Like its ‘Happily Whatever You’re After’ tagline suggests, Disney Springs has it all. Located within the Walt Disney World Resort, this unique complex features four distinct neighbourhoods, all offering an array of shopping, dining, and entertainment. So, whether you want to unwind after a day of roller coasters or plan a full day of activities, here's the down low on where to find the very best attractions...
The Evolution of Disney Springs
The land of Disney Springs has been through plenty of transformation throughout the decades…
– Disney Springs was first conceptualized as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village in 1975. Originally built as a shopping complex for a planned residential area, it featured shops such as Toys Fantastique, Bath Parlour, and Carolyn’s Couture. But when permanent housing plans were scrapped in favour of hotels, the area started to cater more for theme park guests, hence its new life as the Walt Disney World Village began.
– With the arrival of new boss Michael Eisner in 1984, so too came the arrival of innovative ideas. Eager to keep guests on site after dark, Eisner aimed to compete with the popular Church Street Station clubs in downtown Orlando. His creation, Pleasure Island came to fruition in 1989 (the same day as Disney’s MGM Studios). This little piece of Disney magic was aimed at adult clientele and included innovative nightclubs such as Neon Armadillo and Mannequins. That year also saw the area being rebranded as Disney Village Marketplace.
– Further expansions (and a customary name change) came in the mid-nineties. A new Disney West Side District joined Pleasure Island and the Marketplace to become collectively known as Downtown Disney in 1997. Downtown Disney became just as expansive as the theme parks themselves and incorporated the original shopping area with an assortment of other attractions such as Planet Hollywood, a Cirque Du Soleil theatre, and DisneyQuest.
– The Downtown Disney area remained throughout the late nineties and early noughties. But by 2008 its popularity had declined, culminating in the closure of Pleasure Island. Yet in true Disney style, innovation was around the corner, and things only got bigger...
– The Disney Springs of today was realized in 2015 after a three-year renovation project. The massive 120-acre complex has no admission charge and is equipped with free parking. It houses four areas, known as the Marketplace, Town Center, West Side, and The Landing, each offering its own distinct style and backstory. Walt Disney Imagineering took inspiration for Disney Springs from Florida’s coastal towns, like St. Augustine and Coral Gables.
Shopping at Disney Springs
Disney Springs is the perfect spot to indulge in a little - or a lot - of retail therapy. Shop big brands with the Lego and Coca Cola stores or find that perfect Disney gift in the world’s largest Disney store, The World of Disney. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Be sure to splash your cash in a couple of these stores as well...
Our top picks
Disney Pin Traders
– This one is a collector’s paradise. Buy or swap pins of your favourite Disney stars. Located at the Marketplace, it is the ideal spot to scope out special limited-edition pins to start or build your collection.
Star Wars Galactic Outpost
– Shopping in a galaxy far far away has never been so easy. The Star Wars Galactic Outpost is an absolute must for every Star Wars fan. Venture here for a bounty of toys, apparel and collectables inspired by the epic space saga.
Once Upon a Toy
– This one is toy heaven for little kids and the young at heart. Here, you will find an abundance of puzzles, soft toys, bubble wands, and so much more. It is also the perfect store to visit if you want to avoid the queues at The World of Disney store.
Dining at Disney Springs
Beyond coasters, Walt Disney World delivers a wild ride for your taste buds. Whether you’re after luxury dining, themed eateries, or even a cupcake from an ATM, you're in for a treat.
Our top picks
– Transport yourself to the 1920s with themed live entertainment in this lavish spot. Indulge in some contemporary American fare and unique craft cocktails as you take in the sights of silent movies playing on the walls.
– Serving delightfully pretty Pan-Asian delicacies from Iron Chef Morimoto, this is the type of restaurant that will have you immortalizing your meals in pictures.
– Step into the Jurassic period and dine with the dinosaurs at T-Rex. From the creators of the Rainforest Café, this interactive eatery features life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, meteor showers, and an aquarium.
Entertainment at Disney Springs
The words Disney and entertainment are almost synonymous and thankfully, Disney Springs got the memo. Charter a hot air balloon that takes you 400ft in the air for that wonderous bird’s-eye view, find your perfect family photo backdrop at the Disney PhotoPass Studio, or simply enjoy dinner and a movie at the AMC Dine-In Theatre. Plus, you won’t want to miss some of these…
Our top picks
Splitsville Luxury Lanes
– Head to Splitsville Luxury Lanes for a little healthy family competition. It features two floors of bowling, pool, and live entertainment with a retro glam vibe.
Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil
– A stage transformed into a giant animation table – what more could you want? Experience the art of classic Disney animation through incredible Cirque du Soleil acrobatics and stunning choreography in this new collaboration.
– Looking for something unique? How does cruising the Lake Buena Vista waters in a stylish 1960s amphicar sound? Located at the popular Boathouse restaurant, this 20-minute tour is a 'must do' at Disney Springs.
What’s New to Disney Springs in 2023?
Until 1st April, you can Indulge in some scrumptious 50th anniversary menu items or shop for special souvenirs. Plus, it has been announced that a brand-new restaurant called Summer House on the Lake will be opening its doors to guests in late 2023. A spin-off of the popular Chicago and North Bethesda restaurant, Summer House Santa Monica, it looks set to be a tasty addition to Disney Springs’ dining catalogue.
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