The yellow structures are the beginnings of the foundation of the "Boat House" (pictured below as right on the waterfront) an awesome new restaurant concept that i hope lives up to all the hype. (I will be discussing why it's so cool in a separate post later this week) Just from this recent aerial view however, you can see that the footprint is pretty true to the plan. The walkway is already in place, and it looks like they might continue building out from there so there is no gap over the water? or did they shift the bridge over altogether? only time will tell, but so far, so good! Seeing the actual size of everything laid out is incredibly exciting!
It's incredible how a seemingly small change can have a huge visual impact like this one- The sidewalk in front of Fulton's at the Marketplace went from concrete to wooden planks and already, it looks like Disney Springs is starting to take shape. It has a whole new, vintage feeling. Notice that they also added a cool antique lamp post. up close, the base of the light has an embossed logo for Disney Springs. It's coming to life! Right across this lake are the resorts and i think timeshare villas. http://theorlandovacationstore.com/disney/index.asp has a breakdown of all of the Disney World Resorts that are along the waterway at DTD- this expansion will include a walking bridge to them along with a boat dock to connect guests to the shopping- like they have at the Boardwalk!
Among the Disney-themed merchandise up and down the shopping strip at Downtown Disney's West Side, there are some shops that aren't kitschy "gift shops" but rather, keepsakes and original art.
My favorite is the PoP! Gallery, but there are a few more that are worth taking a good look at. Something Silver is a smaller shop than the rest but every square inch is full of delicate treasures. Unlike most things sold at Disney, this shop is more fairly priced and the quality is great.
All different kinds of jewelry can be found here- from simple teardrop earrings to real maple leaves that have been dipped in bronze. They even have pendants that are made from flower petals dipped in glass. As far as we can see from the plans for Disney Springs, the new shops will be a mix of fine art and high end products with Disney souvenir themes and designs. I recommend taking a look inside even if it is just to be browsy :)
While everyone's perception of what nightlife should be like is different, we will be exploring nightlife for adults. As in, after 10:00 bedtime.
Downtown Disney used to have an entire club scene in the area called Pleasure Island but with the renovations going on, they all closed years ago and are now being removed completely for Disney Springs.
Universal's Citywalk (pictured above) is much more dedicated to nightlife- they have several themed bars and clubs like Bob Marley's, The Groove, an Irish Pub and more. After 10:00 they all open and sometimes by 11:00 they've already kicked out all the kids and teenagers and you have to be 21 to walk around back there. There are shot girls and great drink discounts and more. This Universal Studios site has a better breakdown of what you can find/do there, but just from living here, I know there is much more to do- and i have heard they are expanding as we speak.
They even have the rising star, a karaoke bar that gives each participant a full band and background singers for their performances. They have Fat Tuesdays, an outdoor counter that sells frozen, slushie style alcoholic drinks. Downtown Disney has recently copied that idea outside of Splitsville, but between that and the House of Blues being their only "club" (and only open for concerts or one or two times a week as a dance hall/bar) Citywalk is a much better choice if you are looking to party.
Downtown Disney and Citywalk, once again have very different approaches when it comes to their entertainment venues. Both the House of Blues Orlando (Disney) and The Hard Rock Live (Universal) host a wide variety of groups and genres, so how do they compare?
Interior: The House of Blues is rich in details with paintings, wooden structures, a little seating, several bars, an upper level outdoor porch, easy access to the top floor and a nice, shabby chic underground music scene feel to it.
Hard Rock on the other hand is more industrial- the interior is a wide open space with a top floor, but those areas are undecorated and if there is a bar in there, i've never been able to make my way to it. It has more expensive mainstream and popular bands that come from time to time, and for events like that they put in seating. They saved the decorating for inside the Cafe it seems. As far as looks go, House of Blues Wins.
Artists: The upcoming performances for the House of Blues is listed in another one of my posts on this site, and for updates on what's going on at the Hard Rock, click here. I focus more on Downtown Disney ;) Both the venues book similar artists, but HOB has more frequent performances and on nights where there are no shows, it is still open as a nightclub (mostly on Sundays and Tuesdays) on quantity, HOB wins, but on quality, it's a tie.
Price: The prices are comparable- they are more dependent on the artist and not the location. However, it is worth-while to mention that CityWalk, therefore HRL charges anywhere from $5-$18 to park your car so you have to add that to the cost of your tickets. Price is a tie.
Food: both of these venues include an attached themed restaurant. Sadly, I don't think the food at either place is all that great, but HOB is definitely overpriced. At least at the Hard Rock they have a better drink selection and it isn't as expensive (don't get me wrong, it's overpriced for what you;re getting, but its not as bad as HOB.) food is a tie.
