Category Rank: 1
Park: Downtown Disney
Park Rank: 1
It will seem odd debuting a new category all the way at #7, but that is where we are. "Shops" indeed was a category I considered when I originally tried to identify the things I thought were most nostalgic. Unfortunately, this category suffers tremendously because of the Park Ambience category, as there could be several stores that would appear within the list if they were not already considered as part of the ambience (Japan's store in Epcot, for example, would have been in the top 30). Furthermore, this category suffers because two that arguably should be considered shops (Ghirardelli and Club Cool) are placed in here as restaurants.
Still, World of Disney earns its top spots among shops rather easily. It is the biggest of stores, the central feature in Downtown Disney, and carries its own ambience (and personal significance for me). The store features a dozen or so rooms within the massive store, such as the toy room, the plush toy room, the men's room, the jewelry room, the home furnishing room, the infant room, and the princess room. Many like to claim that if Disney sells it anywhere within WDW, you will find it within World of Disney. Unfortunately, that's not true, as we have come to find out. It pays to shop around.
World of Disney also features some additional trademark features. It has the spitting Stitch outside (this doesn't help its rank on this list at all, as that is one item I'd rather forget). It also has a Bibbidy Bobbidi Boutique inside as well, as girls can get princessified. Some of the internal displays are pretty awesome as well.
So, World of Disney is easily the best store within WDW, but that doesn't explain why it is so lofty on this list. I mean, better than the Monorail and the Golf Ball? What gives?
There are two events within World of Disney that I remember fondly which elevate it towards this rank. The main one is when Hailey became an employee of WDW. Well, not quite, but we count it as so. She was attempting to ask a person at the information desk a question about something (probably pin trading or pressed pennies) when the employee had to be called away for some task. The lady asked Hailey to "man the booth" while she was gone, with directions to explain to anyone who comes that the regular person would be back in just a minute. I don't think Hailey had anyone come up and ask her for help, but her work as an "employee" netted her a pin from the collection. And more importantly, bragging rights.
The second is not as fun a story to tell, but is still memorable for me. Kristen and I went to Orlando on a business trip (I had a mini-conference to go to). Kristen's sister went with us as well. We weren't there long enough to enjoy any of the parks, as I was gone at the conference most of the day. We did, however, spend one night at WDW without cost. This included shopping at Downtown Disney, riding the Sassagoula River Cruise and ate supper at the Riverside Mill Food Court. We got lost trying to go to Wilderness Lodge and got a behind-the-scenes ride from a utility van over to the right spot (Kristen and I managed to do this again on our last trip). And, we rode around the 7 Seas Lagoon and watched the fireworks from the beach at the Grand Floridian.
That night was a great night. It was after our first trip, so it pales in comparison to the first night ever in WDW, but it was still a fun night hitting all the sights. Our stop in World of Disney, in between our dozen or so stops within Ghirardelli's, featured the first stop of looking for pressed pennies. I can still remember the phone conversation with Hailey, explaining where to look for the pressed pennies.
I considered many stores for this. There is Once Upon a Toy, the Christmas Store, Goofy's Candy Shop, and the Lego Store from Downtown Disney. The Main Street Emporium from Magic Kingdom is a favorite, as is MouseWorks from Epcot. There are a few smaller stores from Animal Kingdom, and not really anything I find nostalgic within Hollywood Studios. There is also stores from the hotels we have stayed at, too. But, none of the stores contain the memories that World of Disney does.
Our next item is our last item that is outside Magic Kingdom. It happens to be the number one resort, and a special place in our memories.