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Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney

Opened

March 22, 1975

Downtown Disney is an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Downtown Disney is open to the public, requires no admission fee, and offers complimentary parking and transportation to all Disney-operated Walt Disney World resorts. The large outdoor complex is divided into three areas: the Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and the West Side. Each area features a selection of entertainment venues, shops, and restaurants with unique themes. Notable tenants include Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, DisneyQuest, the House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, the Lego Imagination Center, World of Disney, AMC Downtown Disney 24, and Rainforest Cafe.

History[]

Downtown Disney opened on March 22, 1975, as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, a shopping complex intended to serve the planned residences within the Walt Disney World property. As the residential units evolved into more resort hotel space, the complex became more focused as a shopping destination for all Walt Disney World visitors, and was renamed Walt Disney World Village in 1977. With the advent of new management under Michael Eisner in the mid-1980s, Disney began looking for ways to keep vacationers on Walt Disney World property longer, and entice them with offerings to prevent them from leaving for entertainment beyond Disney's borders.

To compete with the popular Church Street Station clubs in downtown Orlando, Pleasure Island was announced on July 21, 1986. This expansion to the Village would feature highly themed, adults-only nightlife with unique clubs showcasing Disney's quality and creativity. Construction began the following August, and Pleasure Island opened on May 1, 1989 (exactly the same day as the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park). That same year, the Walt Disney World Village was once again renamed to the Disney Village Marketplace to reflect the ever-changing nature of the area.

In the mid-1990s, the growth of Walt Disney World once again created the potential for expansion of the offerings around Village Lake at Pleasure Island and the Disney Village Marketplace. On June 20, 1995, major enhancements and expansions were announced for the area. The Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island would be folded into a newly-branded district called Downtown Disney. On September 7, 1997, the Disney Village Marketplace was renamed one more time, to Downtown Disney Marketplace.

Just a few days later, on September 15, Downtown Disney West Side opened as a third shopping, dining, and entertainment area featuring more eclectic venues such as La Nouba (a permanent show which is part of Cirque du Soleil), DisneyQuest, and Tower Records (later a Virgin Megastore). Major changes to the complex also included the conversion of the somewhat sedate Mickey's Character Shop, into the bustling World of Disney, becoming the world's largest Disney store, in addition to the expansion and upgrade of the AMC Pleasure Island Theatres.

Downtown Disney gained a sister district on January 12, 2001, with the addition of Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort. Similar complexes also exist, such as Disney Village, which opened on April 12, 1992 at Disneyland Resort Paris, and Ikspiari, which opened on July 7, 2000, at the Tokyo Disney Resort. A fifth version is planned to open at the most recent Disney destination, Hong Kong Disneyland.

On September 27, 2008, all of the Pleasure Island night clubs closed as part of a larger refurbishment of Downtown Disney, in order to make room for new shopping and dining offerings.

Marketplace[]

Formerly known as the Disney Village Marketplace, the area contains many shops and restaurants. Cap'n Jack's Marina offers boat rentals for use on Village Lake.

The first restaurant in the Earl of Sandwich chain is located here. Pollo Campero, a Latin chicken quick service restaurant, opened in October 2010, replacing McDonald's.

T-Rex Cafe is a dinosaur-themed restaurant operated by Landry's Restaurants, which features life-sized Animatronic dinosaurs developed by UCFab International, LLC. It is located at the site of a former valet parking traffic circle in the E parking lot, near the current location of the pedestrian bridge between Pleasure Island and Downtown Disney Marketplace, and is adjacent to Pollo Campero. Groundbreaking ran behind schedule, but construction finally began in October 2007. Construction was completed in early October 2008 and the restaurant opened on October 14, 2008. Landry's Restaurants also operates Rainforest Cafe at this location.

Attractions[]

Restaurants[]

  • Earl of Sandwich
  • Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop
  • Pollo Campero
  • Rainforest Cafe
  • T-Rex Cafe

Shopping[]

  • Cap'n Jack's Marina
  • Disney's Pin Traders
  • Goofy's Candy Company
  • Lego Imagination Center
  • Once Upon a Toy
  • Team Mickey
  • Tren-D
  • World of Disney

Pleasure Island[]

Pleasure Island was primarily a nighttime entertainment complex with two comedy clubs and four dance clubs. These clubs closed permanently on September 27, 2008. New shops and restaurants were planned to open to replace the closed clubs, but the economic recession of 2009 delayed plans. Only one new restaurant has opened to date.

While the Village/Marketplace and West Side have always been free to enter, Pleasure Island required the purchase of admission and was closed during the day. Beginning in summer 2004, Pleasure Island became free to enter, and only those guests entering the nightclubs were charged for admission. For more information, see the main Pleasure Island article.

Hyperion Wharf[]

On November 18, 2010, Walt Disney World Resort announced a project named Hyperion Wharf, which is planned to replace the Pleasure Island complex. Pleasure Island will undergo extensive renovations and re-theming to transform into this early twentieth century wharf-themed entertainment area. New shopping and dining locations will also be added. In July 2011, it was announced that these plans have been delayed.

Restaurants[]

  • Fulton's Crab House
  • Paradiso 37
  • Portobello Restaurant
  • Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant
  • T-Rex Cafe

Shopping[]

West Side[]

The Downtown Disney West Side is home to many full service restaurants, large stores, and entertainment venues. On May 12, 2009, the Virgin Megastore closed permanently and was replaced by a Ridemakerz store.

Planet Hollywood opened on December 17, 1994. Jenny, the shrimping boat used in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, is located on the northwest corner of that restaurant.

Characters in Flight opened in Spring 2009 and features a giant tethered balloon that soars 400 feet, providing 360-degree views of the Walt Disney World Resort. It is operated by Aerophile and is very similar to PanoraMagique located at Disney Village at Disneyland Paris.

Expansion of the existing AMC Theatres Pleasure Island 24 venue opened with Downtown Disney West Side in 1997. In late 2010, renovations began which created theaters offering food service. The complex was renamed AMC Downtown Disney 24. In 1997, there were plans to open a Planet Movies by AMC entertainment complex at this location by combining the Planet Hollywood restaurant with a re-branded AMC megaplex. However, these plans were abandoned due to Planet Hollywood's continued financial problems.

Attractions[]

Restaurants[]

Shopping[]

  • Ridemakerz

Former Shopping[]

  • Virgin Megastore
  • Magic Masters
  • Magnetron
  • Planet Hollywood On Location
  • LittleMissMatched

Sources & External Links[]

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