Welcome! I am so excited to finally start sharing all my adventures with you and expanding my own Disney knowledge while I do it! The first place I want to share is very close to my heart and that is Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney). Disney Springs is where I worked during my college program, and more specifically, worked in the BIGGEST DISNEY STORE IN THE WORLD. Rightfully named World of Disney.
In this post I am going to give you some tips and tricks to navigate yourself around Disney Springs and where you should try eating, or shopping, or even just to cool off! Keep in mind, however, it has been a hot minute since I have been there and they are still in the midst of finishing up the construction there, so new shops and areas will be developed as they come and go. But, for the relevance of this post, I will keep the ones that are the general go-to’s.
Some background first on to why Disney Springs is such a good place to go
- It doesn’t cost anything!!! (My family almost always heads here first when we arrive, because it gets us all hyped for the coming days of the trip, but we get to save the money of parking)
- There is so much diversity in things to do (from huge DisNerds, to those who just came for a good drink, this is your place)
- The shopping is one of a kind.
- What else? It’s purely magical!
Mostly, Disney Springs is regarded as a place to go and shop, which is mostly the case, but there are also so many other things to do there. If you ever remember Downtown Disney’s Motto, it was Shop, Dine, Entertain. And the area definately has enough for you to do with any of that. First off though, I am gonna hit the shop part of it – because let’s face it, we all love shopping at Disney.
- World of Disney – (no bias, but this is really the best Disney store). World of Disney is world renowned for being the largest Disney store in the world, and they definitely do a good job at being such. virtually anything you could need is right in those walls. With themed rooms to fit your needs, and a ton of Cast Members awaiting your needs. It’s kind of a one-stop shop in terms of general Disney Merchandise. However, if you are going there with a thought you want to get that one EPCOT sweatshirt you saw at MouseGears, you’ll be out of luck. Any merchandise that is specific to one location is going to be only there. World of Disney only sells the general Walt Disney World merchandise.
- Once Upon A Toy – Once Upon a Toy is always on the tip of every Cast Member’s tongue when working at World of Disney. Why? Because it’s the only place on Disney property that sells Tsum Tsums. At least, it has been for quite some time. But besides that, there is the selling point in the name itself. Once Upon a Toy is a generic Toy Store. But with a Disney flair, of course. As soon as you walk in by a lifesize Buzz Lightyear, you come into contact with a GINORMOUS Mr. Potato Head. Here, you can build your own themed or not themed Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head. (Trust me, it’s a hoot). Generally this store is more geared towards little boys, with a Light Saber building workshop in the middle, but as of January, Once Upon a Toy now hosts the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique too for your little princesses and princes.
- Marketplace Co-Op – All of the Disney themed shops are going to be located around the ‘marketplace district’, if you’re standing there, that would mean you’ve passed the Fulton Crab House, T-Rex Dining, Lego Store, and are standing in front of the World of Disney, where there is a stage. Then, my friend, you are in the beginning of every Disney fan’s dream. Marketplace. The Co-Op itself is one of my favorite places to go whenever I’m down there because it has just so much to offer. You can enter the Co-Op through the middle doors like I show in the picture, or in through the Arribas Brother’s store (which is full of shiny, so I highly recommend). Through there is also Guest Relations, so for any questions, especially regarding your local, head there. Then, you step into the Co- Op. Like I mentioned earlier, the Co-Op is one of my favorites because of its sheer unique qualities. Inside the main area there are five ‘stores’ that are all interconnected and play off of Disney. They change every once in a while, so if you see something you like, get it then! Right now, it houses Twenty-Eight and Main (Walt worthy clothing for the gentlemen), Cherry Tree Lane (Pandora, Vera Bradley, accessories for the distinguished Disney woman), D-Tech (all of your technological Disney needs, including making your own Disney phone case), Disney Centerpiece (kitchen ware for your Disney home), Disney TAG (this one is the newest to the bunch, and offers all your luggage and travel needs in a Disney way), and Wonderground Gallery (unique Disney art in many different formats).
