Downtown Disney (Walt Disney World)
||This article contains content that is written like an advertisement. (February 2014)|
|Location||Walt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, U.S.|
|Theme||Outdoor entertainment complex|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company|
|Operated by||Walt Disney Parks and Resorts|
|Opened||March 22, 1975|
|Walt Disney World|
Downtown Disney, originally the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, is an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando, Florida opened on March 22, 1975. It is open to the public, requires no admission fee, and offers complimentary parking and transportation to all Disney-operated Walt Disney World resorts.
Notable tenants include Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, Disney Quest, the House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, the Lego Imagination Center, World of Disney, The Art of Disney, AMC Downtown Disney 24 with Dine-In Theatres, and Rainforest Cafe.
Construction began in April 2013 on Disney Springs, a complete remake of the section, which will be completed by 2016.
The Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opened on March 22, 1975, as a shopping complex intended to serve the planned residences within the Walt Disney World property. As the residential units evolved into more resort hotel space, the complex became more focused as a shopping destination for all Walt Disney World visitors, and was renamed Walt Disney World Village in 1977. With the advent of new management under Michael Eisner in 1984, Disney began looking for ways to keep vacationers on Walt Disney World property longer, and entice them with offerings to prevent them from leaving for entertainment beyond Disney's borders.
To compete with the popular Church Street Station clubs in downtown Orlando, the addition of Pleasure Island was announced on July 21, 1986, featuring adult nightclubs showcasing Disney's quality and creativity. Construction began the following August and was opened on May 1, 1989, the same day as the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. Later that year, the complex was renamed as the Disney Village Marketplace.
In the mid-1990s, the growth of Walt Disney World created the potential for further expansion. On June 20, 1995, major enhancements and expansions were announced for the area, with the Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island being combined into a newly branded district named Downtown Disney. The re-branding was introduced on September 7, 1997. On September 15, Downtown Disney West Side opened as a third shopping, dining, and entertainment area featuring more eclectic venues such as La Nouba (a permanent show which is part of Cirque du Soleil), DisneyQuest, and Tower Records (later a Virgin Megastore). Major changes to the complex also included the conversion of Mickey's Character Shop into the World of Disney, becoming the world's largest Disney store, in addition to the expansion and upgrade of the AMC Pleasure Island Theatres.
Downtown Disney gained a sister district on January 12, 2001, with the addition of Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort. Similar complexes also exist, such as Disney Village, which opened on April 12, 1992 at Disneyland Resort Paris, and Ikspiari, which opened on July 7, 2000, at the Tokyo Disney Resort. A fifth version is expected to open at Hong Kong Disneyland. On September 27, 2008, the Pleasure Island nightclubs closed to make room for new shopping and dining offerings.
On March 14, 2013, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs announced that Downtown Disney would be revitalized as Disney Springs, a revitalized dining-retail-entertainment district inspired by Florida's waterfront towns. The expansion project will include 150 new tenants and the construction of two parking structures. The Disney Springs will expand twice in size with Team Mickey and similar stores will grow with more merchandise. Popular stores like American Girl and Dior have been rumored to be placing locations at Disney Springs. 
The Empress Lilly
The structure originally known as the The Empress Lilly is a static full-size replica of a paddle steamer riverboat on Village Lake. It is 220 feet long and 62 feet wide. Though it resembles a boat, it is actually a boat-shaped building on a submerged concrete foundation.
The Empress Lilly was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering to look as authentic as possible. The gingerbread scrollwork and stained-glass detailing hearkened back to the days of Mark Twain's Mississippi River. The paddlewheel at the aft end constantly churned, though the ship never moved. It greeted guests for the first time on May 1, 1976, when it was christened by Walt Disney's widow, Lillian Disney, for whom it was named. It originally housed four separate entertainment and dining areas:
- The Baton Rouge Lounge, located forward on the main deck. Here patrons could relax at the bar and enjoy the music and comedy of the Riverboat Rascals. Many of these musicians played in the Baton Rouge for years and became local legends. Some of them included "Fast Eddie" Erickson, Dave Tobiasen, Tom Bucci, Denny Zavett, Ralf Reynolds, Mike Gentry, Randy Morris, Dan Riley, John Charles, Andy Fielding and Bill Dendle.
- Steerman's Quarters, in the main deck's aft section, specialized in certified Angus beef. Its décor featured nostalgic imagery of America's western cattle. In the aft end of the room, giant windows overlooked the churning paddlewheel.
- The Fisherman's Deck, a seafood restaurant, was located forward on the promenade deck.
- The Empress Room, aft on the promenade deck, was a formal dining room that required reservations. It was extravagantly decorated with gold-trimmed walls and Rococo (Louis XIV) style appointments. Hungarian chef Garry Reich developed the original menu to cater to upscale tastes.
The Empress Lilly was also one of the first locations of the famous Disney Character Breakfasts.
In the mid-1990s, as a cost-cutting move, Disney began to engage outside partners to take over operations of many of its restaurants. It was decided the Empress Lilly would come under new management, and Levy Restaurants signed a contract to operate the "ship" for 20 years. On April 22, 1995, the Empress Lilly served her last meals. All interiors were subsequently ripped out and a new décor for a single restaurant put in place. The old smokestacks and paddlewheel were removed due to rust and rot and were not replaced. The restaurant opened as Fulton's Crab House on March 10, 1996.
