Guide to Downtown Disney for First Timers

dtd

If you’ve never been to Downtown Disney aka Disney Springs, I suggest making it part of your next trip. I like the relaxed pace I adopt there, the chance to see the Disney touches and creativity of outside businesses. Then there’s the variety of shopping and dining – it’s all very low-key, “Disney down time.”

But if you’ve never visited, where do you start? Here are my top suggestions, with alternates, for things to do for a first timer at Downtown Disney.

Downtown Disney Marketplace or West Side


If you’re into Disney collectibles, make sure you stop by The Art of Disney. On display, and for sale, are Disney collector items in 2- and 3-D. Sculptures, prints, cells, figurines, crystal, lithographs. There are straightforward Disney representations, and re-inventions of classic characters and icons by various artists working in different media.

Although it’s waaayyy on the other side of Market Place, D-Street earns my vote for a first-timer visit, especially if you like Vinylmation figures. It’s THE place for Vinylmation, and guests can customize their own figures. The store is filled with Disney details, including a hidden Goofy, and props from the closed-but-not-forgotten Adventurers Club, the interactive Disney experience at Pleasure Island.

Goofy’s Candy Company, DTD Marketplace

goofy

Not just a candy store, this is a candy factory! At Goofy’s Candy Company guests get in on the action and create their own confections. You can customize an apple, rice krispie treats, gingerbread or fudge cookies, marshmallows, or pretzel rods. Or order up a Goofy’s glacier with a customized cup.

And, because it offers such a variety of sugar-rush sweetness, be sure to pick out a back or two to take home. Maybe by creating your own mix of candies.

LEGO Imagination Center, DTD Marketplace

Lego

The LEGO Imagination Center, which just re-opened in DTD after a substantial remodeling and expansion, is a hands-on creative center for LEGOs in addition to a store for LEGO building bricks, kits and related merchandise. There’s an outdoor play area for kids, which includes some racing tracks, and play and design areas inside the store. A new room will offer LEGO classes and house parties.

The new Center now features even more cool LEGO models in addition to its water serpent that emerges from Village Lake and the tourist family. Look for Disney scenes such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the “Sleeping Beauty” dragon, and Buzz and Woody from “Toy Story.”

Raglan Road, Pleasure Island/Hyperion Wharf or Earl of Sandwich, DTD Marketplace

As DTD is as much a dining destination in its current state as a shopping one, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. And dare I say it? The food at DTD restaurants, especially quick service, is as good if not better than many Disney counterparts.

For table-service, I’m a fan of Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant. Not only does Raglan Road serve Irish Whiskey (they offer both Irish and Protestant brands, yay!) and beer as a proper pub does, but some fine food as well. The soda bread and dipping sauce is a favorite starter, and the menu offers contemporary takes on Irish fare that elevates the dishes. Then there’s the live entertainment, with Irish music and dance that invites diners to join in the fun.

For a first-timer’s quick service option, try Earl of Sandwich. It’s earned a loyal Disney guest following for its fresh food and generous portions for the low prices. And I can personally vouch that it’s chocolate brownies are better than those found Disney counter service. (Extensive taste testing for research purposes, you know.)

World of Disney, DTD Marketplace

World of Disney is the flagship character store for DTD, the one that anchors the area as a destination for Disney merchandise. Inside, you’ll find just a little bit of everything, including t-shirts and other apparel, mugs and food, pins, toys, watches, collectibles. It’s also the home to DTD’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

As with other Disney stores, “look up, look down and look around” is a good rule of thumb for World of Disney and its details. The exterior, for example, features a Stitch icon that squirts water and has many sculptures for photo opportunities, from princesses to pirate skeletons. Inside, guests can check out the famous Disney characters that are on display near the ceiling. And one of my favorite areas in World of Disney is the Villains Room, where watches, jewelry and collectibles are sold.

Recommendations for a First Timer at Downtown Disney?

These are just some of my idiosyncratic choices for a first visit, as compared to Allie’s “To Downtown Disney or Not?” And I’m appalled – appalled, I tell you – at how I left off Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba,” DisneyQuest, “Characters in Flight” balloon ride (because of the extra ticket/admission fees), other specialty stores (e.g. Disney’s Days of Christmas store, Magic Masters, etc), and the varied snack and dining options.

Of course, if you’d like to conduct a more extensive exploration of DTD, you might try enjoy “Spending the Day at Downtown Disney.”

What are your recommendations for the Downtown Disney first-time guest? Let us know in the comment box below.

Guide to Downtown Disney for First Timers was last modified: June 30th, 2014 by guest blogging

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  • Nancy

    For families with young children… If the weather is nice bring a bathing suit or change of clothes for the kids! DTD has the BEST fountain on property for kids to play in – right outside of World of Disney. It has always been one of my children’s absolute favorite things to do of the whole trip. Dad and I take turns shopping (OK, mostly Dad relaxes and watches the kids while I shop ;) ), and the kids have an absolute blast.

    If you forget a change of clothes, just let them wear one of the new t-shirts you just bought on the ride back to the hotel. One of my favorite memories is my daughter running around in the fountain in her Cinderella costume on our 2nd visit. I forgot the change of clothes. So, what the heck. No worse than running it through the laundry, right? She looked absolutely adorable laughing and chasing the water sprays, dripping wet in her Cinderella dress. She was quite the spectacle, and I think seeing her gave many guests that little bit of extra Disney Magic for the day. :)

    We now plan a whole DTD day mid-trip. We sleep in a bit late, then go hang out and relax. Send all the packages back to the hotel (a good reason not to go on your last day!), and just enjoy the experience. We’re usually ready to go after dinner (Raglan Road’s Bread Pudding is to die for!), it’s a good evening to get the laundry done or go to Fantasmic/Spectro/fireworks at one of the parks.