SATURDAY SIX Presents: Everything You Wanted To Know About the Disney Outlet Stores (But Were Afraid To Ask)

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando! Earlier this week, the SATURDAY SIX’s sister series – The Magic, The Memories, & Merch! – celebrated its five year anniversary. A monthly look at the Disney Outlet Stores?

They said it wouldn’t be done.

They said it couldn’t be done.

Now that it has been five years, they all agree it shouldn’t have been done.

However, each month we get questions about the Orlando Disney Outlet Store “experience” and we thought it was time to give you, Dear Reader, a rare look behind the scenes to see how the sausage is made. Consider this an “Outlet FAQ” and hopefully it will help you make a decision on whether or not a trip to the Outlets is worth part of your valuable vacation time.

# 6 – There are TWO Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando

First things first. Each of the two Disney Outlet Stores are officially named Disney Character Warehouse. One is located at the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Ave (close to Disney Springs) and the other is located at the Orlando Premium Outlets on International Drive (next to Fun Spot and very close to the Universal Orlando Resort.)

Both stores carry many of the exact same items, but it is important to note that the Vineland Character Warehouse is a much bigger store than the location on International Drive. That said, the Outlets in general on Vineland can be a complete madhouse every day of the week, but especially so on the weekends. Just like going to the theme parks, it is important to pack your patience as experiencing the Outlets on a busy day can be just as frustrating and nerve wracking as a theme park newbie hitting the parks when the crowd calendar reaches a 10.

The Orlando Premium Outlets at Vineland Ave.(photo by Julia Mascardo)
Disney Character Warehouse at Vineland Ave. (photo by Julia Mascardo)

 

The Orlando Premium Outlets may look a lot like areas at Disney Springs, but the shopping experience is much different. Just getting to the Disney stores will have you walking by a whole bunch of salespeople trying to do just about anything to get you to stop. If you thought time share sales pitches could be pushy, just wait until you run the gauntlet of vape sticks, luggage, and perfume salesmen. In general, a large percentage of people that visit the Orlando Premium Outlets are international guests, and they are more used to an aggressive sales force. If your only experience in shopping in Orlando is at Disney Springs or at the Disney theme parks, just know you can always say “no, thanks” and walk away.  You may also want to leave any “personal space” issues back at home as well, because traversing a packed Disney Character Warehouse will make you wish for the wide open and large spaces of the stores inside Hogsmeade Village.

Disney Character Warehouse at I-Drive.
Until about two years ago, the Disney Character Warehouse at I-drive had all of this space. Today, Panera Bread is open and the Disney outlet store is about 40-45% the size it used to be.
A cute window display at the I-Drive location.
What I would not do for that Character Warehouse shirt!

 

# 5 – Parking is AWFUL

Let’s go back to Disney Springs for a second. The parking situation at Disney Springs is now the best in all of Walt Disney World. It has dedicated ramps leading guests to parking garages which will tell them exactly how many spots are available. Anyone who tried to go to Disney Springs during the time they were building those parking garages will remember how absolutely miserable it was. As bad as that was – and it was horrible – it was still better than trying to park at the Orlando Premium Outlets now.

To say parking at the Outlets can be next level bananas is the understatement of the century. Somehow the Outlets made it even WORSE this year by adding a whole bunch of paid parking (until now the parking was all free.) There is valet parking for $15. The Vineland location has an indoor parking garage, which is $10. There is “premium” self parking, which is $3 for the first two hours and then $3 for every additional hour. Finally there is free parking, and you can imagine how close to the stores those are. Before they even made parking an up-charge, parking at the Outlets was crazy. Guests park anywhere and everywhere, often finding out their cars are towed when they come out. The best way to avoid stress as well as feeling the need to pay for parking is to arrive at the Outlets early in the morning or much later in the evening.

