Disney Springs has recently expanded into Orlando's hottest shopping and dining destination. It went from being somewhere we'd hop to occasionally if we had a little downtime in the schedule or if we wanted a night out for fun dining, to a place we dedicate a full day to every few trips. Disney Springs is awesome because it has the perfect balance of tourist guilty pleasures, including plenty of Mickey gear, PLUS world-class retail stores and experiential dining experiences. There's always something new to do or taste, no matter what your mood!
As your resident shopping and dining expert, I'm here to walk you through the ins and outs of Disney Springs. I've highlighted some of our personal frog family favorite places, as well, to help get you familiar. With this inside guide, you'll be well on your way to planning the perfect Disney Springs visit for your squad.
Disney Springs Overview
Disney Springs (previously 1975's Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, 1977's Walt Disney World Village, 1989's Disney Village Marketplace and 1997's Downtown Disney) has evolved into an unbelievable shopping, dining and entertainment destination. With its transformation from Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, it almost doubled in size and fun! With more of a variety between vacation souvenirs and everyday shopping, Disney Springs has become the place to be for tourists and locals alike. The area is divided into four sections: The Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center and West Side.
Disney Springs is located between Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, just along Disney's Lake Buena Vista Golf Course at 1486 Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL 32830. The area is open daily from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m., with some hours varying depending on the store or restaurant.
The theming of Disney Springs is based off the popular trend of repurposing. The story is that Disney Springs is a former town, home to industrial sites, a marina and more, that is being refurbished to host an endless array of vendors. You'll catch thematic notes and architectural detail throughout, like Disney Springs Bottling Co. being transformed into Morimoto Asia, or former electricity plant-turned-restaurant The Edison. Keep an eye out for subtle hints regarding the past "purpose" of each building.
Disney Springs Parking and Transportation
One of the best perks of Disney Springs is that parking is free! Right now, there are two Disney Springs parking garages to choose from. The Lime Garage is on the edge of Disney property, close to many offsite hotels just past Disney Springs. If you're coming from somewhere within the Walt Disney World Resort, you'll likely find yourself headed towards the Orange Garage. A third Disney Springs parking garage (our bet is that it'll be named Lemon or Grapefruit) is currently being built as well.
The Lime Garage is in the heart of new-era Disney Springs, but closer toward many of the Downtown Disney classics: World of Disney, Ghirardelli, Rainforest Café, etc. The Orange Garage is your go-to spot if you're headed to AMC, Planet Hollywood, House of Blues or Splitsville. Leap loves how these garages have signs telling you on what levels spots are available, and even lights above each spot signaling its availability ... a huge time-saver!
If you're taking advantage of Disney's free bus transportation, you can get to Disney Springs from any Disney resort hotel or park. The bus will drop you off and pick you up right at the center of Disney Springs.
Disney Springs Restaurants
Disney Springs has over 50 food destinations, from candy shops to walk-up windows to full-service restaurants, and everything in between. Snack your way through the walk-up windows, or enjoy a sit-down dinner. Your options in cuisine style and restaurant type are truly endless!
Ballin' on a Budget
Trying to cut back on meal spending for the day? There's no better spot than Disney Springs. From cost-friendly kiosks like The Daily Poutine, to hearty American Faire at D-Luxe Burger, there's always something new to try. Head towards gourmet fast casual faves like Sprinkles or Vivoli il Gelato for a scrumptious treat after dinner. These quick, easy options make it super convenient for everyone in your pack to have what they want. Call it a freestyle meal day!
Our Favorite: Blaze Pizza — Imagine Chipotle, but for pizzas. This build-your-own pizza heaven has fresh, gourmet ingredients that allow you to create your dream 'za. Load up on all of your favorite toppings (there's no limit!) and enjoy. The meal isn't complete without a fountain beverage, as Blaze is also well known for its craft sodas and delicious agua frescas. Note: Tad and Lily can easily share a pizza, so this is super budget-friendly for families.
Runner-up: D-Luxe Burger — We come here for the burgers, and stay for the exceptional selection of dippin' sauces for our fries ... and maybe the boozy milkshakes. While the focus here is burgers, the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich is my #1 pick. The mobile ordering makes this spot a breeze, and there are a couple of combo duo options that make it fairly easy on your wallet.
