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

Darcy Clark

by , Disney Springs Marketing Manager

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!

Comments

  • I’m planning on visiting in June. What kind of shops are there? I’m from England so any brands I would of heard of?

  • This is a shopping mall, correct?

    • Thor, Downtown Disney does have incredible shopping, but also so much more! You can bowl at Splitsville, check out a concert at House of Blues, experience “La Nouba” by Cirque du Soleil, catch the latest movie at AMC Dine-In Theatres, enjoy 5 floors of gaming awesomeness at DisneyQuest or dine at one of our incredible restaurants — there are great options for table service or something quick, for families or a grown-ups night out. Definitely visit us the next time you’re in town to check it out for yourself!

  • Last November I had the best of both adult and family times at Downtown Disney! My whole family arrived at Downtown, had a lovely lunch at T Rex ( a must-do for my 8 yr old daughter), shopped the Lego Store and then my husband took the kids to the AMC movie theatres to see Big Hero 6 while I was left blissfully all alone to shop! Then I hit every store from one end to the other and shopped to my little heart’s content. After the movie was over, we all regrouped and enjoyed a quick dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express (BEST counter service at WDW!) and finished the day with the world’s best chocolate milkshake at Ghirardelli. That was a pretty perfect day.

    • Claire, that sounds like my kind of day! Wrapping up with a Ghirardelli shake is the sweetest way to wrap up a perfect visit!!!

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