Mommy Frog's Note: Hoppy news! After a temporary closure due to COVID-19, Walt Disney World Resort has begun a phased reopening, starting with Disney Springs. Hop over to catch up on all of the details you need to know about the safety policies in place before your visit.
Over the recent years, Disney Springs has expanded into Orlando's hottest shopping, dining and entertainment 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 trip. 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 is!
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 to help you get familiar with the area. With this insider 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 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 of 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 three Disney Springs parking garages to choose from. The Lime Garage is on the edge of Disney property, close to many off-site hotels just past Disney Springs. If you're coming from somewhere within the Walt Disney World Resort, you'll likely find yourself headed toward the Orange Garage. A third Disney Springs parking garage, the Grapefruit Garage, opened last year. It sits across from the Lime Garage on the other side of Buena Vista Drive, and it has a pedestrian bridge to The Marketplace so you can easily cross the busy street.
The Lime and Grapefruit Garages are in the heart of new-era Disney Springs, but closer to many of the Disney Springs 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 which level has spots available, and even lights above each spot signaling it's open (or occupied) ... 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.
You can also get to Disney Springs via ferryboat from Disney’s Port Orleans Resort (both French Quarter and Riverside), Old Key West and Saratoga 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 food trucks, 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 fare at D-Luxe Burger, there's always something new to try. Head toward 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 pie. 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. Mobile Order 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 Mexican 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 '20s 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. Be sure to ask for a table on the second floor against the railing. You'll have a fantastic view of the show going on below!
Runner-Up: Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' — Homestyle, farm-to-table comfort food with a unique flair is worth trying. This is a great spot for grown-ups to try something new, and tadpoles to munch on classic dishes such as 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 mac 'n' 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! The new NBA Experience brought along a large gift shop where b-ball fans can find official NBA and WNBA jerseys to rep their favorite players, as well as Disney-inspired T-shirts and swag. (Who doesn't want a slam-dunking Mickey shirt?) Art of Shaving, Sosa Family Cigars and Pelé Soccer are some other unique, niche 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 Pulitzer 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. Don't forget to grab a Disney World-exclusive Pandora charm to commemorate your trip!
Our Favorite: Marketplace Co-Op — Marketplace Co-Op is home to 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 and restaurant serves up good times and great food. With a huge, diverse menu selection that has 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 the latest 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.
The NBA Experience has officially opened at Disney Springs to spoil all of your sports-loving crew. With 13 immersive and interactive experiences, you can put your basketball knowledge AND skills to the test. From a trivia game challenge to a Hall of Champions exhibit, learn all about legendary players, records and current stats. Brush up on your dunking and dribbling skills too! Tad's favorite was Combine, which measured your wingspan, vertical reach and jumps in real-time. (Psst, you can get discounted admission tickets from us!)
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. Or, you could hop on the chance to join Ralph and Vanellope to Break the internet ... perfect for the whole family. For those who get motion sickness like me, you don't have to miss out. I was afraid I'd get too sick and disoriented, but I only had very minor dizziness after I removed the headset.
Yes, seriously! Disney Springs has its very own location in Disney Springs. It's actually much more spacious with fun, modern touches, and it tends to be easier than the Magic Kingdom location to get a reservation.
Carousel and Train
Lily loves to hop on the Marketplace Carousel and Marketplace Train Express to get her ride fix outside of the parks! These miniature rides are available at an additional cost.
There is always something hoppening at Disney Springs. You can usually watch musicians and other performers who seem to pop up randomly, like these knife-jugglers in front of Starbucks. 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 also be seen performing on the Marketplace Stage outside of Ghirardelli (the perfect spot to grab a sundae and enjoy the sights)! Of course, House of Blues and the soon-to-return Cirque du Soleil are major entertainment venues with unbelievable shows.
Amorette's Patisserie offers delightful character dome cakes (modeled after the Fab Five). These can be preordered, making them perfect for in-room celebrations. Amorette's also offers a cake decorating experience! During a 90-minute class, you'll get to create your own dome cake to take with you, with tips and tricks from the pastry artists themselves. In addition to your masterpiece, attendants also receive nonalcoholic and alcoholic refreshments and a special gift.
There's always something to take in at Disney Springs. At the Candy Cauldron, you can watch those signature caramel apples being made (and grab one to take home)! Hop over to Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar to check out the ambiance and thematic details (plus Indiana Jones Easter eggs), or enjoy an afternoon snack on the water.
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 drive into the water and across the lagoon.
The West Side is welcoming several new shops and restaurants in 2020. Catch a sports game at City Works Eatery & Pour House while you sip on your choice of craft beer (there will be over 90 craft brews on tap!). Beatrix will bring a lot more vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Some other sweet additions will include a M&M'S Store and Ample Hills Creamery.
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 My Disney Experience app, by phone or through Open Table. Just because these restaurants aren't in the parks doesn't mean that they don't book up or have 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, use 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 tips or must-do experiences at Disney Springs? Share in the comments!