Though not the best place to head if you're the shop-'til-you-drop type, this is a rather pleasant spot for a leisurely stroll along quaint streets filled with upscale shops, coffeehouses, and restaurants. Celebration, after all, is a Disney-designed community, making it practically the perfect little town (or a facsimile thereof). It's a throwback to mid-20th-century mainstream America, when main-street shopping was in style. Market Street and the area just surrounding it are home to a dozen or so shops, a couple of art galleries, a handful of restaurants, and a three-screen movie theater. The storefronts, especially the galleries and gift shops, offer interesting and unique merchandise, though you'll find that there's a price to pay for perfection. Stores here include the Market Street Gallery (Swarovski crystal, collectibles, home decor, Yankee Candles, Christmas decorations, and more), Day Dreams (a shop filled top to bottom with dolls, teddy bears, books, and gift items), Soft as a Grape (comfy 100% cotton resort wear for the entire family), the Lollipop Cottage (clothing and gifts for children), Confetti (personalized gift baskets, sweets, treats, and party planning), Unique Boutique (designer labels mixing with one-of-a-kind fashions and accessories), Downeast (gifts, accessories, and clothing sporting labels such as Polo, Lacoste, Vera Bradley, and Cavalli, among others), the Jewel Box (an authorized Pandora dealer and purveyor of better baubles), Sanrio Surprises (a haven for Hello Kitty fans), the Woof Gang Bakery (homemade gourmet treats and an array of pet-care products for the pampered pet set), an art gallery and frame shop, a grocer, a post office, and others. The Village Mercantile, after 13 years in business, closed its doors in 2009, an unfortunate victim of the economy. The high prices here may make for more window-shopping than actual spending, but the real attraction in Celebration is the relaxing, picture-perfect atmosphere. If, by chance, Celebration reminds you of the film The Truman Show, you're not alone. The movie was filmed in Seaside, a Florida Panhandle community that inspired the builders of this burg.
Disney Springs (www.disneysprings.com), until recently called Downtown Disney, is Walt Disney World’s outdoor center for shopping and restaurants—alas, just as expensive as elsewhere in the World. Its unwieldy layout ambles along the southern shore of Village Lake a few miles east of Epcot, connected to no theme park. A recent top-to-bottom renovation and expansion made it a new star, adding dozens of brand-name stores. The food is great but from a shopping perspective, despite the improvements, it’s still just a snazzy and overpriced mall. When lined up beside the four theme parks, I can’t say it must be integral to your Disney experience, but it without question has the best casual food choices in Disney World.
The district has four zones; because of the size, it’s helpful to know which one you’re heading for because the walk between them can be up to 15 minutes. The easternmost area, called the Marketplace, is for Disney-themed shops of every type. The middle two zones are Town Center (the outdoor shopping mall, and where the bus stops are) and The Landing (waterfront dining and bars). The westernmost zone is the West Side, which leans toward nightlife and entertainment, with Splitsville Luxury Lanes bowling, Cirque do Soleil, and a 24-screen AMC cinema, as if you came to Disney World to go to the movies.
Parking is free in three state-of-the-lot structures with overhead lights indicating if the space below them is free. The “Orange” structure is most convenient to the entertainment of the West Side, “Lime” is closer to the restaurants of The Landing and the shopping of Town Center, and “Grapefruit” links via pedestrian overpass to the Disney-heavy Marketplace section.
When it comes to shopping, the major shops at Town Center are not likely to tickle you much if you’ve ever been to a mall: Zara, UNIQLO, Lilly Pulitzer, Tommy Bahama, Under Armour, and UGG are among the highlights—nice shops, but nothing you couldn’t find elsewhere. None of them are outlets.
Shops at the Marketplace (407/939-3463) are the best for Pure Mouse. Stores are themed for maximum souvenir sales, including one for toys and games (Once Upon a Toy), one for Christmas and holiday decorations (Disney’s Days of Christmas), one for high-end collectibles (The Art of Disney), one for kitchen tools (Mickey’s Pantry), one for urban wear (Tren-D), one for stationery and albums (Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories), and Disney’s Pin Traders, a hub for collectors of the park’s badges where you can also buy MagicBands.
