Disney · Omnibus · Trivia

WDW for the Single Guy: an experiment, Part 22 (Nightlife, Pt I)

[DISCLAIMER: The following was originally written by Jerry Skids back in 2009. He is a big Disney fan. He has his own WDW-themed podcast, which you can find here, or here. This is 100% Jerry’s words, completely unedited, out of respect to Jerry. Exception – I removed some 2009 pop culture references.  If you are confused by any of the acronyms, check out the previous posts. My comments are listed in [ ] – anything in ( ) are all Jerry’s words. I have not fact-checked any of this information. Obviously some things have definitely changed since 2009, and should be used for comparative purposes only, as many attractions have come and gone since the time this was written. However, that does not invalidate his suggestions one iota. This is still useful, and I think this is so amazing, that I want to share his knowledge and wisdom. Thank you Jerry! Posted with his permission. – Editor]

Downtown Disney

WDW For The Single Guy: an experiment, part 22

Nightlife, Part I

Downtown Disney (DTD)

This is the amalgam of the Downtown Disney Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and the newly created West Side in 1997. Disney marketed the area as an entertainment – shopping – dining district unlike any other. The creation was a very important step to make WDW an actual “world” of its own. These are the sections (and their history) in order of creation:

Downtown Disney Marketplace

Originally called the Lake Buena Vista Village in 1975, this area was built to provide more stores and a few eateries in the addition to the Magic Kingdom. In 1977, they changed its name to the Walt Disney World Village, and then when Pleasure Island was created in 1989, they changed it again to the Disney Village Marketplace. It wasn’t until 1997 (and the creation of the West Side) that they finally changed the name to Downtown Disney Marketplace (part of Downtown Disney). It is basically a variety of shops, clustered along the shore of the Buena Vista Lagoon and across from Disney’s Central Casting Agency. There are more than 40 shops and a bunch of eateries, plus a few fun things to do. There are little fountains that spray out around the place, etc. I admit, a lot of the merch here is very “Disney-oriented,” meaning more characters and fewer attractions. But if you want non-Disney merch, there’s always the West Side! There’s an amphitheatre here, I never see it used. Probably for high school bands.

