By James | Last updated December 29, 2023
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Disney Springs (formerly called Downtown Disney) is a dining, shopping and entertainment complex. It is located on the shores of Lake Buena Vista .close to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and close to the I–4 in the south east corner of the Walt Disney World resort.
Both admission and parking (except valet parking) is free and it is open every day until late. Some venues however do charge an admission fee. If you wanted to read more about the Disney Parks and tickets, check out our full Disney World guide here.
Resort guests can reach Disney Springs by water taxis or Disney buses.
Disney Springs is a major upgrade to the whole Downtown Disney area. Themed around small turn of the century Florida lakeside and waterfront towns that built up around a natural spring.
Top Activity In Disney Springs – Drawn to Life, A show by Cirque du Soleil
Like the ill fated Hyperion Wharf project, water plays an important part in the backstory.
Walt Disney’s parents actually got married in a small Florida town called Kismet on January 1, 1888. The town of Kismet now no longer exists as it was abandoned many years ago.
The heart of the new entertainment area features natural bubbling springs, like those found all across central Florida. Surrounding the springs are four neighbourhoods or districts; West Side, The Landing, Marketplace and the Town Center.
A lot of the venues open around 10 a.m. and close late.
Like most Disney projects these days it was opened in phases. Work started in 2013 and over the last couple of years it has undergone a radical transformation. The first phase of Town Center opened on May 15, 2016 and nearly all construction work was completed by 2016.
There are now roughly twice as many shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, some 150 in total.
The Disney Springs West Side
The West Side is one of the original elements of the former Downtown Disney. It provides a number of entertainment venues including Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil, the NBA Experience, the House of Blues Music Hall, Splitsville Luxury Lanes, AMC Movies at Disney Springs 24 and Aérophile: The World Leader in Balloon Flight.
There are also a number of restaurants plus food trucks and shops.
The landmark Planet Hollywood restaurant has been transformed into The Planet Hollywood Observatory.
The existing Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba closed in December 2017. This was later replaced by a new Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil show. In addition, the DisneyQuest building was demolished in July 2017 and replaced by the NBA Experience attraction.
The main theme change for West Side is the introduction of “elevated walkways”. This is themed on abandoned overhead railroad tracks, offering shade to passing visitors.
The West Side is directly accessible from the Orange multi-story garage. As its name suggests it is at the western end of the property. There are also a number of ground level parking lots nearby; Strawberry, Watermelon and Mango.
Disney Springs West Side offers some great entertainment and eating venues as well some interesting shops.
If visiting the West Side, you can park in the Orange multi-story garage which gives direct access. There are also three open air parking lots just a few minutes walk away; namely Strawberry, Watermelon and Mango.
Entertainment at West Side
The majority of the entertainment venues are concentrated in the West Side area:
- Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil — shaped like a giant ivory coloured circus tent, the Cirque du Soleil theatre holds nearly 1,600 guests. Typically there are two performances a day at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., five days a week. Dates and times may vary. Each show lasts around 90 minutes and features dancers, acrobats, circus jugglers, clowns and trapeze artists, singers and live music. Drawn to Life is inspired by Disney’s heritage of animation. It is a collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering.
- NBA Experience — a new attraction which replaced DisneyQuest. The NBA Experience opened allows guests to experience aspects of the game of basketball through 13 themed activities.
- House of Blues Music Hall — a 2,000 seat concert hall offering live music, everything from gospel to rock ’n’ roll, latin, hip-hop, R&B, reggae and of course blues. Concert dates and ticket prices vary.
- Splitsville Luxury Lanes — a retro bowling alley with 30 lanes over two floors. There is also billiard tables, indoor-outdoor dining, five bars including sushi, live music and dancing on Saturday evenings.
- AMC Movies at Disney Springs 24 — watch the latest films at a state-of-the-art 24 screen cinema. This has rocker-style stadium seating including one with 3D technology. Six of the auditoriums offer “Fork & Screen” full-service dining and reserved seating.
- Aérophile: The World Leader in Balloon Flight — a tethered balloon flight up to a height of around 400 feet. This gives you a fantastic view of all of Disney Springs and the surrounding resort area. The ride lasts around 8 to 10 minutes and operates from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. daily, weather permitting.
Most entertainment venues also offer food and drink.
Dining at West Side
There are a number of table service restaurants serving lunch and dinner at West Side:
- House of Blues Restaurant and Bar — along with the concert hall, there is also the table service restaurant and bar. There is a daily happy hour, a Gospel Brunch on Sundays and live blues music on Friday and Saturday. The Front Porch offers cocktails and live entertainment every night subject to the weather
- Jaleo by José Andrés — authentic sharing plates of Spanish style tapas, paella and sangria
- City Works Eatery & Pour House — classic American food sports bar with a craft beer list of 90 beers including 30 local brews.
