here’s a hint: if you like pirates you “ARRRGH” in for a treat!
  • Best of all: The event is totally free!

As store manager John Compton shared with me, “There are always events going on in a LEGO Store, not just the one in Orlando, but at stores across the U.S.”

To learn more about Monthly Mini Builds, visit

Have your kids taken part in a Monthly Mini Build yet? If so, share your experience in the comments below. If not, be sure to “build” this into the itinerary for your next Downtown Disney Marketplace visit!

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More Than 30 Years of Handmade Memories at Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on July 23rd, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

In 1982 the first Sony CD player was released, Epcot Center opened and Prince William was born. It was also the year that “Wholesale Leather Goods” made its debut at The Disney Village. (I could still show my age using the digits on just one hand, so yeah, it was awhile ago.)

Fast-forward to present day and at least one thing hasn’t changed – Dave Biebel is still making leather belts with the same level of craftsmanship guests have come to expect over the last three decades. Though it’s an anomaly in today’s mass-produced market, he has no plans to change. And why should he? His goods are unique, personalized and in many cases, one-of-a-kind.

Dave Biebel and His Leather Belts, Available at Downtown Disney Marketplace at the Walt Disney World Resort

I recently had the chance to talk with Dave; of all his stories, I most loved the one about the man who visited his location a few months ago. As Dave shared, “this guy came back with a belt he said he bought from me 30 years ago. It featured my stamped design, and I could tell it was the same end-cutter I’ve always used, so I figured he must have really gotten it from me. He got 30 years out of it. I wasn’t surprised when he bought another one.”

What surprised me? Dave never set out to make this his life’s work. He was working part-time when his boss was approached by Disney to open a small merchandise location at The Disney Village. Dave gave it a shot, Epcot opened shortly afterward and then “things got very busy.” The rest is history.

Dave Biebel and His Leather Belts, Available at Downtown Disney Marketplace at the Walt Disney World Resort

For Dave, the best part of his job is getting compliments on his work. Guests love the fact that his merchandise is handmade and because of that, he gets lots of repeat customers. Some have told Dave it’s the “only place” they’ll buy their belts.

If belts aren’t your thing, you can also find a wide array of buckles, necklaces, bracelets, wallets and my favorite – purses.

It’s now 2013 … smart phones hold full music libraries, we now boast four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks and Prince William just had a son of his own. A lot has changed but at least one thing hasn’t – look for Dave and his wares at Downtown Disney Marketplace near LittleMissMatched and the Marketplace Marina.

Have you kept any of your purchases from past Disney Parks vacations for 30 or more years? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. I bet they hold a special place in your heart!

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‘Art and Soul’ at House of Blues Orlando at Downtown Disney West Side

posted on July 9th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

You may have known that House of Blues at Downtown Disney West Side was one of the premier venues for live music. If you’ve eaten there you understand that the menu, designed by Chef Aaron Sanchez, is a culinary delight. But have you ever stopped to notice the Folk Art Collection? I never realized how truly impressive it was until I visited House of Blues earlier this week.

House of Blues boasts the largest private collection of American Folk Art on permanent display with roughly 7,000 articles exhibited throughout their venues. At the Orlando location alone, guests can see 637 pieces that represent more than 100 artists. I saw an eclectic mix of work from Howard Finster, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Mose Tolliver, Leroy Almon and Archie Bryon, to name a few. I was dazzled by their bold talent.

Charles Spellman, Katy Boyd, and Jennifer Hinckle, all part of the House of Blues Team, shared their passion for the collection with me. Jennifer explained that her favorite piece is Mr. Imagination’s Archway, pictured below. You can find it outside at the back of the restaurant. (Definitely make a point to stop by and see it – I fell in love with the hidden trinkets scattered throughout the sculpture and became even more enamored when I learned that many of the artifacts came from employees and guests who happened to be walking by while “Mr. I” was creating it. It evokes such a sense of community and collaboration!).

Mr. Imagination's Archway at House of Blues Orlando at Downtown Disney West Side

When I asked Jennifer why art is so important to the House of Blues experience, she easily answered that “folk art is the visual blues.” After exploring the collection, I agree that it really is as simple as that.

Like a good blues song, art can evoke emotion and make you think about things differently. At House of Blues – in both the restaurant and the Music Hall – I invite you to seek out paintings, sculptures, statues, walls, chairs and even bars that inspire to you. You’ll be impressed by the museum quality pieces that literally make up the fabric of the venue. (It’s true: The House of Blues stage curtains are handmade quilts.)

Want more? Make plans to meet some of the artists November 8-10, 2013, at the House of Blues Folk Art Festival, which coincides with Festival of the Masters.

