If you haven’t traveled to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) lately, you are in for a big surprise. This area of Walt Disney World has transformed into a premiere shopping and dining destination, loaded with delicious restaurants, and upscale and fun shops. With four theme parks and two water parks, it may be tempting to skip a trip to Disney Springs. But, given the number of fabulous restaurants at Disney Springs, it’s definitely worth making a stop for lunch or dinner on your next Walt Disney World family vacation. During my trip to Walt Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, we were provided with a gift card to participate in a Disney Springs shopping challenge. I’d already been to Disney Springs several times on my own, but this was a great way to further explore everything that it has to offer.
(Disclosure: All opinions are my own, but I was provided with a gift card for the shopping challenge. In the past, I was a member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel).
Disney Springs is comprised of four separate, but connected areas. The Marketplace and West Side are from the original Downtown Disney, and bookend the complex. Those areas offer restaurants, shops, and activities, like the theater for La Nouba (which is leaving later this year) and Splitsville bowling. New areas include the Landing (build on the original Pleasure Island) and the Town Center. Buses go right to the Disney Springs Gateway in a brand-new Disney Springs bus loop. There’s also free parking available at the Disney Springs garages, and valet parking offered at select times for an additional fee. Water transportation is available from a few resorts – Port Orleans (both Riverside and French Quarter), Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West.
Disney Springs Restaurants
Disney has added some fantastic dining options at Disney Springs to complement the existing restaurants on property. Some of the additions to the Disney Springs restaurant scene include Morimoto, the Boathouse, Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming, D-Luxe Burger, the Daily Poutine, Frontera Cocina, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, STK Orlando, and Paddlefish. There are now 55 Disney Springs restaurants, lounges, snack shops, and other dining locations located throughout Disney Springs – making it nearly impossible to try all of them! You’ll definitely find a menu that you’ll love.
Of the new Disney Springs dining options, I’ve had the opportunity to try four of them (on four separate trips). The Boathouse is my favorite, because I’m a big seafood eater. This gorgeous restaurant offers delicious seafood options in the dining room and the bar area. I especially love sitting near the outdoor bar area – it’s such a beautiful spot. On my January trip, we dined at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming, which offers farm-to-fork Southern cuisine. I had the famous fried chicken, and it was absolutely delicious. On this trip for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I tried Blaze pizza. Blaze is a quick-service option – after placing your pizza order, it’s just a few minutes for your fast-fire’d pizza to be ready. While I thought the 11 inch serving was pretty large, it was so good that I ate most of it. It’s a great option for a reasonably-priced dinner too, since you can share!
During the Pandora media trip (I attended at no cost) I had the chance to try some of the delicious food at the new Paddlefish. This restaurant is located in the riverboat that formerly housed Fulton’s Crab House, and offers gorgeous views. My favorite menu items included the lobster guacamole, the ahi poke, and the seafood boil. It’s hard to pinpoint the best restaurant in Disney Springs – there are so many great options.
Shops in Disney Springs
When you are ready to shop ’til you drop, there are loads of new options for shopping at Disney Springs. In addition to popular stores such as the World of Disney (the largest Disney merchandise store in the world), Disney Design-A-Tee, and the LEGO store, you’ll find many new options at Disney Springs. New stores include chains such as Zara, UNIQLO, Kate Spade, Lucky Brand, Sephora, Sperry, and Vince Camuto, as well as more unique shops like the Marketplace Coop (Disney-branded products), Mickey’s Pantry, and Shop for Ireland. I love having the option to shop for items that I may have forgotten to pack, as well as for items that are unique and unusual. I found the prices to be very comparable to my local shops, and even found a great deal on a pair of leather Vince Camuto sandals (marked down to $25). There’s so much great Disney Springs shopping that you may forget that you are so close to four World
You could easily spend lots of time at the new Disney Springs, depending on what ages your kids are. When my kids were younger, I’d take quick shopping trips to Disney Springs during naptime (while my husband supervised the kids) to do some shopping.
Since some of the restaurants are on the Disney Dining plan, it’s also a great option for a day away from the parks, or just an evening dinner. Definitely make advance dining reservations when you can though, because these new restaurants are popular and do fill up. Otherwise, you may be disappointed if you can’t get into the restaurant of your choice. If you can’t get into your restaurant choice for table service, there are definitely lots of options for quick service meals.
To learn more about Disney Springs, visit their website.
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