- Fork & Screen — dine-in seat-side service at the AMC Movies at Disney Springs 24
- Splitsville Dining Room — indoor/outdoor restaurant with everything from burgers and pizza to sushi
- AMC Disney Springs 24 Dine-In Theatres — combine watching a movie with eating a meal with chair-side service
Reservations are recommended at all the table service restaurants. Note that many of the entertainment venues also offer both food and drinks.
Amongst the quick service and kiosk offerings are Ample Hill Creamery, Pepe by José Andrés, the Front Porch and theSmokehouse at House of Blues, Joffrey’s Handcrafted Smoothies, MacGUFFINS located inside the AMC Movies at Disney Springs 24, Starbucks, Häagen-Dazs, Sunshine Churros, Wetzel’s Pretzels and YeSake.
Food Trucks in Disney Springs
There are also four Food Trucks that are usually parked in Exposition Park, representing the four theme parks:
- World Showcase of Flavors — sample delights inspired by the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. You will find grilled chicken breast gyros and grass-fed beef sliders here
- Namaste Café — Asian cuisine from Disney’s Animal Kingdom including a naan and samosa dipping safari and lamb kefta
- Fantasy Fare — treats from around the global Disney parks. Including Croque Monsieur from Disneyland Paris and hand-dipped corn dogs from Disneyland California
- Superstar Catering — American cuisine from Disney’s Hollywood Studios including flatbreads and shrimp and lobster with macaroni and cheese
They generally open around lunchtime. Another food truck, the 4R Cantina Baracoa Food Truck parks outside the World of Disney store in the Marketplace.
Shopping at West Side
West Side has an eclectic mix of shops including Fit2Run, DisneyStyle, Pelé Soccer, Memory Lanes, Star Wars Galactic Outpost, Disney’s Candy Cauldron, Super Hero Headquarters, Sunglass Icon, Pop Gallery and Sosa Family Cigars.
Most of the entertainment venues and restaurants also have gift shops, like the NBA Store and House of Blues.
Closed Venues at West Side
As part of the re-theming of Disney Springs, there have been a number of changes over the years.
The original Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil closed on December 31, 2017. This was replaced by a new Cirque du Soleil show called Drawn to Life.
Disney announced in June 2015 that Disney Quest would close and would be replaced by The NBA Experience. Disney Quest was an indoor interactive theme park spread across five floors that particularly appealed to young kids and teenagers. You could choose from a number of high-tech games including virtual reality and classic video games. Some games had height restrictions and separate paid admission was required.
The Wolfgang Puck Grand Café and Dining Room closed August 1, 2017 to make way for Jaleo by José Andrés. However a new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill opened in Town Center in 2018. There is also the Wolfgang Puck Express in the Marketplace.
Another restaurant to close was Bongo’s Cuban Café owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan which shut on August 18, 2019. It will be replaced by Beatrix. The Estefans are not leaving Orlando though as they are opening a new restaurant. This is called the Estefan Kitchen at Margaritaville Resort Orlando.
Disney Springs The Landing
Across a foot bridge from West Side is the newly named The Landing which opened in 2015. This is located on the former site of Pleasure Island and part of the parking lots.
Disney Springs The Landing is one of the two new districts introduced as part of the transition from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs and offers some great new eating venues as well some interesting shops.
Most of the restaurants in The Landing have lakeside views. Morimoto Asia is housed within the Springs Bottling Company building.
The Landing is situated on the waterfront between West Side and the Marketplace on the site of the former Pleasure Island.
This area has seen some of the biggest changes with a number of new restaurants and bars opening along the waterfront including The Boathouse, Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar and Morimoto Asia. The Boathouse also offers Amphicar rides around the lake.
The mock paddle steamer, Fulton’s Crab House closed in April 2016 for a planned six months refurbishment and has re-opened as Paddlefish.
Portobello Country Italian Trattoria has also been refurbished and has re-opened as Terralina Crafted Italian in the Autumn of 2017.
A new wine bar called Wine Bar George opened in early 2018, close to the Raglan Road Irish pub.
Entertainment at The Landing
There are just a couple of entertainment venues at The Landing:
- Paradiso 37 — the Paradiso 37 offers live music from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
- Raglan Road — on the outdoor terrace you can enjoy Irish singing and dancing every night from 8:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
- The BOATHOUSE Dream Boats — take a leisurely cruise around the lagoon in an Amphicar, an open top four seater amphibious car dating back to the 1960s
- Edison – becomes a nightclub after 10 p.m. Each night
The BOATHOUSE Water Tours
The BOATHOUSE offers water tours in vintage boats and a fleet of nine Amphicars.
