Once Upon a Toy

This fun store at Downtown Disney’s Marketplace is a dream stop for any kid. There are tons of toys to browse and play with, and several themed rooms to delight the senses. But it’s also worth noting that some of the offerings here are, in fact, good educational choices.

IMG_4261For preschoolers and little ones, there is a great selection of learning toys, such as shape sorters, puzzle blocks, and alphabet toys. There is plenty to keep little hands busy and help build fine motor skills.

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For older kids, there’s an array of puzzles and word games like Scrabble. Why not add a little Disney flair to your learning games?

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Arribas Brothers – Marketplace

Downtown Disney is a great place for shopping and dining with the whole family. But there are also some hidden learning opportunities here if you know where to look.

Arribas Brothers has locations throughout Walt Disney World, but the stand-alone shop at the Marketplace has an extensive collection of crystal and glassware, collectibles, jewelry, and art. If you’re into sparkles, you’re sure to find something of interest here.

IMG_3992For an educational opportunity, catch one of the glass artists demonstrating their craft. The artists create right in the middle of the store throughout the day. You can witness them making intricate pieces and they will be happy to answer any questions about the materials or tools they use, the process, or even how they got started in the business.

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During our visit, we watched Susan create a glass pendant complete with flowers, leaves, and a butterfly. She showed us how each element is created during different stages of melting.

The artists do some amazing work. Be sure to stop in next time you’re at the Marketplace and find out more about what they do.


STEM Topic: Engineering
FL Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.K.H.2.2, VA.K.F.1.2, VA.K.F.2.1, VA.K.S.2.2, VA.1.C.2.1, VA.1.H.2.3, VA.1.F.2.1, VA.1.S.2.2, VA.1.S.3.2, VA.2.C.2.2, VA.3.C.1.2, VA.4.F.2.2, VA.5.O.1.3, VA.912.H.2.6, VA.912.F.2.2

Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

Downtown Disney is a great place to do some serious shopping, dining, and even dancing. But it’s also a fun place to search for learning opportunities. Even we were surprised when we happened upon this one.

Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is the place to satisfy your sweet tooth. The sundaes range from traditional to tremendous, and they offer a wide range of shakes, floats, and cocoas.

GhirardelliIf you make a restroom stop here, check out the posters in the hallway. One poster describes how Domenico Ghirardelli came to San Francisco to start his chocolate business in 1852 and what made his chocolate process different from others of the time. Another poster shows that process in more detail. And a third tells about the distinctive marketing campaigns that the Ghirardelli company started in the late 1800s to ensure that homemakers all over the country knew its name.

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Learning something new is a great excuse to stop in for a bit!

Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories

We continue our Bookstore Series, pointing out where to buy books, both educational and for leisure, around Walt Disney World.

IMG_3857Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories is located at Downtown Disney on the Marketplace side, across from Disney’s Days of Christmas store. This bookstore and gift shop is the place to find all your scrapbooking needs as well as photo albums, stationery, journals, and of course books.

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There is usually a great selection of books here ranging from cookbooks, art books, Disney history, and Ridley Pearson’s full collection of Kingdom Keepers titles. Kids of all ages can also check out the selection of How-to-Draw books to learn how to draw popular Disney characters.

The store connects to Art of Disney and Disney Design-a-Tee, which both offer some fun interactive stations to top off your shopping experience.

The Spice and Tea Exchange

Downtown Disney can be an unexpected spot to find learning opportunities, but there are a few hidden gems.

If you’re doing a little shopping at Mickey’s Pantry, be sure to stop by the Spice and Tea Exchange inside the store. This is a specialty shop with other unique locations throughout the United States. They carry fine spices, herbs, and tea blends and have a huge selection.

There are placards explaining the history and origin of popular spices, such as nutmeg and cinnamon. You can also read about how spices were used and traded and the importance they played in famous explorers expeditions.

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Young children and adults alike will enjoy using their senses to learn more about different spices, salts, and teas. You are more than welcome to open the jars and take a whiff. Have fun exploring the different aromas!

T-REX Dino-Store

Downtown Disney is a great place for shopping and dining with the whole family. But you may not know there are some hidden learning opportunities here, too!

If there are dinosaur enthusiasts in your group, you may want to check out T-REX. This restaurant and gift shop is owned by the same parent company as Rainforest Café. You’ll probably notice similarities in the menu and the immersive quality of the theming. Dinosaurs spring to life periodically, a giant aquarium houses tons of fish, and the “sky” glows with stars and meteors.

But for an educational experience, head to the Dino-Store. A section called the Paleo-Zone features touchscreens (at convenient kid heights) with interactive games and trivia that teach about fossils and different species of dinosaurs. It can be very hard to hear the audio at these screens, especially when the store and restaurant are busy. But there is on-screen text that will help out for older kids who are reading.


The store also sells geodes that can be split open right there, revealing colorful crystals. And you can find a giant geode built right into the wall near the entrance to the store. You can also purchase bags of sand to take outside to the working sluice and pan for gems or minerals. Books and educational toys round out the learning offerings at the Dino-Store. It’s a fun stop for dinosaur lovers and those interested in geology or earth science.



FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.1.E.6.1, SC.1.E.6.3, SC.2.E.6.1, SC.4.E.6.1, SC.4.E.6.2, SC.5.E.5.3, SC.7.L.15.1

Rainforest Café – Marketplace

The Marketplace is a great place for shopping and dining with the whole family.  But you may not know there are some hidden learning opportunities here, too!

The Rainforest Café is a fun place to eat with the wild décor and animals throughout the dining rooms.  But if you head into the merchandise location, you’ll find Tracy Tree.  She may be snoozing when you first see her, but every couple of minutes she awakes to offer facts about the rainforest.  With so much activity and so many sounds in the shop, it can be a little hard to hear her sometimes, but you may just catch a fun fact you didn’t know before.

The Rainforest Café also hosts a bird show daily from noon to 2pm just outside the restaurant entrance.  (Ask a host or hostess to be sure the show will go on that day.)  A company of parrots demonstrate tricks and mimicry while their handlers give information about the birds and answer questions.  It’s a fun treat for animal lovers old and young.


FL Sunshine State Science Standards:
SC.K.L.14.2, SC.K.L.14.3, SC.2.L.17.2, SC.3.L.15.1, SC.4.L.16.3