Observations from Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World: November 12 and 13

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Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2013, and Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Weather: Tuesday – High 79°F, Low 57°F. Wednesday – High 64°F, Low 64°F

I decided to write this post over two days to show how the weather changes this time of year and to get as many of the holiday decorations as possible. Tuesday was blustery but warm during the day and gave us the first chilly night of the season. Wednesday was a little dreary but still pleasant enough to wear shorts. Packng for this time of year can be confusing, but a jacket and some kind of pants and long-sleeved shirt can be necessary as the sun starts to set around 5:30 on any given day.

First and foremost, it should be noted that the construction in and around Downtown Disney as the Disney Springs project moves forward is prevalent and, when it comes to parking, a pretty major pain. Where it used to be more convenient to drive to DTD from some resorts and park, that’s no longer the case. I recommend taking resort transportation when possible and using the new valet service adjacent to Cirque du Soleil if you’re in a hurry.

Downtown Disney parking lots are now a maze of construction walls and cones.

Downtown Disney parking lots are now a maze of construction walls and cones.

When I went to Downtown Disney on Tuesday, the West Side’s decorations had been completed, but the Marketplace was still in process. I think the work that Holiday Services does in a matter of hours to transform the parks is just incredible; by Wednesday, everything was up! I parked in Lot M in front of Cirque du Soleil, which – since Sunday – had been taken from Fall/Halloween decorations to Christmas cheer. The giant wreath looks a little out of proportion during the day, but when lit at night is a fun addition.

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Disney Quest received a new paint job fairly recently, and the dichromatic facade is much more in keeping with the rest of the West Side’s feel.

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Decorations around the West Side have a fun retro feel to them. They’re not as over-the-top as some holiday decorations around the parks, but they add some festive overtones to an area that can sometimes feel disjointed.

Christmas Deco Collage 2013

House of Blues will be adding a counter-service location specializing in barbecue in the near future, giving the West Side another new quick-service option in addition to the food trucks said to be rolling in soon.

Also new to the shopping lineup on the West Side is Fit2Run, an apparel, footwear, and general gear store for the runner.

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Described on its site as a “runner’s superstore,” the chain location features a club membership ($30 per year) that gives its members fairly significant discounts on shoes and gear. There’s a wide variety of shoe brands, including some of the harder-to-find like Brooks and Saucony, as well as some specialty running clothing lines that I don’t see often like Roxy. The store offers foot mapping and specialized fitting, and has a wide selection of running nutrition in gels, chews, and other formats with a big selection of flavors. In all, it could easily be a one-stop shop for the runDisney runner.

Down the way, just across from the Harley Davidson shop, construction is proceeding on the new Starbucks location, currently slated to be complete in Spring of 2014. The construction wall announcement includes a nice concept drawing of what looks to be a fairly large location. I know there are some detractors, but I have to say I’ve really enjoyed my Pumpkin Spice Lattes in the parks.

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And, though the weather wasn’t great, I tried to get at least one “just fun to look at” photo. Here, the Characters in Flight Balloon is ready to launch.

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Just past the Characters in Flight kiosk is the newly opened pedestrian bridge that bypasses Pleasure Island, taking guests from the West Side to the Marketplace. The pathway is wide, nicely lit, and scenic, with the construction walls displaying concept art of the Disney Springs renovation.

Pleasure Island bypass bridge collage

The bypass bridge takes you on a short, pleasant walk to the Marketplace, a welcome detour from the chaos that can be Pleasure Island.

In the Marketplace, World of Disney has been fully decorated outside with the more traditional Christmas trimmings and illuminated deer topiaries placed in various plantings around the property. Santa’s Chalet is up, and Santa will begin meeting and greeting on November 15. The schedule at the Chalet is as follows:

November 15 – November 28, 2013, from 5:00-10:00pm (Santa Claus)

November 29 – December 24, 2013, from 12:00-10:00pm (Santa Claus)

December 25 – December 29, 2013, from 3:00-10:00pm (Santa Goofy)

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The tree is up just across from Once Upon a Toy, and it’s shiny and bright. I’m a big proponent of the icy colors.

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There’s not too much new at the Marketplace, but there’s something to be said for constancy in some cases. If you haven’t had a chance to see the Lava Lounge at Rainforest Cafe, give it a shot. The lounge is left of the restaurant’s main entrance, just under a fully functioning pyrotechnic volcano that “erupts” on the hour during daylight hours and every half hour at night. Don’t stand too close to this one if you’re wearing a lot of hairspray.

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The lounge, itself, is outdoors but is covered. It features bartop and hightop table seating with a special appetizer-based menu exclusive to the lounge. You can also order off the restaurant’s full menu.

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I had the crab dip and was thoroughly impressed with the creamy texture and varied tastes from the crab, corn, and tomato in the mix. It had a stronger mayonnaise component than some crab dips, but I liked the balance. It was served piping hot and was all-around an excellent dish, though the price for the meal was (as is typical of Rainforest) fairly steep with two appetizers and two alcoholic beverages topping out at almost sixty dollars with tip for two people. On a side note, if you’re at the lounge and bartender Dave is around, ask him to make you his apple pie drink. It’s a frozen drink that’s really rather impressive, and if you’re into sweets, it really hits the spot.

While Tuesday was pleasant if not cloudy, Wednesday brought winds to the area that closed the watercraft on the Seven Seas Lagoon and put a little bit of chill in the air. Thursday was warm again, reinforcing the idea that packing for this time of year should encompass just about any condition that might occur here just in case.

Downtown Disney will ramp up its seasonal celebrations soon, so stay tuned for more posts. Until then, keep it magical.

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Posted on November 19, 2013

7 Responses to “Observations from Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World: November 12 and 13”

  • Any action on the recently-closed Cap’n Jacks building?

    Have we heard anything about the plans for that building or space?

    • Nicholas, there’s been nothing new so far as to Cap’N Jack’s, except that its closure is part of the larger Disney Springs construction plan. If you’ll click the “Disney Springs” link in the post, you’ll see concept drawings of the distinct “neighborhoods” that the Marketplace will become a part of.

  • by Kristina Murphy on November 19, 2013, at 6:37 pm EDT

    I LOOOOVVVVEEE the new walkway!

  • When will construction be finished? My husband is headed down from Ohio for a meeting end of January and he will staying in Downtown Disney.

    • by Morgan Crutchfield on November 24, 2013, at 3:45 pm EDT

      Lorie, the Disney Speings makeover will have construction in the Dowtown area, at most times fairly major in scope, for at least the next 2 years.

  • We have a vacation booked for July 2014 with (free) Dining Plan and I notice on the official Disney website that there will be no table service and a significantly reduced number of counter service venues participating in the plan for 2014. Does anyone know whether this is a direct result of the ongoing works? Are Disney using this as a method of reducing visitors to the area?

    • by Morgan Crutchfield on November 24, 2013, at 3:48 pm EDT

      Mandy, this is often alarming to people who are pre-planning, but it happens every year until the plans are officially announced. Every restaurant that participates in the plans has to agree on a yearly basis to do so, and the plans are not finalized until just before their release. I guarantee that the dining plan will have table service, likely with only one or two changes, and that the restaurants participating in general will be similar.

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