We’ll head out to see “what’s new” at Downtown Disney today. Downtown Disney has a lot going for it in terms of bars and restaurants. Put Raglan Road, Portobello, Earl of Sandwich, Cooke’s of Dublin, House of Blues, and others in the theme parks and they would almost certainly eclipse most of the restaurants/quick services in Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and even Epcot. Portobello offers an excellent bar menu, including Orlando Brewing Partner Beers and a fire sale on meatball sliders. Dinner is expensive, but the lunch menu is reasonable and offers many of the same entrees and lower prices. House of Blues features an excellent happy hour in the entire restaurant from 3pm to 5pm, sporadically good music, and cheap quality food. Cooke’s of Dublin serves awesome, unique quick service food. Raglan Road is a hoot and a half at night, with good food, a great band, and better scotch. Earl of Sandwich is the best $6 you can spend on Disney World property. Even Paradiso 37 serves excellent appetizers and an underrated selection of beer and tequila.
When you’re dropping a few thousand dollars on a Disney World “theme park vacation,” Downtown Disney might not be at the top of your list of destinations. You may have visited three, four, or more times and never made it out there. There’s nothing wrong with that. Downtown Disney is a hassle to get to from most resorts, especially the Magic Kingdom area resorts. Take away happy hour and a few of the better restaurants and you basically have generic shopping and a bunch of Disney merchandise that’s available elsewhere. However, if you know where to look, Downtown Disney can be a decent destination, especially if you can swing a weekday or weeknight visit.
Here we are arriving at the West Side around 3:30pm. We’ve got House of Blues and Disney Quest in front of us and the Characters in Flight balloon up in the air on the left.
The West Side Sassagoula River boat dock, which is located to the left of the House of Blues restaurant. You can hop on boats that travel between the three Downtown Disney sections and Disney runs boat service from the Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs resorts. Like the Friendship Boats at Epcot or Crescent Lake, the trip is much more pleasant (when the weather is good) than it is efficient. You can usually walk faster than it would take the boat to travel the same distance. From the resorts, the boat usually takes about the same amount of time a the bus.
These boats service the three sections of Downtown Disney from 10:30am – 11:30pm.
The underutilized walkway behind House of Blues and continuing behind the rest of the West Side restaurants and shops. Very scenic and much less crowded than the main walkway.
Cirque du Soleil still going strong.
The best (and one of the only) happy hours on Disney property. Pair happy hour with a Restaurant.com certificate and you’re really golden.
Construction continues on Splitsville, the upscale bowling alley coming in fall of 2012. At least they put up construction walls for this one, which is more than they can say for the defunct Hyperion Wharf.
Mark your calendars.
I’m not sure whether either of us is cool enough to get in though.
“Something Silver” replaces Magic Masters:
Magic Masters added a bit of ambiance to Downtown Disney, but the whole company basically went bankrupt. Not too stoked for this new store, but I’m sure silver jewelry with a 500% upcharge will do better than magic tricks with 500% upcharge. Despite what you see on television, you don’t want to be that guy who whips out a magic trick at the bar while wearing a furry hat. Trust me.
“sunglass icon” by “sunglass hut” is also behind walls. It will reemerge as a “flagship” store in November, just in time for winter.
“BLINK” by “wet seal” replaces Magnetron.
About half of the West Side stores are behind walls at the moment. Candy Cauldron, THANK GOODNESS, is still clogging arteries (that aren’t already clogged).
D-Street remains popular as far as foot traffic is concerned. Definitely peek your head in if you find yourself on the West Side. They have tons of Vinylmation and some other unique merchandise.
Characters in Flight kiosk on the West Side.
Reasonable prices per person, though your typical family of four would run $60+. It’s a quick trip – each flight lasts about ten minutes with five minutes at the top. I’ll go up the next time I’m eligible to renew my Xanax prescription.
In the afternoon, you should pretty much have the balloon to yourself. If a large group shows up or is already in line, wait for the next flight. In the evening, particularly on weekends, the balloon can get pretty full. Capacity depends on wind and weather conditions, but the balloon can theoretically hold about 30 people.
A fun Mickey prop. There are planters full of flowers everywhere in Downtown Disney. Home Depot must have had a sale or something.
Bathrooms can be sort of tricky to find in Downtown Disney. This is my favorite set because it was built with the Pleasure Island crowds in mind.
I feel like the middle planter was moved about four centimeters to the right since my last visit. That must mean the Adventurers Club is returning? Don’t worry Club fans, loyalists around Kissimmee are performing the show in their basements as we speak. Don’t bother bringing any money. They don’t expect you to buy drinks either.
