A Different Type Of “West Side Story” Debuts On This Day In Disney History
Not quite a musical extravaganza, but Walt Disney World’s West Side of Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) opened on September 15th, 1997.
It was a 66-acre addition to Walt Disney World and featured a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Some of you may remember the popular venues once offered such as Wolf Gang Puck Cafe, House of Blues, Bongos Cuban Cafe, Virgin Mega-store, plus the expanded AMC Pleasure Island 24 Theater.
A few of these popular locations still remain standing to this day.
Over the years Disney has renovated, removed, and added other new attractions for their guests to enjoy at Disney Springs West Side.
For example, just a bit before the expansion of the West Side, Planet Hollywood opened to guests in December of 1994.
At one point, Jenny, the shrimping boat used in the film “Forrest Gump”, was located in a lagoon next to the restaurant.
In May of 2009, the Virgin Megastore closed permanently to make way for a Ridemakerz store.
That was eventually turned into Splitsville Luxury Lanes that is still currently located there today.
Also in 2009, the amazing Characters in Flight (now Aerophile – The World Leader In Balloon Flight) debuted as well.
The giant tethered balloon soars above the ground at a height of 400 feet while providing a 360 degree view of the entire Walt Disney World Resort.
As previously mentioned, the AMC Pleasure Island 24 Theater was also part of the West Side expansion, and in 2010 Disney began making renovations to the theater to include a food service option.
The complex was then renamed AMC Downtown Disney 24 Theater.
At one point there were even plans to open a Planet Movies by the AMC entertainment complex. It would have combined the Planet Hollywood restaurant with a rebranded AMC megaplex. (How cool would that have been?!)
Unfortunately, as we know, those plans never came to pass due to the continued financial problems of Planet Hollywood.
On the bright side, there is an amazing experience at Disney Springs West Side that is set to open later this year.
The brand new Drawn To Life show presented by Cirque du Soleil and Disney will begin wowing guests on November 18th 2021. (What an awesome birthday present for the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse!)
There is truly so much to do on the West Side of Disney Springs! Let us know in the comments what you plan on exploring on your next visit.