Valet. At the OUTLETS. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
Valet. There is literally nothing to stop guests from parking here other than the “honor system.” There are other valet sections to the side of this area that have poles and ropes, but nothing for the “main” valet area. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
(photo by Julia Mascardo)
Parking garage at Vineland Ave. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
“Premium” self parking. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
Parking in a crosswalk. AKA Business As Usual at the Orlando Premium Outlets.

 

# 4 – The early bird may get the worm, but it still won’t be early enough to beat the eBay pirates

As we just said, one of the best ways to get decent free parking is to arrive at the Orlando Premium Outlets at “rope drop.” The hours for the Disney Character Warehouse are generally 10AM-11PM, but they often have increased hours for the Christmas shopping season. However, if you are at the Disney stores in the first hour they are open you are more than likely going to have to “compete” with the eBay pirates. These are people who buy items at the Outlets to flip them on sites like eBay, or run their own Disney merchandise websites. Like raptors, they work in packs to get around the Disney policy of only being able to buy 10 pieces of any item. For many of the more unique items they will buy every single one before anyone else gets a chance to even see it, let alone buy it. The check out experience at the registers is already probably one of the slowest on property – especially since any item that has any potential of breaking is wrapped more securely than nitro glycerin being driven in a war zone – and being stuck being one of these pirates buying tons of the same items will test your patience.

eBay pirates get their items ready. (artwork by Juliette Elton.)

Here’s an example of what you may encounter when attempting to “rope-drop” the Disney Character Warehouse on Vineland. There are two different ways to enter the store and both will have a line of people.

(photo by @oboeman123)
(photo by @oboeman123)
These Figment boxes were all scooped up and put aside for one person, leaving zero for anyone else in the store.
The check out process at the Outlets is slow on a good day. Imagine being behind someone who is there to hoard all the items.

 

# 3 – Character Warehouse is owned by Disney, so you can use Chase Disney Visa redemption cards

That’s right, think of the two Character Warehouse locations in Orlando as extensions of Walt Disney World, as they are both owned by The Mouse and are staffed by actual Cast Members. That means that almost all the of the same shopping policies that are in effect at WDW also hold true at the Outlets, including the ability to use your Chase Disney Visa redemption card for purchases.

Unlike retail stores on Disney property, there is no option to have your purchases delivered to your resort. Character Warehouse also does not ship, so you must make all your purchases in the store. There is no Annual Pass discount, or any other discount available on top of the already marked down items.

Payment.

 

# 2 – You can buy snacks and Disney park tickets (at full price)

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of items at each Character Warehouse and almost all of them are discounted at 50-90% off. However, there are a few items in the stores which are always sold with zero discount. These include a selection of Disney themed snacks. You are paying the same (completely bonkers) price for the snacks that you would pay in the gift shop at any Disney hotel. Over the years several dining locations at the Orlando Premium Outlets have been flagged for health violations, so keep in mind that – while expensive – they may be the safest thing to actually consume at the Outlets.

Believe it or not, you can also purchase Walt Disney World park tickets along with the Disney PhotoPass Service at the Character Warehouse. As a person who has gone to both Character Warehouse stores multiple times per month for the last five years, I have yet to actually see anyone actually purchase a Disney ticket there.

$3.49 for a 2 oz bag of pretzels. Gold is priced less per ounce.
Snacks.
Candy.

 

Candy.
WDW Tickets and brochures.

 

# 1 – Selection at the Character Warehouse can best be described as “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”

Turnover at each Character Warehouse is pretty fast. With a few exceptions, pretty much every item in the store will be replaced by something different over the next 4-6 weeks. Often times there are items heavily discounted at Character Warehouse that are still being sold at full price at Walt Disney World and the ShopDisney app.

As for overall QUALITY of the items, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve taken several people to the Disney Character Warehouse who come away disappointed, thinking most of the items are “junk.” I think part of the negative reaction to the store is because of how busy it can be and how uncomfortable it is shopping there at times. It also depends what type of person you are. I love theme park merchandise and almost always end up spending $50-$100 a visit whereas TouringPlans’ own Julia Mascardo – who lives a life many monks would call “a bit modest for my taste” – rarely buys anything on her trips to the store.

