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Eat, drink and shop at Downtown Disney

Want to experience the magic of Disney World without the theme-park ticket cost? Head to Downtown Disney, where you can eat, drink, shop and play in a fantastical entertainment district.

Park for free in the complimentary self-parking lot or in the overflow lot (due to construction of Disney Springs, which we’ll get to later in this post) and hop the shuttle. If you are staying at a Disney World resort, you can shuttle between Downtown Disney and your lodging by boat or bus.

Eating at Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is convenient for eating lunch before shopping or between your theme park hopping. Some restaurants where you can grab a quick bite to eat include Earl of Sandwich, Wolfgang Puck Express or one of the food trucks. The food trucks — featuring international cuisinesĀ  — are currently located in the Marketplace, but by summer’s end a food truck park will open between the Bongos Cuban Cafe and the new Starbucks at Downtown Disney’s West Side.

Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney's Marketplace has individual sized pizzas, salads and sandwiches.

Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney’s Marketplace has individual sized pizzas, salads and sandwiches. (Photo by Erin Klema)

For dinner, I really enjoyed Raglan Road, an Irish pub and restaurant, where I dined on fish and chips, sipped a Magner’s pear cider and split the most amazing bread pudding of my life. My Delta Phi Epsilon big sister, Nikki, is a Disney World cast member, and she recommended we eat dinner there one night while I was visiting in May. We ended up sitting outside, listening to an Irish band and taking in a traditional Irish dance performance. Who knew we’d get dinner and a “Riverdance”-style show!

Raglan Road is an Irish pub with an outdoor patio and bar, where you can listen to live music and enjoy a cold beer or hard cider. (Instagram via @erinklema)

Raglan Road is an Irish pub with an outdoor patio and bar, where you can listen to live music and enjoy a cold beer or hard cider.
(Instagram via @erinklema)

Break for a snack at Wetzel’s Pretzels, Ghirardelli, the new Starbucks or Goofy’s Candy Company, where you’ll find frozen slushies — try two flavors mixed together — lollipops, assorted candy, adorable Disney-themed desserts and create-your-own Rice Krispies Treats.

(Photos in gallery by Erin Klema)

The beet salad at Wolfgang Puck Express. Delicious! (Instagram via @erinklema)

The beet salad at Wolfgang Puck Express. Delicious!
(Instagram via @erinklema)

Some Disney dining plans are accepted at the following Downtown Disney restaurants:

Drinking at Downtown Disney

While the Pleasure Island era has ended and the nightclubs have closed, Downtown Disney still has some nightlife and happy hour spots. Unwind on Raglan Road’s patio after the dinner crowd clears out, sip a $5 margarita from Paradiso 37 as you walk the boardwalk, hang at Splitsville’s alfresco bar area, or listen to live music at the House of Blues’ Front Porch with a cold beer.

Live music at the House of Blues' Front Porch every night (weather permitting, of course) and happy hour specials in the early evening! (Photo by Erin Klema)

Live music at the House of Blues’ Front Porch every night (weather permitting, of course) and happy hour specials in the early evening!
(Photo by Erin Klema)

Shopping at Downtown Disney

At the Downtown Disney Marketplace, you can shop for Disney souvenirs at the world’s largest Disney retail store, World of Disney. By 2016, it will be even bigger!

Cinderella dolls in a World of Disney window display at Downtown Disney. (Photo by Erin Klema)

Cinderella dolls in a World of Disney window display at Downtown Disney.
(Photo by Erin Klema)

Next door is the LEGO Store. Stop by to see some incredible creations made from LEGO bricks!

A knight battling a fire-breathing dragon is completely made of LEGO bricks. It stands outside the LEGO Store's front entrance. (Photo by Erin Klema)

A knight battling a fire-breathing dragon is completely made of LEGO bricks. It stands outside the LEGO Store’s front entrance.
(Photo by Erin Klema)

At Disney’s Days of Christmas, shop for novelty ornaments to commemorate your trip. The single souvenir I purchased from my trip to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in May was an ornament of Cinderella’s glass slipper. “Where the shoe always fits” reads the ornament that I had personalized “2014” with pixie dust for an extra few dollars. Can’t wait to hang it on my Christmas tree with my other travel-themed ornaments!

Disney's Days of Christmas store is full of novelty ornaments for your tree! (Photo by Erin Klema)

Disney’s Days of Christmas store is full of novelty ornaments for your tree!
(Photo by Erin Klema)

Other Marketplace shops to check out include Disney’s Pin Traders, Once Upon a Toy, and bath-and-beauty shop Basin. At Downtown Disney West Side, you’ll find the Harley Davidson store, Sunglass Icon for your designer shades, and retailers selling art, collectibles and gifts.

Playing at Downtown Disney

Go bowling at Splitsville, catch a flick, see acrobatic feats at Cirque du Soleil, play video games at the DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, or listen to live music at the Waterside Stage, the West Side Lawn or the many restaurants.

Live music at the House of Blues' Front Porch Bar during happy hour! (Photo by Erin Klema)

Live music at the House of Blues’ Front Porch Bar during happy hour!
(Photo by Erin Klema)

Coming soon to Downtown Disney: Disney Springs!

You’ll notice Downtown Disney is under construction, and that’s because the largest expansion in Downtown Disney’s history is underway. Once it all is open in 2016, the number of shops and restaurants will double!

By summer 2014: Downtown Disney will include two Starbucks; a Food Truck Park; a United World of Soccer that sells soccer jerseys, team apparel and World Cup merchandise; Happy Hound that sells dog tags and accessories for your pup; and a Marketplace Co-Op that will house six boutiques: Beautifully Disney (make-up, perfume and beauty), Cherry Tree Lane (women’s shoes, jewelry and accessories), D-Tech on Demand (where you can customize your electronic devices’ accessories), The Trophy Room (vintage-inspired sports apparel and collectibles), Disney Centerpiece (home decor) and Zoey and Pickles (girls’ clothing and accessories).

In 2015: The Landing will open along the waterfront with nationally-known restaurants.

In 2016: The Town Center will offer more upscale shopping and additional dining options.

Wish you were here,

Erin

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