Disney's West Side
There is no charge to visit Disney's West Side. However, there is an admission fee to several of the shows, movies, and attractions. The shops in this area open at 11:00 A.M. daily and remain open until 11:00 P.M. Many of the restaurants serve until midnight.
The largest movie theater complex in the Southeast, the AMC 24 Theaters offers twenty-four screens with stadium seating and balconies, all showing the hottest new movies in theaters with state-of-the-art sound systems.
Bongos Cuban Café
Gloria Estefan and husband, Emilio, are the owners of this 550-seat family restaurant, which serves authentic Cuban cuisine in a two-story building that's decorated with colorful hand-painted mosaic murals that depict Old World Cuba in the 1940s and 1950s. Seating is available both inside and outside, and live entertainment is presented throughout the night. The main performer each night is Desi Arnaz (well, he's an incredibly talented impersonator who looks and sounds just like the real Desi).
Like all of the full-service restaurants located at the WDW Resort, this one isn't cheap, but the food is delicious! In a typical night, Bongos Cuban Café serves up to 3,000 people. If you're planning to drop in to enjoy the restaurant's three fully stocked bars, plan on paying a $15 cover charge, which includes one drink and plenty of live entertainment and dancing. This is also the best place to get a real mojito made with fresh lime.
Designer sunglasses and prescription eyewear are available at Celebrity Eyeworks Studio. Included in this shop's inventory are replicas of sunglasses worn in recent hit films.
Bongos Cuban Café is open daily from 11:00 A.M. to 2:00 A.M. “We specifically created Bongos Cuban Café for the entire family so they may enjoy the festive Cuba that once was — and will be again,” said Emilio Estefan.
Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba
This is the best show in all of Orlando, hands down. Within the 70,000-square-foot, custom-designed, state-of-the-art theater that's located at the end of Disney's West Side is the permanent U.S. home of Cirque du Soleil. This theater holds 1,650 guests per performance and was designed to actually be part of the show itself.
Cirque du Soleil is a nontraditional French-Canadian circus that includes specialty acts the likes of which you've probably never seen before. Circus acts are mixed with special effects, colorful and unusual costumes, and wonderful music. This is a wonderful, memorable, and breathtaking show for people of all ages. Children are always intrigued and can't stop clapping, especially when the Chinese yo-yo girls hit the stage.
Two performances are held Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 6:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M. (There are no performances on Sunday or Monday nights.) The show lasts about ninety minutes and contains no intermission. Ticket prices are $80 to $100 for adults, and $70 to $90 for children, ages three to nine. Tickets can be purchased at the box office located within the theater itself, or by calling (407) 939-7600. This is a popular show, so once you know your travel schedule, reserve your tickets as far in advance as possible, especially during peak travel times. Once you make your reservations for the show, you can make reservations to have dinner before (or after) at Downtown Disney. For more information about this highly unique show, visit the Cirque du Soleil Web site at www.cirquedusoleil.com.
The more expensive tickets at Cirque du Soleil are not necessarily the best seats. Keep in mind that if you are at the front of the theater, you will be looking up most of the show. Choose midpriced tickets to save your neck and pocketbook.
This interactive, five-story, high-tech attraction provides fun and exciting entertainment and dining opportunities for the whole family. When guests step into this flashy-looking 100,000-square-foot pavilion, they're taken on a virtual journey to places that could only be dreamed of.
Combining video games, virtual reality, motion simulator rides, and other high-tech forms of entertainment, DisneyQuest is an indoor theme park unto itself that will appeal mainly to teenagers and younger kids. Make sure you don't miss Pirates of the Caribbean and CyberSpace Mountain, where you design your own roller coaster on a computer and then ride it in a simulator.
DisneyQuest is a little loud, so adults usually like to escape to the Cheesecake Factory on the fourth floor, where there is adorable Alice in Wonderland seating with computers and Internet access. Another adult spot is the old-school video game area.
Admission to DisneyQuest is included with a multiday Park Hopper Plus Pass or the WDW Premium Annual Pass. Otherwise, there's a per-day entrance fee of $35 (adults) and $30 (children). An annual pass for DisneyQuest can be purchased for $89 (adults) or $73 (children).
Disney's Candy Cauldron
If you're in the mood to sample a wide range of candy and other treats that are guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth, drop in to this shop for the perfect snack or after-lunch/dinner dessert.
Cappuccino, espresso, smoothies, juice, and an assortment of other drinks and yummy desserts are available at Forty Thirst Street between 7:00 A.M. and 2:00 A.M. daily.
This is a music shop for serious guitarists and amateur musicians alike. Guitar Gallery offers a wide selection of guitars and accessories from all major manufacturers. You'll also find very rare instruments of interest to serious collectors.