The Winner: It's a tie. While I personally prefer the HOB, it all depends on who you want to see and where they are playing.
The PoP! Gallery at Downtown Disney is home to many strange and wonderful Disney-inspired pieces of artwork.
The most recognized and popular artwork however is the collection of Alice in Wonderland and Disney Princess paintings by Jasmine-Beckett Smith. The originals sell out almost immediately, but there are prints, books, postcards and other souvenirs available at all times to meet the high demand.
Jasmine lives in Celebration FL, the city that was originally owned by Disney and sits a mere fifteen to twenty minutes from the theme parks. Her portraits of the fantastic characters of the parks and animated films are her most famous pieces. She calls them "Strangelings" and has a website dedicated to them- I didn't know the full scope of her online fandom until I purchased a book from the gallery for my older sister. She has meet and greets, debuts her new pieces in person and signs autographs in the gallery. She's a local celebrity!
If you are a fan of these types of things I strongly recommend visiting the gallery space your next Disney World vacation- You may even get a chance to see the artist herself!
in this picture from twitter user @kjwallace7, you can see the tank just as it burst and began washing the surrounding tables in salt water. Surprisingly, through all of the chaos the restaurant remained open! They evacuated the area closest to the tank obviously and cast members began running and rescuing the fish with brooms, pails and buckets. They finished the clean up (as the water was continuously leaking) with the rest of the establishment filled with patrons. I imagine the servers were quite surprised-and wet.
Downtown Disney, as part of the whole tourist area, has almost the same amount of magic as the parks- Everything is super detailed, creative and out of the box- Whether the buildings are designed by imagineers or outside architects. Still, the engineers are only human and things like this still happen sometimes. Recently at the Magic Kingdom, after the fireworks show, a nearby building's roof in Fantasyland caught fire for a little while.
It's scandalous for such a prestigious company!
Universal Studios' CityWalk and Downtown Disney are popular tourist destinations and most of the time guests just visit whichever corresponds to the theme parks they are visiting. Naturally. But people who are staying for longer vacations and are visiting both parks oftentimes don't know which one to go to. They are similar in some ways, yet VASTLY different in others. For example, both have popular restaurants, a movie theater and a concert hall.
Like in every outdoor shopping center, some restaurants are better than others. Downtown Disney has the award winning Wolfgang Puck, Raglan Road, and Portobello- As well as the Rainforest Cafe and a high end Seafood restaurant. Citywalk on the other hand has mostly quick-service places like Burger King and Panda Express- and as far as fine dining goes they have Emerill's and a few nice restaurants at their hotels (which aren't technically part of Citywalk). It seems like there is no competition!
Downtown Disney has many more buildings, so naturally it has more options, but the restaurants they have are much better quality as well. You can eat at any of Downtown Disney's establishments for a similar or lower price than Universal's Emerill's and their mediocre pizzeria.
Winner- Downtown Disney all day!
Between La Nouba and the House of Blues is a semi circle of food trucks- each one representing a different Disney park or theme.
The Namaste Cafe brings some of the menu items from Animal Kingdom to the west side. It is classified as Asian on the Disney website and costs less than $15 a plate. Some of the different disney dining plans include the food trucks, so be sure to ask before you accidentally pay out of pocket. (This blog has more information about the Disney Dining Plan and what it covers)
They offer small plates of savory options like slow-cooked beef short ribs, butter chicken and tandoori spiced shrimp.
The plate below looks absolutely delicious. I haven't tried any of their menu items yet, but I will definitely be eating there soon. There aren't usually a lot of guests lined up around the food trucks (their location doesn't help- they're easy to miss if you aren't looking for them) so I've more or less overlooked them in that past. However, Disney sees a lot of potential in them and has made plans for Disney Springs to have a dedicated area called food truck park.
250 years ago, John Montagu, a famous explorer and the 4th Earl of Sandwich, accidentally invented the revolutionary meal thanks in part to a gambling problem.
The story goes as follows: John Monatgu was such an avid gambler that he didn't want to have to take breaks from playing cards and needed a meal he could eat with only one hand. This led to him putting meat between two pieces of bread and just like that, the world's first fast food item was invented. The trend caught on like wildfire in 1762. Now, there are several Earl of Sandwich locations nationwide, but none quite as good as the one in Downtown Disney's Marketplace. The company was founded by the Sandwich family themselves, and is currently run by the 11th Earl.
These sandwiches are unlike any other- they are full, hearty gourmet meals. My personal favorite is the Caprese- it has mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, lettuce and a thick, sweet balsamic glaze. This is a great spot for a date (you can catch an afternoon movie at the AMC theater nearby) or for catching up with friends.