- Tren-D – Attached to the Co-Op is a store called Tren-D (my personal need to go and window shop store). It’s an adorable mixture of Disney and Urban Outfitters, or perhaps Francesca’s. It takes the look of an adorable boutique and offers a wide variety of clothing and jewelry. If you are interested in non-Disney Alex and Ani bracelets, this is your place to go!
- Disney Days of Christmas – All Christmas All the Time!!! What is better than Christmas? A Disney Christmas! During my College Program, I got to experience the whole property light up with Christmas cheer for the first time, and let me tell you, it’s something more than just a bit magical! But, if you are one of the families that has to visit in the summer, you still are able to experience the wonder of it all right here in Disney Springs. Days of Christmas offers a wide variety of ornaments all year long, with a fun additive of having one of the artisans create you a special one for a present, or just because! Holiday-specific gifts are also typically found here even if it isn’t a Christmas holiday.
- Art of Disney – Art lovers, beware of this store, because it will make you throw all of your money at it! This store, while small, houses some of the most beautiful and unique artwork that Disney has to offer, including the Thomas Kinkade Disney canvases. There are some cheaper options here as well, and my favorite part is getting a skilled cartoon artist to draw my personal favorite characters from ALL Disney movies! And for a great price of $34.99!
- West Side Stores – I am generalizing these all in this one because there are sooooo many! And it is ever growing as Disney Springs expands, but all these shops have something to offer. Especially if you aren’t usually in an area that has like Free People, Urban Outfitters, all that super expensive stuff. But sometimes you can find some really cool stuff there.
- House of Blues Store – This is my dad’s have-to-go-to store. I also love it because of the really quirky and indie rock stuff they offer in lue to the Blues Brothers. And they offer some reallllly good smelling incense.
That there is going to end my top stores to visit in Disney Springs, of course there are a ton of shops that have a multitude of products for you to love and cherish, but these are always my top favorites to go to when I go there. The staples, if you may. But, I do recommend that you plan out ahead of time enough time to get to all the stores you want to, because it can take a while to do one end to the other! (Also, another good idea is to set yourself up a budget and research some of the prices of places beforehand, so you are completely prepared to spend an allotted amount and still get the things you want.)
Without Further Adieu, Lets Go for Eating!!!
Disney Springs also has a crap ton of beyond delicious places to eat, all in varying prices and cuisine. These are my top picks that I recommend and hope you enjoy them all when you go!
- Earl of Sandwich – I know that’s not exactly what I have pictured above but, I assure you, this is THE BEST place to eat in Disney Springs. Especially if you’re on a budget and want to keep shopping around. Earl has so many delicious sandwiches, salads, burgers, wraps, ect to choose from (my favorite being the chicken Caesar salad wrap). But the crowning jewel, in my opinion to Earl of Sandwich, is their mac and cheese. It comes in it’s own little pan, isn’t too outrageously expensive, and fills you up! It is amazing. Just. Amazing!
- T-Rex – (This is the picture above.) I got to eat at T-Rex once, and it still is one of the most memorable places to eat to date. When I was working at World of Disney and a family would ask where to sit down and eat, I typically would recommend T-Rex, or his sister, Rainforest Cafe. It is true that the menu’s are almost identical (besides the naming) but they each offer their own individual setting….that I am assuming you can gather from their names. When my boyfriend came down to visit me in November of 2015 (during my program) I was planning on taking him here, and I wish I would have. He would have loved it. Instead of a thunderstorm every 20 minutes, it was a meteor shower, and then the dinos go wacky cracky. (plus, there’s a bonus Build-a-Dino sponsored by Build-a-Bear in their gift shop)
- House of Blues – Such as I mentioned before, my father loves this section of Disney Springs. It’s a staple for us. The day before I checked into Vista Way for the College Program, my dad and I had kind of a farewell dinner together at the House of Blues. It’s an amazing aesthetic atmosphere to begin with, and as one would assume, it has amazing background music. This is one of my favorite places to go just in general because of the great experiences that I have had. The food is just amazing. My dad and I got just some appetizers for a dinner and it was filling! Not for a bad price either. I also went there for my birthday and got a free whisky cake (which was absolutely delicious). I highly highly recommend this place if you are out with the girls/guys, on a date, or grabbing a drink.