Looks more like three centimeters on further inspection.
The Pleasure Island boat stop is located to the right of Paradiso 37.
We’re not too far off from seeing the elimination of the “Marketplace,” “Pleasure Island,” and “West Side” designations. The new map doesn’t even divide the various restaurants and shops into geographical sections.
For example, we have the attractions and quick services color-coded, regardless of “section.”
Wait a second!!!! This isn’t very Disney!!!
That’s a little better, I guess. With the all-capital letters and weird crown-thing going on with the first letter of each word, the name is sort of unfortunate. This is the store attached to Raglan Road. I’m still not going to risk it. You just never know.
Another happy-hour at one of the Raglan Road outdoor bars. Not quite as good of a deal as House of Blues, though the outdoor space is very popular in October now that temperatures are lower. It’s brutal from June – September. In fact, I’d pay you an extra $2.00 to drink that beer in air-conditioning in August.
It’s a nice space. You’ve got a lot of tables and a ten-person-or-so bar area.
I’m setting up the easywdw office right here in front of Fulton’s. Easy access to the Portobello Meatball Bar and should the FBI ever find me, a quick water getaway on the Empress Lilly (currently serving mediocre seafood).
Because people can’t see the refurbishment walls with 50 planters out in front.
More pavement work outside the Lego Store. Amusingly, I think it’s safe to say this is the most “looked over” wall on Disney property, because it’s just short enough that most people can see over.
As you can probably tell, I was in band in high school. French horn because the band had too many trumpets and I wasn’t any good. This is a college jazz band out of Pennsylvania playing on stage. It adds a bit of ambiance and fun to Downtown Disney. I always enjoy seeing them out.
The more you buy…the more you buy.
We’ll pop into Team Mickey, which is the “new” temporary location for Ridemakerz. Poor Ridemakerz just keeps getting pushed around. Sometime next year, they should have a permanent location “somewhere.” Ridemakerz was previously located in the building that will purportedly be Splitsville.
Here we are.
So you buy a car for $30 – $40:
Which comes with “stock” items, just like a real car!!!!
Basically, it comes with the car.
Then it’s time to customize:
Very dangerous. I’ve never actually done this before (don’t have a nine year old boy), but I would imagine you’ll want to set a budget going into it. There’s a ton of add-ons, most of which are $3-$5, but they can certainly add up.
Then you make it.
It’s a popular activity. If you have a son (or daughter!!!) that is jealous of his (or her!!!!) sister over the attention she (or he!!!!) is getting at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, you might send dad and junior (or miss junior) over to Ridemakerz.
We’ll take a look around Team Mickey while we’re here. You never know when your team is going to suffer an embarrassing loss and you need a new team t-shirt or sweatpants for a different team on the fly. I always laugh at the people wearing their team’s shirt after a terrible loss. I just assume people from Boston don’t have any shirts that don’t say Red Sox? I don’t think Popeye’s Chicken commercials during Red Sox games will ever be the same.
Team Mickey is huge with a ton of team-specific and Disney-sports-related merchandise.
For Dr. Noble.
Is there anything more obnoxious than an LSU fan? Yeah, we get it, your college football team is good at college football. Congratu-freakin-lations.
NFL “merch” too.
For the egalitarian in your family.
In case you’re planning to rob the place, they’ll sell you the bat.
“Very” large. A healthy selection of ESPN goods.
And…..Billabong stuff I guess.
The Tren-D store is attached. Let’s face it. We’re not really trendy enough to go in here. We’ll return when I’m wearing my “cool shirt” rather than my “I’m sweating profusely in Disney World” shirt.
Okay, we’ll walk through as though we’re looking for the exit. It’s a lot like a Disney Urban Outfitters, if you’re familiar:
Cute stuff. Sort of wish I was a girl.
Cuuuuuuuuuuuuute. I might pick one of these up for my future wife.
Cap’n Jack’s Marina with the unequivocally terrible Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant next door.
Cap’n Jack’s menu. Not that it matters. It really is that bad:
These items listed in the picture above are served until 4pm.
A Pot Roast sandwich at a “seafood restaurant?” I’m laughing.
Boat rental prices. Note the short 11am – 5pm hours. The Bayou Pirate Adventure Cruise is a great way to get rid of the kids for a couple of hours, though.
Another Sassagoula(sp) stop near Rainforest Cafe and Cap’n Jack’s.
This is also one of the stops from the Port Orleans resorts.
Popping over to the Art of Disney store.
I’ll give Mickey the benefit of the doubt on this one.