Disney Springs is a hidden gem for awesome, special sit-down meals in Disney World. Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' is a must-try for classic Southern favorites, and Frontera Cocina serves fresh Spanish dishes. Are you a sucker for Italian like me? Book a table at Maria & Enzo's. There's somewhere for every cuisine craving. Take a trip to Raglan Road for some Irish entertainment alongside your beer, fish and chips.
Our Favorite: The Edison — This '20's speakeasy-style restaurant is a hit on all fronts. We haven't had a meal here that we haven't loved (Gooey Grilled Cheese, anyone?) or a night we didn't enjoy! The kids enjoy interacting with Rory the inventor while sipping on their giant milkshake during our afternoon suppers, and Leap and I love coming later for an adults-only date night to enjoy The Edison's live evening entertainment.
Runner-up: Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' — Homestyle, farm-to-table comfort food with a unique flair worth trying. This is a great spot for grown-ups to try something new, and tadpoles to munch on classic dishes like filling mac 'n' cheese.
Treat Yo' Self Budget
Whether you want a formal family night out, or a date night with your fellow frog, Disney Springs is a great place for a little getaway. STK Orlando and The BOATHOUSE serve up respective gourmet specialties in beyond-cool settings, while Morimoto Asia is hands-down the best place to get your sushi fix.
Our Favorite: Paddlefish — There's no better place in Disney Springs for seafood than Paddlefish. The cocktails are incredible, and the cornbread is my greatest weakness! Choose from a wide variety of choices for your ideal under-the-sea feast, and be sure to start with table-side lobster guacamole. YUM.
Runner-up: The BOATHOUSE — Where there's fine dining at Disney Springs, there is amazing seafood. The BOATHOUSE's Baked Lobster Macaroni & Cheese is a highlight for us, and the whole family is a fan of the Pimento cheese appetizer.
Disney Springs Shopping
From Artisan soap shops such as Basin and Kiehl's, to huge name-brand stores such as Under Armour and UGG, Disney Springs truly has a wide range in offerings. Forgot your waterproof mascara before hitting Disney's Blizzard Beach? Stop by Sephora or MAC. Need some new cargo shorts to stash your snacks? Visit Columbia or VOLCOM. Whether you're looking for staple pieces or statement pieces, UNIQLO is stocked for the whole frog squad.
Our Favorites: World of Disney is inarguably a must-do for everyone in our frog family. Disney's largest souvenir store has something for the whole family, with much of the same merchandise you see in the parks, and more! Another shop we visit every trip is Disney's Days of Christmas, where we grab our annual personalized ornament to take home.
Disney Springs is the perfect place for your kiddos to choose what to spend that souvenir allowance on. They can Build-a-Dino at T-REX, or pick out their new best pal at Once Upon a Toy. The Star Wars Galactic Outpost will be home base for your little Jedis, and be sure to visit Disney's Pin Traders for the latest and greatest for your lanyard. There are plenty of places to keep your tadpoles busy all day.
Our Favorite: The LEGO Store — this creative-at-heart's dream come true will send you straight to toy heaven. Purchase incredible LEGO kits or your personal selection of pieces. Watch your tadpoles build their own adventures inspired by the gigantic Disney-themed LEGO models outside. I can't even get Leap out of the store without buying a new model!
Leap doesn't have hops as one would expect a frog to, but he does have a love for basketball! He was thrilled when Michael Jordan's son opened a store in Disney Springs full of Jordan family memorabilia and athletic-style swag. Art of Shaving, Sosa Family Cigars and Pelé Soccer are some other unique, niché shops that Leap is always hoppy to visit.
I could spend two solid days shopping at Disney Springs! It's a one-stop-shop for all of my trendy favorites: kate spade ny, Vera Bradley, Free People, Coach, Lilly Pullitzer and everything my little frogette heart desires! ALEX AND ANI and Pandora are two of my essential jewelry destinations, and Sanuk and Havaianas are my favorite sources for the perfect vacation shoes.
Our Favorite: Marketplace Co-Op — Our newest fave is Marketplace Co-Op, where you'll find a variety of art, clothing and home goods with a unique flair from a variety of collections. Here is where you'll find those gorgeous vintage-style Disney dresses, original Disney artwork and so much more. We love shopping here for items to commemorate our vacations.