You never know what you are going to find, which for shoppers like me is part of the thrill of the hunt. There is such a large variety of items that the stores carry – including dishes, glassware, t-shirts, toys, plush, and pins – that you’ll almost always see something interesting (if not something to make you open up your wallet.) Here’s a few samples from over the years of items that we really enjoyed…

I’m not a “snow globe guy” but this is an E-Ticket snow globe if there ever was one. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
Figment MagicBand, and for only $1.99 during the Great MagicBand Dump of 2017.
Shag drawn Jungle Cruise glass.
Fort Wilderness Keychains.
Tsum Tsum featuring Dog with the keys from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Chip.

 

Pretty much every month you are going to find items from various Disney brands such as the Disney Cruise Line, Star Wars, Marvel, and the Disney Princesses.

Disney Cruise Line shirt. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
Incredible mashups using Star Wars and famous Disney attraction posters.
Captain America Earhat.
Princess Jasmine.

 

After just about every single “event” at Walt Disney World, you are almost surely going to see items show up at the Outlets. This includes Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot’s Festival of the Arts, Flower & Garden, and Food & Wine.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party shirts. (photo by Julia Mascardo)
There are not only Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party merchandise, but Christmas items in general like this Santa Mickey tree topper. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
Flower and Garden Festival MagicBand. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
Food & Wine Festival headband.
Festival of the Arts magnets.
Disney’s one night only Star Wars: Galactic Nights event at DHS.

 

But the reason I love going to the Disney Character Warehouse is for all the items that would otherwise find their way to the Island of Misfit Toys. Merchandise that at times is just completely unexplainable, or as Disney found out, unsellable.

Luigis flying tires, an items that came to the Orlando outlets from Disney California Adventure.
Paper FastPass holder. (photo by Daisy Lauren)
Turkey Leg decor. The amount of turkey leg related merchandise over the years is something we’ll never forget (no matter how hard we try.)
This is an actual hat that was sold by Disney.
So many random items can hit the Outlets, like this Marvel branded Duct Tape. Trying to picture the adult that uses Duct Tape, but wants Marvel, or the kid who loves Marvel, but wants Duct Tape.
This Humpty Dumpty was PUSHED off the wall.

HONORABLE MENTION – A gas station that charges $6.99 a gallon (and that’s for the CHEAP GAS)

On your way to the Outlets on Vineland Ave you may do a double take when passing a Shell gas station that advertises a price of $6.99 a gallon. This price IS NOT A TYPO. Generally when you see a gas price this high, you’re watching a movie and its the film’s way to show you that we are in the future. Not for this gas station. Nay Nay, this Shell has been selling gas at an exorbitant price for years. No one can get an official reason as to why.

This picture was shockingly taken on Vineland Ave in 2019, not – as you would assume – on the set of Will Smith’s I Am Legend.(photo by Ben Wszalek)
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! (photo by Ben Wszalek)
Who would have thought $5.99 per gallon was the VALUE OPTION. (photo by Ben Wszalek)
We couldn’t have asked a better question ourselves. (photo via NBC’s The Office)

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Takes You, Dear Reader, to the gates of Mordor the Disney Outlet Stores! 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 E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: The WORST Places To Propose at WDW

6 Pieces of Disney Merchandise That Don’t Exists (But Totally Should)

Are Disney’s Hotels Going To The Dogs? A Review.

Walt Disney World Locations Used in Hulk Hogan’s THUNDER IN PARADISE

SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: Disney PET PEEVES

The SATURDAY SIX Uses Disney Villains To Explain Theme Park Blogging

6 Times Our Favorite TV Shows Went To Walt Disney World

Special Thanks to our spirit animal Brandon Glover, the lovely and talented Juliette Elton, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, Jammin’ Julia Mascardo, Dynamite Daisy Lauren, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, 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 goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 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. ORDER this baby now!

