SATURDAY SIX Looks at TOWN CENTER in Disney Springs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Town Center in Disney Springs. The great Jim Hill often says about Disney Cruise Line, “You start building a new ship in one economy, and you finish it in a completely different economy.” The same can be said about building things at Walt Disney World except for one thing, it takes even longer. Years ago Downtown Disney was – to be kind – a mess. The parking situation was the absolute worst in Orlando. The two main areas (West Side and The Marketplace) were bookends to a ghost town once Pleasure Island closed in 2008. Finally, in 2013 Disney bit the bullet and announced the area would be completely refurbished and rebranded as Disney Springs.
Disney Springs had some growing pains during the first couple years, but it finally turned the corner in 2015 when the first of two parking garages opened along with The Landing (which includes The BOATHOUSE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC among other venues.) On May 15, 2016 the final phase of Disney Springs began to open with the launch of Town Center. Many guests gave up going to Downtown Disney during the construction and they will not recognize the place once they come back. In the words of Tony Stark in the recent smash hit Civil War, “You’re in dire need of an upgrade, systemic, top to bottom, 100 point restoration” and that’s exactly what Disney fans got. Today we’re going to look at our favorite parts of Town Center, along with some things that could be a bit better. Let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – The Area Looks Beautiful at Night
Downtown Disney was many things over the years, but you’re probably not going to find too many people who thought that it was “pretty.” With the opening of Town Center, Disney Springs is now aesthetically pleasing to the eye, both during the day and night. The water features and lighting package of Town Center make it a wonderful place to spend time in as the actual springs are gorgeous.
# 5 – The Parking Situation is Finally FIXED
The opening of the Orange garage in 2015 helped alleviate a lot of Disney Springs’ parking woes, but the new Lime garage makes getting to the area easier than ever. Both the Orange and Lime garages are what we here at the SATURDAY SIX refer to as E-Ticket parking garages. Everything about this is what you’ve always wanted. Before you even enter the garage there are signs telling you how many spots are open. Once you enter, there is a sign on each floor alerting drivers to how many parking spaces are open on that floor and then once inside the floor each row has a sign telling how many spots are available. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. Above each spot is a light which will tell you exactly where the open spaces are. This is something you didn’t know you needed but now wonder where it has been all your life.
Besides the actual garages themselves, there are dedicated ramps coming off I-4 and from Buena Vista Drive. That’s right, no longer do you have to exit onto SR535 and make your way up Hotel Plaza Blvd. This was one of the most frustrating one mile stretches of road in all of Florida. There have also been several pedestrian bridges built allowing guests (and Cast Members) to walk from Hotel Plaza Blvd and Buena Vista Drive without traffic having to stop. Everything is absolutely fantastic and makes the experience for everyone involved much better.
# 4 – No Longer Do Guests Need To Risk Lives Traveling To The Other Orlando Outlet Malls
One of the biggest complaints by Orlando locals is that the Town Center resembles “a glorified Florida Outlet Mall.” I say Nay Nay. I write this as a person who travels to the Orlando Premium Outlets each and every month. I go to the knock off outlet malls. I go to the Mall at Millenia and Artegon. Town Center does contain some of the elements of those malls, but it also has Disney features and theming that you won’t find at any of the others. You also won’t feel like you’re walking down the Las Vegas strip being constantly hounded by vendors trying to sell you vape cigarettes, remote control helicopters, or luggage as you pass by. Certainly the area was designed to keep out of state and international visitors from leaving Disney property to shop at the other malls, but Town Center’s dining and atmosphere set it apart from its competition. Waaaaaay apart. For those old school Downtown Disney fans who miss the road-rage inducing parking situation, the other Orlando outlets are more than happy to fulfill your dreams in that regard.
# 3 – Amorette’s Patisserie
A nice part of Town Center, is that Disney actually runs some of the dining venues, which – outside of the candy shops – is all done by third parties in The Marketplace and West Side. Amorette’s Patisserie is an upscale bakery which creates items that resemble tiny works of art. The Patisserie has a show kitchen, so guests are able to see these chefs/artists make the edible creations. The items look almost too good to eat, but we have even better news: they taste incredible. The Strawberry Fields of OC is heavenly. Made with lemon curd, strawberry mousse and basil sugar, this strawberry tart was a true delight. Garnished with an edible hibiscus, this immediately became one of our favorite treats on property. Amorette’s also specializes in dome cakes – named after the Fab Five characters of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto – which you can have delivered to WDW hotels and restaurants for special occasions. Also available are smaller versions of these cakes including their signature Amorette’s Petit Cake. Featuring 11 layers (red velvet cake, chocolate cake, cherry mousse, chocolate mousse, raspberry pate de fruit jelly and Italian buttercream) this is a cake for people who love cake.
Keep your eyes open throughout Town Center, but especially in Amorette’s as you may see inspiration for their colorful creations. Here is a piece of concept art from the Festival of Fantasy parade in the Magic Kingdom hanging on their wall.
