While the theme parks are obviously the biggest draw at the Walt Disney World Resort, there is so much more to do on Disney property. If you are looking for great restaurants and entertainment options, especially in the evening, the Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs may be a good destination. Both offer plenty of activities, restaurants, and free admission.
Planning to visit either the Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs and wondering which one is the better choice? Here are details about both so that you can make an informed decision. If you’re there for a longer trip, you may even be able to do both on separate days of your vacation.
Disclosure: I am a former member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and have been on some complimentary press trips at Walt Disney World, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
Where to Visit: Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs
What is the Disney Boardwalk?
The Disney Boardwalk Inn is a deluxe resort and Disney Vacation Club property located in the Epcot resort area of the park. In addition to a deluxe resort, the Boardwalk area offers shops, entertainment, and restaurants. It’s free to walk around the Boardwalk – there’s no admission fee.
Guests staying at the Swan and Dolphin Resorts and the Yacht and Beach Club can easily access the Boardwalk just by walking a short distance. You can also walk from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. There are also Friendship boats that can take you to the Boardwalk from these two parks.
What is Disney Springs?
Disney Springs is a huge entertainment, shopping, and restaurant complex located on Disney property. Like the Boardwalk, it’s free to walk around Disney Springs. Originally called Downtown Disney, Disney Springs has undergone a huge transformation in recent years and now includes even more entertainment, restaurants, and shops.
Because of the size, you could definitely spend a full day at Disney Springs, especially if you plan to take advantage of the various entertainment option, or want to shop. It’s a huge area.
Within Disney Springs, you’ll find specialty and chain shops, including UNIQLO, Sephora, the World of Disney, and so much more. If you have forgotten something on your trip that you can’t find at your resort gift shop, you’ll probably be able to find it at a Disney Springs store. Although I love the selection of stores, I especially like the specialty Disney stores there.
Does the Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs have more restaurants?
While both the Disney Boardwalk and Disney Springs have great restaurants, Disney Springs has many more options. These include the following:
- The Boathouse
- Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
- The Edison
- Enzo’s Hideaway
- Frontera Cocina
- The House of Blues
- Jaleo by Jose Andres
- Maria and Enzo’s Ristorante
- Morimoto Asia
- Planet Hollywood
- Paradiso 37
- Raglan Road
- The Rainforest Cafe
- Splitsville Dining
- STK Orlando
- Wolfgang Puck
- Wine Bar George
There are also a number of quick-service restaurants in Disney Springs including Blaze Pizza and the Earl of Sandwich. In addition, there are various kiosks and food trucks located throughout the whole complex.
You’ll also find some delicious restaurants at the Disney Boardwalk. While there are fewer options, there are still fine dining locations as well as casual sit-down restaurants. Options include:
- Big River Grille and Brewing Works
- ESPN Club
- The Flying Fish
- Trattoria Al Forno
There are also delicious quick-service spots and kiosks including a pizza window, the Boardwalk Bakery, Ample Hills Creamery ice cream, and a to-go cart.
If you are looking for an alcoholic beverage before or after dinner, there are great options at both the Disney Boardwalk and Disney Springs.
While both have great dining options, I recommend that you decide what kind of food you prefer. These restaurants generally do take advance dining reservations, and walk-ins may not always be accommodated. Make reservations in advance wherever possible.
Does the Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs have more entertainment?
Both areas offer entertainment, although the selection is definitely limited at the Boardwalk area. There, you’ll find Jellyrolls Dueling Pianos, an arcade, surrey bike rentals, the Atlantic Dance Hall, and the ESPN Club, as well as carnival games and entertainment.
The ESPN Club is the perfect destination if there is a game on TV that you want to watch. However, it can be very busy, especially if it’s a big game. Arrive well in advance to have a better chance of getting in.
Disney Springs, however, is filled with entertainment choices. These include the NBA Experience, the upcoming brand-new Cirque du Soleil show, the House of Blues, an AMC theater, Splitsville Bowling, Aerophile balloons, Amphicar rides, a carousel, and the VOID virtual reality.
If you have time in your vacation agenda, I’d definitely recommend that you plan for a full day at Disney Springs, or at least an evening. There’s so much to do. Keep in mind that most of these things do cost an extra fee, so you’ll want to budget for them and make reservations/advance purchases wherever possible.
Disney Springs is also a great rainy day destination. However, most guests will have the same idea, so you’ll want to plan in advance if you can. Movie tickets, for instance, should be purchased in advance.
Which one is more convenient: Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs?
Getting to the Disney Boardwalk can be very easy, or a little more difficult, depending on where you are coming from. Guests staying at the Yacht and Beach Clubs, the Boardwalk Inn, and the Swan and Dolphin Resorts can just easily walk to the Boardwalk. That makes it extremely convenient for those guests.
The Boardwalk is also convenient for guests coming from both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. It’s easy walking distance from both parks (using Epcot’s International Gateway in the World Showcase) or you can take a Friendship boat. You can also access the Boardwalk from two Disney Skyliner stations – Hollywood Studios or Epcot.
Parking at the Boardwalk can be challenging because it’s very limited. The parking lot is right at the resort. In some cases, you may need to valet your car, or will need to have dining reservations in order to park.
If you aren’t staying at one of the nearby resorts, it can definitely be more challenging to get there. In that case, you’ll want to take transportation to one of the theme parks, and transfer to transportation to the Boardwalk.
Disney Springs isn’t walking distance from any of the theme parks, so it’s usually more of an event to get there. Free parking is available in one of the lots/parking garages.
If you aren’t driving, buses are generally the easiest way to get to Disney Springs. Guests staying at Disney’s Port Orleans, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs can also take a boat to Disney Springs.
So, guests staying at one of the resorts near the Boardwalk will find that to be the most convenient. However, Disney Springs is probably more universally convenient to access.
Which one is more expensive: Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs?
Both the Boardwalk area and Disney Springs are completely free to access and visit. However, you will pay for various activities and restaurants at both spots.
Which one is better?
Disney Springs is much larger, by far. You’ll find more shopping, dining, and entertainment options there. If you are visiting for the day, you’ll still find plenty to do.
The Disney Boardwalk, on the other hand, is a nice, small spot to walk around. It’s especially nice if you are having dinner in that area, or are staying nearby. I wouldn’t necessarily plan it as a special destination, however, unless there was a restaurant there I wanted to try.
Have you been to the Disney Boardwalk or Disney Springs? Which one is your favorite?