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What's to Love About Disney Springs?

What do you think when you think of Disney Springs? Do you even know what it is? Most people, when they think of Disney Springs think about shopping. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you might know it by a previous name: Downtown Disney. It was also previously known as Disney Village Marketplace, Walt Disney World Village, or Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village. Disney Springs is mostly known for shopping, but it is also a hotspot for dining. While I do love the shopping and dining experiences, one of my favorite things about Disney Springs is the new backstory for the area. Disney really did transform a shopping center into a fabulous destination that you can spend days in and still not experience everything. Too many people skip over Disney Springs in favor of more park time. It breaks my heart when I talk to people who either have no idea what it is, or they blatantly ignore it because it’s not perceived as important. So, I’m going to tell you the backstory of Disney Springs, and tell you what all there is to do. Hopefully, at the end of this, you will have a new appreciation for Disney Springs and want to spend more time there the next time you go to Walt Disney World.

Disney Springs originally opened in 1975 as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Center. It changed over to the Walt Disney World Village in 1977. It later changed again, with an expansion, to Downtown Disney in 1989. Disney later went on to transform it into Disney Springs in 2015 and into 2016. With the transformation into Disney Springs, an entire backstory was created for this seemingly new area. If you were familiar with the old Downtown Disney, the Marketplace will still look fairly familiar, but the rest of the place will be unrecognizable. It is so vastly different from what we all knew for over 30 years that it is hard to believe that it is the same place. Let’s talk about the new backstory.

According to the story, Disney Springs was discovered in about 1850. The spring that was found was decided to be vital to the area. It can still be found today in the Town Center. There is even a wheel that you can turn to pump the water up into a fun feature. The Town Center was built up to contain most of the shops, restaurants, and a waterfront promenade. The Landing was built up to house most of the industry and transportation. The Marketplace was built up to contain more shopping and markets. The West Side was the last area to be built up. It is the most modern of the “neighborhoods”. The Town Center and the Landing contain the oldest buildings, as many have a very industrial or art deco style. If you are ever curious about what some the current buildings used to be, look for the context clues hidden within the space. For example, The Edison used to be the power plant. Maria and Enzo’s and Pizza Ponte used to be the airport. The Ganachery used to be the apothecary shop. World of Disney used to be the market. There are additional stories all over Disney Springs. How many more can you find?

Do you want to know some of my favorite stories? They are pretty good. Maria and Enzo opened a Sicilian pizza-by-the-slice place and bakery inside the airport. When the airport closed, they purchased the rest of the building. They kept Pizza Ponte open, but decided to open an Italian restaurant in the remainder of the building, and called it Maria and Enzo’s. While exploring their new building, they found Prohibition era tunnels beneath the airport. Within the tunnels, they found a speak-easy, which Enzo decided to reopen as Enzo’s Hideaway. World of Disney was once the market for Disney Springs. When the market closed, Disney animators purchased the building to make it an animators’ warehouse. If you look, you will find paint and paintbrushes scattered everywhere. There are sketches everywhere. There are even magic sketches on one of the walls. They seem like normal framed sketches, but if you watch them long enough, they come to life and move on the wall. Then, they change out for all new pictures. Look over in the kids’ area for them. There are corkboards on some of the walls, and the one behind the checkout counter is dedicated to the Nine Old Men. Keep looking around Disney Springs and find your own favorite stories.

So what kind of shopping can you find at Disney Springs? Well, there is everything from luxury brands to the ultimate Disney store. If you are looking for Disney merchandise, World of Disney is a great place to start. However, don’t forget about Disney Days of Christmas, Marketplace Co-Op, Once Upon a Toy, DisneyStyle, Tren-D, Pin Traders, and more. If you want Star Wars, there are two dedicated Star Wars stores, one in the Marketplace, and one in the West Side. Marvel has its own store in the West Side. Luxury brands include Pandora, Alex and Ani, Columbia, Sperry, Kate Spade, Vera Bradley, and so much more. There are specialty shops like the Ganachery and the Art of Disney. There is even a Japanese department store called Uniqlo. Coca-Cola even has its own store, as does M&M. You can spend all day at Disney Springs shopping, and you still may not hit every store.

What kind of dining is available at Disney Springs? A lot, actually. Some of my favorite quick-service options include D-Luxe Burger, Cooke’s of Dublin, The Polite Pig, Amorette’s Patisserie, Earl of Sandwich, Joffrey’s, and more. Some of the table-service restaurants include The Boathouse, Morimoto Asia, Jaleo’s, Terralina Crafted Italian, Rainforest Café, T-Rex Café, Planet Hollywood, and so much more. The food here is an unheard-of variety. There is literally something for everyone. I haven’t eaten at any of the table-service restaurants, at least not in a very long time for some of them, but I eat at some of the quick-service almost every time I go. The variety and quantity of food available is unmatched in Walt Disney World, except maybe by EPCOT during a festival.

Next time you go to Walt Disney World, be sure to take some time to go to Disney Springs. Many people like to have a resort day during their stay, but I argue that rather than just doing a resort day, take some time to go to Disney Springs. It opens later than the parks, but is usually open later than most of them. Spend some time at your resort, then head over to Disney Springs in the afternoon. My family likes to mix Disney Springs into our non-park days, or head over when we get there early enough in the day on our arrival day. It’s a great place to spend some downtime, or just take a break from the parks for a day. I hope that you view it with a new appreciation and give it some more time next time you go.

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