Friday, 12 June 2015

My Orlando, Florida Travel Tips: Downtown Disney (How to do Disney without a Park ticket)

How to do Disney with a Park ticket

As you can imagine, when it comes to booking a holiday and everything that comes along with it, the expenses quickly start to build up, especially w
hen it comes to Orlando, Florida. First there's the flights, then there's the accommodation, then there's the spending money for all that shopping and eating out and last but not least; park tickets. If it's your first visit to Orlando or one of your main reasons for visiting is the fact that there are theme parks, water parks and animal reserves, then I have a feeling you will be visiting at least one, if not many, of Florida's parks. And this all soon adds up. Don't get me wrong, there are some great deals to be had on park tickets, if you shop around or have a bit of insider knowledge (let me know if you'd like me to do a full blog post on this) but unless you've won the lottery it is pretty difficult to cram everything into your Florida vacation. But if you're a Disney obsessive and you've already done the Disney parks before or even if you're not too keen on the rides at the parks but are more interested in the Disney experience, that's when Downtown Disney is the place to go.

Downtown Disney, soon to be renamed and re branded as Disney Springs, is located on Walt Disney World property, minutes away from Lake Buena Vista and is completely free to visit. Parking is free, which can't always be said for tourist areas and theme parks in and around the Orlando area, and you don't even need a Disney parks ticket to visit.

I visited last October, whilst there was quite a considerable amount of construction going on but even in the midst of a massive renovation Downtown Disney still made me smile like the Cheshire Cat. Downtown Disney basically consists of shopping, dining and entertainment and is the perfect place to spend an evening or afternoon whilst on your trip to Orlando. Some of the notable attractions include Planet Hollywood, Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, the Lego Imagination Center, Rainforest Cafe and Fulton's Crab House Riverboat Restaurant but here are my top five things to do and see whilst at Downtown Disney (in no particular order);

Downtown Disney World Of Disney Princess

World Of Disney

World Of Disney, aka. the largest Disney store in the world, was our main motivation for checking out Downtown Disney last year, despite us having been to Orlando, Florida around ten times before. And thank goodness we finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. You will literally find any Disney related memorabilia, characters or gifts that you could ever imagine in this giant Disney store. Honestly, if you are a Disney fan of any age or shopping for a major Disney obsessive back home, then you will be absolutely spoiled for choice in World Of Disney. I could honestly have spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars in there but I did manage to limit myself to one purchase, this gorgeous pair of rose gold Mickey earrings (link here). But don't get me wrong, I'm already saving for my next trip over and this time I will make sure to budget for a rather extensive and I can imagine, expensive, shopping trip in World Of Disney.

TOP TIP: TAKE A SELFIE WITH A DISNEY PRINCESS: At the entrance to World Of Disney near the lake there are two Disney princesses at either side. 
This really is an ideal opportunity for Disney princess fans of all ages to have their photo taken with either Cinderella or Aurora (as pictured).

Disney's Candy Cauldron Downtown Disney

Disney's Candy Cauldron

If you take the time to stop and stare at one store and one store alone at Downtown Disney, make it Candy Cauldron. I seriously don't know the last time that I pressed my hands and face up to a shop window, like a small child would but that's exactly what happened as soon as I spotted Candy Cauldron.

Downtown Disney Candy Cauldron Apples

Seeing Disney masterpieces being created right in front of your eyes is so incredible. That incredible that I genuinely stood for a good fifteen minutes or so watching a tray of Olaf candy apples being created from start to beginning. 

How many candy apple characters can you spot in the background? 

I also had the great fortune of visiting Downtown Disney a few weeks before Halloween so there were plenty of Halloween specific designs that really did blow me away.

Downtown Disney Candy Cauldron Apple

But my absolute favourite had to be Snow White's poisoned apple. Now how amazing does that look?!

Downtown Disney Quest

Disney Quest

Next up is Disney Quest and whilst I did say that Downtown Disney was free to visit and it most definitely is since you don't need a park ticket, Disney Quest can cost in the range of $40-50 depending on the time you visit. But and this is a big but, if you're not doing any of the Disney parks, this could be the best way to get that Disney theme park experience for a fraction of the price of a regular park ticket so you have to look at it that way really.

Disney Quest is an indoor interactive theme park, or at least that's how Disney themselves describe it and it's packed full of fun to be had. There's a Virtual Jungle Cruise, which will no doubt be a hit with fans of the Magic Kingdom ride, Buzz Lightyear's AstroBlaster, a Pirates of the Caribbean ride and even an Animation Academy. And on top of that there is a massive arcade with arcade games, air hockey, Skeeball and "shoot the hoops." This really is the perfect antidote to a rainy day or afternoon in Orlando, Florida and trust me, you'll probably experience at least one of those regardless of the time of year that you visit.

Downtown Disney T-Rex Restaurant


First of all, let me start by saying, if you're not a fan of themed restaurants or find them a little cheesy or unnecessary then T-Rex is not for you but if you're there with kids or budding palaeontologists, then T-Rex is a really fun dining experience. Again, let me warn you, there are animatronic dinosaurs throughout the restaurant but as it's Disney it's not too scary or strange, at least to me, in the slightest.

There's also a "Build-A-Dino" gift shop by Build-A-Bear-Workshop, which really is a must-visit for any dinosaur fanatics or even just if you want to build a bear with a bit of a twist, especially as it's completely unique to T-Rex.

T-Rex Downtown Disney

I am always completely stunned by the attention to detail at Disney parks and I was especially happy to see that that hadn't been reduced at Downtown Disney at all. I mean just look at the entrance to T-Rex!

Flight Of Fantasy Downtown Disney

Take A Walk By The Lake

This is where you'll find the famous Flight Of Fantasy hot air balloon. It's also a lovely spot to take photographs and just admire the views across the lake. You can see straight across to the riverside resort of Port Orleans and there's also plenty of opportunities to see the adorable water taxis and ferry boats from here too. You can even hop on board one of these to take you across the lake to Port Orleans for even more Disney exploration. I definitely have this on my 'To-do list' for next year.

As I mentioned above there are so many fantastic things to do, eat and see at Downtown Disney that I could honestly have written a dissertation length blog post today. Hehe. These are just a few of my favourites and I really wish that we had discovered Downtown Disney earlier in our holiday, instead of two nights before we left, as I would certainly have revisited and saved a bit of my spending money for a few epic World Of Disney hauls but there is always next year now isn't there...

Next month's Orlando, Florida Travel Tips post will be dedicated to the Floridian weather and what to do when the weather takes a turn for the worse (I've been there during several hurricanes and tropical storms myself), when there's a sudden rainstorm and when a day is a bit of a rite-off thanks to the rain. Let me know if there is anything else, weather related, that you'd like some tips on too. And also, please let me know if you'd like a full post dedicated on how to do Orlando on a budget or the best places to visit that will literally cost you nothing.

Have you visited Downtown Disney before? If so, what was your favourite part of it? And if not, would you like to visit at some point, especially if you're heading to Orlando at some stage soon?


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