The Amphicars were first built in Germany in the 1960s and are able to drive on the road like any other car but they can also drive on the water like a boat at speeds of up to 7 mph. The tour on Lake Buena Vista takes around 20 minutes.
You can also take a ride in the Venezia, a 40 foot authentic wooden Italian Water Taxi, the Lady Rose, an antique steamboat. The price of the cruise includes chocolate-covered strawberries, a champagne toast and live music.
Dining at The Landing
A number of new table service restaurants serving lunch and dinner have been built as part of the development of The Landing:
- STK Orlando — a modern signature steakhouse split over two levels plus a lounge with a DJ and rooftop dining.
- Paradiso 37, Taste the Americas — a blend of North, Central and South American cuisine in a waterfront setting, split over two levels with both indoor and outdoor terrace dining. As well as food from 37 countries, there are also 37 varieties of Tequila on offer and an international rum bar.
- Morimoto Asia — Pan-Asian cuisine created by chef Masaharu Morimoto. Upstairs is a sushi bar and lounge.
- Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant — enjoy Celtic favourites like shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash and fish and chips washed down by traditional Irish, European and American beers. Brunch is available on Saturdays and Sundays.
- The BOATHOUSE — a restaurant with three distinctive bars and two private dining rooms. Offers signature dining serving Florida style surf and turf plus sandwiches and burgers. A number of water rides operate from alongside The BOATHOUSE (see Entertainment above).
- Terralina Crafted Italian (formerly Portobello Country Italian Trattoria — serves fresh seafood, wood-fired pizzas, pastas and steaks cooked the Italian way. There is both a dining room and waterfront patio. It re-open in the Autumn of 2017. The new menu is inspired by the Italian Lakes region from award-winning chef Tony Mantuano and includes hand-tossed pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven.
- Paddlefish — themed as a paddle-steamer, the former Fulton’s Crab House has re-opened with a modern yacht styled interior, rooftop lounge and waterfront bar. The menu focuses on fresh seafood as well as steaks and chops.
- Wine Bar George — featuring over 100 wines selected by Master Sommelier George Miliotes
- Edison — themed on a 1920s power plant, the Edison is a bar, restaurant and from 10 p.m. it becomes a nighttime entertainment venue for 21 years and older including cabaret. There is a cover charge and a dress code banning shorts, baseball caps and flip-flops. It opened on December 31, 2017. It serves classic American food and speciality cocktails
- Maria & Enzo’s, Enzo’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar and Pizza Ponte — part of the Edison complex, the three Italian cuisine restaurants are styled on an old fashioned 1930s style trattoria located in an abandoned airline terminal, a Roman aperitif bar and a fast casual restaurant serving pizza, Italian sandwiches, pastries and desserts. They opened in early 2018
- Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ — Florida inspired cooking, mostly sourced from local farms
Reservations are recommended at all the table service restaurants. Note that many of the entertainment venues also offer both food and drinks.
Amongst the quick service and kiosk offerings at The Landing are The Basket at Wine Bar George, Cookes of Dublin,
Morimoto Asia Street Food, Pizza Pointe, Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC, The Ganachery, Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company and Vivoli Il Gelato.
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar
A new Indiana Jones themed waterfront lounge and bar, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, opened in 2015 between Paradiso 37 and The BOATHOUSE.
It offers both indoor and outdoor seating including a dry-docked boat called Reggie, named after Jock’s pet snake. Both the limited food menu and the drinks and many cocktails are inspired by places visited by Indiana Jones in the films.
The whole building is heavily aviation themed around the back story of Jock Lindsey, who played a pilot in the Indiana Jones films, set in the 1930s. The bar is crammed with artefacts collected on his travels.
Shopping at The Landing
The Landing has a small group of shops mostly opposite Paradiso 37 including Chapel Hats, Erwin Pearl, Oakley, The Art of Shaving, Savannah Bee Company, Shop for Ireland, Havaianas, Lovepop, Royally Yours by Arribas Brothers, eyCatchers Cart, Swing N’ Things – The Hammock Experts Kiosk and Sanuk.
With the launch of Disney’s streaming channel, Disney+ there is now a Disney Pavilion where you can learn more about the service.
Some of the entertainment venues and restaurants also have gift shops like The Boathouse Boatique.
The Disney Springs Town Center
The heart of Disney Springs is the new Town Center area themed on a 1900’s small Florida town with a central promenade built up around a “natural” spring. The last part of the re-imagining of Downtown Disney, the first phase opened on May 15, 2016 with the rest completed around July 2016.
