If you’re planning a trip to the Disney parks (or even just to Central Florida at large) I’ve got to urge you to add a day (yes, a full day!) at Disney Springs to your travel itinerary. It is an excellent place to spend some time whether it be a down day in between busy theme park days, or just a stand-alone destination. Going during the holidays is an extra special treat as I’ll share with you here.
Disney Springs used to be Downtown Disney. They renovated, revamped, added a beautiful spring that runs throughout the property, added tons of stores, and great for locals: a huge (free) parking garage. If you’re staying at a Disney property you can get to Disney Springs via complimentary shuttle or boat too. During the holiday season Disney Springs is decked out in Christmas cheer with wreaths, ribbons and tress everywhere!
In speaking with Sara, the marketing whiz behind Disney Springs, I discovered that they doubled the size of what Downtown Disney started out with. There are now so many places to eat, drink, shop, be entertained, play, have your kids entertained or just relax. It was a bit surreal because Sara said, “where we’re standing now (a beautiful shady spot in “Town Square” of Disney Springs) was a parking lot a little while ago!” I noticed as I went around Disney Springs that it’s more of an experience than I expected. I was legit expecting just a regular outdoor mall… I was so wrong!
Walking through Disney Springs you find recognizable brands (and a few that may be new to you) to shop. I actually broke my “No Spend November” in a store called American Threads that was completely new to me. But majority of the stores are national brands like UGG, Lily Pulitzer, Diamonds International, Vera Bradley, Columbia, SuperDry, Uniqlo, Sephora, Kipling….ok ok I wont name every store, you can visit this site for a full list: DisneySprings.com
It’s spread out so nicely so you get to just meander and explore all the shoppes and treats in store at each one. I was pleased to find that there are lots of areas to just sit for a spell and enjoy a drink, a Sprinkles cupcake and some shade. No matter where you are on the large property, you have a lovely view.
(image via Jen of JenOni.com)
There are two really nice treats for kids (and parents) that I have got to share. The Bippity Boppity Boutique (where little girls are transformed into princesses) and the Once Upon a Toy (where kids can build their own toys) shoppes are in Disney Springs too! So if you don’t want to wait in a crazy line, aren’t going to the parks, or can’t get a reservation while you’re at the parks, you can do it there. No muss no fuss.
There are excellent restaurants as well. I had the pleasure of enjoying the hugest, juiciest fillet ever at STK. The sides, creamed corn, brussel sprout slaw salad, and mini sliders were amazing as well. The truffle oil in the sliders was an unexpectedly decadent touch.
I also enjoyed a treat at PaddleFish which opens next month. The lobster roll was one of the best I’ve ever had (and I would hunt for them all over NYC) and the drinks were to die for.
I didn’t get to eat at Fronterra, the Mexican restaurant, but I enjoyed a cocktail while taking in the gorgeously colorful ambiance. Other restaurants are celebrity Iron Chef Morimoto’s self titled hot spot, and celebrity chef Art Smith’s Homecoming where you can get soul-comforting southern cuisine. (There are TONS more places to grab a quick bite as well) I’m excited for the new Planet Hollywood Observatory to open up there.
After shopping and eating you can enjoy live music at one of the many places offering daily live performances. House of Blues is well known for their concerts, but you will also find random artists sprinkled throughout Disney Springs creating a great musical atmosphere. In one area, there was an edgy/artsy version of Nutcracker being performed by some amazing dancers on tour. (check out the FB Live of that)
This is going to sound weird, but walking through Disney Springs reminded me of the days I would spend just walking through NYC with friends. We’d shop, sit and eat, shop some more, grab a drink, meet up with other friends, grab dinner, browse shoppes and sit for a coffee. While walking we pass all kinds of street artists and little experiences for a bit of revelry. That’s exactly how Disney Springs is.
Making it extra special for the holidays is the incredible StarBright Holidays show. It was a beautiful light show of all these twinkling “stars” set to music and creating gorgeous images in the sky. I later found out that the lights were drones. Intel had a hand in creating that show, I can only imagine what it took to pull of that synchronization. (I facebook lived it for ya, check out the video here!) There was also a very sweet “Christmas Tree Walk” that had beautifully decorated themed trees from many of our favorite Disney movies.
If you’re a local to the Disney area, you must go visit. It’s not the Downtown Disney that you may remember. If you’re in town for the Disney Parks or to visit friends/family, you must spend some time at Disney Springs. There is something for everyone here. All ages and all interests will find something they love to do, purchase, listen to, watch, and eat! Disney Springs is much more than a place to shop, it’s an experience!
Have you been to Disney Springs?