Shopping – just the ones I can remember

World of Disney – This is the biggie. One floor, but multiple rooms. At 50,000 square feet, it’s the largest store in the world that sells Disney-trademark merch. You can get anything Disney here – from clothes, to kitchen appliances, to CDs, to toys, to movies. It’s the first of only 4 World of Disneys [Note: Jerry comments that the NYC store will/had closed on December 31, 2009, but a new WoD store opened in the Shanghai Disney Resort on June 14, 2016, bringing the number of stores back up to four again]. Also World of Disney Kids is attached, which mostly sells baby clothes and plush toys and such.
The Art of Disney – Limited edition cels and really expensive art from pottery to crystal. Very high quality, expensive, and chic things here. If you have a lot of money, cool. [Can I have some?] If not, don’t go in with intent to purchase cos you will be very disappointed.
LEGO Imagination Center – First of all, the exterior of the building is surrounded by huge Lego collections, including a movie dinosaur that roars, a sea monster swimming in Lake Buena Vista, a dragon, a spaceship, a crab, etc. (other creations sometimes include characters like Stich, or even Cinderella). Inside, you have a ridiculous amount of Lego paraphernalia including an entire Star Wars section. [And this was before they bought LucasArts, remember.] Outside, they also have a playground made out of Legos, but who cares?
Mickey’s Mart – My personal fave. This shop is themed as a flea market, 99¢ store, or dirt mall. It’s an outdoor breezeway with all $10 or less souvenirs. Awesome 🙂
Once Upon a Toy – Extremely popular hands-on store with 5 rooms of crazy fun. You got Build-Your-Own Mr. Potato Head, Build-Your-Own Pirate Skull, Build-Your-Own Princess Crown, Build-Your-Own Lightsaber, and other great activities! You can make your whatever, print out a picture, or buy it!They have a Star Wars section [see Lego Center comment above], a younger section with Tonka and Play-Doh and stuff. They have the WDW Monorail playsets (all limited edition), including the park landmarks (Cindy’s Castle, Spaceship Earth, etc.), ride playset, and hotel construction kits. Plus dolls based on Disney Channel originals [live action shows, believe it or don’t]- not to mention the regular pirate, princess, fairy, and Disney stuff.
Disney’s Days of Christmas – 365 (plus leap year) days of holiday items. Mostly Christmas, but they have a section for Jews and Kwanzaa lovers. Ornaments, stockings, and other Christmas supplies fill the store. Not to mention the personalizations (engraving and embroidery), and the fact that they sell the actual monorail track/monorail here as a Christmas tree decoration like you see with old train sets in the movies.
Arribas Brothers – Just as in MK, they sell glassware, crystal, and other expensive and breakable stuff. You can watch glass blowing, request your own miniatures, or ask them to monogram your piece. They range from figurines to actual dishware and the costs go from $6 – $500,000 [?!] depending on what you get.
Basin – Create a gift basket with chemical-free soaps and lotions and bath salts.
Disney’s Pin Traders – see my section on collecting, but this is the largest pin store in all the parks. They have tables for trading, conventions, and internet stations with official trading. So you can bid right there, kinda like those guys buying stocks. SELL! SELL! SELL!!
Hanes To A Tee – Opened in 2009. Create your own custom T-shirt. Don’t do it. They are cheap and give very little options — and NO attractions, just characters. Fuck that! Go to Cafe Press.
Team Mickey – This place has all sports apparel (Disney themed of course) but also Nike, Adidas and other name brands of sportswear, sneakers, etc. They have actual sports memorabilia (jerseys, signed balls, etc.), and a “Rawlings Making The Game” kiosk where you can get an engraved bat or authentic helmet of an MLB All-Star. Also known as Team Mickey’s Athletic Club, do NOT confuse this for Team Disney, the CM-only building with official offices and such in it. That’s not far away though.
Summer Sands – Clothes by Billabong, Roxy, and Tommy Bahama. Many hot chicks have told me they have the best selection of women’s bathing suits in WDW. I trust hot women in bikinis, so I take their word.
Goofy’s Candy Co – Just like the Main Street Confectionary in MK, this is an interactive show kitchen with LOTS of candy, pixie stix, and fresh fudge!!
Tails – Pet stuff. One of the only places in WDW to get it. 🙂 Stuff like Pluto dog collars with your pet’s name, chew toys, and other pet equipment for dogs, cats, reptiles, turtles, rodents, etc. I’m not sure if it’s actually called “Tails” – but it’s something like that.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – one of two salons in WDW (the other is in Cinderella’s in MK). Basically for girls only, this ridiculously expensive salon gives “girls the works.” (Not just kids, but also super hot college chicks who have money and want to be treated like a princess.) So let’s see. They have princess costumes you can wear, buy, whatever and then they take you to the beauty parlor section and you can choose a bunch of packages for hairstyles, makeup, and/or manicure. This location is the only one that gives a Hannah Montana themed makeover called “Secret Superstar” (Hannah wig, guitar purse, headset mic and all that other great Hannah stuff) [written pre twerk and “Wrecking Ball” video] The thing is all these packages cost… $200 plus tax! Wow, right?In the front of the shop you can build your own pirate hat and/or skull. Or they also have a small arcade with [insert current generation consoles here] Disney-related video games. That’s for the guys who may have to sit through their sister, daughter, mom, aunt, niece, friend’s transformation. Happy spending!
Mickey’s Pantry – This shop sells kitchen appliances, gadgets, and other home products – this store is awesome! If you wanna decorate and fill your home with Disney or character devices, it’s up to you.

Entertainment

Watercraft Rentals – You can take paddleboats and waterskis and such out to the lake!
Carousel – For $2, take a ride around a carousel of some sort. It’s pointless.
Train Thing – It’s a stupid kiddie train ride. You can barely fit on it as an adult. It’s also $2.

