Guide to Downtown Disney – ‘Must-Sees’ for Young Children

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Guide to Downtown Disney – ‘Must-Sees’ for Young Children
Children can build and race cars at the LEGO Imagination Center, Downtown Disney.

If you’re taking young (ish) children to Downtown Disney Marketplace at Walt Disney World, you may find yourself surprised at how much there is for them to do. Sure, Downtown Disney (DTD) features a lot of options for adults interested in shopping and dining, but kids will find things to entertain them as well.

Of course, there are plenty of shopping opportunities at DTD Marketplace guaranteed to attract children, such as The World of Disney super-size store and Once Upon a Toy for Mr. Potato Head and Build-a-Lightsaber fun.

But if you’re wondering what else DTD Marketplace has to offer young children, here are my recommendations for “must-sees” at DTD for children and the young at heart.

What are your favorite ways to spend a Downtown Disney day with children?

Carousel and Kiddie Train: The DTD Marketplace area has two attractions designed to appeal to younger guests. They are conveniently located near each other.

Guide to Downtown Disney – ‘Must-Sees’ for Young Children
Carousel at Downtown Disney.

DTD Marketplace has a small Italian carousel, offering 19 horses, a tea cup and two carriages. To ride alone, children must be 42” or taller. But the elegant carousel – decorated with images of DTD ­– is so charming that it’s worth taking a family ride – $2 each, using a token –just to capture the moment on camera. The carousel is located near Mickey’s Pantry/The Spice & Tea Exchange.

Special note: The carousel allows one adult (18 years or older) to ride free in order to accompany a child who is under 42” tall.

If your young children are more interested in the choo-choo (and who wouldn’t be, as it’s so fun to say), try the miniature train. It’s located near Disney’s Pin Traders and Trend-D. While the train isn’t especially Disney-themed, it is brightly colored and an ideal size for toddlers. Adults may ride as well, but only one per car and not in the engine or caboose. Like the carousel, it costs $2 to ride.

Water Play Fountains and Stitch: Kids love to run through water fountains on a hot day – or any day, really. And Disney has almost made an art form out of its water play fountains and water fun. Bring along their bathing suits or a change of clothes and let them frolic in the water fountains near the entrance of the DTD Marketplace, near The Art of Disney and The Days of Christmas store. Just interested in a quick squirt? Let them dodge waterdrops at World of Disney, where Stitch “spits” at unsuspecting guests.

LEGO Imagination Center: Even before the LEGO store expanded, this was a must-stop for me and my childlike ways let along parents with children. And why not? Even before you enter the building, the store promises to be fun, with its life- and over-sized LEGO sculptures perfect for photo opportunities and racing-car area where kids build LEGO cars and send them speeding on a track.

Inside, the store offers LEGO kits to fit almost every flight of fancy, the store offers computer stations where guests can design structures and play games. And while the remodel also removed an outside play area, a new room inside offers air-conditioned comfort for such experimentation. And for a true custom souvenir that will change and grow, kids can fill a bucket of LEGOs at the “Pick a Brick” wall.

Rainforest Café or T-Rex Café restaurants: If your DTD day is about the kids, consider dining at either Rainforest Café or T-Rex Cafe, the themed chain restaurants at the Marketplace. The food is fairly standard fare, burgers and chicken, pastas and salads, and the restaurants know how to cater to picky eaters (if that’s a concern).

But the real appeal here is the kid-oriented theming and family-friendly ambiance, with lots of entertainment and lively atmosphere for the younger set.

Rainforest Café offers a jungle home to Animatronic creatures: gorillas, big cats, elephants, tropical birds and so on, some of which move. The restaurant also showcases a gorgeous saltwater tank filled with colorful fish. To complete the rainforest effect, the restaurant’s sound effects include the sound of water and the occasional thunderstorm.

T-Rex Café takes guests a step back in time, prehistoric time to the land of the

Guide to Downtown Disney – ‘Must-Sees’ for Young Children
Dinosaur Animatronics are the stars at T-Rex Cafe.

dinosaurs, as well as an eclectic mix of otherworldly visions – including an “under the sea” motif as part of the aquarium element. Among the dinos on display are a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a stegosaurus, while other areas offer a glimpse at a wooly mammoth. Like Rainforest, there are Animatronic creatures that move, and a noisy atmosphere to make the illusion seem all the more real to young eyes.

In addition to its dining areas (themed as Fern Forest,  Geo-Tech Room., Ice Cave, Coral Reef, Sequoia Room) T-Rex also offers a Paleo Zone’s Discovery Dig. This play area encourages children to pan for fossils. There’s also a Build-a-Dino shop (related to the Build-a-Bear franchise).

A word of warning about Rainforest Café and T-Rex Café. These experiences might be overwhelming for some children. The restaurants include figures and are fairly loud. It’s easy to get over-stimulated by the environment. Many children love it, but family members with sensitive ears or who do better dining without distractions might choose other options.

World of Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: There’s something magical about being pampered as a Disney princess – and dressed up as one – at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the Magic Kingdom. But there’s also a boutique located in the Princess Experience Room at the World of Disney store. It’s a great option for those days when you want to do something special but aren’t planning on visiting the theme parks. There’s even a makeover chair in a World of Disney window front.

For those who prefer to be knights, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique can make those wishes come true, too. Or…just for fun, visit World of Disney’s

Downtown Disney Budget Tip: for those looking for a less expensive “makeover” experience, consider face painting at Downtown Disney for approximately $12-$15 (dependent on designs).

Last but not least, it’s not a trip to DTD without some sweets. I recommend finishing the day with an ice-cream treat from Ghirardelli’s Soda Fountain or some goodies from Goofy’s Candy Company.

Guide to Downtown Disney – ‘Must-Sees’ for Young Children

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15 thoughts on “Guide to Downtown Disney – ‘Must-Sees’ for Young Children

  1. I love watching unsuspecting people get ‘spit’ on by Stitch! Also being spit on seems to appeal greatly to little boys – who will stand and be spit on and laugh it up!

  2. I don’t know…T Rex and Rainforest cafe were actually way too scary for the then 3 year old travelling with us a few years back. She was so freaked out at RC we had to leave! no fun!

  3. We Love T-rex and go every trip. Mmmmm Yummy. And it is so great how much there is to do for kids in DTD, My Son Loves it, and we get to shop!

  4. Love DTD. It is almost a theme park itself. We love the splash fountain, LEGO, Rainforest Cafe,and the train and carousel. We take many trips tp DTD while at WDW. It is so much fun.

  5. My daughter loved all of these things, but especially the fountain by the Art of Disney. It’s kind of off the beaten path, and we were there in the evening while the live entertainment was going on by the water. She just walked around that fountain all by herself getting surprised every time the water turned back on. It was great for us because she was having fun, and it’s just water. Also, people kept walking by and not realizing it was a fountain until it turned on. Made for a great night!

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