- Downtown Disney (Walt Disney World Resort)
Downtown Disney Location Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Florida, U.S.A. Theme Outdoor Entertainment Area Website Downtown Disney Homepage Owner The Walt Disney Company Operated By Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Opened March 22, 1975 Walt Disney World Resort Theme parks Other attractions Walt Disney World resorts
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, Disney Quest, the House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, the Lego Imagination Center, World of Disney, AMC Pleasure Island 24, and Rainforest Cafe.
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-MGM 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 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 EuroDisney (now 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.
The Empress Lilly
The Empress Lilly is static replica paddle steamer riverboat on Village Lake. It is 220 feet long and 62 feet wide. The "boat" is actually a boat-shaped building with a submerged concrete foundation. Built for the Walt Disney World Resort in 1976, it contained three restaurants and a jazz lounge. It greeted guests for the first time on May 1, 1977, when it was christened by Lillian Disney, Walt Disney's widow for whom the ship is named.
The Empress Lilly was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering to be as true to the eye as possible. The gingerbread scrollwork and stained glass detailing gave the ship an authentic feeling, which hearken back to the days of Mark Twain's Mississippi River. The paddle wheel at the aft end of the boat constantly churned, though the ship never moved. The Empress Lilly was one of the first locations of the now famous Disney Character Breakfasts.
In the mid 1990s, Disney began to engage outside operating partners to take over many of its restaurants. As a cost-cutting move, it was decided that the Empress Lilly would come under new management. Levy Restaurants signed a contract to operate the ship for 20 years. On April 22, 1995, the Empress Lilly served her last meals. The restaurant was closed, all interiors were ripped out, and a new décor for a single restaurant was put in place. In addition, the old smoke stacks and paddle wheel, which gave the Lilly some added authenticity, were removed due to rust and rot. They were not replaced. The restaurant reopened as Fulton's Crab House on March 10, 1996.
- Baton Rouge Lounge was located forward on the main deck. Here, patrons could relax at the bar and enjoy the musical sounds of the Riverboat Rascals. Many of these musicians played in the Baton Rouge for years and became local legends. Some of the musicians who played with the Riverboat Rascals include Fast Eddie Erickson, Dave Tobiasen, Tom Bucci, Denny Zavett, Ralf Reynolds, Mike Gentry, Randy Morris, Dan Riley, John Charles and Bill Dendle.
- Steerman's Quarters was located in the aft section of the main deck. It specialized in certified Angus beef entrees. The décor featured nostalgic imagery of America's western cattle. In the aft end of the room, giant windows revealed the nearby churning paddle wheel.
- Fisherman's Deck was located forward on the promenade deck. As its name implies, this was a seafood restaurant.
- Empress Room was located aft on the promenade deck. This was a formal dining establishment which required reservations in advance. The room was extravagantly decorated, with gold trimmed walls and Rococo (Louis XIV) style flourishes. Hungarian chef Garry Reich developed the original menu to cater to upscale tastes.
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.
- Earl of Sandwich
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop
- Pollo Campero
- Rainforest Cafe
- T-Rex Cafe
- Cap'n Jack's Marina
- Disney's Pin Traders
- Goofy's Candy Company
- Lego Imagination Center
- Once Upon A Toy
- Team Mickey
- Tren-D (The Dooney and Bourke hub of the Walt Disney World Resort.)
- World of Disney
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.
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.
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.
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.
- AMC Downtown Disney 24
- Characters in Flight
- Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba
- Disney Quest Indoor Interactive Theme Park
- Other various shops.
- Virgin Megastore
- Magic Masters
- Planet Hollywood On location
- Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort
- Disney Village at Disneyland Paris
- Ikspiari at Tokyo Disney Resort
- Disney's Downtown Disney web site
- Fultons Crab House
- Earl of Sandwich
- Aerophile.com Characters in Flight live webcam
- Downtown Disney travel guide from Wikitravel
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Disneyland Resort Walt Disney World Resort Tokyo Disney Resort Disneyland Paris Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Shanghai Disney ResortShanghai Disneyland Park Disney Cruise Line Other The Walt Disney Company · Walt Disney Imagineering · Walt Disney Creative Entertainment Walt Disney World Resort Theme ParksFeatures Water ParksFormer Water Parks AttractionsFormer Attractions Resorts and Residential AreasEpcot Resort AreaAnimal Kingdom Resort AreaNever-built Disney Resorts Transportation Events and FestivitiesWalt Disney World ResortMagic Kingdom Celebrations and CampaignsMillennium Celebration · 100 Years of Magic Celebration · Where Magic Lives · Happiest Celebration on Earth · Year of a Million Dreams · What Will You Celebrate? · Give a Day, Get a Disney Day · Summer Nightastic! · Let the Memories Begin Notable PeopleHistorical LeadersModern Leaders Development and Management Shopping malls in Greater Orlando Conventional, enclosed Lifestyle centers, open-air mallsBaldwin Park Village Center · Celebration Town Center · Church Street Station · Dellagio Town Center · Downtown Disney · The Fountains at Bay Hill · Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores · The Loop · The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips · Orlando Premium Outlets · Old Town · Pointe Orlando · Plaza Venezia · Premiere Trade Plaza · Prime Outlets - Orlando · Rialto · The Waterfront at SeaWorld · SoDo · The Square · Universal CityWalk · Uptown Altamonte · Water Tower Place · Waterford Lakes Town Center · Winter Garden Village at Fowler Groves · Winter Park Village · Winter Springs Town Center DefunctColonial Plaza · Winter Park Mall
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