10 Must-Do’s at Downtown Disney


I love Downtown Disney – some may say obsessed. This could be the result of two things. First off, I’ve been going to Downtown Disney every since I can remember, I’ve always stayed in the Downtown Disney (except once in 2008) resort area so we always ended our nights there. Second of all, it’s FREE and there is so much to do in a calmer pace than the theme parks.

1. Trade some pins! Whether you’re a collector, newbie or just looking for one or two pins to take back as a souvenir you won’t find a bigger collection than the one at Disney Pin Traders over at Marketplace. Even if you don’t buy any you can still see the amazing (and largest) pin collection on WDW grounds. If you’re on a budget order a few beforehand online and trade when you get there, just remember to follow the rules.

2. LEGO Imagination CenterWe’re still in Marketplace, keep up. – The best thing about LEGO Imagination Center is that kids (and adults) can both see amazing LEGO sculptures, play in the huge LEGO table or buy there own to build back in the hotel or at home. Take great pictures with the dragon in the lake or with the tourists. It’s like getting 2 “attractions” in one.

3. Disney’s Candy Cauldron
Now…don’t go yelling at me for mentioning candy, you’re on vacation, it’s allowed. Anyways, Candy Cauldron has everything from packaged goodies to fresh baked treats. Skip making lines for candy at the parks wasting precious time and make getting that caramel apple something to look forward to at the end of the night. Located in West Side (in front of Bongo’s). — Same goes for Goofy’s Candy Co. at Marketplace.

4. Disney’s Days of Christmas
Disney? Christmas? All year long? … Must I really say more?. Located in Marketplace.

5. Spice and Tea Exchange
Back to Marketplace, keep up. This is a great place to stop by for adults. It’s not just candy and glitter-y pens at WDW. There’s something for adults as well. This place has teas from all over the world, some WDW themed and some not but all great and lots of different flavors. Great spices too, but the tea assortment is the real winner. There are baggies, boxes, tea pots and tea cups! You’ll have to check with your airline’s regulations before stocking up but it’s great (and might I add, different) store to go to.

6. World of Disney
THE BIGGEST SELECTION OF DISNEY MERCHANDISE IN THE WORLD! Sorry…I got excited. Everything you could want is here, from toddler toys, pens, shirts and totes to Disney china for the kitchen and bedding it’s here. Everything you have seen in the parks you will find here and they usually have clearance sections for your budget travels. So stop carrying around bags with shirts, mugs and plush toys in the parks and buy them here at the end of the day to go back to the hotel. – Once you’re inside you have another hour or so after the store closes to finish your shopping, huge plus! Located in Marketplace.

7. House of Blues
I was a bit hesitant to mention HoB since you have to pay to get in but it’s too good to not mention. Located in West Side, HoB offers great Southern food (re-invented menu by Chef Aarón Sánchez), down-home ambiance and great entertainment. You can find events before online as well as purchase your tickets before them. It’s a great alternative to get away from Mouse and Pixie Dust overdose and enjoy good music and food… There’s even a tribute to Led Zeppelin this week.

8. Cirque Du Solei: La Nouba
Again.. I was a bit hesitant but it’s well worth the money. I believe it’s important to make the most of your trip (within your means of course) and if there are a few non-Disney things you can do while there go for it! La Nouba, Cirque du Soleil’s third permanent show, is an expensive one, the cheapest seats are currently $52 – however, if there is room in your budget it is breathtaking. Created as a fairy tale to keep in tone with the magic of WDW, the stunts are fun for the whole family, the “magic” is breathtaking for the kids and the music leaves you without words to describe how amazing it is. The acts are amazing as well, from the Diabolo girls (my personal favorite) to the flying trapeze to the aerial ballet in silk I know it’s steep but you won’t regret it. Located in West Side. You can find more information here. Apparently the backstage tour is no longer available according to their site, but be on the lookout and research before you go — it might become available in the future once more and it’s a great experience. (Off the record: I took it and was able to see everything, from costume rooms to rehearsals to even try my hand at the Diabolo girl’s act!)

9. Cap’n Jack’s Marina
Located in Marketplace this is one of the attractions in DD that I’ve always wanted to but have never gotten around to it. Although I can’t speak based on personal experience like the above mentioned must-do’s I will still recommend it. You rent nifty little boats and navigate your way through Village Lake, I can imagine amazing photo opportunities during the day and amazing views of everything lighted up during the night (specially during the holidays). The prices are rather reasonable for WDW and there’s a group offer that includes a driver (or should I say captain?) either way, check it out.

10. Eat something different!
Now I know this isn’t necessarily breaking news. However, there are many great dinning options at DD, gives you a break from the park hot dogs, fake grill marked burgers and fries. There’s Bongo’s Cuban Café for amazing Cuban food and mojitos. Fulton’s Crab House for seafood and an architecturally stimulating option. Wolfgang Puck Express for a different fare that won’t break your budget. Planet Hollywood and Rainforest Café – known chains with their own twist! If I had to pick I’d go with the latter, there’s something about a talking tree and rain noises that just opens up my appetite. Portobello for Italian dinning. T-REX Cafe , dinning in the pre-historic times of dino’s? Sign me up.

Can I add a number 11? Yes? Score!

Unofficial 11. Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Ice Cream Shop
Maybe it’s because I don’t have one of these where I live, although we do have a wide variety of Ghirardelli products I can’t go back to DD ever again and not go to Ghirardelli. Everything from hot sundaes to cones with scoops this is heaven on earth (or maybe Willy Wonka’s version?). There’s usually a line but it goes by quite fast since they’re used to a heavy volume of costumers. My hotel had a book with a discount so check online beforehand for coupons or ask at the counter if you’re staying in a hotel. — Reasonable prices and you can share almost all desserts, they’re quite big. Located in Marketside.

There are many other places to go and things to do. There’s a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where little girls are transformed into princesses (for a price). Team Mickey Athletic Club to grab a souvenir for that athlete in your life. Characters in Flight hot air balloon — I’m in a currently between a rock and a hard place with this; when I went in January the prices began at $40 however, online it says that they start at $12 , don’t think it’s worth the $$ though…get walking, do some cardio on vacation and see DD by foot (or in one of the boats) instead of standing in a hot air balloon. Of course, there’s always Disney Quest, but at $45 p/p may I suggest saving this in case you spend a whole day at DD? There’s also AMC Theaters, movie at Disney? Why not! (Can’t imagine how much the popcorn costs though).

Check out the map before you go! Maybe you can fit in a day there in between parks to rest a little bit and save some $$ on parking and park entrance. Great to go at night for street entertainment and performances.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All things mentioned are done so by my own recommendation. Photo is taken by and is property of Disney and Sparkle, feel free to use it but if you can, link back to us!

Any additional questions, comments or suggestions you can contact me at– disneyandsparkle@gmail.com