Downtown Disney used to be called the Disney Village and today it consists of three separate areas, namely West Side, Pleasure Island (currently being redeveloped) and the Downtown Disney Marketplace stretching along the shores of Lake Buena Vista.
In March 2013, Disney announced a major upgrade to the whole area under the new name of Disney Springs.
Downtown Disney provides day and night-time entertainment and is similar in concept to Universal Citywalk offering shopping, eating, nightclubs and live music.
The clubs on Pleasure Island are currently closed and it is currently being redeveloped as part of the Disney Springs project
Parking is free at Downtown Disney and generally admission is free to the West Side and Marketplace (unless stated otherwise).
West Side is home to the Cirque du Soleil® show La Nouba™ as well as the DisneyQuest® Indoor Interactive Theme Park, AMC® Pleasure Island 24 Theatres Complex, House of Blues® concert hall and lots of other shops and restaurants.
The massive Virgin Megastore closed on May 31, 2009 and has now been replaced by Splitsville, a 50,000 square foot upscale entertainment centre combining ten-pin bowling with billiards, dining, music and nightlife.
There are separate admission charges for the Cirque du Soleil®, DisneyQuest®, AMC® and House of Blues®. However, entry to DisneyQuest® is free if you have an Ultimate Park Hopper or Premium Annual Pass Holder ticket.
One of the latest attractions to open on the West Side is Characters In Flight, a tethered balloon ride that takes you 400 feet up in the air over the waterfront giving you unparalleled views of the surrounding area.
The balloon is decorated with some of Disney’s flying characters and can carry up to 30 guests (including the pilot) at a time.
Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pleasure Island used to open at 7p.m. every evening and was the ultimate party place with 8 nightclubs each with their own theme ranging from 1970’s disco though country and western, jazz and top 40 music. Under 18 year olds had to be accompanied by a person 21 years of age or older who has an acceptable form of identification.
You had to pay a separate admission fee to get into Pleasure Island unless you had an Ultimate Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus ticket.
The clubs included the Adventurers Club, Comedy Warehouse, Mannequin Dance Palace, Club Motion, Rock ‘n’ Roll Beach Club, 8 Trax Disco, BET Soundstage Club and Pleasure Island Jazz Club. You needed to be 18 to gain entry to most of the clubs except for Mannequins Dance Palace and BET SoundsStage Club Thursday through Saturday when you needed to be at least 21.
At midnight every night there was a New York style street party with countdown and fireworks.
The Downtown Disney Marketplace is a collection of shops and restaurants including the World Of Disney (largest Disney merchandise store on the planet), the Lego Imagination Center, Tren-D and Disney’s Days of Christmas.
Eating in Downtown Disney
Amongst the restaurants in Downtown Disney Marketplace is the Rainforest Café, Fultons Crab House which is in a replica of a paddleboat and Wolfgang Puck’s Express.
You are spoilt for choice at West Side where there is a Planet Hollywood, the Cuban/Latin Bongo’s Cafe, the gourmet Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe and the southern style House of Blues.