Spending the Day at Downtown Disney

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Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you decide to visit Walt Disney World and to spend a day not at the theme parks. Shocking idea, I know. Perhaps it’s a travel day or a rest day in the middle of a longer Disney vacation. Or just something…different. What do you do, on this non-Disney day in the middle of a Walt Disney World (WDW) vacation?

I would offer up Downtown Disney (DTD) as one touring option, a destination choice, especially for days when you’re not on a tight schedule.

One-Day Downtown Disney, a Full Day of Fun?

In planning a non-Disney but Disney-inflected day, you might wonder – rightfully so – is it possible to spend an entire day at Downtown Disney and enjoy yourself? Fair question.

Here’s a hypothetical DTD one-day plan, highlighting some of my favorite things. (And for those who are wondering, I’ve now broken out into my own, off-key rendition of the The Sound of Music song. Be glad you’re not within hearing distance.).

Take this one-day touring plan of DTD all in good fun, then, for the purposes of starting discussion.

Touring Downtown Disney

  1. Arrive at DTD in a leisurely fashion, say around 10:00 a.m. Enjoy a big breakfast at Wolfgang Puck Express. Or try the
  2. House of Blues Gospel Brunch on Sundays.
  3. Take a photo tour of the figures and statues at DTD Marketplace (e.g. the Lego sea serpent, Toy Story characters, Disney princesses and the Fantasia brooms).
  4. Visit a couple of big Marketplace stores, like World of Disney and Once Upon a Toy, before they get busy. Be tempted by Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
  5. Amble over to Downtown Disney West Side to experience Characters In Flight, the balloon ride. (Items #2, #3 and #4, 5, 6 may be inverted if you start with House of Blues.)
  6. After, visit D-Street and make-your-own Vinylmations figure for a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir. Take photos of the Adventurers Club set pieces and props while there. Then stop in for a peek at Candy Cauldron.
  7. Visit Magic Masters, the magic shop for a demonstration or Ridemakerz, to play with the cars.
  8. Wander back through Pleasure Island to Downtown Disney Marketplace for a healthy lunch. If you’re still full from breakfast, and there’s a good chance of that…
  9. Visit a couple more shops in the Marketplace, including Once Upon a Toy, and take a spin on the carousel.
  10. Visit Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop for the ice cream, chocolate or coffee treat of your choice. Or visit Goofy’s Candy Co. to make your own deliciousness.
  11. Enjoy a slow, after-lunch perambulation back to Downtown Disney West Side, and treat yourself to an afternoon at DisneyQuest or the AMC Movie Theatre. If that’s not active enough, hop the boat to Port Orleans and tour the resort.
  12. Tour Downtown Disney West Side for photo ops and enjoy the Street entertainment at Pleasure Island.
  13. Take in a dinner and a show. See Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, a 90-minute avant-garde circus spectacle, and eat at Raglan Road Irish Pub. [The order of dinner and a show depends on your dining preferences, availability of La Nouba tickets, and so on. I’d do the performance first and a later dinner, staying at Raglan Road for the live entertainment.]
La Nouba, Cirque du Solei

Truthfully, I don’t know many people who do or would spend an entire day at DTD. That’s one of the reasons the area is so relaxing and low-key for me – I don’t go full-on theme park commando there. My visits are scheduled around my theme park itinerary and other plans.

But for that very reason, I have spent many hours at DTD, arriving for a full morning, staying hours in the afternoon, or hanging out for an entire evening. Because DTD always feels optional and a pleasant respite from the busy park days. I treat a DTD trip as loosely scheduled and with an eye to the spontaneous. And for those reasons, I often enjoy DTD more than I expect to.

So this DTD touring plan is in the experimental stage – the product of some brainstorming. Think of it more as a plan to be enjoyed for its possibilities, rather than a must-do list. It’s open to revision, to best reflect for your interests and a more, er, reasonable pace. Spend part of a day at DTD. Pick what sounds most interesting. Don’t feel a need to do it all in one day– I don’t.

And if you’ve been to Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World and have different favorites, or if you’ve developed your own DTD itinerary, please share it with Chip and Company – we’d love to hear from you.


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