This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Top Six Additions to Disney Springs (So Far). We’ve been fans of The Area Formerly Known as Downtown Disney for a long time. Among other things, it has an amazing bowling alley/restaurant in Splitsville, the most incredible Disney store in Florida with The World of Disney, and one of the absolute best places to watch a movie with the AMC Fork & Screen. Last year, during the height of construction in the area making it a true challenge to go, we still did a SATURDAY SIX on Why You Needed To Visit. While construction at the Disney parks seems to crawl along at a snail’s pace, work at Disney Springs moves so fast that even Universal can’t keep up. In fact, just over the last twelve months so much has happened that today we are going to count down our six favorite additions to this shopping and dining district, starting off with…
# 6 – Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar
When Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar was announced earlier this year, we here at the SATURDAY SIX offices were more than a bit concerned. We love Indiana Jones, but an Indiana Jones themed bar based around a character even we didn’t remember from the movies? For those who don’t remember (AKA normal human beings) Jock Lindsey was the pilot who flew Indy out of Peru at the very beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and was never seen or mentioned again over the course of four movies. Imagine if New Fantasyland didn’t have Gaston’s Tavern, but instead a bar themed after Monseiur D’Arque, the character Gaston pays to take Belle’s father to an insane asylum.
We breathed a sigh of relief when the Hangar Bar officially opened, and it turned out to be great. A highly themed experience that can be enjoyed whether you are an Indiana Jones fan or not (but tons of great details if you are). Our trepidation about the pun-filled menu was also put to rest when the food and drinks turned out to be at a higher level than Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, one of our favorite lounges at The World. Our menu recommendations: For food try the Air Pirate’s Pretzels (served on a fun plane display) and the Good Dates (what a great name). For drinks you can’t go wrong with The Scottish Professor, the Bitter Barkeep, or the Aviator’s Scotch Flight.
We love theme park bars. We think you know we love theme park bars. So when we say that Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is one of the best in town, you can take that to the bank.
# 5 – Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC
If you like baked treats, Walt Disney World is the place for you. There are awesome bakeries all across property, including one of our favorites – the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe in EPCOT. However there is only one bakery that specializes for those with dietary restrictions. Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC in Disney Springs features baked goods that are vegan, kosher, gluten free, refined-sugar free, soy-free, dairy-free, and egg-free. Believe it or not, even with all those “limitations,” everything tastes great! Donuts, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, Mounds, cinnamon rolls and more are on the daily – freshly baked – menu. They have recently begun to sell vegan soft serve ice cream, and as someone who lives with a vegan you can’t imagine how great this actually is. There are literally hundreds of places across WDW that Your Humble Author can get ice cream, but now we can get some together.
# 4 – The Dedicated Ramp from I-4
Until recently, driving to Disney Springs probably caused more cases of road rage than anyplace on Earth. Recently there was a 50 lane traffic jam in China, and even that was probably more tolerable than trying to go from I-4 to SR535 to Hotel Plaza Blvd. to Disney Springs’ home on Buena Vista Drive. If you were planning to visit during a busy time, like holiday shopping season, you needed to leave your house earlier than the 3 hours Disney’s Magical Express picks you up to bring you to the airport.
All that is in the past though, as the new dedicated ramp from I-4 is leading people straight into Disney Springs! Think of it as a FP+ straight to Cirque du Soleil, the House of Blues, and the Marketplace Co-op.
# 3 – The Parking Garage
If you’ve ever been to Magic Kingdom on New Years Eve or Disney’s Hollywood Studios during its two busy days a year (such as the disastrous Villains Unleashed event from 2014), you know how crazy parking can be. In fact sometimes after sitting in traffic you are then told to go park at EPCOT and then shuttled over to another park. As frustrating as that can be, it is still better than what it was like trying to find a parking spot at The Area Formerly Known as Downtown Disney for the past five years. Here’s a story for you, one time I rope-dropped World of Disney to get a Tagalong, and on my way out the amount of cars circling for a spot was bonkers. One guy pulled over and asked if I was leaving. I responded yes, but pointed far away – like Babe Ruth calling a home run shot – and said I was parked way over there. He said “hop in, I’ll drive you.” This has never happened before in my life, but shows the level of desperation of what trying to find a spot was like.
Now one of the two parking garages is completed and already parking is much, MUCH better. Even before you enter the garage, there are signs showing you how many spots are open. Inside there are lights above each parking space, showing you which spots are open. That’s right, no more circling each row as you know right away whether there are any spaces available! This is the E-Ticket of parking garages, and with a second garage already well underway, parking at Disney Springs is about to be completely fixed.
# 2 – Morimoto Asia
With Via Napoli, Coral Reef, Rose & Crown and more, EPCOT has always been the go-to place at WDW for great places to eat. Don’t look now, but Disney Springs is about to take that distinction away and claim it for themselves. It already has the kid friendly places like Splitsville,Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex, the House of Blues and its great quick Service The Smokehouse, Fulton’s Crab House, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, Food Truck Park, and of course the always popular Earl of Sandwich. The newest addition to the area is Morimoto Asia and it’s quickly becoming a Disney Foodie Favorite.
TouringPlans was at Morimoto on opening weekend, and the grand poohbah himself – Len Testa – was there for a 3 hour, 30 dish, $600 meal. SPOILER ALERT: it’s awesome. The house speciality Peking Duck is a must try, and you’re going to love the Tuna Pizza. But one of our best bets is the delicious Morimoto “Buri-Bop,” that is prepared table side and includes raw yellowtail, egg, rice, and vegetables combined in a hot clay bowl for cooking.
But this is the SATURDAY SIX, and you know what we love….EXTREME EATS. For dessert Morimoto Asia offers the Chocolate Cream & Crunch for Two which offers, Mandarin Orange Jelly, Chocolate Gelato, Hazelnut Chocolate Crunchies and Oreo Tempura.
You read that right. Oreo Tempura.
Please enjoy the pictures. We need to take a break as we’re getting a bit verklempt over here.
# 1 – The BOATHOUSE
Is it possible to top Morimoto Asia’s dining experience? Shockingly, yes, and it comes in the form of The BOATHOUSE. This is T-Rex Cafe for adults, and not surprisingly created by the same man (Steve Schussler) and is expertly themed both inside and out. You’ll love taking a walk outside and seeing the spectacular boats sitting waterside, some of which are so wondrous they seem like they were created by WDI (but they’re all real!) There are three bars, elaborately themed dining rooms, a top notch menu, and the Baked Alaska is one of the greatest desserts ever created by human hands. The BOATHOUSE is destination dining, and as good as anything inside the Disney parks or resorts.
While at The BOATHOUSE, keep an eye out for the next level bananas Amphicars. What kid is not going to love getting into a car that then drives down a launch and enters the water for a 20 minute cruise? Definitely one of the Top Ten most unique things to do at WDW.
So there you have it: the Top Six Additions to Disney Springs (So Far). See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the only man to choose Nine Dragons over Victoria & Alberts Brian Carey, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and Brian Carey.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. PRE-ORDER this baby now! (For every copy sold, a percentage of the profits* go towards buying a DVD of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rap video.)