When you’ve got four main parks to visit in Walt Disney World—each of which has more than enough attractions, entertainment, and food to keep anyone busy for days on end—it can be easy to forget about the little ol’ “town” of Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). Let us tell you though that this is one spot you don’t wanna pass up on your next Disney World trip. What makes this place so special? Oh, we can think of plenty of reasons. Here are just 9 of the many must-do things you’ll find in Disney Springs.
1. Ride the Aérophile Balloon
When it comes to the parks, you’ve always got at least one symbolic structure to remember each one by. Magic Kingdom has Cinderella Castle; Epcot has Spaceship Earth; Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life; Hollywood Studios has the Tower of Terror. Disney Springs is a little different. Instead of a building, its single most defining feature is arguably the Aérophile balloon, located on the waterfront right in the center of town. Often mistaken for a hot air balloon, this tethered, helium-filled, spherical wonder can carry up to 30 people in its basket—that is, 29 guests and 1 certified pilot—as it ascends 400 feet into the air. The stunning 360-degree view you get up there is like no other, and definitely something you should do at least once. Just know that tickets are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, so don’t wait!
2. Visit the World of Disney Store
A lot of what makes Disney Springs so fun is the ample shopping available there. Even with all that retail therapy surrounding you, we’d have to say that World of Disney easily stands out from the pack. If you thought you’d seen every imaginable souvenir in the park gift shops, you’ll be astounded by how much more this gigantic store carries. From apparel to toys to Mickey Ears to housewares and beyond, World of Disney really has it all.
3. Take an Amphicar Tour
Ever wished you could ride in a car that could convert into a boat and back again? Well wonder no more, because at The BOATHOUSE restaurant in Disney Springs, you and a few others can actually take a 20-minute tour of Disney Springs via an “Amphicar”, a vintage-style amphibious automobile of which there are fewer than 400 left in the world. Talk about floating in style!
4. Check Out the Live Entertainment at Raglan Road
Raglan Road is Disney Springs’ premier Irish pub, and they never skimp on the food and fun. While you’re stuffing yourself on tasty grub and having a good drink (or four), you’ll be treated to a bevy of incredible live performances from award-winning Irish dancers, along with live musicians and bands flown in from Ireland to give you the most authentic Irish experience you’re bound to have this side of the Atlantic.
5. Dinner and a Movie…at the Same Time
This one isn’t entirely unique to Disney Springs, but the AMC movie theater located there happens to be part of the relatively exclusive AMC DINE-IN lineup, where you can order a number of amazing dishes right from your seat during the movie. Offerings include flatbreads, burgers and sandwiches, salads, sushi, appetizers, desserts, and much more.
6. Go Bowling at Splitsville
After your movie, we recommend moseying right over next door to the swanky Splitsville Luxury Lanes, a lively, two-story-tall complex featuring 50,000 square feet of bowling (with 30 lanes!), five bars, upscale dining, pool tables, and live music.
7. Visit the LEGO Store
If you’ve ever visited a LEGO Store elsewhere, you know the kinds of things to expect here: a Pick-A-Brick wall, tables where you can build your own LEGO creations, and more LEGO sets than you can shake a stick at. However, one thing that sets this location apart is its larger-than-life models of iconic Disney characters and scenes. You could spend hours marveling at all those little details.
8. Step Into a Virtual World at The VOID
It seems like the virtual reality games you used to see all over the place have fallen by the wayside in recent years. Maybe they were just too gimmicky after a certain point. Thankfully, that’s not the case at all with The VOID, a state-of-the-art VR experience in Disney Springs that doesn’t just invite you to see another world as you explore it, but also touch and smell it. It’s more immersive than you can believe…until you try it for yourself.
9. Catch a Cabaret Show at The Edison
The Edison is one of Disney Springs’ newest restaurant experiences, and a fantastic one at that. While it’s perfectly tame and family-friendly in the daytime, at 10pm this steampunk-esque eatery becomes a nightlife hub (with a dress code) that features a dance floor, live music, and—if you’re there on the right night—you’ll be dazzled by somewhat more risqué entertainment such as cabaret dancing, comedians, contortionists, acrobats and aerialists, and more.