The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure Park

Celebrating 38 years of Festival of the Masters Magic at Downtown Disney

posted on November 5th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Now in its 38th year, Festival of the Masters is an impressive event. With steady growth over the years, this open-air art festival that allows guests the chance to see and buy unique pieces now boasts over 300 artists, including more Disney artists than ever before. (I love that our guests have the chance to meet many of them in person – I’ve gotten to know a few of these artists and the passion they have for their work is inspiring and contagious!)


Lately, I’ve gotten into crafting – I blame Pinterest – so I’m certain the interactive art & craft experiences presented by Michaels will be a huge hit with families. You’ll have the chance to “make and take” a Mickey ear wood frame and sun visor, color a Disney masterpiece featuring characters from “Frozen,” and contribute to a larger-than-life mural – all of this takes place at Downtown Disney West Side near Bongos.


Another new element I’m super psyched about is Mixers & Masters, a “sip and stroll” offering that features artistically crafted cocktails from participating restaurant locations. And for guests who want to learn the art of making some of these signature beverages, the daily “Art of Mixology” seminars at the Waterside Stage are not to be missed!

Of course, popular favorites will return including over 130 fine artists who come from across the country — they’ll cover Downtown Disney with limited-edition painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry, glass, wood and more; more than 20 up-and-coming “emerging masters”; the 15th annual House of Blues Folk Art Festival “where the Art meets the Soul,” and the aforementioned Disney artists – over 25 of them will appear throughout the weekend at the Disney Artist Village, the “can’t-miss” hub for Disney art aficionados, for meet ‘n’ greets and signings. Additionally, awe-inspiring chalk artists will transform more than 1,000 square feet of sidewalk into a colorful display, and personally, I’m just as excited for the children’s chalk art activities that will give kids a chance to get creative!

I’m not able to attend this year because I’ll be in South Carolina meeting my brand-new niece or nephew (my sister’s new baby is scheduled to arrive tomorrow!), so I’m counting on all of you to check it out. If you’ve been before, please share what you’re most excited about seeing again, and if you attend this weekend, come back and comment to let me know what you enjoyed most.

Here’s to a colorful weekend for all of us!

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Valet Parking Arrives at Downtown Disney for the Holidays

posted on October 21st, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

We’ve all heard that it’s better to give than to receive. I wholeheartedly agree. But sometimes, especially around the holidays, it’s nice to get something from your “wish list.” I must have been good this year, because one of the things I’ve been hoping for is coming soon: valet parking at Downtown Disney!
Valet Parking Arrives at Downtown Disney for the Holidays

Here just in time for the holiday shopping season, valet parking will be available at Downtown Disney West Side starting today.

Jim Forrester, Operations Manager for Downtown Disney, tells me that guests have expressed an interest in valet parking for a while, and the holidays seemed like the perfect time to introduce this new parking option.
Valet Parking Arrives at Downtown Disney for the Holidays

Interested in trying it out? Here’s what you need to know:

  • The service is offered 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. daily.
  • Valet parking can be accessed via Entrance 4 at Downtown Disney West Side.
  • The cost is $20 per vehicle and gratuity is accepted.
  • When you’re ready to pick up your car, you can check in at the valet booth or text a designated number for speedy retrieval.

The service is scheduled to run through January 1, 2014. As always, parking in our regular lots will continue to be complimentary.

For guests taking in a performance of La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil, enjoying a concert at House of Blues, or indulging in a meal at one of our awesome West Side restaurants, the drop-off and pick-up location will be especially convenient. (Plus, it’s close to the West Side boat dock, which offers efficient service to the Marketplace. Bonus!) As for me, I know I’ll be doing a lot of Christmas shopping at Downtown Disney, and I love that my car will be waiting for me when I’m wrapping up at the West Side, loaded with bags!

What about you … will you be checking off your holiday gift list here, too? If so, do you think you’ll give the new valet parking service a try?

Read on for more updates from Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort:

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No Tricks, Just Treats at the New DisneyQuest Halloween Party

posted on October 16th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, partly for the candy but mostly because I love any excuse to dress up. As a kid, there was always something magical about putting on a costume, going trick-or-treating (especially when the holiday fell on a school night!) then trading candy with my sister into the wee hours.