It contains a number of new restaurants and shopping experiences including a Coca-Cola Store.
Town Center is the newest district at Disney Springs and as its name implies, it is at the heart of Disney Springs. It is primarily a commercial district featuring retail and dining areas with a Spanish revival architecture theme and a waterfront promenade.
It has been themed to look older than the rest of Disney Springs with a grand entrance and signature water tower, representing the earliest development in the storyline. Covered arcades reminiscent of old style Victorian shopping arcades offer under-cover shopping and dining.
The first phase opened on May 15, 2016 and by July 2016, most shops were completed.
Welcome Center at Town Center
One of the first buildings guests see as they enter Town Center is the timber framed Welcome Center where they can relax and view the springs.
A short distance away is a new Disney Ticket Center where you can get information, maps and purchase park tickets.
Dining at Town Center
There are a couple of table service restaurants serving lunch and dinner at the Town Center:
- Frontera Cocina — Mexican cuisine from chef Rick Bayless
- Planet Hollywood Observatory — Planet Hollywood has been converted into a themed turn-of-the-century brick-clad observatory. It retains its Hollywood film memorabilia but the interior ceiling has been converted into a planetarium. It was expected to re-open late 2016 with a new Stargazers bar and outdoor seating area but construction delays pushed the opening date back into early 2017
- Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill — laid back Californian cuisine
For quick service and kiosk dining there is Amorette’s Patisserie, Blaze Fast-Fire’s Pizza, Chicken Guy!, Coca-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar, The Daily Poutine, D-Luxe Burger, The Polite Pig, Sprinkles and Frontera Cocina To-Go Window.
Also in the Coca-Cola Store there is a Cola Polar Bear meet-and-greet experience.
Shopping at Town Center
Amongst the many brands are men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, accessory and jewellery lines.
Subject to on-going shop changes but you can expect to find Alex and Ani, American Threads, Anthropologie, Coach, Columbia Sportswear, Edward Beiner Purveyor of Fine Eyewear, Ever After Jewellery Co. & Accessories, Everything But Water, francesca’s, Free People, Johnny Was, Johnston & Murphy, Kate Spade New York, Kiehl’s Since 1851, Kipling, Lacoste, Levi’s, Lilly Pulitzer, L’Occitane en Provence, Lucky Brand, Luxury of Time by Diamonds International, Melissa Shoes, Na Hoku – Hawaii’s Finest Jewellers Since 1924, Oakley, Origins, Orlando Harley-Davidson, PANDORA Jewellery, Shore, Sperry, Stance, Sugarboo & Co., Superdry, Tommy Bahama, TUMI, UGG, UNDER ARMOUR BRAND HOUSE, UNIQLO, UNOde50, Vera Bradley, Volcom and Zara as well as cosmetics and fragrances from M·A·C Cosmetics and Sephora.
The Disney Springs Marketplace
The Marketplace is home to a large number of shops including the LEGO Store, Disney’s Days of Christmas, Marketplace Co-Op and the large World of Disney Store.
Signature table service restaurants include T-Rex and the Rainforest Café connected by a new pedestrian walkway across the corner of the eastern end of the lake.
One of the latest attractions is the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire by ILMxLAB and THE VOID experience which opened in December 2017.
The Marketplace is the oldest part of Disney Springs and has not changed much as part of the regeneration.
Marketplace is the go-to place for Disney goods and it is home to the world’s largest Disney character store.
If visiting the Marketplace, you can park in the Lime multi-story garage which gives direct access from Town Center. The Grapefruit Garage across the street offers an alternative if the Lime Garage is full.
Entertainment at Marketplace
There are only a couple of entertainment venues at the Marketplace:
- DJ Kids Dance Party at Waterside Stage — evening dance party for kids at the Waterside Stage. During the day there are often concerts by local school bands and orchestras
- Marketplace Carousel — a 16 horse Venetian carousel decorated with scenes from Disney Springs. Cost is $2 per child and those under 42 inches must be accompanied by an adult (free admission)
- Marketplace Train Express — a small children’s train ride
- The VOID: Hyper-Reality Experience experience which opened in December 2017
At Christmas you will find Santa Claus and his helpers at the Marketplace as well as the Christmas Tree Trail.
Dining at Marketplace
There are a couple of table service restaurants serving lunch and dinner at the Marketplace:
- T-REX — a dinosaur themed restaurant serving American cuisine surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs split into several separate themed rooms.
