Downtown Disney is the place to head for at Walt Disney World for shopping, dining, and dancing! Downtown Disney is located at the very edge of the Walt Disney World (WDW) property and consists of:
The Disney Village Marketplace
Downtown Disney Westside
Downtown Disney is a great place to spend an afternoon or evening away from the parks. You can get there on Walt Disney World buses marked Downtown Disney (and also from any of the theme parks). The furthest place to come from is The Magic Kingdom, and this takes about 10 minutes.
The nicest way to get to Downtown Disney is the boat that runs from the Port Orleans resort down the river. It runs every 20 minutes or so and only stops at the Village Marketplace and sometimes Pleasure Island. It's a beautiful run down the river with very hilarious captains who give you lots of little-known facts about Disney world.
Disney Village Marketplace
Disney Village Marketplace is a great place to head for with lots of shops and places to eat. There are lots of Disney style shops including the largest Disney shop on Walt Disney World. There is also a men and women's clothing store that sell makes other than Disney. Places to eat include the Rainforest cafe and McDonald's.
This is the most grown-up part of Walt Disney World featuring a range of bars and night clubs. After 7pm you have to pay about $21 to get in but this includes entry to all the night clubs, You have to be 18 to get in after 7pm unless accompanied by a parent but this really is more of a place for adults rather than children. If you are under 21 there are certain places that you can't get into (including Mannequins dance palace).
During the day you can wander around the few shops at Pleasure Island at no charge, but there are lots more shops at the Market Place and Westside.
Two of my favourite places at Please Island are 8Trax and Mannequins. 8Trax is a '70s disco-themed club that appeals to young and old and is great fun. It's brilliant when they play the Bee Gees and everyone gets up dancing to Night Fever! Mannequins is a more modern and up-tempo dance club that plays a wide range of music, including some very modern (albeit American) music. It's great fun even getting into Mannequins, as you enter through an elevator up to the first floor.
The comedy warehouse is also great fun, with two shows per night. Don't sit too near the front, though, if you can't take a joke. Also, arrive at least 30 minutes before show time (you find times in any WDW brochure or upon arrival in a Disney hotel), or else you might not get seat, as it's very popular!
Westside is the newest area in the Downtown area. It features a 24-screen AMC movie complex, which is a great activity for a rainy day, and they always have all the latest releases playing. If the queue for tickets is large, there is a further ticket window around the corner!
My favourite part of Downtown Disney is the HUGE Virgin Megastore, which is two massive floors of music, videos, DVDs, and books! They have some great bargains at the Megastore if you look closely enough and lots of listening stations, especially for the most popular music of the moment. It's a very large and airy store with plenty of nice, comfy couches and a coffee shop on the first floor to pass away the time reading a paper or books (they don't mind if you sit and read the book in the shop!). They also stock a very good range of international newspapers and magazines if you need to catch up on what's happening at home! Don't forget that DVDs and videos sold in the U.S. are a different format than the ones you buy in the U.K. (many British video and DVD players are U.S. compatible, however).
The Westside also features Cirque du Soleil, which will be one of the best nights you will ever spend at Disney World. Not wanting to give too much away, it's like a magical and whimsical circus and stage act that captures all of the audience on its magical journey. The music is brilliant and the performers amazing, and you sit there all night, staring in wonder at how they pull off such an amazing performance! It's quite expensive to see (over $70) but definitely worthwhile, as it is completely amazing!!
Disney Quest is a pay attraction, Disney's virtual indoor play park. This is great fun for kids, especially when it's wet, and it's pay-per-play, so you control how much you spend!
There are also some great places to eat at the Westside, including Planet Hollywood, which is housed in a giant world-shaped ball. This is a really fun place to eat, and the food isn't bad either! Outside you can compare how big your hands are with those of your favourite celebrities!! There's also the famous Wolfgang Puck Cafe, which has the best pizza in WDW and also serves some really nice healthy food (not boring, just more healthy than burgers!).
P.S. When buying anything, don't forget about the 6% Florida sales tax, which is added onto the bill.