On my last few trips to Disney World, Downtown Disney was a bit of a mess. While there was still plenty of great shopping and places to eat, it was definitely under construction. And like most things that are under construction at Disney World the plans were well hidden behind walls and barricades. I was excited for the new changes because it meant more of two of my favorite things shopping and dining but I was also sad to see some old favorites go like Captain Jack’s Oyster Bar.
In October I visited Disney Springs and the one word that came to mind was gorgeous. Disney Springs is divided into four distinct districts: The Marketplace, which is basically the same as it has been for sometime, The Landing, the area along the water which was formerly Pleasure Island, Town Center a shopping district built where ground parking used to be and The West Side.
The bus stops have been moved to a new location and there is now only one stop as opposed to two and at one time 3 stops that the buses used to make at Downtown Disney. The bus will drop you off in the Town Center area of Disney Springs. This change is going to take some getting used to and I definitely found it difficult to find my way back to the buses because my instincts kept sending me to the Marketplace.
I took a few hours during my trip to wander around and get a feel for Disney Springs.
Highlights of the New Disney Springs
Town Center is a completely new area of Disney Springs. Picture the most beautiful shopping space with high-end stores, beautiful landscaping and Florida style architecture. Town Center is gorgeous. It’s chic and spacious and it just gives you that Disney magic feeling of being transported to another place. It also makes Disney Springs a great shopping destination. I hit up Alex and Ani for a new bracelet and Sugarboo & Co was fun to browse and I could have easily spent a small fortune. Other shops include Lily Pulitzer, Free People and Vera Bradley along with many others. Check here for a full list of shopping, dining and entertainment.
There is a big new Welcome Center located in Town Center and adjacent to The Landing. The Welcome Center is now home to guest services and is in a spacious beautiful, welcoming building. You can stop by the Welcome Center to pick up maps, ask a question or get help with making reservations or ticketing. My friends stopped by for advice on gluten-free dining options.
Expanded Dining Options
Disney isn’t lacking in dining options but it can definitely be tough to get a table service reservation during peak hours if you didn’t book months in advance. The additional dining options include: Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin which has farm to fork offerings (not something you would expect at a theme park), Morimoto Asia, STK Orlando and The Boathouse. On my trip I was lucky to be invited to the Boathouse by one of my friends. The view was great, the wine was fantastic and the company was perfect. I recommend the Filet Mignon Sliders and the truffle fries.
Unexpected Quick Service Dining
Anyone who knows Disney Quick Service dining knows that it can be heavy on chicken fingers and burgers. And while I have my favorite Disney Quick Service restaurants, the new quick service offerings at Disney Springs definitely takes it to another level. Some of the new Quick Service dining options are Morimoto Street Food, Vivoli Il Gelateria, AristroCrepes, and D-Luxe Burger.
There are a few new bakeries at Disney Springs but I have to mention Amorette’s. It is a delicious little bakery where you can pick up desserts that are almost too cute to eat and pair them with champagne,prosecco and wine. A perfect little treat after a day of shopping or a great place to sneak off too after a day at the parks.
Bippity Boppity Boutique
The Bippity Boppity Boutique has a new home at Disney Springs, in the Marketplace area. Don’t worry there is still a location at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, this new stand-alone location at Disney Springs, replaces the small location that was in the World of Disney store. The new location is cute and looks like it’s right out of a fairy tale, perfect for princesses and princes ages 3-12.
Margarita Bar 2.0
The Margarita Bar at Disney’s Marketplace has been a family favorite for a long time. So when it was closed for refurbishment we were worried if it’s days were over. Thankfully Disney has redone the Margarita Bar making it bigger and better. Don’t worry the margaritas and rum runners are just as delicious.
Bridging the Marketplace to the Landing
Disney World always means a lot of walking but at Downtown Disney it always felt like a bit of a hike from the Rainforest Cafe to the Cirque Du Soleil at the West End. This walk was especially long if you weren’t planning to shop because the walkways in the Marketplace area can get crowded add to that the ongoing construction which made for narrow walkways near Raglan Road which made getting around Downtown Disney not very magical. Disney Springs has added a bridge that connects the Marketplace and The Landing areas of Disney Springs meaning you can cut out darting between shoppers in the Marketplace and get right to the great dining options in The Landing. Not only is the walkway convenient it’s also very scenic.
If you are staying off property or not using Disney transportation parking has been tough at Downtown Disney for a while. With the Disney Springs addition they have added parking garages which makes it so much easier to find a spot at Disney Springs.
I was back in Disney Springs in early May and the refurbishment is almost done. There is more shopping and dining than one can do in an evening. The new additions to Disney Spring, makes it a destination that you could easily spend the day at or come back a few nights for shopping and dinner.