The search for discounts is just across the freeway
Friday, October 10, 2003
Text and photos by Sue Holland , staff writer
Shopping for souvenirs can break many a vacation budget, particularly
at a location like Walt Disney World where the merchandise is high quality
and fairly expensive.
Many of the attractions exit into a gift shop, which certainly is not
accidental. Every theme park and resort is a shopper's paradise, and the
Downtown Disney Marketplace is all shops and restaurants. It's little
wonder many visitors bring an extra suitcase or end up buying one before
the trip home in order to transport all those newly acquired Disney shirts
There is an alternative, however, to paying Disney prices for their merchandise
without having to settle for poor-quality imitations. Disney has a few
stores in the Orlando area that feature merchandise from the parks and
resorts at big discounts.
The Belz Outlet Mall is home to two of these stores: Character Premiere
and Character Warehouse. Both contain mostly the same items, but the location
is less than ideal. Without a car it can be an expensive journey, and
even with a car the traffic routinely found on Interstate 4 can cost a
person too much precious vacation time. Thankfully, there is a better
Located very close to Downtown Disney, but on the other side of I-4,
is a fairly new, upscale shopping center called Orlando Premium Outlets.
It can be seen from the highway, and can also be accessed from International
Drive. With slightly more than 100 shops of varying sizes, several of
which are big-name designers not found in many places, Orlando Premium
Outlets is also home to a Character Premiere store.
Character Premiere Ð source for deeply discounted Disney merchandise.
The merchandise will be mostly the same as what would be found further
away at Belz, and will vary by season. Following any special event such
as the WDW Marathon or Grad Night, leftover merchandise will be marked
at 50 percent off and brought to this location. Likewise, anything datedsuch
as 2003 itemswill be found at half price in early 2004.
There are also many items that are generic enough that a shopper cannot
tell why something has been marked down. This merchandise is all the same
high-quality items previously sold in the parks and resorts, but buying
it here will save a significant amount of money.
When shopping at Character Premiere, it is necessary to pay attention
to the price tags. While most merchandise starts at 50 percent off (and
goes lower), there are a handful of items that sell at full price. This
includes food items, pins and CDs. It's rare to find a shirt or other
item selling at full price in the parks and also at half-off at Character
Premiere, but it has been known to happen.
Inside Character Premiere.
While Character Premiere is obviously the major attraction for visitors
coming from Walt Disney World, the other shops at Orlando Premium Outlets
are nice enough to be worth checking out after you've done your Disney
shopping. Everything is very attractive, and if your favorite designer
happens to be located here you can save some money.
Interior pathways are pleasant and attractive.
Orlando Premium Outlets are located at 8200 Vineland Avenue and are just
beyond the large church. Coming from Walt Disney World, drive through
Downtown Disney past the seven non-Disney hotels on Hotel Plaza and turn
right onto Route 535 at Crossroads. At the first light after passing under
I-4, turn left onto Vineland Avenue at Little Lake Bryan, and the outlets
are just one mile down that road on your right. Directions from other
locations are on the Premium Outlets Web site (link).
Stores here are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Sunday
and until 10 p.m. the other six days. Stroller rentals are available,
as are wheelchairs. Maps can be obtained from guest services or can be
printed in advance from the Web site. Most of the stores are fairly small,
but eight to 10 are larger and serve as anchors in the prime locations.
Food court located in the center of the outlet mall.
The food court is not terribly large but seems to handle the number of
customers pretty well. There's the usual assortment of pizza, Asian food,
Subway, ice cream, candy, smoothies and even a Starbucks. Outside the
food court are separate shops for Auntie Anne's and Mrs. Fields/TCBY.
There are tables located outside of the food court building, but the majority
is located indoors where the air conditioning keeps everyone more comfortable.
Universal Studios has an outlet store as well.
Visitors to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure will also find
an outlet store located here. In fact, it's directly across from Character
Premiere. Just like at Disney's outlet, merchandise in general is half-price.
It's definitely worth checking out before spending too much money at the
actual theme parks.
People not interested in theme park merchandise will find more than enough
stores to make the trip worthwhile. Among the larger stores are Reebok,
Adidas, Banana Republic, Barney's of New York, Bass, Mikasa, Nike, Timberland
and Ralph Lauren Polo. These can all be seen from the parking lot, so
if you plan to only visit one of these stores simply drive around until
you see it and park in that area.
Timberland outlet store.
I definitely recommend making a trip to Premium Outlets for the Character
Premiere, if nothing else. The savings can be significant and the cost
in terms of time spent can be minimal. As an added feature, a relatively
new Publix (grocery store) is located across the parking lot from the
backside of Premium Outlets. This is a great place to pick any bottled
water or snack items you might want to keep in your resort room.
Map of Premium Outlets.
The above photograph was taken to show the layout of the mall. Printed
copies with a list of all the stores are available there, and there are
large directories located at most intersections.
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since
her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning
more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in
1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at
the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but
she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly,
and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head
for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children
and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers.
Read her trip report archive here.
You can contact Sue here.
Get the latest info about the resort at Park
Update: Walt Disney World.