Dining + Snacks  

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop – {Food A+; Service: A+; Price: it’s amazing ice cream, who cares?} – Yeah, you can get free samples, but you need to buy an ice cream here. The line can wrap out the door and around the store if you go late at night. It is THAT fucking good! It’s not on the menu anymore (yes, an ice cream shop WITH a menu), but you should try a Cable Car! It’s 3 kinds of chocolate ice cream in a long bowl with whipped cream, caramel, and chocolate fudge. You’ll end up shooting all over your chick with this one! They also have regular ghirardelli chocolate here and souvenirs. Do not pass this opportunity up!
McDonald’s – {Food: D; Service: B; Price: McDonald’s price [i.e. overpriced]}
– Yup, just a regular McDonald’s. If you live in Orlando, cool. If not, don;t bother. You can get an order of fries, a quarter pounder, a McRib, A Big Mac, whatever. It’s McDonald’s. Kill yourself if you waste your $.
Gourmet Sandwich Shop (I forgot the name!) {quick service sandwiches}
– I don’t eat sandwiches usually, but I hear it was good. I’ll update the next time.
Rainforest Cafe – {Food: C; Service: C; Price: up there} {table service that you have seen before}
– No you’re not crazy, you have seen this before. The review is basically the same as the Animal Kingdom one. The Downtown Disney version sits beneath a giant volcano that you’ll hear and see erupting from anywhere in the Marketplace. When you get inside, they push the fact that the smoke that shoots is non-polluting since the restaurant has that whole environmental theme. It’s the same as the other one in every other respect.
Wolfgang Puck Express – {Food: A-; Service: B; Price: not terrible, but not great either}
– This place gets mixed reviews from WDW fans, but in all honesty, it’s a great fast-food alternative to the Dining Room in West Side (see next chapter). You can get gourmet pizzas and rotisserie chicken… plus they have the kick-ass breakfast stuff if you’re doin’ Downtown Disney in the morning. Guess what? Beer… barrels… Yeah, that’s right. This place is pretty damn good. I say yum. Plus Wolfgang’s recipes are usually pretty good.
Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant – {Food: D; Service: A+; Price: expensive comparably} {table service seafood}
– I’m not a fan of seafood, but I know that people have complained about this place. Not that it’s terrible, cos it’s not… but more so that it’s just another seafood place in Florida… which really means, “eh.” This pier house on the edge of the Buena Vista lagoon sells chowder, crab cakes, seared salmon, shrimp pasta and it’s one of the few places in WDW that you can order lobster. Of course they also have roast chicken and pot roast for fish-haters… but they don’t even have steak! Most seafood restaurants usually offer some sort of strip steak at least. But they don’t here. Now here’s the good: the lagoon-side of the restaurant has amazing views of the lake, plus you can watch the amateur boaters and water skiers (and laugh if you like) and put your arm around your girl and enjoy a romantic sunset — which is very beautiful in this area. Also, (a little history) in the 1970s, this was seriously the place to go to sip drinks in the Marketplace, but now it’s just a convenient place to eat. The elite used to come here and just drink their mint juleps or gin + tonics or whatever rich people drink, which is why the service is excellent. Unfortunately, the food just doesn’t live up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a nice cold beer or a margarita!! (And just relax and feel the day breeze by). It was originally known as Captain Jack’s Oyster Bar, but it ‘s name changed in 2000.
Fulton’s Crab House – {Food: C; Service: A+Price: very, very expensive} {table service crab house}
– Located in the Empress Lilly (which originally contained 3 restaurants: The Fisherman’s Deck; The Steerman’s Quarters; and The Empress Room), this crabhouse is part of the Marketplace. Empress Lilly was home of the most elegant dining experience (opened in 1977) – the Empress Room  – until Victoria and Albert’s opened and blew it the fuck out of the water. All 3 restaurants hired top chefs to prepare the food, but the boat closed operations in 1995 when the West Side opened. In 1996, Fulton’s Crab House opened up. This place once had the best seafood in central Florida, but as time ticked on, the establishment changed from a cutting edge seafood cuisine,to a “get ’em in, get ’em out” volume-feeding philosophy. So now, the selections and food are all just mundane, but the prices never changed to reflect it. Now expect to wait over an hour on weeknights in the huge lounge on the first deck, where they will let you order your appetizer while you waste your time waiting. There are a bunch of different rooms to eat in. There’s the Market Room, which is based on NYC’s Fulton Fish Market. There’s the Constellation Room, which is a semi-circle with a starlit night sky above. And there’s the  Industry Room, which has to do with commercial fishing. Also, there’s a 3rd deck, but that’s just for banquets and special events. So what do they have here? Fresh fish (flown in daily), stone crab, fresh oysters, crab + lobster bisque, and other shellfish selections. Non seafood eaters can get a delicious rib-eye! But because the food is not very special, I gave it a “C” … plus the wait just kills the atmosphere. It’s better than Cap’n Jacks, but not very much.