- Rainforest Café — a rain forest themed restaurant with animatronic cheetahs, gorillas and a tropical rainstorm. Also houses the Lava Lounge overlooking the lagoon
Both T-REX and Rainforest Café are operated by Landry’s restaurants. Both appeal strongly to families with kids with all the animatronics and special effects.
Reservations are recommended at all the table service restaurants.
Amongst the quick service and kiosk offerings at the Marketplace are the 4R Cantina Baracoa Food Truck, Earl of Sandwich, Marketplace Snacks, Wolfgang Puck Express, Joffrey’s Handcrafted Smoothies, AristoCrepes, B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co., Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, Goofy’s Candy Co., Sunshine Churros, The Spice & Tea Exchange, Starbucks and Dockside Margaritas.
Shopping at Marketplace
Marketplace offers some of the best Disney shopping opportunities including:
- The LEGO Store — an amazing range of LEGO models and a fantastic display of Disney characters. Great photo opportunities with the LEGO models.
- World of Disney Store — the largest Disney character store in the world with gifts, clothing, jewellery, household goods, toys and much more.
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
- Marketplace Co-Op — a selection of specialist boutique stores selling new and unique Disney gifts including Bowes Signature Candles, D-Tech on Demand, Twenty Eight & Main, Disney Centerpiece, Disney Tails, Wonderground Gallery and Cherry Tree Lane
- Once Upon a Toy — the largest selection of toys and games in all of Walt Disney World
- Disney’s Pin Traders — the premier Disney pin trading location where you can buy or trade pins with other guests and cast members. Also sells MagicBands.
- Lefty’s – The Left Hand Store — Disney branded goods especially for left-handed people.
- Disney’s Days of Christmas — a Disney store dedicated to Christmas.
- The Art of Disney — buy limited edition and original Disney artwork and figurines.
- Disney Design-A-Tee — design you own tee shirt from over 400 images plus your own words and have it printed right there and then.
Note that the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique has moved from inside the World of Disney Store to a new location next door to Once Upon a Toy.
Other shops include Face Painting Kiosk by Enjoy Your Face, Happy Hound Kiosk, Initial Rings Cart, Silhouette Portraits Cart, Tren-D, Build-A-Dino by Build-A-Bear Workshop and Dino Store at T-REX, Star Wars Trading Post, Basin, The Art Corner by Artist Talent Group, Crystal Arts by Arribas Brothers, Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories, Mickey’s Pantry, Rainforest Café Retail Village and Ron Jon Surf Shop.
At the Disney PhotoPass® Service Studio you can have professional photos taken with a choice of backdrops and props.
Disney Springs Parking
The existing Downtown Disney area already suffered from a lack of parking spaces and the expansion has eaten into this space. To address this, the new Disney Springs features three separate multi-story parking garages with a combined capacity of around 9,000 cars and direct access to Interstate I–4. All the parking garages and lots have been named after Florida fruits.
Guests parking in the Orange Garage have direct access to Disney Springs West Side and the Lime Garage gives direct access to the Town Center and hence Marketplace. To reach the Town Center and Marketplace from the Grapefruit Garage, you have to cross the main Buena Vista Drive using a pedestrian bridge.
All three garages use intelligent red/green overhead lighting to indicate where you can find available spaces to save driving round and round looking for a space. They also have electric car charging stations.
The existing ground parking lot behind Cirque du Soleil is called Strawberry. The other two parking lots at the west end are called Watermelon and Mango.
During the construction phase, Disney introduced additional parking spaces in the SunTrust and Casting Building parking lots (on the other side of the road opposite the existing parking lot at the east end of Disney Springs. Two pedestrian bridges spanning Buena Vista Drive have been built to provide safer access to Disney Springs. These additional parking spaces are generally open after 5 p.m.
Disney is also offering a free shuttle bus service from the Team Disney parking lot to the south of Disney Springs. Both new parking lots are a 5 to 10 minute walk.
Valet parking is available. To take advantage of valet parking, head for Entrance 4 on the West Side.
History of Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney started life as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village when it first opened in 1975 and was then renamed the Walt Disney World Village. It was renamed again as the Disney Village Marketplace and then in 1997 the area became known as Downtown Disney until it was renamed yet again in 2015 as Disney Springs.
Like its rival, Universal Citywalk, Downtown Disney offered dining, shopping and evening entertainment at a number of night clubs located on the adjacent Pleasure Island which opened in 1989.
In 2008, Disney suddenly announced it was closing all the clubs on Pleasure Island and then in 2010 announced a new project called Hyperion Wharf but it never came to fruition.
In March 2013, Disney announced a major redevelopment with a new project called Disney Springs and for the three years, large portions of the site were shuttered as a massive redevelopment programme got underway.
Read more about the old Downtown Disney….
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