We're back! After a trip to Walt Disney World, we have a bunch of stuff we need to discuss on this blog. I'm starting with something easy today - Disney Springs. Here we'll talk about what it is, what our impressions were before we visited and if/how they changed and whether you should spend some of your precious vacation time visiting here.
For some basic background, Disney Springs is the former Downtown Disney, located on Walt Disney World property which boasts, according to their official website, 103 shops, 65 places to dine and 25 "attractions, shows and events." This seems like a lot, and is probably overstated a bit for marketing purposes. As for attractions, there are things like Cirque de Soleil and House of Blues, but I suspect that going to events such as these are not the same as on a whim deciding to seek out attractions walking around.
Those latter attractions would include things like Splitsville Luxury Lanes (bowling) and of course, Aerophile - The World Leader in Balloon Flight. That last one is impressive to see visually, as a hot air balloon floats way above your head as you walk around, making it easy to determine where you are at any given time. We didn't actually experience it, so I can't say whether we recommend it or not, but at a cost of $25 per adult and $20 per child for an eight minute experience, it seems a little hefty to me.
As for the dining, yes, there are plenty of options, many carrying big names in the food industry such as Morimoto Asia and Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill. We'll come back to some of these in a bit, but there are also plenty of cheaper, quick service places along the way. We checked out Chicken Guy, Guy Fieri's fast food restaurant, and came out pretty impressed (it didn't hurt that we were quite hungry by then).
If you're just out for a walk around, the shops are probably where you'd spend most of your time. And there are plenty. The flagship store is the enormous World of Disney, which is like the Emporium on steroids. There is also an actual location for Goofy's Candy Company, which explains where all the candy around the parks comes from. There are also other Disney-specific stores such as the Art of Disney and The Vault Collection experience. These places at least let you remember that you're on Disney property.
As for everything else, though, most of these shops could be in any strip mall or outlet location anywhere in the country. While it's nice to have shops to look at, do you really need another Anthropologie or Under Armour store? Nothing says middle America like shopping, I guess.
We had always intended to spend some time at Disney Springs, possibly on arrival day for our trips, but we never managed to make it over there until this trip. We enjoyed a few hours here, but ultimately we were happy that we hadn't gone out of our way in the past to see it. Unless you're specifically coming in for one of those aforementioned upscale restaurants, I'm not sure I'd take time out of my day to visit.
And how do you get there? If you're not driving, there is bus service from all Disney resorts but not from the parks themselves. Being on the outskirts of Disney property, it's not always a quick and easy trip and would require allocating time to get there and back. We stayed at a hotel within walking distance (review coming!) so it was easy to navigate and a nice innocuous way to start our trip.
Generally, though, I don't think you're getting anything at Disney Springs that you can't get at the parks, if you want something that FEELS like Disney. Much the same way we feel about taking a "pool/resort day" in the middle of your trip, if that's your style, Disney Springs can be a nice change of pace. But I'd much prefer to maximize my time in the parks as opposed to anything outside of that realm. Your mileage may vary.
Disney Springs probably appeals more to locals than tourists, as this is likely the closest shopping and dining district to many people in the Orlando area. On that level, it succeeds. But compared to the parks themselves, it doesn't seem worth going out of your way to visit when you can get so much more Disney into your day in other ways.