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A trip to Walt Disney World does not have to break the bank, and one way you can cut down on your cost is to have a non-park day scheduled into your vacation. Whether you are staying on Disney property or not, Downtown Disney is easily accessed, and is a great place to spend some time away from the parks.
I discovered Downtown Disney nearly 10 years ago when a subset of my family won a free hotel stay in Orlando. We bought a 2-day pass to WDW, but had three days in Orlando. We spent our first evening in Downtown Disney and had a blast! We ate at the Wolfgang Puck Express, and it is still one of my favorite restaurants. The portions are more than generous and can easily be shared by two, or even three, people. (If you have the dining plan, you may use a counter service credit there.)
In addition to the wonderful dining options in Downtown Disney, there are many other things to see and do. I am not a huge shopper, but if you are, then you are in luck. You truly can shop till you drop in Downtown Disney. I must admit that going into the stores and taking in the spectacle of it all is fun for me. I have even found some bargain clearance items now and then. In 2005, I found Buzz Lightyear children’s sneakers that had been reduced to less than $10!
My favorite thing to do in Downtown Disney is to allow my children to play and choose their souvenir while I take pictures. The boys enjoy examining the toys in different shops and deciding how they are going to spend their $20. I enjoy taking pictures of them with the various Disney statues in the area. The Winnie the Pooh and friends statue near Goofy’s Candy Company has been a favorite photo setting for years. We have pictures of the boys standing on the log with Pooh from almost each vacation. It is neat to see how the children grow from year to year, while our 100 Acre Woods friends always stay the same.
Another must-see attraction for my family is the Lego Store. The outdoor lego structures, which include life-size people walking their lego dogs, a sea monster, and other items are amazing. We take pictures with these old friends each year, and the boys love to play and see what is new in the Lego store.
There are many things in Downtown Disney we have not done, mainly because we are always on a firm budget, but also because we limit ourselves to the Downtown Disney Marketplace. We do not cover the entire area because our Downtown Disney day is supposed to be a rest day, and we do not want to do an abundance of walking on this day.
As my children get older, we would be interested in exploring DisneyQuest, the indoor interactive arcade. Pleasure Island boasts a fun nightlife, and when my boys graduate to their teen years, we may take advantage of some of their offerings. Check out http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/downtown-disney/ for more information about all there is to see and do in Downtown Disney.
After a few hours in the area, we are ready to go back to our hotel. We spend the rest of the day relaxing and swimming. Our non-park day ends with dinner by the pool, and we do our best to get to bed early because the next day will be a full park day.