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Downtown disney
The Downtown Disney shopping district at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida opened in 1975. It consists of three areas; the Marketplace, West Side, and Pleasure Island entertainment complex (which opened in 1989). The West Side also contains DisneyQuest, a virtual small indoor theme park with five floors.

Marketplace

Formerly known as the Disney Village Marketplace, the area contains many shops and quick service restaurants. Restaurants include Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, T-Rex Cafe, and the Rainforest Cafe. The first restaurant in the Earl of Sandwich chain is located here as well. Shopping venues include the Lego Imagination Center, Goofy's Candy Company, World of Disney, Once Upon A Toy, and Cap'n Jack's Marina offering boat rentals.


Pleasure Island

Main article: Pleasure Island (Walt Disney World Resort)

Pleasure Island was primarily a nighttime entertainment complex with comedy and dance clubs. It included the 1930s explorer's club-themed Adventurer's Club; The Comedy Warehouse; 8TRAX, featuring 1970s & '80s music; BET Soundstage; Motion; and Mannequins Dance Palace featuring a rotating dance floor and trance music, dance music & techno. There is also the Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant. The two comedy and four dance clubs on Pleasure Island permanently closed Sept. 27, 2008. New shops and restaurants were to open to replace the clubs but the economic recession of 2009 delayed plans and only one new restaurant has opened to date.

History

The Empress Lilly is a 220 by 62 feet static replica Paddle steamer riverboat on Village Lake in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The "boat" is actually a boat-shaped building with a submerged concrete foundation. Built for the Walt Disney World Resort in 1976, it contained three restaurants and a jazz lounge. It greeted guests for the first time on May 1, 1977, when Lillian Disney, Walt Disney's widow for whom the ship is named, christened it. The Lilly was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering to be as true to the eye as possible. The gingerbread scrollwork and stained glass detailing gave the ship an authentic feeling, harkening back to the days of Mark Twain's Mississippi River. The paddlewheel at the aft end churned constantly, though the ship never went anywhere. The Empress Lilly was one of the first locations of the now famous Disney Character Breakfasts.

In the mid 1990s, Disney began to engage outside operating partners to take over many of its restaurants. As a cost-cutting move, it was decided that the Empress Lilly would come under new management. Levy Restaurants signed a contract to operate the ship for 20 years. On April 22, 1995, the Empress Lilly served her last meals. The restaurant was closed, all interiors were ripped out, and a new décor for a single restaurant was put in place. In addition, the old smoke stacks and paddlewheel, which gave the Lilly some added authenticity, were removed due to rust and rot. They were not replaced. The restaurant reopened as Fulton's Crab House on March 10, 1996.

Fulton's Crab House is a riverboat restaurant located at Pleasure Island. Formerly, the Empress Lilly. Run by the Levy Restaurants company, their head chef is Frank Walason.

Baton Rouge Lounge was located forward on the main deck. Here is where patrons could spend some time relaxing at the bar, and enjoying the musical sounds of the Riverboat Rascals. Many of these musicians played in the Baton Rouge for years, and became local legends. Some of the players who have played with the Riverboat Rascals were Fast Eddie Erickson, Dave Tobiasen, Tom Bucci, Denny Zavett, Ralf Reynolds, Mike Gentry, Randy Morris, Dan Riley, John Charles and Bill Dendle.

Steerman's Quarters was located in the aft section of the Main Deck. It specialized in certified Angus beef entrees. The décor focused on imagery from America's western cattle nostalgia. In the aft end of the room, giant windows revealed the churning paddlewheel, nearby.

Fisherman's Deck was located forward on the Promenade Deck. As its name implies, this was a seafood restaurant.

Empress Room was located aft on the Promenade Deck. This was a formal dining establishment, requiring reservations in advance. The room was extravagantly decorated, with gold trimmed walls and Rococo (Louis XIV) style flourishes. Hungarian Chef, Garry Reich, developed the original menu, to cater to upscale tastes.

Jenny, the shrimping boat used in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, is located on the northwest corner of Planet Hollywood.

Raglan Road is an Irish-themed pub, restaurant and gift shop, operated by Great Irish Pubs Florida, which opened in October 2005 replacing the Pleasure Island Jazz Company night club.

T-Rex Cafe is a dinosaur-theme restaurant, operated by Landry's Restaurants with life-sized animatronic dinosaurs by UCFab International, LLC, and was built in 2008 in the area of a former valet parking traffic circle, adjacent to McDonald's(now closed) in the E parking lot. This is technically not on Pleasure Island itself but closer to the Marketplace. Groundbreaking ran behind schedule but finally occurred in October 2007. The restaurant opened in the fall of 2008. Landry's Restaurants also operates Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney Marketplace.

Paradiso 37 is a Central and South American-themed restaurant and tequila bar. It was the only new venue announced after the closure of the comedy and dance clubs on Pleasure Island. It opened on June 4, 2009 in the building formerly housing shops and a fast food restaurant.

Pollo Campero is a new Latin chicken quick service restaurant which is set to open in October 2010 and replaces McDonald's.

Hyperion Wharf

On November 18, 2010 the Walt Disney World Resort announced the replacement project for the old Pleasure Island complex known as Hyperion Wharf. The project will include new shopping and dining outlets and extensive renovations and re-theming of the complex to an early century wharf themed enterntainment area.

West Side

The Downtown Disney West Side is home to many full service restaurants, large stores, and entertainment venues. It includes an AMC 24-screen movie theater, Cirque du Soleil - La Nouba, the House of Blues restaurant and show auditorium, the five floor DisneyQuest "indoor theme park", Planet Hollywood, the Wolfgang Puck Cafè, Bongos Cuban Cafè, and other various shops and eateries.

The Virgin Megastore closed permanently on May 12, 2009 and has been replaced by a Ridemakerz store.

Characters in Flight opened in Spring 2009 and features a giant tethered balloon that soars 400 feet, providing 360-degree views of the Walt Disney World Resort. It is operated by Aerophile. It is very similar to PanoraMagique located at Disney Village at Disneyland Paris.

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