- Ghirardelli Soda Shop – Let me tell you about Ghirardelli. For one, it is located right across from World of Disney and next to Arribas Brothers/Marketplace Co-Op (so I passed by here many a time). And the smells itself…irresistible. The ice cream here is beyond compare. Not just the chocolate, but all of it. They have sundaes, milkshakes, malts, and just cups and cones of various flavors (lactose free and gluten free choices available as well). For your sweet needs and ending of the date or the beginning of a shopping trip with the girls, go here and you won’t regret the calories.
These are my top four that I physically attended. I didn’t get to eat at Disney Springs as much as I wanted to, due to some of the prices, but from guest explanations and recommendations, other places to try are The Boathouse, Fulton’s Crab House, Cookes of Dublin, the Hangar, Morimoto’s, and even newer additions that I haven’t been exposed to yet!!! But, a definite attraction would be the Sprinkles cupcake vending machine that looks almost exactly like a pink ATM.
ENTERTAINMENT! The final word used in describing what Disney Springs has to offer is entertainment, which people generally seem to forget about, since there is so much to shop for or eat! But the entertainment of Disney Springs is rapidly growing and definitely something not to miss. I have a few ‘not-to-miss’ locations that entertainment happens, and the big attraction that may not be there much longer – Disney Quest.
- Disney Quest – Disney Quest is located kinda by the Cirque du Soliel and has a big Mickey face design on it. You really can’t miss it on the west side. I only was able to visit this once, though I wanted to go back while I was there, the times that I could go were after work with the other co-workers, and by the time it was time for that, I was way too tired to go play. And it made my heart sad. Anyway, so Disney Quest is a really interesting place to go. It’s kind of like an indoor theme park. There’s a lot of games like an arcade would have, but it also has a lot of interactive imagineering. My absolute favorite was the Build-Your-Own Rollercoaster. It was honestly the coolest feeling! There is a rumor that they will keep Disney Quest, but as of right now, it is scheduled to be remodeled to another entertainment venue. Fingers crossed we get to experience this part of techno-magic for a little while longer.
- AMC Movie Theater – If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and rowdy kids,then Disney AMC is your place to go. The Disney Spring’s AMC also includes a dine-in movie area, where you get to sit back and relax and enjoy some scrumptious food fit for a movie-goer in the Disney Area. The AMC here offers a lot of your typical movie needs with the latest releases, but also has their own films in the Disney fashion. For about a month while I was working, they were showcasing “Walt Before Mickey” for a separate price than a normal movie. And, on the evening of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens premier, we had our own red carpet and droids joining to welcome in the newest Disney blockbuster. Definitely a place not to miss!
- Just a simple stroll around the Springs is going to alert you to many different areas to be entertained with. Places like Paridiso 47 and Raglan Road typically always have live music and dancing ready for you, and sweeping out into the streets. Places like the lookout stage near The Boathouse and Fulton’s Crabhouse is home to live musicians or magicians in the evenings for your entertainment.
- Lastly, right in front of the World of Disney main entrance, is the Waterfront Stage where there seems to always be an event going on. My first memories with Disney have always been associated with this stage. When I was four years old, my mom and dad (both teachers) took their kids here for a music trip. My dad, a band director, took his middle school jazz band, and my mom, a social studies teacher, took her extra curricular handbell choir to perform. As a college student, two years ago, I got to perform with my collegiate show choir on the stage myself. And it is a rush! Anyone walking by stops and watches what’s going on and usually participates in the audience. Likewise, every night at 7-10pm, they start the Dance Party, which is one of the most fun times I experienced as a cast member working at night. If I were a door greeter, for three hours I would just stand and dance with guests and welcome in the magic. As someone just watching it, it was fun, but I would assume participating in the music and activities meant for children of all ages is even more so.
In all, Disney Springs is one of my favorite places to go before and after I hit the parks, as it offers magic of all kinds for all different types of kids. For dining, shopping, or relaxing, Disney Springs is a must experience for the family, or an adults night out.
Thanks for reading!
Have a Magical Day!