Disney Springs Activities and Entertainment
Splitsville is a rad destination for both kids and adults. This two-story bowling alley + restaurant serves up good times and great food. With a huge, diverse menu selection that is yet to disappoint us, and a family fave activity to enjoy in a cool setting, Splitsville is the perfect spot for a family night out.
For a rainy day at Disney, nothing is better than stocking up on popcorn and candy in front of that movie you've been dying to see. For an extra special night, choose the Dine-In option. Your tadpoles will love the experience of eating a full-service dinner at the movies ... and it's not a bad way for mom and dad to relax, either.
In Disney Springs Marketplace, visit The Void for Star Wars™: Secrets of the Empire Virtual Reality Experience. Go on a Rebellion mission as a team of four in a galaxy far, far away. We've heard great things about this immersion into the Star Wars universe, and movie-obsessed Tad can't wait to try it! As of November 2018, you can now also hop on the chance to join Ralph and Vanellope to Break the Internet ... perfect for the whole family.
Yes, seriously! Disney Springs has its very own location in Disney Springs. It's actually much more spacious with fun modern touches, and tends to be easier to get a reservation.
Carousel & Train
Lily loves to hop on the Marketplace Carousel and Marketplace Train Express to get rid of her parks craving! These miniature rides are available at an additional cost.
There is always something hoppening at Disney Springs. Find family-friendly rappers Free Daps freestyling hilarious flows for the whole family on most evenings. Catch the moving statues that will wow your tadpoles in front of Amorette's Patisserie intermittently. Throughout most days, dance and choir groups from across the world can be seen performing on the Marketplace Stage outside of Ghirardelli. Of course, House of Blues and the soon-to-return Cirque du Soleil are major entertainment venues with unbelievable shows.
Our Favorites: Have you ever seen a giant, blue balloon floating high over Disney Springs? Did you know that you can fly in one of those? Visit Aerophile for a balloon flight experience like no other across Disney Springs. How about taking your car for a spin ... in the water? Your tadpoles will go crazy for Vintage Amphicar & Italian Water Taxi Tours when they see a vintage car take you across the lagoon. Another
Replacing futuristic family fun center Disney Quest, The NBA Experience is coming soon to Disney Springs to spoil all of your sports-loving crew. City Works Eatery & Pour House will head to the West Side in 2019. Always be sure to keep an eye out for pop-up shops ... most recently, Greg McCullough (one of our fave Disney artists!) had a shop of his own.
Disney Springs Tips
Here are a few of our favorite tips, but we've got a whole other post devoted to our Disney Springs hacks!
- Spend the last evening of your trip at Disney Springs. This has become a Frog Family tradition! We like to sit down for a yummy, low-key meal and reflect on the highlights of the trip. It allows us to take a moment to soak in our vacation memories before returning to the real world.
- Set an allowance. Yes, for yourself and your tadpoles! Allow your little ones the freedom of choosing how to spend their allotted amount. Shop around the toy stores and let them make their pick! As for you mama and papa frogs, don't let shopper's guilt ruin your vacation. Set your price limit for more conscious spending.
- Book dining reservations online, through the MyDisneyExperience app, via phone or Open Table. Just because these restaurants aren't in the parks doesn't mean that they don't book up or gain serious wait times. Some of the uber popular places such as Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' and Morimoto Asia are near impossible to walk in for dining.
- Don't plan too much. I know this is contradictory to my overall mission to plan the perfect trip, but we promise you'll be better off winging it here. Aside from dining reservations, allow yourself the luxury of shopping and snacking on a whim, and seeing where your tadpoles' interests lie.
- Use your discounts. If you're visiting Disney World with a vacation package, utilize your coupon book for special deals at select locations. Passholders: Don't be afraid to ask for a discount wherever you go! You'll be surprised by how many stores and restaurants at Disney Springs offer a Passholder discount.
Are you ready to book your hotel just to come visit Disney Springs? We don't blame you! We toadally endorse spending a day shopping and feasting at Disney Springs ... those are two of our favorite activities, after all, and you know Disney offers the best selection! Do you have any hidden gems, must-do experiences at Disney Springs? Share in the comments!