Walt Disney World - Downtown Disney
Also known as The Construction Zone.
Right now Downtown Disney is going through a MASSIVE construction process that is going to convert the entire area to an even larger complex known as DISNEY SPRINGS. This includes the addition of two parking decks in the parking lots.
The construction experience for Downtown Disney begins on Buena Vista Drive as you're trying to get to the shopping center. While stopping at almost every traffic light (it's heavily suspected that the traffic lights are intentionally timed that way to prevent people from speeding) you'll have plenty of time to admire the nearly endless number of traffic cones as well as the temporary parking lots now on the opposite side of the road. In fact, at some intersections you'll be stopping for even longer as the crosswalk zones allow for a long amount of time for people to cross the street.
Take note that Buena Vista Drive might resemble more of a parking lot than an actual road during the afternoons and evenings. This is mainly because one of the entrance to the Marketplace parking lot was closed and people had to use alternate entrances. You could still park in that lot and exit from it, but to access it you have to enter through the Pleasure Island parking lot and cut around the shopping center. Regardless, the end result is a huge backlog of traffic as people try to figure out not only where to park, but how to access their preferred parking area.
TIP - If you're driving to Downtown Disney, get there EARLY, especially on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The WEST GARAGE being built by the West Side (between the AMC movie theater and Planet Hollywood restaurant) is well under construction. It's scheduled to open some time in early 2015. One would imagine that as soon as it's opened, construction will begin on the second parking garage by either the Marketplace or Pleasure Island.
Don't worry though. There's still plenty more construction to see at Downtown Disney.
I will give Disney credit for making the mundane construction walls at least a little bit interesting. On the construction walls at Downtown Disney you'll find some concept artwork for how Disney Springs might look when it's finished. Of course, a lot of things can happen between now and then, but at least the artwork gives you a general idea of what's in store for the shopping and dining complex. Some parts of it do look fairly interesting.
You'll also find a few advertisements on the construction walls pointing the way to stores and restaurants. With all of those barriers, I'm sure that quite a few people have gotten lost while trying to navigate those areas.
Right now the majority of the construction is around Pleasure Island. Almost all of that area is one giant construction zone as Disney is building a new series of buildings on the island and over the water. There's even a temporary bridge that goes around part of the island, complete with its own temporary boat dock. The West Side has two construction zones as well --- a small area by Wolfgang Puck and in front of Splitsville, and a second zone in the previously open area across from Disney's Candy Cauldron. That second zone is going to be a new area with food trucks. This was supposed to be complete by this summer, but, as you can see, there's still quite a bit of work that still needs to be completed.
Here's the boat dock for Pleasure Island. I would imagine that this is merely a temporary boat dock and that this will be either relocated or removed once this area of Disney Springs opens.
The Marketplace also has a lot of construction as well. There are construction zones around the LEGO and World of Disney stores as well as around the stage and waterfront area. They're building a new pedestrian bridge that will go across the harbor and provide a shortcut from the Rainforest Cafe to basically The LEGO Store. The new bridge will definitely help with crowd control during the busier times. The construction of this bridge has moved the Marketplace boat dock to the opposite side of Rainforest Cafe (by the bus stop) and along the walkway to Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort.
Speaking of the Rainforest Cafe, that was also being refurbished during our visit. Construction scaffolding surrounded the volcano, and, of course, there were no fiery eruptions this time.
There's one last area of construction / refurbishment at Downtown Disney to mention. Remember those pirates by one of the entrances to the World of Disney store? Those pirates trapped in jail? Well, they're gone. The lone pirate at the ship's wheel is still outside the store, but the interior ones have disappeared. Maybe they finally caught the dog that was holding the keys . . .
Downtown Disney - New Sights
Not all of Downtown Disney was negative. Large sections of the Marketplace and West Side still looked and felt normal, complete with the same background music, and there were some new sights as well.
or starters, there's a new welcome sign for Downtown Disney by the bus stop and new boat dock. There's also a new topiary elephant also holding a welcome sign. The elephant is on the walkway next to Disney's Days of Christmas and by The Art of Disney.
There's also the topiary Sorcerer Mickey and the broomsticks from the animated movie Fantasia. I honestly don't remember if that display was there last year or not. From what I understand this display was removed from Disney's Hollywood Studios (they were by the arch entryway to Animation Courtyard) and transplanted here at the Marketplace. The topiary of Lady and the Tramp was previously used in Epcot's annual Flower and Garden Festival. As far as that giant flower, it looks familiar, but I cannot quite place where I've seen it before.
There's a new store in the Marketplace called the Marketplace Co-Op. This space was previously occupied by Ridemakerz, a store where you could build your own custom radio-controlled car. Ridemakerz is now gone for good at Downtown Disney. The Marketplace Co-Op is a small collection of small stores, each with different items. As you can see, one of the more interesting stores was a place that sold classic Disney items from the 1960s. Technically these are all artifacts from Disneyland as the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World didn't open until 1971, but many of those designs (including the Orange Bird) were still used at Walt Disney World.
Parked by one of the entrances to the World of Disney store was a food truck. On our first visit there were two trucks in this location, but that second truck was removed and not seen for the rest of the week. Some of the concept artwork on the construction walls made it sound like food trucks were going to be parked in both the Marketplace and the West Side, through the place for them at the West Side was still under construction.
Lovers of coffee will be delighted to know that Starbucks is now in Downtown Disney. There are two locations, one by the World of Disney store in the Marketplace, and the second location is at the entrance to the West Side over by Pleasure Island.
A couple of new stores were also spotted in the West Side --- Fit2Run, The Runner's Superstore along with United World Soccer.
Fans of wine and/or the hit show Once Upon a Time may be interested in these wines offered at Mickey's Pantry. You have to admit that The Frog Prince stopper looks pretty cool.