Last week, Disney Springs officially unveiled the namesake spring, the Town Center district, and the latest parking structure. While there are still several other openings to occur between now and early 2017, the main thrust of the shopping, dining, and entertainment district is now on display for the entire world to see. Let’s go ahead and get the crazy out of way right now. I believe that Disney Springs is a full day park, without the requisite of theme park admission.
I can hear the arguments now; it’s basically a shopping or outlet mall, I can only spend so much time eating, I hate shopping, there are no rides/anything to do if I’m not eating or shopping. These are all fair, so let’s explore them before we continue on.
Yes, there are a ton of shops that feature a non-Disney slant, and some of the design elements do look like outlet malls throughout the region. However, there is a story present throughout Disney Springs that is never present in outlet malls. Do you know of an outlet mall in Florida, or elsewhere, that has an Archimedes screw? Or that advertises for a brand of spring water, and sells their empty bottle, that doesn’t exist? There is a type of strorytelling present within Disney Springs that is generally only reserved for environment building in the lands and attractions of a well-crafted theme park or film set.
There is an entire town that has been built up here. There are remnants of days gone by, of a time when it was a sleepy town with fence-lined houses. It’s a company town, with Springs Bottling Co. being found everywhere, and the towering bottling plant sitting in the middle of it all. I look at the plaster and exposed brick of Sprinkles, and think of the places I frequented in Ybor City, on the outskirts of Tampa, when I was a child. And we’re talking 1980s-early 1990s Ybor, not the hub it has become today. There are the ramshackle old dock areas, the family friendly Marketplace, and even the barrel tile roof that found its own footing in the state once upon a time and is now making a resurgence. This is all without mentioning the crystal blue water of the Spring itself. Is it filled with shops like every other outlet mall? Yes. But if that is all you see when you look at Disney Springs, you’re missing the bigger picture.
There have been some stories out there that with Disney Springs, Walt Disney World has basically opened up a theme park for food. To which I reply, and what’s wrong with that? To quote my good friend AJ, and the Disney Food Blog, “Food IS a theme park.”
As we just mentioned above, there are a lot of shops, many of which aren’t branded with the Disney name. That said there is a lot of food to be had here. What I love about the amount of restaurants, kiosks, and lounges at Disney Springs is that there is something for everyone. You can find almost any type of food, and some of the best food in Walt Disney World, now without ever having to buy a theme park ticket. You can sit down and be treated with the highest level of service or you can grab a sausage on the go. You can lounge lakeside with a beverage or mammoth dessert or you can find a nice table quick service style. Full meals for any time of day, snacks for all hours of the day and night, or a thirst quenching beverage is never out of reach. Do you have to eat all day long? No, but isn’t nice to have quality options when your tummy gets rumbly?
I am not a retail store’s target demographic. I’m just not. When I have to buy something, let’s say a pair of pants, I get in, grab my size, and get out. If I’m feeling particularly motivated that day, or the missus happens to be with me, I may find a fitting room and try them on quickly. Other than that, I want to be in and out as fast as is humanly possible. At Disney Springs, there are a lot of shops. Luggage and bags, clothes, toys, houseware, themed merchandise, and the list goes on and on. If you need it, chances are you can find it here somewhere. But what if shopping just isn’t your scene?
We already discussed the fact that there are plenty of places to find a bite to eat or a cocktail. What else is there to do? There is a world of entertainment and activities if you are really interested. Take in a movie at AMC, ride the merry go round in the Marketplace, see if there is a concert or live music at House of Blues, grab seats for a showing of La Nouba, hop on the Characters in Flight balloon, catch a live act or some dancing at Raglan Road, or take over a lane and find out who is the kingpin of the lanes at Splitsville. While it may not be the giant it once was there’s also DisneyQuest for all your interactive needs, while it lasts. Live entertainment has a long history in the area, and Disney Springs continues that tradition with artists and groups performing on the streets daily. Heck, if nothing else find a rocking chair on the porch of Guest Relations and just relax for a bit! Is there a Space Mountain or Haunted Mansion to get in line for? No. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to entertain and amuse you.
If someone has made their mind up about Disney Springs without ever having given it a fair shake, it’s not likely that this article is going to persuade them off of the opinion that they have formed. Even those who love what they’ve already seen of Disney Springs may not think that it’s a full day experience, but I do. Between the food and entertainment offerings, not to mention the ability to amble around and uncover the whole story of the community, I could easily spend an entire day within the borders of Disney Springs. As far as shopping goes, I have been known to spend some quality time window shopping through the Co-Op.
I know we haven’t really talked about the serious expense of all the activities we listed above. Nothing is free when it comes to Walt Disney World, and we all know that. However, if you’re saving the cost of a ticket, and maybe parking if you’re staying off property, you already have some funds to play with. Food is food, you would have to eat no matter where you are in Walt Disney World, so that is a wash. Like all things in the Vacation Kingdom, however, it’s all about how you want to spend your time and how you budget.
By the way, Alex Wright, I’m looking at you. How long am I going to have to wait for a Imagineering Field Guide to Disney Springs?
We’ve talked about food, shopping, and entertainment, but we may have missed out on the most critical component for enjoying a full day at Disney Springs. What you get out of a day here is truly going to depend on who you bring with you. If you are with friends or family that are all about having fun because you are all together, you are going to have a great time! The next time you see me skulking around Disney Springs, probably with a camera glued to my face pointed in some bizarre, little seen corner, make sure you grab my attention. I’m sure we can find somewhere to grab a bite or beverage and chat!