# 2 – D-Luxe Burger
While Disney Springs has a fantastic selection of table service restaurants (including the completely underrated Splitsville), one of its weaknesses was good quick service options. D-Luxe Burger is a huge step in the right direction. Like Amorette’s, D-Luxe is run by Disney and neither hits you over the head with that fact. Both Amorette’s and D-Luxe have insanely elaborate backstories that would make fans of soap operas and professional wrestling jealous, but all you need to know is that the food is good. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, with a picturesque view of the springs. The menu mainly consists of burgers, fries, and milkshakes. There is no denying everything is pricey. The burgers range from $9.99 to $12.99 and do not include fries. The fries are $4.99 and $7.49. The regular milkshakes are $7.00 with alcohol versions ranging from $9-$14. The burgers are very flavorful and the house-made buns are terrific. We may still be in the honeymoon phase, but we’ll go on record saying it has the best veggie burger on property. While the only french fries in the world worth $7.50 would be the truffle fries at Crews Cup, these thick-cut fries are very reminiscent of British “chips” and you have a choice of six different dipping sauces to go with them. Walt Disney World is in a golden era right now with milkshakes and the version at D-Luxe are going to bring a smile to many faces during these warm summer days. Highest recommendations go to the S’mores shake for general goodness and the Smoked Bourbon for those that would like a spiked version. Sitting outside on the patio of D-Luxe with a burger, fries and milkshake is just what the doctor ordered.
A while back Disney began taking the backs of many chairs at quick service locations at the parks with the idea that guests wouldn’t stay as long in the restaurant because they wouldn’t be comfortable. D-Luxe Burgers took that line of thinking to the next level with these bar stools in which your knees are above the actual counter your food is on. There are plenty of great tables in D-Luxe, but this bar area is bonkers.
# 1 – Sprinkles
This was a true surprise because when it comes to cupcakes, we’ve eaten our fair share in Walt Disney World and it takes a lot to show us something. Sprinkles claim to fame is being the first “cupcake bakery” in the world. Sprinkles has generated some of the longest lines at Town Center since its debut, and normally we would considered waiting in a line deeper than five people for cupcakes would be a waste of your time. That’s normally. Sprinkles is worth waiting for. Not only do they have great cupcakes and cookies, but the Sprinkles Sundae – which essentially puts ice cream in between a cupcake – is worth dropping what you are doing and going to Disney Springs as fast as you can.
On top of the tasty treats, Sprinkles brought along a gimmick that became an instant sensation. The Cupcake ATM is one of those things that you just have to do. This will make you feel like a kid again. Using a bank-like ATM set-up, guests first choose what type of cupcake they want. Then a live video comes on the screen showing you the automated arm pulling the cupcake out of inventory and bringing it to the ATM. The door opens, and your magical cupcake arrives. It’s simple, it’s ridiculous, and it’s a Must Do that Stacy Aswad needs to have on her next video.
HONORABLE MENTION – The Daily Poutine and Yesake
A couple more quick service options opened in the Town Center, both providing items you don’t usually come across on your WDW vacation. The first is at The Daily Poutine. First, a little backstory. Your Humble Author is originally from New Hampshire. We border Canada and, in my city, had a large French Canadian population. Poutine is a popular Canadian dish that consists of french fries and cheese curds covered in gravy. It wasn’t until I left New Hampshire that I realized most cities don’t have places that serve poutine. Most likely because the dish is next level bananas. Poutine now has a presence at Disney Springs in The Daily Poutine kiosk.
Located across from Amorette’s Patisserie, The Daily Poutine offers four types of poutine: Classic, Italian, French, and Latin (which uses fried yucca instead of French fries). Poutine is not for everyone, but it is something easy to grab and go. What was a great surprise is some of the drinks offered including Unibroue on draft along with a terrific watermelon lemonade.
Yesake is a quick service location featuring Asian wraps. The best snacks on vacation are ones you can eat while still walking around and enjoying the atmosphere and these do the trick. We got the Great Wall, which features Chinese style pulled pork, pickled jalapeno, hoisin sriracha, green leaf lettuce and white rice. The kiosk also specializes in sake slushes, and for that we tried the Blue Coconut & Sake Frozen Punch (sake, blue curacao, rum with pineapple juice, coconut syrup and banana syrup.) Loved both.
DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION – Maybe Disney could have waited an extra couple days before opening the Town Center…
There are still some stores and food venues that will open later this year to complete Town Center. While on the whole the area looks terrific, upon close inspection you’ll see some things that were done quickly to get the area open to guests.
So there you have it: A Look at TOWN CENTER in Disney Springs. 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:
Dining Review: Disney Springs Quick Bites
First Impressions of Disney Springs Town Center
Six MORE Extreme Eats at WDW (including the Baked Alaska at The BOATHOUSE)
Six Theme Park Questions For the Magic 8 Ball
Six “Easter Eggs” at the Universal Orlando Resort
Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, the most popular personality in theme park history Banks Lee, official documentarian of Disney Springs and Universal’s Sappghire Falls @bioreconstruct, runDisney Twitter icon @GooberMonkey78, 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 and Meg’s Yeti To Be Named Disney Podcast.