The Marketplace houses many shops and restaurants. The first restaurant in the Earl of Sandwich chain is located here. T-Rex Cafe is a dinosaur-themed restaurant operated by Landry's Restaurants, which features life-sized animatronic dinosaurs developed by UCFab International, LLC. It is located at the site of a former valet parking traffic circle in the E parking lot, near the current location of the pedestrian bridge between Pleasure Island and Downtown Disney Marketplace and is adjacent to the Lego Imagination Center. Groundbreaking ran behind schedule, with construction beginning in October 2007 and completed in early October 2008, with its opening on October 14, 2008. Landry's Restaurants also operates Rainforest Cafe at this location. Small boat rentals for use on the waterway were offered by Cap'n Jack's Marina, which ceased operation in October 2013 as part of Disney Springs renovation plans. As part of these plans, the construction of a walkway spanning the Village Lake and connecting Rainforest Cafe with the Lego Imagination Center - The Marketplace Causeway - is currently underway and is due to open in 2015. 
- Marketplace Express
- T-Rex Cafe Dinosaur Dig presented by Build-a-Bear Workshop
- Downtown Disney Marina
- Earl of Sandwich
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop
- Starbucks Coffee (walk up only)
- Rainforest Cafe
- T-Rex Cafe
- Wolfgang Puck Express
- Build A Dino by Build-a-Bear Workshop
- Disney's Pin Traders
- Disney's Days of Christmas Shop
- Goofy's Candy Company
- Lego Imagination Center
- Once Upon A Toy
- Marketplace Co-Op
- Tren-D (The Dooney and Bourke hub of the Walt Disney World Resort.)
- World of Disney
- McDonald's (replaced by Pollo Campero)
- Pollo Campero (closed and demolished for construction of The Landing at Disney Springs)
Pleasure Island was primarily a nighttime entertainment complex with two comedy clubs and four dance clubs. These clubs closed permanently on September 27, 2008. New shops and restaurants were planned to open to replace the closed clubs, but the economic recession of 2009 delayed plans. Only one new restaurant has opened to date.
While the Village/Marketplace and West Side have always been free to enter, Pleasure Island required the purchase of admission and was closed during the day. Beginning in summer 2004, Pleasure Island became free to enter, and only those guests entering the nightclubs were charged admission.
On November 18, 2010, Walt Disney World Resort announced a project named Hyperion Wharf, which was planned to replace the Pleasure Island complex. Pleasure Island would have undergone extensive renovations and re-theming to transform into the early twentieth century wharf-themed entertainment area. New shopping and dining locations would have also been added. In July 2011, it was announced that these plans have been delayed. These plans were later cancelled in favor of Disney Springs with the area currently known as Pleasure Island, along with part of the current parking lot, eventually becoming The Landing.
The Downtown Disney West Side is home to many full service restaurants, large stores, and entertainment venues. On May 12, 2009, the Virgin Megastore closed permanently and was replaced by a Ridemakerz store. The Ridemakerz store later closed in favor of the existing store inside Team Mickey Athletic Club located in the Marketplace and was replaced by a Splitsville bowling alley.
Characters in Flight opened in Spring 2009 and features a giant tethered balloon that soars 400 feet, providing 360-degree views of the Walt Disney World Resort. It is operated by Aerophile and is very similar to PanoraMagique located at Disney Village at Disneyland Paris.
Expansion of the existing AMC Theatres Pleasure Island 24 venue opened with Downtown Disney West Side in 1997. In late 2010, renovations began which created theaters offering food service. The complex was renamed AMC Downtown Disney 24. In 1997, there were plans to open a Planet Movies by AMC entertainment complex at this location by combining the Planet Hollywood restaurant with a re-branded AMC megaplex. However, these plans were abandoned due to Planet Hollywood's continued financial problems.
- AMC Downtown Disney 24 with Dine-In Theatres
- Characters in Flight
- Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba
- Disney Quest Indoor Interactive Theme Park
- Splitsville Luxury Lanes Downtown Disney
- Bongos Cuban Cafè
- House of Blues
- The Smokehouse (at House of Blues)
- Planet Hollywood
- Wolfgang Puck Cafè
- T-Rex Cafe
- Starbucks Coffee (full service store)
- Wetzel's Pretzels (kiosk)
- Häagen-Dazs (kiosk)
- Sunglass Hut Flagship Store (branded as Sunglass Icon by Sunglass Hut)
- Other various shops.
- Virgin Megastore
- Magic Masters
- Planet Hollywood On location
On March 14, 2013, Disney announced the redevelopment of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, "the exciting, multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort".
Common to Disney Parks and Resorts attractions, Disney Springs will offer a unique shopping and dining environment themed around an elaborate backstory and will feature the following areas:
- The Marketplace
- The Landing (formerly Pleasure Island)
- The Town Center
- The West Side
In order to facilitate the construction of the area and the increase in capacity, two large parking structures are under construction in previous parking lot areas, and the entire area is expected to be completed in 2016. Plans include for new bridges connecting the area to Disney's Saratoga Springs resort, and a new causeway connecting the Marketplace to The Landing. Furthermore, "High Line" structures will be built in order to provide both theme and shade.
- Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort
- Disney Village at Disneyland Paris
- Ikspiari at Tokyo Disney Resort
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Downtown Disney Florida.|
- Disney's Downtown Disney web site
- Fultons Crab House
- Earl of Sandwich
- Aerophile.com Characters in Flight live webcam
- Downtown Disney travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Splitsville Downtown Disney
- Downtown Disney Webcam
- Barnes, Brooks (14 March 2013). "Disney Announces Overhaul to Its Retail Complex in Orlando … Again.". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
- Miller, Mark. "Disney World Revamping Downtown into Major Retail Brand Hub". brandchannel.com. Brand Channel. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
- Disney to convert Pleasure Island into wharf-themed district - Orlando Sentinel
- Hyperion Wharf delayed: Disney says its Hyperion Wharf project, which was to replace Pleasure Island, has been delayed - Orlando Sentinel