Disney Springs, previously Downtown Disney, is Walt Disney World’s shopping and dining district. Disney Springs is filled with unique shopping experiences, amazing food, and family-friendly entertainment and activities. Here are my top tips for exploring Disney Springs.
What is Disney Springs?
Disney Springs is Walt Disney World’s shopping and dining area. There are over 150 shops at Disney Springs. Disney Springs is open 365 days a year, there is no charge to enter, and parking is free. The official opening times are from 10 am to 12 am. However, not all shops and restaurants have the same hours. Currently, opening times are reduced, and you are advised to check the latest times before you visit.
Disney Springs is divided up into 4 different areas, the West Side, the Landing, Town Center, and the Marketplace. Each area has a unique feel and purpose.
The West Side has an industrial aspect to it and includes several restaurants and entertainment offerings including a bowling alley and a movie theater.
The Landing has several restaurants with beautiful waterfront views and a handful of buildings that have been creatively Imagineered to look like they’ve been there for a long time.
Town Center is themed after Florida’s turn-of-the-century waterfront towns and includes over 30 shops and a variety of dining options. To me, this is the “mall” part of Disney Springs. You will find many common stores you can find at home.
The Marketplace is the “Disney” part of Disney Springs. It is home to popular Disney stores, like the World of Disney Store, LEGO store, Goofy’s Candy Company, Days of Christmas, Disney Pin Traders, and more! It is my favorite area.
Top Tips for Exploring Disney Springs
1. Use Disney Transportation
Buses run between Disney Springs and Disney resorts, and they also run from the theme parks to Disney Springs after 4 p.m., however they do not run from Disney Springs to the parks. Disney buses drop off in 1 central location near the Coca-Cola Store and in between the Orange Garage (to the west) and the Lime Garage (to the east).
If you are staying at Saratoga Springs or Old Key West you can take a boat to the West Side and The Landing of Disney Springs.
Disney has boats within Disney Springs that go from one side of Disney Springs to the other. The boat rides are nice and give you a beautiful view of the area, especially at night when everything is lit. You can also use the buses to start resort hopping at the bus loop.
2. Research Disney Springs Dining Options Prior to Your Visit
Disney Springs has so many delicious food options! From Disney-themed food trucks, snack carts, bakeries, and sit-down options there are a lot of places to choose from.
Many of the popular places require Advanced Dining Reservations. My top Disney Springs restaurants that require advanced reservations include:
- The Boathouse
- Chef Art’s Homecoming
- T-Rex Cafe
3. Check out the Live Entertainment and Street Performers
Several times throughout the day dance teams, choirs, drama teams, orchestras, and bands perform on the Marketplace stage. These performances are completely free. The stage is located near the Lego store and the World of Disney Store. Get to the performances a little early to grab a seat in the covered seating area.
Other than the Marketplace Stage there are street performers and liver performances all over Disney Springs. It is such a great place to enjoy some great live music.
4. Explore New Places
Some stores and dining locations I just plain skip because I can find the same stores in a local mall. When I go to Disney, I want something I can’t get at home. I love visiting all the Disney-themed gift shops. These are my top Disney Springs Stores.
5. Set a Budget and Research Prices Before Going
Here are some of the things to do that have an extra cost.
- AMC Movies – Reserve your seats ahead of time with Fandango.
- Splitsville Luxury Lanes – Reserve your lane ahead of time here.
- Aerophile (formerly Characters in Flight) – Cost is $15/child and $20/adult. You can often find Groupon deals where you pay $11/adults instead of $20.
- Boathouse Amphicars – Each ride costs $125 and lasts 20 minutes. Guests can receive $25 off their ride by showing their receipt of $50 or more from the Boathouse or BOATIQUE.
6. Explore in the Evening
Disney Springs nightlife starts in the evening and is just magical. The whole place lights up and street performers make unexpected magic. You can have a drink and unwind without the need to hurry to the next attraction or worry about your next fastpass+.
7. Visit the Disney Photopass Studio
If you purchased Disney’s Memory Maker then you should take advantage of the Photopass Studio at Disney Springs. It is completely free to use. They have different props and backgrounds you can use to get some really special pictures!
8. Check for Discounts at Stores
If you are staying at a Disney World resort be sure to ask for your Magical Extras at your resort’s front desk. There will be a list of dining and shopping discounts you can enjoy at Disney Springs.
If you are an Annual Passholder, DVC owners, Disney Visa cardholders, or Cast Member you will want to check for discounts at each location in Disney Springs. Many places offer discounts on both merchandise and food, and it’s well worth asking for that discount, especially if you plan to do a lot of shopping.
What is your favorite thing to do in Disney Springs?