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 premier 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. My meal at Enzos was part of a separate media trip.
Disney Springs Restaurants and Shops
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 closed), the NBA Experience, 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.
Admission to Disney Springs is free, however, there are separate fees for many of the individual things. It is a great place to go on a day at that you don’t have Disney park tickets.
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 Asia, Maria & Enzo’s, 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. You can also get snacks, drinks, and ice cream.
Of the new Disney Springs dining options, I’ve had the opportunity to try five of them (on five 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. The restaurant also includes a nautical-themed gift shop.
During a family trip over Thanksgiving a few years ago, we dined at the Boathouse for our Thanksgiving meal. While it wasn’t a traditional Thanksgiving meal, it was so delicious. The weather cooperated, and we were able to sit outside by the water.
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.
If you are looking for a heartier meal, this is definitely a great option. I’d highly recommend getting the fried chicken.
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!
Blaze is a chain restaurant, so there may be a location near your home. If that’s the case, I’d probably recommend trying something different, only because there are so many different options to try.
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.
Another delicious new restaurant at Disney Springs is Enzo’s Hideaway and Tunnel Bar, a prohibition themed restaurant and bar. It’s tucked away, around the corner from Enzo and Maria’s Ristorante.
Enzo’s Hideaway is open all day, but they are most known for their Sunday Supper, a prix fix meal option that includes an antipasto appetizer, pasta and meat entree, and dessert.
My meal at Enzo’s was one of the favorites that I’ve had at Disney Springs. If you enjoy Italian food in a casual atmosphere, it’s a great option.
It’s hard to pinpoint the best restaurant in Disney Springs – there are so many great options. Look at the menus and see what type of cuisine you are most interested in having.
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 Walt Disney World theme parks!
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.
In addition to the restaurants and shops, Disney Springs is also home to a number of entertainment options. These include the NBA Experience, Splitsville, AMC Theaters, Vintage Amphicar & Italian Water Taxi Tours, and more.
To learn more about Disney Springs, visit their website.