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There is also an area called 'Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resortmarker in Anaheim, Californiamarker; see Downtown Disney .


Downtown Disney is an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex located at the Walt Disney World Resortmarker. Downtown Disney is open to the public, requires no admission fee and offers entirely free parking and transportation to all Disney resorts. The large outdoor complex is divided into three areas: the Marketplace, Pleasure Islandmarker and the West Side. Each area features a selection of entertainment venues, shops, restaurants and themeing. Notable tenants include Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, Disney Quest Indoor Interactive Theme Parkmarker, the House of Blues, Planet Hollywood, the Lego Imagination Center, World of Disney, AMC Pleasure Island 24, and Rainforest Cafe.

History

Downtown Disney began life on March 22, 1975, as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, a shopping complex intended to serve the planned residences within Walt Disney World property. As the residential units evolved into more resort hotel space, the complex became more focused as a shopping destination for all Walt Disney World visitors, and renamed Walt Disney World Village in 1977. With the advent of new management under Michael Eisner in the mid-1980s, Disney began looking for ways to keep vacationers on Walt Disney World property longer, and entice them with offerings to prevent them from leaving for entertainment beyond Disney's borders. To compete with the popular Church Street Station clubs in downtown Orlando, Pleasure Islandmarker was announced on July 21, 1986, as an expansion to the Village for highly themed, adults-only nightlife. Construction began the following August, and Pleasure Island opened on May 1, 1989, (the exact same day as the Disney-MGM Studiosmarker theme park) featuring unique clubs with the Disney touch for quality and creativity. That same year, the Walt Disney World Village was once again renamed as the Disney Village Marketplace to reflect the ever-changing nature of the area. In the mid-1990s, the growth of Walt Disney World once again created the potential for expansion of the offerings around Village Lake at Pleasure Island and the Disney Village Marketplace, so on June 20, 1995, major enhancements and expansion were announced for the area. The Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island would be folded into a newly-branded district called Downtown Disney, with the former renamed one more time on September 7, 1997, as Downtown Disney Marketplace. Just a few days later, on September 15, Downtown Disney West Side opened as a third shopping, dining, and entertainment zone featuring more eclectic venues such as La Nouba (a permanent show which is part of Cirque du Soleil), DisneyQuestmarker, and Virgin Megastore. Major changes for the complex also included the conversion of the somewhat sedate Mickey's Character Shop into the bustling World of Disney, becoming the world's largest Disney store, and the expansion and upgrade of the AMC Pleasure Island Theatres. Downtown Disney gained a sister district on January 12, 2001, with the expansion of the Disneyland Resortmarker in Anaheim, Californiamarker, and similar complexes known as Disney Villagemarker on April 12, 1992, at EuroDisneymarker (now Disneyland Resort Paris), and Ikspiarimarker on July 7, 2000, at the Tokyo Disney Resort. A fifth version is in planning for the most recent Disney destination, Hong Kong Disneylandmarker.

The Village/Marketplace and West Side have always been free to enter, while Pleasure Island required the purchase of admission. Pleasure Island was also closed during the day. Starting in the summer of 2004, Pleasure Island became free to enter and only those entering the nightclubs paid admission charges.

On September 27, 2008 all of the Pleasure Island night clubs closed as part of the larger refurbishment of Downtown Disney in order to make room for new shopping and dining offerings.

Marketplace

"Brickley" the sea monster outside the LEGO Imagination Center
known as the Disney Village Marketplace, the area contains many shops and quick service restaurants. Restaurants include Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, McDonald's, and the Rainforest Cafe. Shopping venues include the Lego Imagination Center, Goofy's Candy Company, World of Disney, Once Upon A Toy, and Cap'n Jack's Marina offering boat rentals.

Earl of Sandwich

Earl of Sandwich is a restaurant franchise based in Orlandomarker, Floridamarker, United Statesmarker. It was founded by the current Earl of Sandwich, his younger son Orlando Montagu, and businessman Robert Earl, founder of the Planet Hollywood chain. Earl of Sandwich is actually the brainchild of Orlando, who is second in line behind his brother Luke Timothy Charles Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke to the title of Earl of Sandwich. He and his father are direct descendants of the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who popularized the sandwich in Great Britainmarker in the 18th century. The first restaurant was opened on March 19, 2004, located in Downtown Disney Marketplace on the property of Walt Disney World Resortmarker outside of Orlando, Florida. Earl of Sandwich currently has franchising plans for all over the United States and the United Kingdom, including the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casinomarker in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first Earl of Sandwich franchise was opened in Sugar Land, Texas.

Pleasure Island

Pleasure Island was primarily a nighttime entertainment complex with comedy and dance clubs. It included a 1930s Explorer's Club themed Adventurer's Club, The Comedy Warehouse, 8TRAX featuring 70's & 80's music, BET Soundstage, Motion, and Mannequins Dance Palace featuring a revolving dance floor and trance music, dance music & techno. There is also the Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant. The two comedy and four dance clubs on Pleasure Island permanently closed after the evening of September 27, 2008. New shops and restaurants were to open to replace the clubs but the economic recession of 2009 delayed plans and to date only one new restaurant has opened.


