Formerly known as the Disney Village Marketplace and then Downtown Disney, Disney Springs has developed over the past ten years into a shopping, dining, and entertainment extravaganza. Whether you’re in Orlando and just want a little taste of the Disney Spirit, or you’re looking to complement your Disney vacation, Disney Springs has something for you. There’s a lot there, and it can be a little confusing, so ready below for 10 Must-Knows about Disney Springs!
10. Parking is free
Before we get in to all the cool stuff you can find at Disney Springs, we need to talk about getting there. If you’ve been imagining the parking nightmare you face at your local mall, you can stop now! Disney has made the parking situation at Disney Springs super convenient – and free! Disney Springs has three parking garages and several surface lots to choose from. They also offer valet parking (for a fee) at several locations. The parking garages are usually the most convenient place to park. They have awesome technology that lets you know how many spaces are available in each row, so you won’t waste time driving around in search of a spot!
There are also plenty of ways to leave your car at home. Complimentary bus service runs from each Walt Disney World Resort and theme park to Disney Springs, making it easy to spend the day at a park, hop over to Disney Springs for dinner or a night cap, and then return to your resort. Some other local resorts also provide bus service, and there’s a walking bridge to the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels. You can also take a taxi or a ride-sharing service if you’re staying off property. The most entertaining transportation to Disney Springs is the boat service from select Disney resorts (Port Orleans – French Quarter, Port Orleans – Riverside, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs), which takes you down secluded bayous and across Lake Buena Vista.
8. Be ready to walk!
While getting to Disney Springs is a breeze, getting around Disney Springs requires a bit of stamina. Since everything is laid out around the Lake, it ends up being quite spread out. Luckily most guests are used to walking on a Disney vacation, and it is a bit smaller than the theme parks! You’ll benefit from looking at a map ahead of time, identifying where you want to go, and making a plan so that you don’t waste energy backtracking. Being intentional with where you park can also help a lot – check the map and choose a garage or lot that is close to where you want to start or end (or both!).
7. Four sections
There are four main areas at Disney Springs: The Marketplace, The Landing, West Side, and Town Center. The Marketplace is the oldest area and is home to many classic Disney shops. This is the section that feels most authentically Disney, and is where you should spend most of your time if you’re trying to stay in the Disney fantasy world and avoid reality on your trip. Town Center, which is set back from the water, is the newest section and is essentially a high-end outdoor mall. Around holidays it gets spiced up with some theming, but in general this section does not feel very “Disney.” The Landing and West Side fall in between the other two in terms of their Disney feel. They both offer unique dining, shopping, and entertainment. Most of the restaurants offer entertainment and theming, and many of the shops are ones you won’t find back at home. It’s important to identify what experience you want before you head to Disney Springs, as each area has a different feel.
6. Table Service Restaurants
Disney Springs has a plethora of awesome table service restaurants, and it seems like they are adding more every day! The restaurants cover a variety of cuisines – Italian, Mexican, Cuban, Irish, Asian, and the list goes on. There are several heavily themed restaurants, like Rainforest Café and TRex, as well as restaurants that provide unique entertainment along with great food, like Bongos and Raglan Road. Even the more understated restaurants, like Frontera Cocina, have a nice flair to them. Even though there are over 15 table service restaurants to choose from, they fill up quick. You might be able to walk up and get a table somewhere for an early lunch, but for dinner you definitely need a reservation.
5. Quick service
If you find yourself without a dining reservation at Disney Springs, never fear – there are plenty of Quick Service restaurants to choose from that won’t disappoint. Several of the Table Service restaurants have quick service restaurants or windows, so you can even get similar cuisine. And there is no shortage of delicious desserts throughout Disney Springs – with everything from sinfully delicious sundaes at Ghiardelli’s Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop to Erin McKenna’s Bakery that specialized in vegan and gluten-free baked goods.
In addition to great dining and shopping, Disney Springs is home to several unique attractions. While they do cost money, most are less than a theme park ticket and can make a day off from the parks tons of fun. Take a ride in a hot air balloon at Aerophile, experience a true “water taxi” with the Amphicars at the Boathouse, check out a show at House of Blues, experience virtual reality at The Void, or shoot some hoops at the NBA Experience. Got a little one who loves princesses? Appointments for princess makeovers are available at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique!
3. Get wet!
It’s not quite Typhoon Lagoon or a deluxe resort pool, but Disney Springs does offer a splash pad for cooling down on hot days! It’s especially great for little ones, and can offer just the break they need in the middle of a shopping day. Plan ahead and bring their suits and a towel, or you’ll find yourself buying them at one of the many stores.
2. Night Life
While Disney Springs is generally a family friendly venue, it is also home to a lively night life for adults. Have a romantic dinner at STK Steakhouse or Maria and Enzo’s. For evening fun, grab a the mojito cart at Paradiso 37, clap along with Irish Dancers at Raglan Road, or enjoy drinks on the deck at Paddlefish. And for late night fun, revisit the roaring 20s at The Edison.
1. Stay at Saratoga Springs
If you find yourself loving Disney Springs, think about staying at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. It’s located right next to Disney Springs, with a walking path or boat ride for easy access. If you’re planning to spend multiple evenings at Disney Springs, it’s definitely worth it to save time on transportation! It also makes it super easy to pop over to grab a snack or a souvenir at any time.