New signage. My favorite sign is still the one in Hollywood Studios that points to Toy Story Mania in the wrong direction.
A hidden margarita bar. I can’t tell you where it is, since it’s a secret.
Nor can I tell you how much the margaritas cost, since that’s a secret too.
If you’re looking for Guest Relations, it’s located between Ghirardelli and Team Mickey.
Inside the World of Disney store. It’s huge. HUGE!!!! HUUUUUUGGGGEEEEEEE!!!!! This photo captures about 10% of the square footage (if that).
We’re going to walk over to the Hess Station across from Downtown Disney. Why? For beer of course. As you’re probably aware, Disney resorts have a garbage selection of beer and it’s excessively expensive. A six-pack of Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller, Miller Lite, or Coors Light will run you $15.00, or $2.50 each. Purchased by the can or bottle, they cost $5.25 each. Other than those, your choices are basically Heineken and Corona, which also run over $5 each. A bit excessive for those of us accustomed to slamming eight or ten before bed.
As far as getting cheaper beer on Disney property, you have a few options. Those of you staying at the Swan or Dolphin actually have it the easiest. Somewhat bizarrely, they offer a “Personal Pantry” room service menu as listed here: http://www.swandolphin.com/pantry/pantry_menu.pdf. In the lower right hand corner, you’ll see that you can get six-pack of Budweiser or Miller Lite delivered for eight bucks. A six-pack of Corona runs $10.00. Not bargain basement, but certainly not bad. Available 24 hours a day with no service charge. Not bad. Your other convenient choice is Garden Grocer, which will deliver beer, food, and other items to your room or your Disney resort if you’re not around when they drop by. The minimum purchase is $40 in food-type items and it comes with a $12 delivery charge. Delivery is free with a $200+ purchase. They don’t advertise pricing or availability of beer/wine, so you’ll most likely need to call them at 866-855-4350 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also have a “live chat” option on their website.
As far as not going off property/driving to get your beer, you can also opt to walk to one of the three Hess gas stations/convenience stores on property. If you’re driving yourself, you’ll most likely want to stop at an area liquor store or grocery store on your way to Walt Disney World. The Hess stations would work in a pinch. The Downtown Disney and BoardWalk area Hess stations are “walkable” though. Let’s take a look.
We’ll take the most “legal” route first and then I’ll show you the route from Pleasure Island, which has you crossing a road without a crosswalk or walk all the way around the bus stops. We’re starting in between the World of Disney Store to the right and Ghirardelli to the left. Continue walking forward to the parking lot.
Continuing forward, passing the large World of Disney store to our right.
Here’s the full route to the stop light.
Continuing through the parking lot. Be careful. Beer is worth a limb or two, but not your entire body.
Continuing up to the stop light.
You’ll see the large Casting building ahead of you. I’ve tried out for Anastasia Tremaine seven times now. Getting turned down so many times has hurt my ego a little bit. Luckily, the Hess station is close and I can buy a few six-packs of Bud Ice on my way home to drown my sorrows.
This is a bad arrow because it has you walking straight through a minivan. You’ll want to wait for the crosswalk sign to indicate it’s “safe” to cross before progressing. If you get hit, please don’t tell the police/insurance that the red arrow on easywdw.com told you to walk through cars on your way to buy beer from the convenience store.
Cross the street and turn right. You can see the Hess sign in the distance. It’s a five-minute-or-so walk to the station. More pleasant in October than say, July.
Assuming you left your Segway in your other pants, we’re walking it.
One more street to cross and we’re there. I waited for a good couple of minutes here waiting for the ominous red hand to change to the happy walking man, but it never did change. I ended up hoofing across when the crosswalk changed in the other direction. Otherwise, it should show the “walk” sign when the traffic coming towards you has a green light.
To your left is the Downtown Disney cast member parking. That’s the road we’re crossing now.
And we’re here:
Since it’s hard to see from these pictures, here are the prices:
18-Pack Budweiser or Bud Light – $14.99
12-Pack Michelob Ultra: $12.49
12-Pack Bud Light Lime: $13.49
12-Pack Miller Lite, Coors Light, Bud Light, Budweiser: $11.49
12-Pack Keystone Light: $9.49
12-Pack Natural Light: $8.99
12-Pack Heineken: $14.99
6-Pack Budweiser, Bud Light, Budweiser Select, or Budweiser 55: $7.39
6-Pack Icehouse: $4.99
6-Pack Samuel Adams Boston Lager: $8.99
6-Pack Heineken or Heineken Light: $8.49
6-Pack Bud Light Lime: $7.69
4-Pack Stella Artois: $7.99
4-Pack Beck’s: $5.69
6-Pack Shock Top: $8.49
6-Pack Blue Moon: $8.99
6-Pack Smirnoff Ice: $9.29
16oz Becks: $1.59
25.4oz Foster’s: $2.29
23.5oz Four Loko(God save us): $2.49
23.5oz Mike’s Hard Lemonade: $2.