16 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX Looks at TOWN CENTER in Disney Springs: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”
Dearest Mr Burgan – I adore the Saturday Six and get up early on Saturday just to read it. My second fave thing is The Magic, The Memories, The Merch. I have one ask of you. Please, please update the link at the end of the Saturday Six to not go all the way back to the March 2015 story but to go to the latest one? Thank you!
Ask and Ye shall receive. Fixed.
All that lovely food to eat and still there is nowhere on Disney property that I am aware of where you can get decent clothing (just T shirts) for ladies who are over average size! I am sure there are lots of ladies of this ilk at WDW who would love to buy something decent Disney clothing and have to leave the bubble to do so. I really think Disney is missing out on a trick there!
Agreed! Had a terrible time shopping for my (not at all evil) stepmother.
I couldn’t agree more. would love some more Disney gear but can’t find anything for sizes 14-18. the older I get the less I’m into tight fitting tshirts!
Its no walk in the park (pun intended) to find clothing for gentlemen of stature either.
Derek on behalf of the Disney Family we thank you for not putting Ugg in your Saturday Six. Ugg is not the Disney Family Image, they are known for abusing animals. Walt & Lillian Disney and Diane Disney-Miller would never allowed Ugg to be on or near Disney Property. The current Disney Executives are about greed and profits and they will never portray the Disney Image. Walt was never about greed or profit, but to advance our society through technology, advancement, and volunteering.
With the complete lack of evidence in DeflateGate, I think we all should assume the NFL threw the book at Tom Brady because of his Ugg ads.
Whilst I love the new Town Center I do feel there was virtually nothing there for me having just visited for the first time. Unless you are hungry it seemed all the stores were jewelry, clothing or cosmetics. I have yet to try any of the food offerings there yet to be fair but it does seem to me most of the shops are aimed towards the ladies. I guess that’s no real surprise as that’s where the money is but I was a little disappointed having waited so long for it to open. Right now I can’t think why I’d go there again. Hopefully this will change as new stores open. Or maybe it’s just me?
Disney is a business and as such will endeavour to make a profit. I suggested a clothing store with larger sizes because I believe Disney would make a killing as I know there are quite a lot of larger people visiting WDW. Not so sure about your tongue in cheek suggestion about the scooters but I agree they could make a killing with the scooter decorations. As there are many reasons that people use scooters some of whom may be as fit as you or I in normal circumstances but for some reason at that time are unable to walk, I think your last comment a little unfair!
Ruth, I deleted Frank’s comment because while I don’t mind people personally criticizing me or my work, when they venture into criticizing others (especially unfairly) it has no place in this forum. Scooters are a hot button target in the theme park world and I think a vast majority of criticism comes from people who have never had to spend a day in one or be around someone who has. Of course there will be abuses, there is with anything in life, but the vast majority of people in scooters or power wheelchairs would do anything not to have to use one. And if you do have to use one, or are spending a day without someone who does, you’d see how hard they actually make doing a day at Disney or Universal.
All that said, and no sarcasm intended, Disney Springs would be well served having a kiosk selling accessories for things such as strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters. Walt Disney World is one of the – if not THE – most inclusive place in the world where everyone should feel they can enjoy their time. From a baby to a person turning 100 years old and everyone in between, regardless of size, shape, handicap, allergy or anything else which prevents us from being the “perfect” person.
Well put! As an attorney who represents people with disabilities in the real world, I really notice and pay attention to the way that Disney offers accommodations for so many different guests. Thank you for making these points.
It’s interesting that Sprinkles is getting the praise that it is. We went the Monday after it opened and thought it was worse than an elementary school bake sale. We got the Black and White, Sprinkle, Caramel and Strawberry. The chocolate cake of the Black and White was fantastic, but the frosting on all of them tasted like shortening. The cake of the Sprinkle cupcake tasted like baking soda. I guess we will have to give it another shot some day. But for now, I guess we will drop our $5 on a tiny piece of chocolate or a cupcake at one of the other 7,535 cupcakeries on property.
As far as the property itself, I also thought it looked like a glorified outlet mall when I walked in from the Lime garage. But walking in from the Orange garage completely changed my mind. You can see the subtle transition from factory (the new Coke building, Morimoto, the covered mall area) to lakeside (D-Lux and the new Guest Relations), to the Spanish style. Like many others, I will probably never purchase merchandise in the new shops but its a much needed addition. The shops are clearly going after an upscale local market. Most of these stores can be found in any major city, but not necessarily in Orlando. BEst of all, the food options are fantastic!
I would like more details and, please oh please, a photograph of that veggie burger you are raving about at D-Luxe Burgers! I am a vegetarian and have been wanting a nice quick service option at Disney Springs! Enjoyed the article. Thanks!
We visited Diz Springs on our last visit, and I must say that we were very impressed with the way things are turning out. We spent over 5 hours there easily! Lunch at morimoto asia, some sweet treats at Amorettes, Sprinkles, a cigar at Sosa’s… what a day! Thanks for the great tour!