Downtown Disney – Land of construction walls and cranes

| June 24, 2014 | 19 Replies

Downtown Disney in Walt Disney World used to be a great place to spend some time as a local or tourist. This area in Walt Disney World is currently being transformed into Disney Springs. The project is expected to be finished in 2016. If you visit during the construction you should keep it mind it is going to be challenging if you drive here and expect to find a parking spot easily.  I highly recommend taking the bus if you are a WDW resort guest.

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If you are a fan of construction walls and cranes you have come to the right place. My home state of Pennsylvania uses a saying on their construction signs that should become the tag line for Downtown Disney.  Temporary Inconvenience, Permanent Improvement. Can’t you picture this on a t-shirt with a picture of the area? I keep in mind when I visit just how beautiful it is all going to be when it is completed.

When construction is completed there will be four different areas of Disney Springs. The Town Center – this area will be brand new and will have shopping and dining. The Landing – this was Pleasure Island.  You will find more dining and shopping here with views of the water. Marketplace will have a larger World of Disney Store and a new walkway over the water.  West Side – this is where you will find entertainment venues. There will be some new elevated spaces with shade and overlooks the area. You will also be able to enjoy the two new parking garages. The first one should open in late 2014.

Pictures of the new areas on the construction walls.

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I worry what first time visitors think when they see all the construction. Disney is usually pretty good at distracting you from construction going on but I think they just gave up on a good guest experience for this project. If you are driving, be aware that traffic patterns seem to change overnight. Buena Vista Drive is eventually going to be 10 lanes with dedicated bus lanes. Many of the parking lots are closed so you may want to go early to find a spot.  They do have 2 valet lots. One is located near Cirque du Soleil, the other is behind the World of Disney store. The charge is $20 per car. If you have a Tables in Wonderland Card, valet parking is free with a dining receipt. If you have paid for valet parking at your WDW resort, you will need to pay again at Downtown Disney.

If you are used to pulling into the parking lot across from the Hess Station you will find a few changes. The good news is that you will not be bothered by the Disney buses.  The bad news is that the Pleasure Island bus stop is now closed.  There is only one bus stop now.

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If you attempt to enter Downtown Disney from the entrance by the T- Rex restaurant be aware you will not be able to turn right to head towards the Marketplace.  This is closed off. They have created a new walkway to reach the Lego Store and the Marketplace.

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The new pedestrian walkway, and the construction around the lake.

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As you move towards the former Pleasure Island you are greeted by more construction walls. Paradiso 37 and Raglan Road are open. The bridge to the West Side is behind the construction walls. You will also find construction walls up around Portobello and Fulton’s Crab House. They are open also but it is a challenge to find your way to these restaurants.

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There is no boat dock in the Marketplace any longer.  You will need to use the other boat dock if you would like to travel to the West Side or the resorts on the water.

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You can see the elevated spaces taking shape here. The one in front of the new Starbucks is finished. DSC_5577 DSC_5593

We are now on the West Side. There is a future Food Truck area coming and you can see the first parking garage rising in the parking lot.

DSC_5575 DSC_5587 DSC_5589 DSC_5591 DSC_5600 DSC_5604We haven’t stopped going to Downtown Disney. We just go early in the day now to avoid the parking lot hassles. This isn’t the place to forget about life for awhile like you can do in the theme parks.  It is an area under construction. Just keep telling yourself it is going to be beautiful when it is all done.  Would I say avoid the area? No!  Just pack your patience and remember you are in Walt Disney World after all!  See you in the parks!



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Category: Disney World

  • abbuga

    I do not get the the food truck idea. Why would someone go on vacation to eat at food trucks! It does not sound appealing.

    • sublime-wan

      Food trucks are the new foodie craze… These food trucks nowadays can pump out dishes worthy of five star cuisine at half the price.

      • Bob

        Do the trucks have to follow the same Florida health standards as restaurants? Can’t think of a worse place to get food poisoning than on a Disney vacation.

        • CliftonPark GMan

          Yes – Of Course. I actually worked and supervised a temporary concession booth for a charity golf event which lasted 4 days. Not only did we need a health permit but received a full health inspection.