Pleasure Island

I’ll tell you what. This place is gone. But here’s the history at the 2 restaurants left from the mass closing, plus what USED to be here. According to Disney Legend, Meriwether Adam Pleasure, a famous ship-builder (most likely part of the slave drive) had left plans in an old warehouse for a zone where adults can go wild at night after a long day at work. The Empress Lilly, a ship Mr. Pleasure built for the elite, was put at the center of this operation. It wasn’t until the Disney Co. found these plans that missing shipmaker’s dream became realized. Now here’s the true story: A long time ago, (1989 to be exact), Michael Eisner noticed a significant decline in evening park attendance. People, especially college students + spring breakers would escape the parks around dinnertime – missing the nighttime parade + the fireworks ceremony — get changed at their hotel + instead of finding a WDW resort restaurant or activity to take part in, they would hop in a car or cab and seek out cheaper eats, clubs, bars, and other adult entertainment in off-property Orlando. This meant less guests in the parks spending money.

So Eisner devised a scheme. He went back to the drawing board + looked through the Disney Vault until he came up with the answer. It all revolved around Disney’s second full-length feature film, Pinocchio. He would create a night-time entertainment area across from the brand new water park, Typhoon Lagoon (which was in the process of being built), and the WDW Casting Dept. He would call this mecca of entertainment Pleasure Island. It would be a place where adults 21+ could enter, drink on the streets, dance, sing karaoke, check out a comedy club, join a scandalous adventure’s club, and drink. And drink. Originally, they had hot chicks dressed like slutty nurses serving jello shots on platters right on the street. Sometimes for free. There was a stage that featured the “West End Band” as well as famous acts every once in a while. Every night at 11:30 PM, they began a countdown to New Years spectacle. This included dancers, a band, and confetti, fireworks, and drunken disorderly conduct. There were a bunch of clubs and shops to enjoy… here were a few:
Videopolis East – based on the Disneyland teen-dance area – it had a 5,000 square foot dance floor with 70 TV monitors offering popular music videos. This turned into Cage in 1990, which was the exact same thing.
8Trax – a 70s/80s club playing music from nostalgia time (80s – 3 nights a week + 70s – 4.) This took over for Cage in 1992. It closed with everything else in 2002.
Rock + Roll Beach Club – Playing only rock music of the 60s, 70s, + 90s (mostly Beach Boys and other similar bands) they featured a live band every once in a while. Billiards area. But nothing else that great besides dancing and alcohol. Opened with Pleasure Island. Closed in 2006.
Mannequins – Opened with Pleasure Island, this 21+ only club featured a turntable dance floor, a sophisticated lighting system, foam and bubbles, and mannequins hanging out around the floor. This club had been visited by Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and other famous whores. It had gay nights on Mondays. It plays ritzy techno-pop on its superb sound system (AKA: Mannequin Dance Palace. Closed in 2008.
New Armadillo Music Saloon – Opened with Pleasure Island. It played country/western music and was featured in “Step By Step”‘s WDW episode. Changed to BET Soundstage Club in 1998.
BET Soundstage Club – The other 21+ club. Opened in 1998 as the only nightclub in the USA carrying BET’s name. R+B, hip-hop, and rap fans watch performances by their favorite artists while sampling drinks + Caribbean style finger food. It was… okay. Closed in 2008.
Motion – Top 40 dance club with the latest videos on a massive screen. The scene there was very TRL on MTV. It’s where a lot of the younger (18-21) CMs hung out. Closed in 2008.
Jazz Club – I forgot the name, but it was the same building Motion ended up in.
Comedy Warehouse – Opened with Pleasure Island. Featured amateur improv comedy that was actually funny! And sometimes dirty. Guests sat at tables with phones attached that sometimes be used to interact with the comedians on stage. Very “Who’s Line [Is It Anyway?]”-ish. Closed in 2008.
Adventurer’s Club – The best thing in all of Pleasure Island. Opened with Pleasure Island and featured the actual “story” of Pleasure Island – such as memorabilia from Meriwether Adam Pleasure’s trips around the world. Patterned after a stuffy English Gentlemen’s club, this two-story turn-of-the-century building includes big armchairs, walls covered with animal heads (some talk), and strange old artifacts. The place is filled with actors and guests alike. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. You can spend up to 20 minutes in the first room (more of you choose) until a secret passageway opens up, and you are brought into the burlesque room + bar, where the story continues. Basically, they are “raising money to keep the building, which is a museum dedicated to Mr. Pleasure.” When the club closed in 2008, they sadly announced that they raised $2,000, and had to give it up. This was the most loved club in PI.

