Downtown Disney appears to be well on its way to becoming Disney Springs. The Splitsville bowling and entertainment venue now feels like a forever fixture. Not one, but two, Starbucks locations are busy dispensing their magical elixir. Several new large-capacity restaurants have opened or will open within the next few weeks. A dozen kiosk or boutique-size shopping venues have debuted. A real-person clothing store, Uniqlo, is on the way. Parking improvements are functional. The Marketplace bypass bridge is moving guests more efficiently. And there are firm plans to put poor 90s relic DisneyQuest (it’s 792 in technology years) out of its misery. Things are definitely looking up!
But despite the improvements, there are still a variety of retail, dining, and entertainment venues that, if added, would likely be either a big draw, or a big boost for overall guest experience. Here’s my personal wish list for additions to Disney Springs.
A Sephora or similar beauty supply shop
Yes, I know that Disney has tried to up their beauty-care game by creating makeup line homages to princess and villain women. That stuff may be great for my teen daughters to play with, but this momma-of-a-certain age needs professional grade lotions and potions to avoid looking like Ursula in the morning. I’d love the peace of mind of knowing that the next time my moisturizer explodes in my suitcase, there’s a way to replace it without calling an Uber or making a giant deviation from my touring. A real beauty supply store could probably also offer consults and supply packages for the booming Disney World Wedding clientele. Those folks certainly need a nearby resource for last minute beauty emergencies.
This shouldn’t be hard to pull off; there’s already a Sephora at the Disneyland version of Downtown Disney.
An Apple Store
I know some folks are anti-technology while on vacation, but for many, technology on the go is a necessary reality for vacation documentation or work on the road. There needs to be an easy place at Walt Disney World to resolve techno issues small (forgotten charger) or large (laptop won’t boot) without causing a major deviation in plans. Sales of small items like chargers, cases, and back-up drives would surely be brisk, as would visits to the genius bar, but I can also see this as a flagship location for the debut of new items or gear of the future.
Here again, this should be easy to pull off. Apple and Disney have a long history of symbiosis, with Disney CEO Bob Iger on the Apple board and iPads in the hands of cast members throughout the parks.
I’m thinking something like a CVS, RiteAid, or Walgreens. It wouldn’t have to be a full-sized store; a quarter-sized “CVS Lite” would do it. Basically what I’m after is a place for parents to buy childcare basics like diapers (in more that just the one size they have in the gift shops), wipes, and few brands of formula. They might also stock more than one kind of sunscreen, more than one kind of bandaid, and other vacation savers like Ace bandages, digital thermometers, and more than one flavor of Pedialyte.
Sure, all those things are readily available off campus. But a sizable portion of WDW guests arrive via Disney’s Magical Express, without access to the private vehicle that would make picking up a case of Pull-Ups an easy task. Disney shouldn’t make it this hard for a loyal on-site guest to have access to the next level of personal care items. The current workaround is arranging a delivery from Turner Drug, but an easy to access brick and mortar option would be welcome.
A lingerie store
If you’re a guy and your luggage gets lost, you can pop down to the hotel gift shop for a pair of Mickey-embellished boxers. A woman with lost luggage is out of luck if she needs to buy a new bra on campus. There are a few locations where you can get a jog bra, the Downtown Disney Fit2Run store, for example. But if you’re at Disney for a conference and need undergarments for business attire, or if you’re an odd size, or if you need a different price point, then you’re out of luck.
I’m sure there would be reluctance on Disney’s part to do anything overtly racy or to even imply that they’re marketing anything with sexual undertones to teens or kids — thus a Victoria’s Secret is probably out. But there has to be a way of doing something tasteful and discreet. Maybe open something with a retro/nostalgia vibe with a reference to the old Wizard of Bras shop at Disneyland. There are millions of women visiting Disney World every year and they all buy underwear (at least the ones that aren’t in People Magazine). The market is there, folks.
UPS or FedEx store
There are currently several ways to ship items home from Walt Disney World. The problem is that shipping from the merchandise shops is expensive. And shipping anything that’s not Disney merchandise is inconvenient if you’re not staying at one of the hotels with a convention center (even then it can be difficult due to the centers’ limited hours). Tuck a UPS store behind the Cirque du Soleil venue and you’ve solved many a guest problem.
A place for kids to move on a rainy day
While DisneyQuest was certainly past its prime, it did provide a place for youngsters to run around a bit on a rainy day. Splitsville does some of this work, but given the nature of bowling, it’s difficult for that location to absorb large volumes of young guests. I’m thinking something like an indoor trampoline park with different rooms or activities for different size guests. Or maybe a kid-oriented gym with age appropriate classes given throughout the day. Something like this would also work well at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex, but I’d love a place in a central spot where a family could easily split up for a few hours – Dad takes sis to the movies while mom takes bro to the trampoline venue and then they meet up for dinner two hours later. Maybe the NBA Experience location will fill some of this function?
A Peeps store
I’m probably the only New Yorker who likes flagship candy stores. I’m all about the giant M&Ms and Hershey stores in Times Square. I was completely wowed by the Jelly Belly factory in California. Any of those options would work at Downtown Disney, but my vote goes to a Peeps store. Just think — special Disney Peeps colors, special Disney Peeps flavors, window display dioramas of Peeps reenacting the latest Disney film releases. Be still my heart!
A guest performance space or non-sports competition venue
One of the things Disney has long done well is make guests feel special on an individual basis. In many cases, that special attention came in the form of showcasing guests with talent. Two of the larger scale versions of this took place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (aka Tatooine) with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Play It highlighting brainy guests and The American Idol Experience highlighting performers. Now that those, and several other, guest attention venues are gone (goodbye guest performers in the Backlot Tour), it may be time for Downtown Disney to take over this role. Maybe have a mid-sized auditorium with rotating events: Monday is kid karaoke, Tuesday is open mic comedy, Wednesday is team trivia tournament night, etc. To make this work well from the start, import some of the terrific guest entertainment staff from Disney Cruise Line who run experiences like this every day.
A fondue restaurant
I just like fondue and it’s one of the few culinary categories not well represented at Walt Disney World. Full fondue meals typically take too long to be served in the theme parks, where table turnover needs to be high, but at Downtown Disney, there might be a way to integrate a more relaxed dining experience. If a fondue restaurant doesn’t work, I’d also be down with a raclette venue. C’m on, there’s got to be a way to tie melty cheese sales into something Frozen related.
A Disney bookstore/videostore
There are thousands of books about Disney related topics – guidebooks, how-to animation, history, biography, young adult novels, and so on. Similarly, there is the Disney film library, plus dozens of Disney-related documentaries and television episodes. How awesome would it be to have a store that sold nothing but Disney-related media. This will never happen, because some of these items are critical of the mouse. But a girl can dream, can’t she?
What else do you think is missing from Downtown Disney / Disney Springs? What stores or restaurants would you like to see there? Let us know in the comments below.