If you’re staying at Disney for an extended period of time, or you’re traveling with an older crowd that isn’t as interested in the parks, consider visiting Downtown Disney. It’s a strip along the water full of shops, restaurants, interactive games, and nightlife.
There are some brand name stores along the strip, including Sunglass Hut and apparel from House of Blues and The Rainforest Cafe. Many of the shops are Disney specialties, including the enormous merchandise store, World of Disney; the Art of Disney collectible shop; and the sweet Goofy’s Candy Company. You can purchase just about anything along the strip. There are plenty of dining options as well, like Wolfgang Puck’s fancy cuisine, Planet Hollywood and Rainforest Cafe, or an assortment of food trucks.
You’ll also want to check out some of the entertainment that Downtown Disney has to offer, including a movie theater, a bowling alley, and performances like Cirque de Soleil and concerts at the House of Blues. Young guests might also enjoy DisneyQuest, a unique interactive theme park with high-tech games.
Downtown Disney is currently under renovation, though their website says that over 70 establishments remain open through construction. The expansion will be called Disney Springs, and is expected to double the amount of shops, dining, and entertainment options.
The Disney Dining Plan can be purchased as part of you vacation package, and is a method of budgeting your expenses that will provide you with tokens (stored on your MagicBand) that can be redeemed for various meals and snacks throughout the parks. There are different tiers of the plan that are paired with certain hotels, and during particular dates throughout the year, the Dining Plan is offered for free. How does this work? Let’s take a look:
Quick Service Plan: includes two counter-service meals and one snack per day at $42/day; offered for free with Value resort rooms
Standard Dining Plan: includes one counter-service meal, one sit-down meal, and one snack per day at $60/day; offered for free with Moderate and Deluxe resort rooms
Deluxe Dining Plan: three meals (either counter-service or sit-down) and two snacks per day at $110/day; not offered for free
The three types of meals offered (counter-service, sit-down, and snacks) can be purchased at specific types of restaurants. Counter-service are your fast food type places, like Casey’s Corner, Gaston’s Tavern, and Liberty Inn. On the plan, you would generally pick up lunch at one of these spots. Sit-down meals are your fancier restaurants, and you would ideally use these for nice dinners. They can be redeemed at places like 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Mama Melrose, and Le Cellier Steakhouse. Snacks can be purchased at kiosks throughout the parks.
Because tokens are not affected by price, you can use one to purchase an entree that costs any amount. That is to say, a sit-down restaurant token could be used to buy a $15 salad, or a $25 steak. In this way, if you utilize the tokens effectively and manage your meals beforehand, the Dining Plan can wind up saving you a lot of money. This isn’t always the case though, and poor planning might make the plan not worth it in the end. It all depends on how you can budget your tokens. Look into where you would like to eat beforehand to determine whether or not the Dining Plan would work for your trip.
The free promotion can be a good thing to take advantage of, but remember that selecting it for your trip would mean that you cannot receive the room discount offered at the same time—look for another post coming soon about knowing which discount to apply.