Walt Disney World - Downtown, Orlando
I've only been to WDW once before (although we went to Disneyland when we lived in California) and that was in 2000 when my mom had a family reunion there. I wanted to go to Epcot, but they raised the price to $90 each for a single day, and since we were only going to be there a couple of hours, I opted to just go to Downtown Disney (which is free). We had tickets to Cirque de Soleil.
I didn't realize that there were two stops at Downtown Disney until we got to the first stop, so we got off at the second stop and made our way down to the Cirque de Soleil building. I had been told to get there at 4:45 so as to be in line for the 5:30 opening but I misunderstood and thought I was to go up the elevator at 4:45 and all that was meant was to get in line. So we went off and went through a few stores and looked around. I tried to explain who the Blues Brothers were - I knew John Belushi was one of them, but it was difficult for me to do as I've never seen the movie.
I thought the venue was interesting although the attractions were somewhat overpriced - we didn't do anything except stroll along the street. We did go to BabyCakes NYC™ the bakery that had gluten free products and buy some of them.
A fun evening can be had in the recently opened Splitsville, which is in Downtown Disney. Splitsville is 2 floor, upscale bowling center / restaurant area / bar area with tons of TV monitors and free wifi. It's next to the movie theater so the whole family can go together in the car and also do their own thing...
Each lane can accommodate a group because there is a small table with bench and seats. Bowling pricing is per person and depending the size of the group can last from 1 hr to 1 hr 45 minutes. Smaller kids can also join in on the fun because there is a bowling ramp you can put the ball on and the kids can just push it off into the lane. Music is blasted throughout so you can groove as well...
It's about the only place to cool off indoors and avoid the heat without feeling crowded like the people shopping in the stores in Downtown Disney.
When in Downtown Disney, make it a point to stop by the Ghirardelli store. To the right of the main Ghirardelli entryway where you order ice cream, there is a smaller entrance where they sell chocolate. As you enter, a cast member with a basket greets you with a sample square of Ghirardelli's.
At the end of the trip, we caught the boat from Port Orleans to downtown. While the main purpose was to have dinner at Raglan Road, we also wanted to get our shopping done.
Downtown is not full of attractions, rather this is an area focused on shopping and dining. There are a number of dining choices here (please check out my reviews for Raglan Road.) There are also several chain restaurants (Earl of Sandwich, House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, etc.)
You'll also find an AMC Theater, Cirque du Soleil show, and Disney Quest.
There is also plenty of shopping here. A LEGO store, toy store, sporting good store, Christmas store, candy stores, etc. The centerpiece of Downtown is the World of Disney gift store. This place is massive, and has anything and everything you could imagine under the sun with the Disney theme. For the most part, I would avoid spending time souvenir shopping at the parks, and just concentrate on doing it here - no fuss, no muss :)
It also should be pointed out that if you do not have any admission or parking fees to visit Downtown Disney, so if you're just in town and need Disney themed stuff, stop on by.
Downtown Disney is one of the rare Disney attractions with free parking and free admittance. Downtown Disney includes the Marketplace, Pleasure Island and the West Side. Downtown Disney opened in in 1975 as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, and slowly evolved over the years to its present state. The Marketplace features the Lego Imagination Center along with several small shops and fast food restaurants. Pleasure Island began in 1989 as an area of adult dance clubs and comedy venues, but these clubs closed in 2008 and have been replaced by a few shops and restaurants such as Fulton's Crab House. West Side offers Cirque du Soleil, a movie theater, DisneyQuest, and numerous restaurants such as the Wolfgang Puck Cafe.
Downtown Disney is a commercial center with lots of shops, restaurants and entertainments.
It's a good place to go to walk and watch without spending too much money if you don't want. I do know that it's not easy but just try it...
Downtown Disney has three areas:
Marketplace: it includes places like Rainforest Cafe, LEGO Imagination Center, World of Disney, Once Upon A Toy, Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, Fulton's Crab House, Cap'n Jack's Marina, Earl of Sandwich plus another shops.
Pleasure Island is mainly a nightly entertainment complex, with 7 dance places like 1930s Explorer's Club, The Comedy Warehouse, 8TRAX, The Rock 'n Roll Beach Club, BET, Motion, y Mannequins Dance Palace.
In West Side there are luxury restaurants, big malls and entertainment areas, including Virgen Megastore, Cirque du Soleil - la Nouba, the House of Blues, DisneyQuest, Planet Hollywood, the Wolfgang Puck Cafè, Bongos Cuban Cafè.
IF you have a chance check out Downtown Disney. Its a shopping and dinning experience. The good news, it's free to park and there are tons of things to do. If you don't want to spend money..look around its a great way to check out shops and get yourself prepped for your Disney Experience. Look at the times because part of Downtown Disney closes later than the other side. If you have a tight schedule this might help you take advantage of extra hours.
For a night out for the adults, try stolling along the streets of Downtown Disney. A couple of restaurants, shops, and a huge AMC theatre. I saw Episode III of the Star Wars saga. After, we had a cool one at the Blues restaurant.
There's a movie theater, cirque de soleil (never seen it, hear it's weird), Disney Quest (for people who like arcades), access to Pleasure Island, and of course, multiple ways of transporation to various other Disney sites.
Disneyworld (Magic Kingdom)
International Drive (shopping)
Fun, Fun, Fun - though lines can be a bit long.