From the time it opened, PI was 21+, then 18+, then all ages, then 18+ again, but because of gang violence and a pipe bomb that exploded, as well as a few robberies + “stick-ups”, PI closed its doors in September, 2008. Other stores and fun things, such as: “Put Your Face On A T-Shirt”; “Superstar Studios” ( a karaoke store where you can make your own music video; “The Harley Davidson” (which sold Harley outerwear + leather jackets); and the “Curl Surf Shop by Sammy Duvall” (summer clothes + bathing suits) closed with it. The only things that still exist in PI are these 2 restaurants:

Dining  

Portobello Yacht Club – {Food: C+; Service: A+; Price: expensive} {Italian table service}
With an upscale nautical theme, this restaurant is a longtime favorite of many, but as with most Italian dining in WDW, you can find better in NYC. There are lots of polished brass, dark woods, and canvas window carvings, plus a patio overlooking the lagoon. They sell many Italian favorites, but the dish everyone gets is the spaghetti di frutti di mare, or something. Honestly, I don’t know what that is. But it is said to be popular. They also have rib eye, salmon, fried calamari, pork shank, linguine with clams, some thin-crust pizzas, and an AWESOME dessert. It’s like a white chocolate custard with this candy glaze — kinda like a Crunch bar with fresh [stuff] on top. The prices are quite high and the food is just average, so make your decision on that. It’s a nice place.
Raglan Road Irish Pub + Restaurant – {Food: A-; Service: B+; Price: decent; Entertainment: A+}
In 2005, this awesome restaurant opened up with an Irish themed menu. There’s a great story behind this place. The building was built in Ireland, disassembled, and sent to WDW to be reassembled. Most of the place is literally Irish. There is a small, quick service area where you can get some stuff – especially drinks. But the dining hall is huge by pub standards, but it is everything you’d expect from an Irish Pub. While you eat, you will join in sing-a-longs and/or listen to the live entertainment that features Celtic [Gaelic?] dancers and such. It’s fun to just get drunk and sing “Wild Rover” with a bunch of friends. Some selections include beer battered fish-and-chips, a huge Shepherd’s Pie, Kevin’s Bacon (which is bacon wrapped in bacon with cabbage and mashed potatoes, and chicken-and wild mushroom pie. The appetizer Dalkey Duo is AWESOME — beer battered cocktail sausages with a mustard dipping sauce. In addition to the food, they have a huge selection of Irish lagers and stouts (about $6 – $7 a pint). The music is so much fun. It starts out acoustic, and by midnight, the band plugs in and it gets insane! This is one of the best restaurants in WDW, and definitely the best restaurant in Downtown Disney. It’s open until 2 AM, then (as in Boston), last call and go the fuck home! [All this may be true, but for someone who has ragged on all the Italian stuff at WDW, this sounds like more or less every Irish pub in NYC as well. And any Irish pub regular in NYC knows, closing time may be at 4 AM, but there’s always an after hours pub nearby. Just sayin’. Also, I’m ¼ Irish, which is 25% more Irish than Jerry.]

 

R.I.P. Pleasure Island! We will miss you.

 

To be continued…

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