In March 1975, the entertainment, shopping and dining complex now known as Downtown Disney opened in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Originally, the complex was named Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, and was designed as a retail area for the planned residents within the Walt Disney World property. However, the resort continued to evolve, and the name was changed to Walt Disney World Village in 1977.
When Disney announced the expansion of the complex with the introduction of Pleasure Island, an adults-only themed nightlife area in 1989, Disney once again changed the name to Disney Village Marketplace in order to reflect the changing nature of the area. Then, in the mid 1990’s, Disney announced that they would be re-branding the marketplace once again, combining both Pleasure Island and the Disney Village Marketplace into one area known collectively as Downtown Disney. The Disney Village Marketplace was also re-named again, this time as Downtown Disney Marketplace. A third area, Downtown Disney West Side, opened in 1997 as an additional expansion.
Now, the area known as Downtown Disney contains three separate areas much like in the past, including Downtown Disney Marketplace, Downtown Disney West Side, and the formerly-named Pleasure Island. It was announced in 2010 that Pleasure Island would be re-branded as Hyperion Wharf, and feature shops and restaurants that will be open during the day as well as the evening time. Progress has been made little by little on the construction of this new entertainment complex, and if Disney adheres to schedule the work should be finished by 2013.
Hyperion Wharf isn’t the only renovation the Downtown Disney Area has undergone in recent months, however. The AMC theatres located in Downtown Disney added in-theater dining to their program in May 2011, giving visitors the chance to watch a great movie and dine on some delicious food in the process. Additionally, the Lego Imagination Center was expanded to feature all-new interactive activities for kids and kids at heart to enjoy.
Also in Downtown Disney West Side is the popular attraction Characters in Flight. This semi-recent addition opened in 2009, and takes guests up in a balloon 400 feet above Downtown Disney Area! Visitors will enjoy a stunning 360 degree view of the entire Walt Disney World Resort area, as well. This area is also where visitors can check out the circus spectacle La Nouba, a Cirque du Soleil production. Kids will also enjoy the DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, an out-of-this-world arcade filled with the highest technology, including virtual reality games, 3D simulators and plenty of classic games from years past.
The Downtown Disney Marketplace is where you will find a wide variety of world-class shops, especially if you are looking for exclusive Disney merchandise. There are also plenty of restaurants here to choose from, including special and unique options, quick-service eateries and casual dining option, as well.
Recent news has also confirmed some new additions to Downtown Disney, including the addition of Harley-Davidson’s store in Downtown Disney West Side, one of the largest and interactive Harley merchandise stores.
Downtown Disney Area is free of charge, and offers free parking to visitors and offers free transportation to and from the surrounding resorts. With the continued growth of Downtown Disney, it’s easy to see why this shopping, dining and entertainment complex remains a popular place.