New DisneyQuest Halloween Party Coming to Downtown Disney

This year, I think families will find even more to be excited about with the brand new Downtown Disney Halloween offering at DisneyQuest. Similar to the popular DisneyQuest New Year’s Eve event, this party is perfect for families – with unlimited DisneyQuest games, two DJ dance parties, character meet ‘n’ greets, photo ops and of course, trick-or-treating. It’s five floors of fun with something for everyone! And, no surprise, dressing up is encouraged … there’s even a costume contest that makes every kid a winner!

With Mickey’s-Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party already sold out for October 31st, I imagine tickets will go fast for this party, too!

New DisneyQuest Halloween Party Coming to Downtown Disney

Tickets are $45 in advance and $54 if you purchase the day of the event. To book your place at the party, or for more information, call (407) W-DISNEY.

In the meantime, get more info here, then let me know what your family will be dressing up as this year – any Disney costumes out there?

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Whistlin’ a New Tune with Festival of the Masters Signature Artist Joe Kaminski at Downtown Disney

posted on October 15th, 2013 by Darcy Clark, Marketing Manager, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Early on in my Disney career, I had the pleasure of working at Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group, the in-house creative agency for Disney Parks. I was an Account Manager and every day I was in awe of the talented creative minds that surrounded me. One of them was a copywriter named Joe Kaminski.

For the 6th year, Joe has been featured as the Signature Artist for Festival of the Masters. I’ve always admired Joe’s skills putting pen to paper; but paint to canvas? This was new! I recently sat down with Joe to find out how he transitions from an advertising copywriter by day to a respected Disney artist in his after-hour time.

Joe shared that some of his best inspiration comes from his peers. “I come to work and see all these ‘artsy’ folks around the office – guys like Don ‘Ducky’ Williams, who’s been illustrating Disney characters for over 30 years. I started out by doing some drawings and posting them around the walls of my office. At first, the Art Directors would laugh, but every now and then, they’d critique and give me some suggestions. Over time, they started to appreciate my drawings, which gave me the confidence to start painting. I dabbled. It was a sloppy learning process; my style is loose lines, not a lot of perfection, but that’s what makes it fun.”

When Joe learned of the annual competition to be featured as the Signature Artist for Festival of the Masters, he decided to give it a try. He entered one of his recognizable Mickey paintings and the rest is history.

This year, his latest effort, “Whistlin’ Mickey,” was selected. Joe thinks it’s fitting given the Downtown Disney expansion efforts now underway. “With all the new changes and magic going on at Downtown Disney, it’s like the property is whistin’ a new tune. So this works.”

'Whistlin’ Mickey' by Joe Kaminski

Joe will be attending the 38th annual Festival of the Masters presented by Michael’s, taking place November 8-10, 2013. As in years’ past, he’ll be signing his work and meeting guests. In addition, he’ll have several original pieces of art for sale.

I hope you’ve got your calendar marked and plan to attend this favorite fall event! In the meantime, you can learn more about Festival of the Masters here.

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Fit2Run is Racing to a New Location at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

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

One of my good friends convinced me to sign up for a half-marathon this January. I started my training program just last week, so the news that Fit2Run, The Runner’s Superstore, is coming to Downtown Disney this fall comes at a perfect time.

Whether you’re a reluctant runner (like me) or an elite athlete, the store can help you find your perfect fit in athletic footwear. Sharon Jacobson, Fit2Run Brand Director, tells me they will offer a complimentary video-taped gait analysis and an iStep barometric scanning, which will help each guest find the ideal shoe for their foot. Guests can also test the footwear on Fit2Run’s indoor track, just to make sure the new pair is ‘just right.’ Still want more? At this particular store, Fit2Run will offer first releases on many shoes, with some special products available only at this location.

iStep Barometric Scanning Fit2Run, The Runner’s Superstore Guests Testing Footwear on Fit2Run’s Indoor Track

Don’t be surprised if you see co-owners Bill Robinson and his son, Parks, at the new store for one of their in-store events, clinics or new product introductions. Both avid runners, the two founded the company in 2006 and couldn’t be more excited about this venue. Fit2Run is set to open next month – just in time for the holidays – at Downtown Disney West Side, next to Curl and across from House of Blues.

Look for me when you visit. By early November, I’ll be hitting the pavement pretty hard and just may need a new pair of shoes.

Are you training for a big race, too? Let me know in the comments below and we can motivate each other; I need all the inspiration I can get!

In the meantime, race over to and learn more.

For more about Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort, click the links below:

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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. 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 and Pleasure Island, 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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