Many people do not realize that aside from the four major theme parks (MagicKingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) there are also two Disney water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and BlizzardBeach) as well as an area called Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney is 120 acres in size and contains 45 shops, 28 restaurants and plenty of unique entertainment opportunities for guests. There is no admission cost and parking is free. If you are staying at a Disney resort then you are able to go to Disney Downtown by utilizing one of the free shuttle buses. In addition, if you are staying at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort you can take a free boat-ride to Downtown Disney – very cool!
If you are headed downtown and have children do yourself a favor and bring a stroller. The downtown area is spread out over 120 acres and can be very congested at times (particularly Friday and Saturday night). You are better off to have a stroller and not need it then to need a stroller and not have it.
There is so much to do at Downtown Disney so, especially if you are a first timer, don’t expect to see/do everything in one night. You should take some time to look over all the choices ahead of time and pick and choose your ‘must see’ list. There are numerous sites that will give you a rundown on which shops/restaurants are available downtown:
Three attractions that we would highly recommend and are on our ‘must see’ list are:
T-Rex Café / Restaurant – This is a newer downtown attraction that resembles a Rainforest Café theme but with dinosaurs. My son LOVES dinosaurs so we eat here at least once during our vacations. It offers several different seating areas each with their own unique theme. The food is good and reasonably priced.
Tip – The restaurant can be LOUD with lots of animatronic dinosaurs and a virtual meteor shower occurring every 15 minutes. Some children may find this scary or it may just be too much stimulation for some people.
Tip – The restaurant has a gift shop that can be accessed even if you are not eating there. This includes a themed sandpit area for kids to play in.
Tip – Given the noise and stimulation we have found that our kids will not eat much while dining here. This is not uncommon for themed restaurants as the kids are just too distracted to focus on eating. We have found that just getting an appetizer sampler and then dessert allows us to have fun but not waste money on food that will be thrown out.
Cirque Du Soleil – La Nouba – Located in the far west side of downtown this is a show not to be missed. It blends together incredible acts, comedy and live music. This show is a bit on a pricey side with a ticket cost ranging from $62-144 per person. We would not recommend this for small children as they will not likely be entertained – reserve this for an adult night out!
Tip – The arena is relatively small and there is not a bad seat in the house. Being ‘too close’ to the action may take away from the show. Sections C&B seem to be pretty popular. We try to get seats in rows AA,BB or CC as these are smaller rows (only 4-5 people) and you won’t have people climbing all over you during the show.
Tip – Buy your tickets in advance (up to 6 months). This will provide the best selection of seating and ensure you get tickets as this show does sell out during peak times/seasons.
More information as well as video from the show can be found below:
Disney Quest – This is a 5 story 100,000 square foot attraction filled with cutting edge technology gaming exhibits mixed with the best concepts from Disney. There are hundreds of video games (simulators) to choose from and no tokens to buy (except for a few exceptions). You pay an admission fee and can play all day.
Tip – Go early, this attraction can get very crowded at times especially if it is raining out and people are looking for something to do inside.
In closing the Downtown Disney area offers lots to do and see. It can be a cheap day out as there is no admission fee or parking fees. There is always some special event being held and you never know what/who you will run into.
Tip – If you have children bring a change of cloths. There are water fountains near the east side (marketplace) section that are just too tempting (especially if it is hot).
Tip – There is a large Disney store in the middle of Downtown Disney. The prices are VERY high. If you are on a budget then this is not the place to pick up your Disney souvenirs. Instead, head to the local Target or Walmart which have very large Disney merchandise areas that will make your kids just as happy!