I always enjoyed what was Downtown Disney. It was a way to have an easy day at Disney without being in the parks. There were stores for shopping and some good restaurants. Then at night, you had Pleasure Island. A collection of different clubs each with a different theme and a huge party in the street at midnight complete with fireworks. Made me think of a family-friendly version of Marti Gras.
The name has changed to Disney Springs and with the name change has come many other changes. But don’t worry for many of the fan favorites are still there and the new is drawing many. In fact, changes to this area are nothing new. In 1975 the name was Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, in 1977 Walt Disney World Village, in 1989 Disney Village Marketplace to 1997 with Downtown Disney. What has not changed is the fact of being an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex.
Disney Springs is divided into four areas: Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side. The complex is bordered by Lake Buena Vista to the north and the parking garages and surface lots to the south. Walt Disney Imagineering took inspiration for Disney Springs from real coastal towns found throughout Florida, such as St. Augustine and Coral Gables. And honestly, just their parking garage will leave you in awe.
With sensors on the ceiling above each parking space, there are signs letting you know if there are open spots. Before you even enter the garage is a larger sign telling you what levels have spots and the number of spots opened. I wish every garage had this. And it’s free!
As a special needs family, I always look for accessibility now, and Disney Springs meets those needs. Designated parking spaces for Guests with disabilities are available in both the Orange and Lime Garages. A valid disability parking permit is required. Wheelchair, ECV and stroller rentals are available at the nearby Sundries location next to the Town Center bus loop.
The following is a breakdown of the four main areas:
The Marketplace houses many shops and restaurants reminiscent of the American Craftsman-style of the 1930s. The first restaurant in the Earl of Sandwich chain is located here. T-Rex Cafe is a dinosaur-themed restaurant operated by Landry’s Restaurants, which features animatronic dinosaurs. Landry’s Restaurants also operates Rainforest Cafe at this location.
On my most recent trip, we ate at T-Rex Cafe as their food is adult-worthy. And the kid in me will never outgrow Dinosaurs. With animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar with different themed rooms, it’s a sight for all the scenes.
The Lego Store is a true landmark in my mind and always feel a bit of excitement seeing the large sea serpent in the water.
The Landing depicts the fictional town’s transportation hub and marina. With nautical-themed restaurants and shops, including Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar—an aviation-themed dive bar based on the character from the Indiana Jones films—and The Boathouse, which serves as the port for the amphibious automobiles that offer cruises of Lake Buena Vista. This area was what know as Pleasure Island till it’s closure in 2008.
Town Center depicts the fictional town’s central business district, featuring Spanish Revival architecture from the 1920s. The area debuted in 2016, having been built on former surface parking lots, and features many well-known retailers: Anthropologie, Sephora, L’Occitane en Provence, Pandora, UGG, Johnston & Murphy, ZARA and Kate Spade and Trophy Room among many others.
On my recent trip, we visited Frontera Cocina, by celebrity chef Rick Bayless, this Mexican restaurant features exclusive tequila beverages like the amazing La Cava Avocado and Watermelon Pink Flamingo. The dishes we not only filling and delicious but a stunning presentation.
West Side depicts the town’s exposition center, with Planet Hollywood, DisneyQuest (to be closed and reopened at NBA Experience), AMC Movies, Cirque du Soleil, House of Blues, Splitsville and more.
Also on the West Side is the Sunshine Highline. This is a shaded outdoor entertainment stage where a variety of artist and bands play and you are welcome to sit and listen or dance in the aisles. And it’s free!
Again, this is an open outdoor area. If going during the day, I strongly suggest sunblock and drinking plenty of water. The stores are still Disney property so prices can still be high. So if you’re looking for cheaper souvenirs than inside the parks, you may not find it, but you will have a much larger selection.
To learn more and keep up with current shows and hours
visit Disney Springs Online
What is your favorite thing about Disney Springs? And tips or advice? Share below!