Want to get a taste of Walt Disney World without plunking down the money to actually get into the park? Take a visit to Downtown Disney, an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex that can be found inside the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Downtown Disney is completely open to the public and requires no admission fees to enter, but it also comes complete with plenty of public transportation to the park gates, should you choose to start your journey at Downtown Disney and mosey over to Walt Disney World later in the day. The complex itself is divided into three parts: the Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and the West Side. The Marketplace hosts a variety of quick service shops, including names such as Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, T-Rex Café, and the ever-popular Rainforest Café. You can shop at the Lego Imagination Center, or perhaps the World of Disney.
Pleasure Island is a collection of nighttime entertainment and dance venues. However, the trials of the recent recession have hit Pleasure Island hard, and Disney has recently announced plans to remodel Pleasure Island and reopen it as Hyperion Wharf.
If you’re looking for larger sit-down restaurants and sprawling stores, hit up Downtown Disney’s West Side. Here you’ll find a 24-theater complex, the Virgin Megastore, Planet Hollywood, the Wolfgang Puck Café, and many other dining and shopping options to choose from. The West Side is also home to DisneyQuest, a five- floor “indoor theme park” which is sure to delight visitors of all ages and desires for excitement.