It has been several months since I have been to Downtown Disney, so it’s time to check in to see what is going on lately. After several trips in which I had to scream “Serenity Now!” while trying to find a parking spot, I realized what I needed to do in order to fix that problem: I rope-dropped Downtown Disney.
The only two places to park in front of Downtown Disney itself and these are the lot by the Marketplace and way down the other end by Cirque du Soleil. Even at 10 AM, the sign leading to the Marketplace lot said it was “full,” so we parked down by Cirque du Soleil. This lack of parking is caused by the two parking garages Downtown Disney is in the process of building. Many people are hoping for these to be done by the holiday season of this year, but guest services said it wouldn’t be until early 2015. There is also parking across the street in which you can take a Disney shuttle to Downtown Disney.
Not only has a lot of the former parking space been taken by the construction of the parking garages, but the closest spaces to Downtown Disney by Cirque du Soleil are reserved for valet parking. Valet is $20 and begins at 4 PM.
My first surprise of the day were these construction walls put up on the side of Disney Quest for Wetzel’s Pretzels and Haagen Daas ice cream. These two venues were formerly at the spot closer to the Characters In Flight hot air balloon, and that area is going to be converted into a Starbucks. I would think this spot would be a challenge to succeed in, but there is the Pop Gallery that is a similar out-of-the-way spot between AMC theaters and Splitsville that has been there for years.
There are four food trucks at Downtown Disney, each one representing one of the four WDW theme parks. Between the Cirque du Soliel tent and the House of Blues is the Namaste Cafe truck, featuring selections found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The truck is very colorful and has artwork all around it representing features of Animal Kingdom.
Not far way, near Wolfgang Puck, was the World Showcase of Flavors food truck, featuring options from Epcot. I have seen this truck before, and the last time it had artwork featuring the Food & Wine Festival, but this time it has artwork promoting the Flower & Garden Festival. That’s a nice touch. Several options from the Flower & Garden outdoor kitchens are featured, including the Piggylicious cupcake.
After this we came to the point of where construction walls seem to go on forever. Starting just past Bongo’s Cuban Cafe and ending at the Characters in Flight balloon are these walls, covering up what will be an upcoming Food Truck Park and one of the new Starbucks.
The Bridge to Pleasure Island was closed off, routing people to the new walkway next to the water.
The walkway is filled with quotes from Walt Disney and concept art for Disney Springs.
I looked closely at one of the pieces of concept art, and something struck me in the bottom left of the picture. There were cars in the water. EDIT: According to a poster in the comments section, this car/boats already exists on property. Will try and get pictures on my next trip. If you have a picture, please send it to email@example.com This I need to see.
The walls just kept going and going.
You can see the World of Disney store beyond these walls.
Behind these walls is the building where BabyCakes NYC and Pollo Campero used to be. The structure is completely gone.
I wanted to see what was up with the fish tank in T-REX that sprung a leak last month, and we decided to have lunch while we were there. The tank is still not repaired, and even has a scrim around it.
We had an 18 month old with us, so we asked not to be seated near any moving dinosaurs. We sat in the ice room. Of course, this had a dramatic impact on the quality of pictures, so we’ll just go over a couple highlights. The draft beer was served in these nice sized goblets that keep the beer really cold. In fact, it was served with almost a layer of ice on top.
We ended the meal with the Chocolate Extinction – a gigantic portion of chocolate fudge cake served with ice cream, creamy whipped topping drizzled with fudge, and caramel sauces and sprinkled with Butterfinger crumbs. I was sold on the Butterfinger crumbs. I think I’d even order a side of steamed broccoli if it were “sprinkled with Butterfinger crumbs.” The dessert also came with a cup of dry ice spilling “smoke,” which made for a neat effect. This was fantastic.
Our party had four adults and one child. Two of us had alcohol, and the other two had water. With two apps and four entries, the total was over $135. While pricey, I think the “wow” factor of T-REX is enough for families who haven’t been before, especially with young children.
The next stop was World of Disney, and outside the front was construction for the second Starbucks that is coming to Downtown Disney. This one actually baffles me. Putting a Starbucks in front of an already congested store is just asking for trouble. I imagine during busier times they are going to have to build another Starbucks in front of this one for people who need a coffee while waiting in line for their coffee.
One of the things I do for the TouringPlans blog is a monthly Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store. Back in January I saw the line of “stylized” princess shirts were already at the outlets, having made their debut at the parks in late 2013. A similar style of art is on a bunch of new shirts featuring the princesses and their significant others, although the girls are now more cartoony and less “adult” looking. Each shirt was $27.95.
I might be alone on the island, but I’m not a huge fan of these Epcot Spaceship Earth and Animal Kingdom Tree of Life mugs.
This Sophia the First t-shirt combo for a girl and her doll is a great idea. It was $19.95
Outside World of Disney was the Fantasy Fare food truck, featuring offerings from the Magic Kingdom, including “hand dipped corn dogs.”
Each food truck had a very small area with a couple tables for guests to eat on.
A reader of the TouringPlans twitter account (@TouringPlans) asked about the Happy Hound kiosk. This is a small area dedicated to pet products, and – as far as I can tell – not a single one was related to Disney. With the amount of dog characters in the Disney library, this is a huge wasted potential.
I made a quick store to Guest Services to ask a couple questions and buy some Disney Dollars. Here are the designs available currently. One of the questions I asked Guest Services was when the Marketplace Co-op would be opening (the store replacing Team Mickey), but the only answer they had was, “this summer.” That is one place I’m really looking forward to after seeing the Disney Parks Blog showed some pictures of upcoming merchandise.
Then I went over to Once Upon a Toy, and a whole bunch of new Precious Moments dolls have been added to the mix, including special “Easter” ones with the characters wearing purple, and Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa.
I can definitely see the charm in these.
I took a picture of these Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom action figure for two reasons. One, it’s for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and of all the movies why would you have figures from that? But two, it comes with a small Indiana Jones voodoo doll!
Near Earl of Sandwich there was a nice photo op promoting the Flower & Garden Festival with Mickey and Minnie topiaries.
There’s a small water area nearby that always attracts a lot of kids. I’ve been by here countless times over the years, and never noticed that the water is coming out of “hidden Mickeys.”
Another Touring Plans reader asked about an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit ornament at the Disney’s Days of Christmas Store. Here it is. $17.95
Before leaving for the day, we wanted to get a drink, so we stopped at the Lava Lounge at the Rainforest Cafe.
This was under construction for a while, and I’m not sure why they didn’t wait if there was going to be so much construction blocking the view. There was nobody there in the middle of the afternoon.
We definitely wanted a drink by the water side, but didn’t want to just stare at a crane, so we headed over to the Margarita Bar, which had some live music playing. We got a Patrón Añejo Margarita and a Bud Light draft beer.
As for the Downtown Disney “Experience” itself, I’m not exactly sure what to tell people. This is the worst place on property to find parking, and keep in mind WDW has Disney’s Hollywood Studios parking on Star Wars Weekends, so imagine what that is saying. There are several decent restaurants to have a meal or drink at (I’m a fan of the House of Blues), T-REX is a spectacle, Splittsville is a lot of fun, Cirque du Soleil is amazing, the Dine-In theater at AMC is one of my favorite places to watch a movie, World of Disney has a ton of great merchandise, and there are several fun things for kids to do (including a small train and carousel).
The amount of construction walls is overwhelming, though, and many people have told me that this is what Disney’s California Adventure was like when they were building Cars Land and redoing the front entrance. I have high hopes for the upcoming Disney Springs, and if we get something even close to what the concept art teased, no one is going to remember this hiccup in the road.