A Local's Guide to Disney Springs for Every Type of Traveler
Updated: May 13
There's no doubt that Disney Springs is making some good profit dollars off of their free-to-park, Disney-adjacent, walking district of joy. Once a happy spot for surface parking, splash pad tip toeing and the occasional Sunday movie at the AMC, Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island transformed into a massive retail space in the last decade or so, taking on the new name "Disney Springs". From the nostalgic throwbacks to the dining options and mega stores, there's something for every type of traveler at Disney Springs.
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The Nostalgic '90s Kid
Then: Having been the prime age for Disney-going when my family moved to Orlando at age 8, Downtown Disney was THE spot to take our out of town guests. We didn't have to fork up the admission to see Disney and could still get the Disney vibes. We'd pair it with a ride along the ferryboat to Magic Kingdom or the Monorail and call it the "cheap tour" of Disney. A hit every time! Kids (ahem, now adults) who remember the "simpler" version of Disney Springs will love sharing this with their families as part of their own cheap tour of Disney.
Now: Nowadays most of the top hits are still there for the nostalgia - Planet Hollywood may no longer be a giant blue globe restaurant as we once knew it, but it remains in part as a shop and eatery near the movie theater, which now is a Dine-In Theater, one of the first of it's kind in the '90s.
The World of Disney Store is still there as is the Ghirardelli store, both still cranking out massive merchandise and sweets sales. The Rainforest Cafe still brings all the jungle-themed vibes to the '90s kid who had to have a themed lunch to be happy.
As if Ghirardelli's chocolate milkshakes weren't enough to entice, Disney Springs offers a small Garnachery Chocolate Shoppe and Gideon's Bakehouse.
The Garnachery delights the senses with aromas of cocoa in the air, Spanish tile floors, vintage etchings on the window panes, and a looking glass to see the chocolate being made in front of you.
Mix and match your own chocolate boxes and ask for them to be packed in ice so they don't melt while you are touring.
Gideon's Bakehouse is a line around the building type of shop full of folks itching to get that perfect Insta-post. Not my thing but I am sure there's a pot of gold behind those closed doors!
Some days the line to get in this store is a snake around the building, like the green Lego dragon that has been sitting in the pond outside its entrance since the '90s.
If you have the patience (and your kids have the patience), get in line and traverse the madhouse of a boutique.
You can get Lego sets for around $10 for the cheap spender, and well over $100 for the epic Lego fiend. From adult sets like building a Jazz Club or Centerpiece Bouquet of Flowers, to Marvel, Avatar and more, this store sells everything a Lego-maniac could dream of.
An extra flair of fun on offer is the pick and choose wall - fill a cup of any Lego shapes and colors that you want for one fixed fee, hovering around the $10 range. You won't have a set or guide to build off of, but this seems like a good win if your kid isn't picky and wants a souvenir.
The Indiana Jones Lover
If quoting your favorite snake-fearing, Marion loving, archaeologist with the hat is your thing, look no further than Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar. This place has ALL the vibes you need to feel transported into the movies.
From fun cocktail names and glassware to great tapas style snacks, the Hangar is typically my number one recommendation when people ask me what is cool at Disney Springs.
The atmosphere inside is filled with trinkets that will be recognizable to the Indiana Jones lover, and outside offers a beautiful lake view from the patio seating.
Want to know more about the backstory and who Jock Lindsay is? Check out more details on the website here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/disney-springs/jock-lindseys-hangar-bar/
The Whimsical Shopper
All things Disney not your style of souvenir? That's fine, you can find some really cute and unique gifts at places like Anthropologie, Francesca's, The Spice and Tea Exchange, Savannah Bee Company (mostly honey products) and Sugarboo & Co, which is full of cute phrases posted on burlap handbags and posters, jewelry, gem stones and other natural style material souvenirs. They sell books on cocktails, vintage wash tshirts and other boho items as well.
Too cool to be seen at Disney Springs? You may get into their new "Co-Op" space, which is set up like your local farmer's market or hipster art space. The building is set up with two rows with individual booths to browse.
Each booth displays different items like a "make your own candle" station, unique dresses for the Disney-bounders (adults that like to dress up like characters with subtle touches like yellow and blue for Snow White), and they also have more souvenirs here as well.
The space feels effortlessly chic and hip and is a refreshing addition to the mega souvenir shops that surround it.
Maybe you get a kick out of an amphibious vehicle or maybe you really dig classic cars, but either way this is a super fun time out in the sun and on the water. Next to the boathouse you can catch a short ride on the Vintage Amphicar. A 20 minute ride will run you $125. Ouch, but it's a BOAT CAR, right?
Once upon a time there was also a ferry running from the House of Blues to the Rainforest Cafe, and over to one of the resorts. I cannot confirm or deny if this free and short ride still exists, but it's worth mentioning if you see it in operation.
The Happy Hour Crowd
Paradiso 37 and Dockside Margaritas offer up cheap(ish) margaritas to cool you down later in the afternoon.
The Scavenger Hunt Crew
Disney Springs has hidden Mickey's everywhere, which can be super fun if you know where to look. But what about a next-level scavenger hunt? Check out this offering from a local tour. It's a great idea for bachelorette parties or family fun.
The Aspiring Chef
Calling all Food Network nerds! Disney Springs is a haven for restaurants by top chefs
Chicken Guy by Guy Fieri
Rick Bayless' Frontera Cocina
Jaleo by Jose Andres