Fulton's Crab House

Fulton's Crab House is a riverboat restaurant located at Pleasure Island. Formerly, the Empress Lilly. Run by the Levy Restaurants company, their head chef is Frank Walason.

History

Entrance
The Empress Lilly is a 220 by 62 foot static replica Paddle steamer riverboat on Village Lake in Lake Buena Vista, Floridamarker. In reality, the Lilly couldn't go anywhere. She was not a boat at all, but a large boat-shaped building, erected on the edge of the lake. A submerged concrete foundation gave the Lilly the stability to weather a hurricane. Built for the Walt Disney World Resortmarker in 1976, the ship contained three restaurants and a jazz lounge. She greeted guests for the first time on May 1, 1977, when Lillian Disney, Walt Disney's widow for whom the ship is named, christened the ship. The Lilly was designed by Walt Disney Imagineeringmarker to be as true to the eye as possible. The gingerbread scrollwork and stained glass detailing gave the ship an authentic feeling, harkening back to the days of Mark Twain's Mississippi River. The paddle wheel at the aft end of the ship churned constantly, though the ship never went anywhere. The Empress Lilly was one of the first locations of the now famous Disney Character Breakfast.

Baton Rouge Lounge was located forward on the main deck. Here is where patrons could spend some time relaxing at the bar, and enjoying the musical sounds of the Riverboat Rascals. Many of these musicians played in the Baton Rouge for years, and became local legends. Some of the players who have played with the Riverboat Rascals were Fast Eddie Erickson, Dave Tobiasen, Tom Bucci, Denny Zavett, Ralf Reynolds, Mike Gentry, Randy Morris, Dan Riley, John Charles and Bill Dendle.

Steerman's Quarters was located in the aft section of the Main Deck. It specialized in certified Angus beef entrees. The décor focused on imagery from America's western cattle nostalgia. In the aft end of the room, giant windows revealed the churning paddlewheel, nearby.

Fisherman's Deck was located forward on the Promenade Deck. As its name implies, this was a seafood restaurant.

Empress Room was located aft on the Promenade Deck. This was a formal dining establishment, requiring reservations in advance. The room was extravagantly decorated, with gold trimmed walls and Rococo (Louis XIV) style flourishes. Hungarian Chef, Garry Reich, developed the original menu, to cater to upscale tastes.

Jenny, the shrimping boat used in the movie Forrest Gump used to be located on the northwest corner of Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney (Florida)

In the mid 1990s, Disney began finding outside management to take over many of its restaurants. As a cost cutting move, it was decided that the Empress Lilly would come under new management. Levy Restaurants signed a contract to operate the ship for 20 years. On April 22, 1995, the Empress Lilly served her last meals. The restaurant was closed, all interiors were ripped out, and a new décor, for a single restaurant (not three) was put in place. In addition, the old smoke stacks and paddlewheel, which gave the Lilly some added authenticity, were removed due to rust and rot. They were not replaced. The restaurant reopened as Fulton's Crab House on March 10, 1996.

Raglan Road

Raglan Road Irish-themed pub, restaurant and gift shop, operated by Great Irish Pubs Florida, opened in October 2005 replacing the Pleasure Island Jazz Company night club.

T-Rex Cafe

A T-Rex Cafe dinosaur-theme restaurant is operated by Landry's Restaurants with life-sized animatronic dinosaurs by UCFab International, LLC, was built in 2008 in the area of a former valet parking traffic circle, adjacent to McDonald's in the E parking lot. This is technically not on Pleasure Island itself but closer to the Marketplace. Groundbreaking ran behind schedule but finally occurred in October 2007. The restaurant opened in the fall of 2008.

Paradiso 37

With the closure of the comedy and dance clubs on Pleasure Island, the only new venue announced was Paradiso 37, a central and South American-themed restaurant and tequila bar. It opened on June 4, 2009 in the building formerly housing shops and a fast food restaurant.

West Side

The House of Blues on the West Side
The Downtown Disney West Side is home to many full service restaurants, large stores, and entertainment venues. It includes an AMC 24-screen movie theater, Cirque du Soleil - La Nouba, the House of Blues restaurant and show auditorium, the five floor DisneyQuestmarker "indoor theme park", Planet Hollywood, the Wolfgang Puck Cafè, Bongos Cuban Cafè, and other various shops and eateries. The Virgin Megastore closed permanently on May 12, 2009 and will be replaced in late June, 2009 by a display of dresses and gowns owned previously by Diana, Princess of Wales. The display is scheduled to operate through November. Characters in Flight is also a new attraction that opened spring 2009 and feature a giant tethered balloon that can soar 300 feet above providing 360-degree views of the Walt Disney World resort. It is very similar to the Panoramagique located at Disneyland Resort Parismarker.

See also



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