13 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX Presents: Everything You Wanted To Know About the Disney Outlet Stores (But Were Afraid To Ask)

  • August 4, 2018 at 10:40 am
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    I accidentally filled my car up at that has station once (without looking at the price first, obviously). I’ve never forgiven myself.

    Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 11:07 am
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    1st off – great article, totally agree! Every time we pass that gas station I take a 2nd look to see if it’s serious lol. I was shocked last week when we went there and saw that Vineland is now charging for the parking garage – not sure when that started, it was free back in April. I actually left without buying anything, the line was like going to Best Buy on black Friday – clear to the back of the store. No deal is worth all that. The I-drive store is smaller but less crazy in my experience. I found some good deals back in March/April. Last week the Vineland store was seriously picked over, I’ll go earlier in the day next time.

    Reply
  • August 4, 2018 at 11:40 am
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    My sixth graders one year made wallets out of duct tape and sold them. The Marvel duct tape would have been a hit with them.

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  • August 5, 2018 at 3:48 am
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    $5.99 a gallon – I wish I could get gas at that price!!! The cheapest I can find here in the U.K. is $7 per U.K. gallon and most gas stations charge more than that – and it’s so “cheap” now when I convert £s to $s because the £ is so weak against the dollar. Usually when I convert it from £ to $ it’s in excess of $10 per gallon. Maybe some Brits are using that gas station as it seems like a bargain to us? Having said that we have not used that gas station as we found gas cheaper elsewhere – but if they stay in the “bubble” maybe they don’t realise how expensive it is. Lol

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 8:35 am
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      I’ve heard that UK gas is expensive–most people in the US fill up at least once a week, and sometimes 2-3 times/week, because the amount of driving we have to do is a lot more than in the UK. I can’t imagine paying $300-400 in gasoline per week, but part of me would hope that something like that would encourage the development of a mass transit system….

      Reply
  • August 5, 2018 at 8:06 pm
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    The story that I heard about the gas station is that the owners only want the store, not the gas station. But for some reason they couldn’t have it, so instead they charge super high prices for gas just to keep their convenience store.

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 11:09 am
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      I’ve heard the same thing. They don’t actually care about selling the gas. That said, it always amuses me when I see people filling up there, especially since there are other gas stations not far down the road.

      Reply
  • August 6, 2018 at 11:10 am
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    I have been trying to find that duct tape for a year now (I use it to mark my suitcases – makes it so easy to find them). No wonder I can’t find it – it was all at the outlet!!!

    Reply
  • August 6, 2018 at 1:24 pm
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    1. That is the ugliest hat I’ve ever seen. It may be the ugliest in the entire world.

    2. Does this store sell online?

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    • August 6, 2018 at 4:00 pm
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      Unfortunately, no. You used to be able to order via telephone, but they stopped doing that.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2018 at 1:39 pm
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    Another great article from Derek!

    My “favorite” story from the first time we went to the Vineland location happened while walking to the store. When we were “inside”, but only about 1/2 way to the store, a guy walked parallel to us, turned toward my wife, and in a low, creepy, rhythmic voice chanted “I’m gonna geeet youuuu.” He then walked off in another direction. Needless to say, it was a bit freaky. Was that you, Derek? LOL.

    Also, Derek, which location were the pictures in this article from??? And do you happen to know the start time of the 3 o’clock parade? 🙂

    Reply
  • August 9, 2018 at 2:15 pm
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    My hubby actually has the t-shirt that Goofy asks “What time is the 3:00 parade-while looking at his watch). We get so many great comments when he wears it especially from cast members.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 9:21 am
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    Thank you for posting these. Honestly I walk into the outlets all I see is junk and too many people but seeing these stores from your eyes. Its fun and exciting 😀

    Reply

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