House of Blues
As you've probably guessed, the Downtown Disney complex is a mecca of themed restaurants. House of Blues serves lunch and dinner daily, between 11:00 A.M. and 2:00 A.M. in the dining room. The BB Blues Bar offers live entertainment and a fully stocked bar that's open every evening.
There's also an official House of Blues merchandise shop attached to the restaurant. In the dining room, authentic Mississippi Delta cooking is served as live blues, R & B, jazz, country, and gospel music are performed nightly. Specialties of the house include jambalaya, étouffée, gumbo, and bread pudding. There is also a Sunday Gospel Brunch every Sunday.
The restaurant's concert hall features regular performances by big-name recording artists, so be sure to check the schedule to see who's performing during your stay at the WDW Resort. For concert information, call (407) 934-2222, or visit the House of Blues Web site at www.hob.com.
This gallery/gift shop offers a large assortment of highly unusual non-Disney gift items, jewelry, and art. Tabletop fountains, wind chimes, mini Zen gardens, and other tastefully displayed items make this an extremely interesting store to browse through, especially for adults.
Want to amaze and astound your friends and family members? Learn how to perform magic tricks just like a professional magician. This store is staffed by highly skilled magicians who offer demonstrations and perform short magic shows. Even if you don't plan on shopping here, it's a great place to visit for a few minutes if you want to enjoy watching magic tricks and illusions performed right before your eyes.
Magnets, magnets, and more magnets, of every shape, size, and color, are what you'll find at this small shop. Whether you're a collector or someone looking for a new magnet for your refrigerator, you'll find it here. Even the salespeople have magnetic personalities.
Mickey's Groove is a Disney-owned shop offering an assortment of Disney-themed merchandise, including apparel.
As you approach Disney's West Side, you can't miss seeing Planet Hollywood, the giant globe-shaped restaurant that's jam-packed with Hollywood memorabilia, movie props, posters, photos, costumes, and giant monitors that constantly show music videos and movie clips.
Menu entrées range in price from about $10 to $25 each, and include salads, pizzas, burgers, steaks, pastas, and a wide assortment of desserts. Planet Hollywood also offers a fully stocked bar and nonstop entertainment. The Crunch Chicken appetizer is awesome! This is a great place to go for lunch, dinner, or a late-night dessert.
Dining at Planet Hollywood is an interactive and highly entertaining experience, so be sure to bring your camera. Also, don't be surprised if you run into a popular celebrity or pop star dining right along with you.
Planet Hollywood on Location
In addition to being the home of the world's largest Planet Hollywood restaurant, Disney's West Side also features two Planet Hollywood merchandise shops. This is where you can pick up official Planet Hollywood Orlando and Planet Hollywood America apparel, toys, and other merchandise with the Planet Hollywood logo. You'll discover that some of the limited-edition clothing is endorsed by big-name recording artists and pop groups. To see a preview of the merchandise, visit www.planethollywood.com.
Hand-rolled fresh cigars and other smoking accessories are available at Sosa Family Cigars. You'll find a knowledgeable staff on hand to answer your questions and make recommendations.
This unusual antique and collectibles showroom and store allows you to take home valuable pieces of authentic pop culture and history. Whether or not you consider yourself a collector, Starabilias is a fun place for adults and teens to explore.
Here, you'll find genuine items such as an antique Coca-Cola vending machine (which can be yours for $8,995), a 1930s Texaco gas pump (suggested retail price $10,000), and a Ty Cobb — autographed baseball bat (which you can own for $10,000). A wide range of autographed memorabilia from politicians, recording artists, Hollywood's superstars, and historical figures is available.
The inventory of this store changes regularly. In addition to high-priced collectibles, you'll also find a selection of inexpensive toys and collectibles. For a preview of the items you'll find at Starabilias, or to place an order online, you can visit the company's Web site at www.starabilias.com.
Three massive floors in this store offer thousands upon thousands of music CDs, cassettes, videos, laser discs, DVD movies, computer games, video games, magazines, music accessories, and books. There's even a Virgin Megastore café located on the top floor. Throughout this store, you'll find CD-listening stations, computers to try out the hottest new games, and over twenty video/laser stations for previewing movies. Live musical performances, author appearances, and other special events are held regularly at this store.
Wolfgang Puck Café
Spago's is a premier restaurant in Hollywood where the biggest stars go for dinner and to be seen. Owner/chef Wolfgang Puck has also created the California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) restaurants (now located throughout the country), as well as the Wolfgang Puck Cafés. This chain can best be described as an overpriced, albeit extremely trendy, CPK restaurant. Pizzas and California cuisine are what's offered on the menu. A basic four-cheese 10-inch pizza (which will feed one or two people max) is priced at $9.95. Reservations are strongly recommended, so call (407) 939-3463.