Author: Susan Finch
Tags : Disney Vacation, Florida, Food & Wine, Kids, Multigen, Orlando, Step & Single Parents, USA
If you haven't been to Downtown Disney for awhile, newly renamed Disney Springs, you're in for a big surprise. The area was once home to Pleasure Island with friendly nightclubs, comedy acts and lounges drawing in adults and parents weary after a day at the theme parks.
A New Era for Disney Commerce
Today, the area has rapidly transformed into a premiere destination with with shopping, restaurant and live entertainment. Disney Springs boasts all the charm and magic Disney is known for, but can also stand alone as its own must-see destination. There’s plenty to do for families, couples, generational travelers and anyone looking for a one-stop shop for the finest dining, kid-friendly fun and unique shows like La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil. Even if you've seen this show before, you may not realize that they're always adding new acts, such as the three amazing athletes, the B-Boys, who do hip-hop and break dancing, and an Aerial Bamboo act.
Entering Disney Springs felt like walking into a charming, Florida town dating back to the 1900s. An old-fashioned wooden water tower, distressed brick, structures resembling light houses, cobblestone streets and gas lamps envelop visitors into a welcome embrace. And over in the anticipated Town Center, guests walk alongside crystal springs serving as a cornerstone to the property.
Disney Springs Dining Choices
New restaurants are opening their doors weekly on the Disney Springs property. We tried Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar and Morimoto Asia. Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef America brings his pan-Asian cuisine to Disney Springs complete with waterside seating and terraces. We sampled the food at Morimoto, and my only complaint was we didn't have enough time to tear through the entire menu! Film buffs may recognize the name Jock Lindsey from the popular Indiana Jones franchise. He was the trusted pilot in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and once their adventurers were over, he settled down to open a bar. Kids and parents alike will love the aviation-themed lounge with planes hanging from the ceiling and even Jock's pet snake, Reggie.
A more upscale newcomer STK Orlando hails from the group that brought you other STKs in New York's Meatpacking, D.C. and Miami, so look for the signature Lobster Mac n' Cheese, their coveted Wagyu burgers, and a DJ spinning tunes while you dine. Frontera Cocina is a new Mexican place, and for even more casual dining, there's the fun Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine by Chef Art Smith (we love his Art n'Soul in D.C.) for some classic Florida fare.
Dessert lovers won't have to wait long for a decadent treat on the go. Sprinkles is about to unveil one of its signature cupcake machines. So if your family is out late, or you're partying with the grandparents in the wee hours, you can grab a cupcake to unwind on your drive back to the resort hotels.
Sneak Peek of Town Center
Disney's Imagineers took us on a sneak peek behind the scenes tour of Town Center featuring a mix of shopping and dining, along with a promenade. The Imagineers have a meticulous attention to detail and envisioned the West Side as a Floridian town that popped up during the late 1800s and grew to welcome retail, dining and a thriving commerce. They even distressed some of the rooftop shingles of West Side buildings to resemble Florida from the mid-1900s.
Premiere Shopping: Casual Wear Designers & More
The retailers eagerly awaiting opening at Disney Springs are quickly turning the area into an outdoor shopping complex. You could spend the day hopping from Tommy Bahama to Lilly Pulitzer before having a bite at one of the new restaurants and taking in La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil. Major names like Anthropologie, Under Armour, kate spade new york, Sephora, Lucky Brand, ZARA, Tommy Bahama and UNIQLO are open for locals, visitors and foreigners out to score a bargain. Other retailers opening at Disney Springs includes L'Occitane en Provence, PANDORA, Ugg and Edward Beiner among others.
Ready to head out to Disney Springs? Get the latest info on Disney Springs area hotels starting at just $69 a night.