Disney Springs, until recently called Downtown Disney, is Walt Disney World’s main area 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 on the eastern edge of park property, connected to no theme park. A recent top-to-bottom renovation and expansion breathed a lot of life into it, adding dozens of good restaurants and brand-name stores, but ultimately, despite the improvements, it’s still just a snazzy and overpriced outdoor mall. Despite the hype, when stood beside the four theme parks, I can’t really say it must be integral to your Disney experience if you don’t have much time.
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 is called the Marketplace, and it’s for Disney-themed shops of every theme. The middle two zones are Town Center (the outdoor shopping mall, and where the DTS stops are) and The Landing (waterfront dining and bars). The westernmost zone is the West Side, which leans toward nightlife and entertainment, with a Cirque du Soleil show (Drawn to Life), Splitsville Luxury Lanes bowling, and a 24-screen AMC cinema, as if you came to Disney World to go to the movies.
Parking is free in two new, state-of-the-lot structures with cool overhead lights indicating at a distance if the space below them is free. The “Orange” structure is most convenient to evening entertainment of the West Side, and “Lime” is closer to the restaurants of The Landing and the shopping of the Town Center and the Marketplace.
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 additions—nice shops, but nothing you couldn’t find elsewhere. But shops at the Marketplace (407/939-3463) are the best place 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, D-Tech for you-design-it smartphone cases and MagicBands, Centerpiece for Disney-retro homewares, Cherry Tree Lane for handbags, Twenty-Eight & Main for casual clothes with arcane Disney references, and TAG for travel gear. 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, crowned by a giant Stitch burping water onto passersby. It’s a rambling cathedral-roofed barn stocked from rug to rafter with every conceivable Disney-branded item—a Villains room, a room for men, one for candy, one for the latest branding craze, and so on. You’ll find stuff here you won’t find at other Disney stores here or at home, especially if it’s a “park exclusive.” Despite its status as the chief Mouse mart, World of Disney still may not have what you want. That’s because it’s the only store that offers annual passholders a discount, which means the most obsessed fans clean the shelves here first. World of Disney also may not carry items that might be fit better at another store at the Marketplace (tree ornaments, for example, would be at Days of Christmas).
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 brands a competing park), where children can play with kits for free. Basin sells bath products for those teeny hotel room tubs.
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.