Downtown Disney

In this ever-growing stretch of shops, restaurants and entertainment the options are practically limitless. In the original Village Marketplace at the Eastern side of the complex the stores reign supreme. Here you will find the world's largest Disney Store as well as a hands-on Lego store. The area is anchored by the erupting Rainforest Cafe volcano on one end and after a string of shops and quick eats (including the chocolate paradise Ghirardelli's fountain shop and a fully-themed McDonald's), Pleasure Island awaits. By day the "island" is a quiet strip of boutiques and the world's largest Planet Hollywood. By night the area commands a cover charge as seven sleepy buildings get pumped to life as distinctive nightclubs. Don't miss The Adventurer's Club for interactive character play but also dance the night away at Mannequin's or laugh it up at the improvisational Comedy Warehouse.

The newest West Side addition merges the best traits of the other two sections. Themed restaurants like House of Blues and the Gloria Estefan-owned Bongo's sit alongside a huge 24-plex AMC Theater with great stadium bench seating and retractable armrests and a Virgin record superstore. Cirque du Soleil performs here nightly in a popular -- yet expensive -- live show. DisneyQuest offers a collection of high-tech video games and virtual reality experiences over five floors. There you can design your own rollercoaster, then ride it. Go through a virtual jungle cruise. The best attraction? Probably the Pirates attraction where you go hunting for gold with a skeletal twist. It's a pay-one-price venue.

The real challenge here is the fierce parking situation at night. While there is valet parking by Planet Hollywood, the traffic congestion can test even the most patient of souls. If you are staying on Disney property, take the free shuttle buses. If you are staying off-site arrive before Pleasure Island's 7pm club openings and even then be prepared to have to scour for a parking spot if you want to park by the Village or close to Pleasure Island. TIP -- If you are arriving late in the day on a weekend, your best bet is to go to the far end of the West End lot. There is always parking available there.

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