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Disney Springs Overview
Disney Springs is a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex strung along the banks of Village Lake, on the east side of Walt Disney World. Built in 1975 as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, it evolved over the next 25 years into Downtown Disney, adding nightclubs, live entertainment, and even more stores.
The nightlife and entertainment venues began to lose customers around the turn of the millennium. Most were closed by 2008, and many retail shops soon followed. Many of the closed areas stayed in limbo as Disney announced and canceled plans for various revitalization efforts. Finally, in 2013, Disney was able to move forward with a plan to double the number of shops and restaurants, redesign pedestrian walkways, add two huge parking garages, and retheme the entire area.
To avoid parking and transportation headaches, visit Disney Springs early in the day. Shops open at 10 a.m. most of the year.
The best way to get to Disney Springs is by Disney transportation. Free bus service is available from every Disney resort to the stop at the Town Center. Guests at the Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and Disney's Port Orleans Resorts can take a water taxi to Disney Springs; the water taxi ferries passengers along the Sassagoula River to the West Side dock. Allow about a half-hour for this trip, plus time waiting for the boat (10 minutes for Saratoga Springs). Guests who don’t wish to walk the length of Disney Springs can take a water taxi from the West Side dock to the Marketplace dock. Saratoga Springs has walking paths to both the West Side and the Marketplace. Part of the master plan for Disney Springs included elevated walkways from the resorts of Hotel Plaza Boulevard along with direct access from I-4. Both of which have eased traffic considerably in the area. The parking garages have signs which alert guests to how many spots are available on each floor, and once inside there are signs showing how many spots are open in each row. There are elevators and escalators available in both garages
Disney Springs consists of four areas, each with a distinct theme. The Marketplace, on the east side of the property, is where guests will find most of the Disney-owned and-operated stores, as well as the highly themed, child-pleasing restaurants Rainforest Cafe and T-REX Cafe. There also two attractions available including a carousel and a small train ride. Each cost $2 per ride and children under 42 inches must ride with an adult (in that situation, only the adult would have to pay to ride.)
The Landing, which features waterfront walkways and merchandise kiosks, has seen the most reimagining, with new shopping and dining areas. What was once a bottleneck for guests (and their strollers) trying to go from the West Side to the Marketplace is now a much more open area, with multiple pathways to alleviate pedestrian traffic, plus sweeping views of the water and Saratoga Springs Resort. The Boathouse, an upscale waterfront seafood eatery and Morimotoa Asia, opened here in spring 2015.
The vast majority of Town Center, opened in May 2016. This area most resembles a typical Florida Outlet Mall, but among retail establishments such as Under Armour, Tommy Bahama, and Vera Bradley are mixed with new dining venues including the Disney-owned D-Luxe Burgers and the popular Sprinkles bakery (with its famous “cupcake ATM”). Anchoring this area is the Planet Hollywood Observatory restaurant; this version of the celebrity-backed chain re-opened from extensive renovations in 2017.
West Side has seen the least change. This is where guests can find Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, DisneyQuest (originally scheduled to permanently close in 2016, the NBA themed experience that was set to replace DisneyQuest has backed out of their deal), the AMC cinema, the unique restaurant/bowling alley Splitsville, and many independent retailers.
A mom from St. Louis shares this tip:
When dining at Disney Springs, it’s best to arrive before 7 p.m. We ate there twice and had no problem getting seated immediately, but after 7 p.m. everywhere was packed.
Independent Hotels of the Disney Springs Resort Area
The seven hotels of the Disney Springs Resort Area (DSRA) were created back when Disney had far fewer of its own resorts. The hotels—Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel, B Resort, the Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa, DoubleTree Guest Suites, the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, the Holiday Inn in the Walt Disney World Resort, and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort—are chain-style affairs with minimal or nonexistent theming, though the Buena Vista Palace especially is pretty upscale. Several of the larger properties have shifted their focus to convention and business travelers.
The main advantage to staying in the DSRA is being in Disney World and next to Disney Springs. Guests at the Hilton, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort, Buena Vista Palace, and Holiday Inn are an easy 5- to 15-minute walk from the Marketplace on the east side of Disney Springs. Guests at B Resort, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista, and DoubleTree Guest Suites are about 10 minutes farther by foot. Disney transportation can be accessed at Disney Springs, though the buses take a notoriously long time to leave due to the number of stops throughout the complex. Although all DSRA hotels offer shuttle buses to the theme parks, the service is provided by private contractors and is somewhat inferior to Disney transportation in frequency of service, number of buses, and hours of operation. Get firm details in advance about shuttle service from any DSRA hotel you’re considering. All these hotels are easily accessible by car and are only marginally farther from the Disney parks than several of the Disney resorts; DSRA hotels are also quite close to Typhoon Lagoon water park.
DSRA hotels, even the business- and convention-focused ones, try to appeal to families. Some have pool complexes rivaling those at any Disney resort, whereas others offer a food court or all-suite rooms. A few sponsor character meals and organized kids’ activities; all have counters for buying Disney tickets, and most have Disney gift shops.
Disney Springs Dining
Disney Springs is home to a variety of restaurants spread across the West Side, The Landing, Town Center, and the Marketplace:
Counter Service Restaurants
- Amorette's Patisserie
- B.B. Wolf's
- Bongos Cuban Café Express
- Candy Cauldron
- Cookes of Dublin
- D-Luxe Burgers
- Daily Poutine
- Earl of Sandwich
- Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC
- Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop
- Goofy's Candy Company
- House of Blues: The Smokehouse
- Marketplace Snacks
- Sprinkles Bakery
- Starbucks Coffee - West Side
- Tea Traders Cafe
- Vivoli Gelateria
- Wolfgang Puck Express - Marketplace
- Wolfgang Puck Express - West Side
- Wonderland Cafe
Table Service Restaurants
- AMC Dine-In Theatres Fork & Screen
- The BOATHOUSE
- Bongos Cuban Café
- Frontera Cocina
- Fulton's Crab House
- Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine
- House of Blues: Crossroads
- Morimoto Asia
- Paradiso 37
- Planet Hollywood Observatory
- Portobello Country Italian Trattoria
- Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant
- Rainforest Cafe - Downtown Disney
- Splitsville Dining Room
- STK Orlando
- Wolfgang Puck Grand Café
- Wolfgang Puck Grand Café, The Dining Room
Bars and Lounges
- Downtown Disney Churros
- Downtown Snow Company
- Forty Thirst Street - Marketplace
- Forty Thirst Street - West Side
- Italian Ice
- Starbucks Coffee - Marketplace
- Wetzel's Pretzels
Last updated by Len Testa on February 18, 2017