In the meantime, take a look at the gallery below featuring photos by Gene Duncan and captions by Jennifer Hinckle; I’d love to know which piece is your favorite in the comments!

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Check Out the ‘Hottest’ New Addition to Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 26th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

The brand-new Lava Lounge at Rainforest Café opened just two weeks ago, and already the place is on fire – literally. (Stay tuned, I’ll get to that.)

I visited earlier this week and had the chance to chat with General Manager Jeff Kruger. He clued me in to some of their most popular items, including the Sparkling Volcano and Jungle Runner, pictured below, and I figured out a few things on my own. Keep reading, because I’m sharing all my insights.
The New Lava Lounge at Rainforest Cafe, in Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort

Wait time: There was a wait to dine inside at Rainforest Café, but at the Lava Lounge, seating is first-come, first-served. When I arrived at 5:45 p.m., there were still plenty of open tables and a few seats at the bar. My wait time? Zero minutes.

Food: I assumed there would be a limited menu offered at the Lava Lounge. You know what they say about making assumptions, right? Not only can you order from the full Rainforest Café menu, but there’s also a special menu featuring items created just for the Lava Lounge. That’s right, there are even more choices, so chances are there’s something everyone in your party will enjoy. If I had room, I would’ve tried the Volcanic Sliders or the Tectonic Tacos – they both sounded delish!

Ambience: If you like waterfront views, want to be part of a “volcano” experience and prefer talking to shouting, then the Lava Lounge is for you. The setting is a friendly laid-back bar that feels casual and welcoming; it’s just the kind of place you’d want to end up after a long day in Disney Parks. (And I saw a great mix of adults and families, so don’t let the “Lounge” title throw you off; it’s a space for all kinds of groups.)

Wow Factor: The food and service alone may dazzle you (you did see that Sparkling Volcano dessert, didn’t you?), but if you need more to get you fired up, the Rainforest Café Volcano should do the trick. “Erupting” multiple times each evening, it’s a sizzling display of flame spires, fireballs, steam bursts and fog that erupts in sync with a light and sound show. It’s the sort of spectacle you’d only expect to see at a Disney theme park. Or maybe Las Vegas. Either way, it’s truly impressive, and you can see, hear and even feel it from inside the Lava Lounge.
The New Lava Lounge at Rainforest Cafe, in Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World Resort

The only thing that disappointed me? The fact I waited so long to stop in! If you’ve been, I’d love to know what you liked best in the comments below. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Check it out during your next Downtown Disney visit. (Oh, and be sure to tell Nile the Crocodile I said “hi” – you can’t miss him!)

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Car Masters Weekend Drives Fun at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 17th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Last week I told you this was my first time working on our Car Masters Weekend event at Downtown Disney. Today, I’ll admit that this past weekend was my first time actually attending the event! As they say, “better late than never.” Here are a few thoughts from a newbie, in no particular order:

    • The “car show” part was a lot cooler than I expected. Though I’m not a huge car buff, I really enjoyed seeing the huge variety of 150+ vehicles displayed throughout Downtown Disney West Side. There were old cars, new cars, fast cars, famous cars … a great mix of classic, muscle and exotic cars. And while they were fun to look at, my favorite part was talking to the owners and hearing them tell their stories. Those sweet rides have a lot of history.


    • I still get starstruck around Lightning McQueen and Mater – I was grinning from ear to ear (can you see my giant simile or is my hat blocking your view?) and judging from their line of fans, I was not the only one. Totally worth the wait!


  • The event really was designed with families in mind – I saw tons of kids and they were having as much fun as their parents, if not more. I think the interactive experiences from “Monsters University,” “PLANES” and “The Lone Ranger” really added a nice touch. Add to that the chance to play Disney Infinity and test drive remote control RIDEMAKERZ vehicles and it was definitely a weekend with something for everyone.


  • Having Chip Foose and Jay Ward at the event was awesome – I got the chance to meet the popular car enthusiast and Pixar filmmaker, and both were so genuinely excited about cars that their enthusiasm got me even more revved up. Even better? They were great with the fans and put on three amazing shows each day, plus Chip did daily autograph sessions. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to bring them back again next year.


  • People love a good cone hat – I wore mine throughout the event and got so many smiles and waves that I started to feel like a celebrity in a parade. I even had a few guests ask to take photos with me, which I happily agreed to. (Note: The Luigi tire hats are fun, too, but I think we can all agree that orange is my color, right?)

To bring this one to the finish line, I’ll just tell you that Car Masters Weekend was so much more than I expected. You can bet your last tank of gas that I’ll be making this an annual tradition! Hopefully you will, too!

Did you make it out to Car Masters Weekend? If so, I’d love to know what got you most revved up – share in the comments below!

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