24oz Heineken Can: $2.50
24oz Heineken Bottle: $2.79
16oz Heineken or Heineken Light: $1.69
24oz. Corona: $2.99
32oz. Bud Light: $3.09
32oz Natural Ice: $2.19
Steel Reserve also available!
They also serve really good sandwiches:
Never had their pizza, but a large cheese for seven bucks sounds good if you’re driving. Not sure it would travel well in my backpack though.
The actual Hess station. They usually have the best gas prices in the Lake Buena Vista area.
Now we’re looking directly across from the Hess Station. The problem here is that there’s no crosswalk between the bus stations on our left and the side of the street that has a crosswalk on the right. There’s no crosswalk on the bus station side, so you’d have to cross this busy Downtown Disney entrance/exit or walk all the way around the bus station area. I’ll double check tomorrow to make sure the route outlined above is indeed faster/safer.
A look at the resort bus stops from across the parking lot. It seemed a little iffier than it looks in this picture, but I’ll double check.
It’s a bit of a trek over to the Hess from Downtown Disney, mostly because you have to traverse the parking lot and traffic. If you do head over for beer and plan to ride Disney transportation back to your resort, you’ll want to bring a backpack or bag of some kind to carry it. People are also known to bring their empty carry on/luggage, fill it with beer and other snacks, and wheel it back over to the Disney bus. As far as I know, there’s no rule that stipulates cases of beer aren’t allowed on Disney buses, but you might look a little silly carrying it around Downtown Disney and the bus. Of course, you would also look a little awesome. Don’t underestimate how much that stuff weighs either. I carry 24-packs from the Sams’ Club across the street and it certainly gets heavy after a few minutes.
The Hess also has other food, snacks, sodas, and the like at half-decent prices – much better than your Disney resort, but more than Target, Wal-Mart, or pretty much anywhere else.
Over to one of my favorite quick service locations on Walt Disney World property – Earl of Sandwich.
These sandwiches are $5.99 each:
Same with these salads and wraps:
Real coffee and other beverages.
Fresh fruit cups for $1.99.
$1.79 Cole Slaw
Or Macaroni Salad.
Fresh, colorful ingredients. Every sandwich, salad, and wrap is made to order.
Serious business. The line is very often long, but they’re incredibly fast. Don’t be discouraged.
Brownie Bites – $3.99.
Cupcakes – $1.99
Water, milk, and beer. They’ve got Leffe, Yuengling, Bud Light Lime, Shock Top, Corona, Guinness, and it looks like a couple other choices.
Piles and piles of chips.
The limited edition Holiday Sandwich, available now through January 8th (I think that’s the end date – don’t quote me).
It might not look like much, but oh my gosh is it delicious – oven roasted turkey, hearty stuffing, zesty cranberry sauce, seasoned mayonnaise, and warm gravy. The best sandwich ever!! If you’ve got other dining plans, you may want to split the sandwich among a couple of people. It’s already cut in half, which is handy.
I was looking for a “stuffed Pascal,” which is apparently difficult to find. They were sold out at World of Disney, so I ventured over to the information desk to ask about availability elsewhere. It’s located in the “villains room” which doubles as one of the jewelry rooms. With this computer, they can check inventory levels for any item at every other Disney World store. Purportedly, one of the stores in Germany has it. They can call over if you ask. You have to have a pretty good idea what you’re looking for because the computer doesn’t have pictures.
This Lego creation outside the Lego store is new. Not quite LEGOLAND, but it’s closer (and cheaper as long as you don’t go in the store and buy something).
Downtown Disney can get extremely crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings, especially in the “off-season” when the theme parks close earlier. It’s basically “dead” during weekday afternoons. If you want to do some serious shopping (and take advantage of happy hour at House of Blues of Raglan Road), try to visit on a weekday afternoon or evening. Getting to and from Downtown Disney on a weekend evening (after 7pm) is a huge hassle, especially by Disney bus. They don’t run enough, it’s incredibly crowded, and the routes can be convoluted – especially from the Magic Kingdom area resorts. I don’t recommend a Friday or Saturday night visit.
We have a Vinylmation artist signing here too outside of D Street.
That’s a bit of Downtown Disney!