Most visitors to Walt Disney World feel that they must take in the four theme parks when vacationing in Central Florida’s wonderland. However, for a change of pace and a wide variety of food and fun, Downtown Disney is a place that must be visited. Divided into three sections, DD has fun for every member of the family. The Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and West End are packed with dining, entertainment, and shopping galore.

To make your visit a little more organized, here are five things that you must do when visiting Downtown Disney.

1- Earl of Sandwich. Start your day with lunch at this gourmet sandwich and salad shop. From the Earl Club to the Hawaiian BBQ, their sandwiches are made to order on fantastic artisan breads. Eat in or enjoy the Florida warmth outside, Earl of Sandwich is perhaps the best meal you can get for the money. At $5.99 for a good-sized sandwich, lunch at Disney doesn’t get much better.

2- Characters in Flight. New to Downtown Disney in 2009-’10, this giant tethered balloon rises nearly 400-feet above  the DD area, giving visitors a panoramic view of the surroundings. Priced at $18 for adults and $12 for kids, this 10-minute balloon ride is sure to create Disney memories.

3- Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. Located in Downtown Disney’s Marketplace, Ghirardelli offers up tasty chocolate samples, gift bags of their confections, and out-of-this-world ice cream sundaes. C’mon, live a little! Let yourself splurge on a Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae that will make all other sundaes seem like just another bowl of ice cream.

4- LaNouba by Cirque de Soleil. This acrobatic, theatrical experience has been wowing crowds for over a decade at Downtown Disney’s West End. A mixture of strength and grace, LaNouba has performers from all over the world creating mesmerizing stunts and dance from hanging wires and trampolines. Nearly sold to capacity every night of the year, reservations are advised before you make your trip to Walt Disney World.

5- Paradiso 37. Having just opened in 2010 in the newly renovated Pleasure Island area of Downtown Disney, Paradiso 37 is a trendy restaurant/bar serving up some fantastic North and South American fare. Whether you decide to dine in or along DD’s waterfront, you will undoubtedly experience Paradiso 37’s cool vibe. A favorite beverage of many patrons (and me) to P37 is something the bartenders like to call a “Mangled Margarita”. Now I don’t know exactly what is contained in this magical drink, but after a couple you will be ready to take on Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Tinkerbell all in one swoop.

Don’t think that the previously mentioned are the only places worth visiting at Downtown Disney. From its 24-theater AMC movieplex and Gloria Estefan’s Cuban-flare restaurant, Bongo’s, to Planet Hollywood and The World of Disney megastore, DD could easily be a daily stop during your Disney World vacation.

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