The most interesting is the Marketplace Co-Op, which contains some great mini-stores such as funky contemporary art versions of Disney characters at WonderGround Gallery, D-Tech on Demand for you-design-it smartphone cases and MagicBands (they cost twice as much as standard MagicBands, but for fans, the wide selection of more obscure characters is worth it), Centerpiece for Disney-retro homewares, Cherry Tree Lane for handbags, and Twenty Eight & Main for casual clothes with arcane Disney references. For the Disney fan, there’s a lot to discover.
The Marketplace’s tent-pole is the big kahuna of Disney merch: World of Disney, the largest souvenir department store in the resort. It’s a rambling cathedral-roofed barn stocked from rug to rafter with every conceivable Disney-branded item. You’ll find stuff here you won’t find at other Disney stores here or at home, especially if it’s a “park exclusive.” World of Disney may not carry items that might fit better at another store at the Marketplace (tree ornaments, for example, would be at Days of Christmas), or that are attraction-specific (more Haunted Mansion stuff is at the Magic Kingdom’s Memento Mori), so hunt around.
A very few Marketplace stores sell non-Disney plunder. Kids can’t be separated from The LEGO Store (still here despite the fact the toymaker now has a competing park) or Build-A-Dino which does for reptiles what Build-A-Bear (which owns it) does for teddies. Basin sells bath products for those teeny hotel room tubs.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique—Little girls bask in the star treatment as they are lavished with glittery pink princess makeovers, from $65 (Crown Package with hair and a sash) to several hundred (the Castle Package adds a gown, too), overseen by a kindly “Fairy Godmother-in-Training” who sprinkles fairy dust. Warning: The dresses are hot and scratchy, so bring a change of clothes if the sun is strong, and you must supply your own shoes. There are also Frozen packages and polka-dotted Minnie Mouse options. Boys are steered to the Knight Package ($20–$80), where less glamorous beauty standards are ascribed. (Yes, little kids may switch gender roles if they want.) There’s also a salon in the Magic Kingdom in the Castle, but you’ll need a park ticket for that and slots are scarcer. Try to get a morning appointment so your child has time to prance around the parks in all that fabulousness. Open daily 8:45am to 7:30pm. Once Upon a Toy, Marketplace. www.disneyworld.com. 407/939-7895. Ages 3–12, enforced. $65–$230. Reservations required.
International Drive Area
(Note: Locally, this road is almost always referred to as I-Drive.) Extending 8 or so miles northeast of Disney between Highway 535 and the Florida Turnpike, this busy thoroughfare is one of the most popular tourist districts in the area, in part because it is filled with so many restaurants, shops, hotels, and attractions. From indoor skydiving and glow-in-the-dark golf to dozens of themed restaurants and shopping spots, this is the tourist strip in Central Florida. Its two main shopping draws are the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, just off south I-Drive , and the Orlando International Premium Outlets, located at the northernmost end of I-Drive . Another I-Drive shopping spot, Pointe Orlando (tel. 407/248-2838; www.pointeorlandofl.com), features a smaller collection of upscale restaurants, clubs, and specialty shops in an outdoor setting. A few miles north of I-Drive via I-4, Mall at Millennia is an upscale, but ultimately standard, mall.
Skirting the south side of Walt Disney World, Kissimmee centers on U.S. 192/Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, as archetypal of modern American cities as Disney's Main Street is of America's yesteryear. U.S. 192 is lined end to end with budget motels, smaller attractions, and almost every fast-food restaurant known to humankind (though a handful of good eateries can be found here as well). Kissimmee, however, does not offer the fabulous array of shopping options found elsewhere in Orlando. The shopping here is notable for the quantity, not the quality, but it's a good place to pick up some knickknacks and tee-shirts.
Just north of downtown Orlando, Winter Park (407/644-8281) is the place many of Central Florida's old-money families call home. It began as a haven for Yankees trying to escape the cold. Today, its centerpiece is Park Avenue, which has quite a collection of upscale retail shops (including several locally owned boutiques) along its Main Street atmosphere. No matter which end of the street you start at, there are more shops -- over 140 in and around the Park Avenue area -- than most can survive, but you're bound to find something here you'll not find anywhere else. Park Avenue is also home to a handful of unique upscale restaurants, cafes, and art galleries. Note: Leave the kids with a sitter if you plan to shop (or dine) here. You'll both be happier for it. To get here, take I-4 exit 87, Fairbanks Avenue/Highway 426, east past U.S. 17/92 to Park Avenue and turn left.
In Downtown Orlando
Although there are some good galleries and some small boutiques in downtown Orlando, overall, it's not one of the city's prime shopping zones.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.