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 widely-anticipated expansion of Animal Kingdom currently scheduled to hit Disney Parks in 2017 is well underway—but what exactly is it? Right now it’s being referred to as “Avatar Land,” and will take the shape of the extra-terrestrial world of Pandora as seen in the 2009 blockbuster, Avatar. Imagineers have played this one pretty close to the vest so far, but here are a few things you can expect from the expansion:
– The new land will be built in the former area of Camp Minnie-Mickey. Character greeting spots previously held here have been moved to Discovery Island or discontinued completely. Festival of the Lion King has been relocated as well.
– Imagineers have been working closely with James Cameron, director of the franchise, to make the pavilion appear as close as possible to the world developed in the movie.
– The expansion will see new hours coming to Animal Kingdom; the park is expected to stay open later at night to accommodate evening shows and glow-in-the-dark attractions.
– Avatar Land will be designed as a “walk-through attraction,” with amazing sights and sounds at every turn; this currently includes floating “Hallelujah Mountains,” as well as bio-luminescent and interactive plants.
– Two main rides are assumed so far: a boat tour through Pandora and a 3-D flying ride similar to Soarin’. The boat ride is expected to be (at least in part) housed in a dark, indoor showroom (concept art pictured above). The flying ride will be similarly constructed, and will allow guests to ride on enormous flying beasts called ‘Banshees’ as they take an aerial tour of Pandora.
– The pavilion will include several themed restaurants and gift shops.
– Some suggest that the Tree of Life will be getting a glow-in-the-dark makeover to tie the park’s landmark back to Pandora.
– Reports indicate that a new nighttime show called “Rivers of Light” will be taking place along Discovery River, and will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screens, and swirling animal imagery.