Everything BUT the Parks

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Everything but the Parks
All you can do without visiting the theme parks
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Sue Holland
Shop 'Til You Drop - Downtown Disney Marketplace

Downtown Disney beckons the WDW visitor... and their pocketbooks!
Downtown Disney beckons the WDW visitor... and their pocketbooks!

Opportunities to buy merchandise abound at every turn at Walt Disney World. The theme parks are full of shops both small and large, and each resort has its own gift shop as well. As if that weren't enough, there is a section of the resort devoted almost exclusively to shopping - the Marketplace in Downtown Disney. Accessible by personal vehicle or Disney bus from any Disney resort, the Marketplace has seen shops come and go over the years, but it remains a popular shopping destination.

While most of the shops are Disney-related, you can also to buy resort wear, crystal, toys, and teen attire that have nothing to do with Disney at all.

The World of Disney Store
The World of Disney Store

The centerpiece of the Marketplace is the huge World of Disney store with over 55,000 square feet of Disney merchandise! Although broken up into several smaller rooms to help organize things, you can very easily get lost in here. If it always feels like the most crowded store, it's probably because it is! From infant wear to jewelry, sleepwear to computer accessories - if Disney makes it, it is probably for sale here. When visiting, be sure to look up at the ceiling to see the many displays in the center of the store.

The Days of Christmas Store
The Days of Christmas Store

Holiday music and the fragrance of cinnamon always waft through the large Christmas shop, which sells Christmas ornaments, as well as a large selection of ornaments by Christopher Radko. Here shoppers find Christmas village pieces, as well as tree skirts, stockings, and Christmas cards. For an additional fee, you can have many of the ornaments personalized. As it gets near the holiday season, make sure to get this ordered early in your trip to ensure it will be done before you leave for home.

Sports enthusiasts will enjoy Team Mickey Athletic Club. In addition to a selection of Disney-themed sports attire (mostly golf) and equipment, there are many non-Disney choices as well. Winnie the Pooh fans also have their own store, Pooh Corner. A fairly small shop, this is a great place to find Pooh merchandise. Right next door is Disney At Home, where you find all sorts of Disney items for the bedroom and bathroom.

The Lego Imagination Center
The Lego Imagination Center

Popular with kids and worth a visit from adults as well, the Lego Imagination Center is incredible. Although you can purchase Lego products at lower prices at home, the department stores do not have the wonderful Lego creations on display here. A Lego man sits on a bench outside, and he is snoring! It makes for a great picture spot.

The Lego-Built Dinosaurs on Display at the Lego Imagination Center
The Lego-Built Dinosaurs on Display at the Lego Imagination Center

There is also a Lego dragon in the lake, and a family of dinosaurs on the rocks at the edge of the lake. Directly in front of the store is an alien spaceship, and a Lego mom taking a picture of her baby in the Lego stroller. It is all worth a peek!

The Lego Imagination Center's Play Area
The Lego Imagination Center's Play Area

Lego has set up a play area for kids next to the store, with stations where kids can play with Legos, a slide, and an area where they can race cars they build. Adults can play with their children, or sit and rest while they keep an eye on them.

Downtown Disney's Carousel
Downtown Disney's Carousel

Other activities at the Marketplace include boat rentals at the marina. Water Mouse boats are small two-seater speed boats that can be rented for about $20 per half hour. The minimum age to drive is 14, and the driver must be at least 5 feet tall. There is also a small carousel and a train, which young children can ride with the purchase of a ticket. The train is similar to what you would see at your local shopping mall, but kids seem to love it!

Boat Rentals are Available (Photo by Brian Bennett)
Boat Rentals are Available (Photo by Brian Bennett)

In addition to the shops and stores, there are several places to grab snacks or to enjoy a full-service meal in the Marketplace.  The most noticeable is probably Fulton's Crab House, a white riverboat permanently positioned in the lake. This is a full service restaurant and bar, featuring seafood.

Fulton's Crab House
Fulton's Crab House

Other options include the outdoor margarita bar at the edge of the lake and Wolfgang Puck's Express -- where guests can enjoy carry-out versions of the popular California Chef's gourmet pizzas and other dishes.  For lighter appetites, the Gourmet Pantry is a popular shop, featuring kitchen/cooking items, a bakery, candy counter, wines, sandwiches, and some grocery items. With tables set up outside, people can grab a light meal and enjoy the fresh air.

The Rainforest Cafe's Volcano
The Rainforest Cafe's Volcano

The Rainforest Cafe, directly across the lake is the other big restaurant which is hard to miss because of its volcano.  This restaurant is very popular. Portions are huge here, and the menu is the same as at every other non-Walt Disney World Rainforest Cafe location. If you do not have a Rainforest Cafe near your home, it is probably worth a visit. Some people have reported disappointing food and slow service, but we have eaten here several times and it has always been excellent.

Ghirardelli -- an Ice Cream and Confection Paradise!
Ghirardelli -- an Ice Cream and Confection Paradise!

Ghiradelli is a fairly recent addition, with half the building being an ice cream parlor and the other half a candy store. It is not uncommon to find an employee passing out samples of candy, and they carry a wide variety of delicious chocolate! People there for ice cream order inside, and their sundaes are brought to them at their table outside.

McDonald's was another addition during the last major renovation, and seems to be doing a brisk business. While I was not pleased to see the intrusion of a fast food chain restaurant here, we did get my son food here recently and found they carry some items not on the McDonald's menu back home, including a pizza that was actually quite good. The restaurant is large and rather noisy - not a place to go to relax, but it is usually so busy there must be lots of people who want it here!

Downtown Disney's McDonald's Restaurant
Downtown Disney's McDonald's Restaurant

Parking at the Marketplace can be difficult, and during busy seasons it can be nearly impossible. If you are staying at a Disney resort, I recommend using Disney transportation. Buses leaving here stop next at Pleasure Island, then Typhoon Lagoon (when open) before returning to your resort, but at least you avoid circling the parking lot searching in vain for a parking spot!

Crowds can be heavy on weekends, when some locals are added to the mix. Mornings are the least crowded time, since most people are at the theme parks then. The shops are generally open from 10:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., with extended hours on occasion during busy seasons. Whether you go for a few hours or a shorter visit, browsing through the shops and doing some people watching can be a relaxing break from the theme parks.


If you'd like to write Sue you can reach her at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com


CREDITS:

Photos on this page, unless otherwise noted, by Sue Holland

LINKS, OTHER CONTENT:

Here are some pages from MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide that give some more details on Downtown Disney Pleasure Island  |  Marketplace  |  West SidePlus, if you like shopping and dining, you may enjoy a visit to Disney's Boardwalk.

If you missed them, here is a list of all of Sue's trip Reports that are archived here on MousePlanet!


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