    • Camamile

      I look at these food trucks every week and think the same thing! I do not get it. Maybe I’ll have to try something, but the idea of walking around in the blazing sun with a plate in my hand trying to eat it and not drop it just doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe when the weather cools off and the crowds die down…but you should have seen the lines for these trucks last weekend! Wow!

    • CliftonPark GMan

      They are actually pretty cool. When I was down for a convention in April the EPCOT truck was there serving items you can get during the F&G festival as well as items you can usually only get in the theme parks. They are totally subject to all the same health codes, inspections and are run and supervised by the Disney people. Food Trucks today are not the “roach coaches” of old even off the Disney properties. When I go to cities you see such a diversity of food prepared by aspiring chefs and restauranteurs not some sleazy dude smoking a Marlboro.

      • Chris Arnini

        100% agree, they are much higher end then what many people think of. A lot of the music festivals I go to have great food trucks, some of the food has been utterly amazing.

  • Jimbo

    I for one am thrilled that Disney has taken the last open area at Downtown Disney that had an open space with real grass where kids could run and play, and are paving it over to create a parking lot for food trucks. It’s about time.

    • Kathy Werling

      You can still go down by Cirque and play in the grass.

  • AliceMouse

    Thanks for the update, Kathy! We’ve been fortunate to visit frequently during the construction and while it can be a nuisance, it’s kind of neat to have a collection of “in-progress” photos. As long as Earl of Sandwich and the Pin Trading station are part of the final plan, I’m good :)

  • 5busyrussells

    How in the world do you find anything? Looks like a mess. Will have to re-think some dining spots for upcoming trip in September. Doesn’t look like it is worth the aggravation to head to Raglan Road, Wolfgang Puck Express, Ghiardelli Fountain, Earl of Sandwich, etc.?

    • Kathy Werling

      Lots of directional signs on the walls. I just suggest taking the bus.

    • Camamile

      It is a mess, but don’t let it stop you! Take a resort bus if you can, but if you drive, just know the later in the day you come, the more you’ll drive around waiting for a spot to open. We do it all the time and have never NOT found a spot–eventually! The dining spots you mentioned? Too good to miss! And not that difficult to get to either.

  • pat

    As usual Kathy, always enjoy your blogs. Not sure what time you were there, it must have been early as it seems quite empty and appears as if Downtown Disney is just one continuous wall. If it’s not too much trouble and you do go back during a busier time or an evening, would love to see some photos to get perspective on the crowds during the construction. The same for the construction at the Magic Kingdom hub If you are in the area with your camera, would love to see some photos and get your opinion of it’s impact on the crowds. Thank you again for your frequent strolls through the parks, and by way of your blog, taking those of us who can’t get there very often along to enjoy it with you.

    • Kathy Werling

      I went early so you could see the walls and the area. It does get crowded, I think I have some pictures from later in the day. Thanks for reading the blog. :)

  • s g

    I worked at DTD until recently. The crowds are pretty good. It is very busy down there at night with lots to do for families. Outside the Once Upon a Toy, there is usually a DJ that plays music and it is great seeing the kids all dance. I am talking the little ones too! There is also a new Co-op store that has opened up in the Marketplace along with Starbucks near the World of Disney. Parking is challenging at night however. Take the bus when you are able.

  • Liana Caruana

    Does anyone know if the water feature near Earl of Sandwich where kids enjoy running thru the water will remain? Carousel and train? Thanks.

  • Jan

    The above article dated June, 2014 states that TIW gets free valet with a dining receipt.
    I wrote to TIW in April, 2014 after reading conflicting information about TIW Free Valet in DTD….here is the response I received from TIW:

    Thank you for the message,
    unfortunately members do not receive complimentary valet parking at Downtown
    Disney any longer, that was only offered as a test program. However you
    do still receive complimentary valet parking at resort locations.

    I’ll be writing TIW again to ask for clarification, but wanted to give others a heads up that this article may be using outdated information (or maybe Disney changed it AGAIN since I wrote in April, lol). Either way, be sure to double check before you go!

  • SMG

    Are Basin, the glass blowers shop (can’t remember the name….), Christmas store, and art store still open?