Travel

Photos show what it's like to stroll Disney Springs, with must-visit restaurants and hot-air balloon ride

Business Insider US
Disney Springs is decorated with subtle nods to fan-favorite characters, like Mickey-shaped topiaries.
Amanda Krause/Insider
  • Disney Springs is a free-to-enter shopping and dining center located 15 minutes from Magic Kingdom.
  • I visited twice in 2021, and I took photos that show what it's like to walk through the destination.
  • There are must-visit eateries, activities like hot-air balloon rides, dozens of stores, and more.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

I visited Florida twice in 2021, and I spent time at Disney Springs during both trips.

While on Disney World vacations, I always make time to visit Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

I drove from New Jersey to Florida for my August trip to Disney World, and I took my first plane ride to visit again in December of last year.

Disney Springs is a shopping, dining, and entertainment center located just minutes away from Disney World's theme parks and resorts.

Disney Springs is decorated with subtle nods to fan-favorite characters.
Amanda Krause/Insider

The destination is located in Florida's Lake Buena Vista. Plus, it is free to enter — whether you're a Florida local or visiting on vacation. 

It's also open year round, typically between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. each day.

There are multiple free parking garages surrounding Disney Springs.

Security at the entrance of Disney Springs in Florida.
Amanda Krause/Insider

I like to park in the Orange garage, which sits on one end of Disney Springs. There is also the Lime garage in the center of the shopping center and the Grapefruit garage across the street.

From there, it's easy to find the security checkpoint. You're typically instructed to walk through metal detectors and have your bags checked, which rarely takes more than two minutes, in my experience.

Once inside, you're greeted with entertainment options and restaurants, as well as a hot-air balloon.

A view of Disney Springs in August 2021.
Amanda Krause/Insider

There are multiple options once you step inside. Turning left takes you to the AMC dine-in theater. Right goes toward the Coca Cola store. I usually choose the latter.

You could also head straight toward Planet Hollywood for the Aerophile — an "eight-minute tethered adventure," as Disney describes it, which gives you standout views of Disney Springs, all for $25 (R394)

I recommend stopping at the Coca-Cola store for unique beverages and fun merchandise.

The exterior of the Coca-Cola store (left) and merchandise inside (right).
Amanda Krause/Insider

The store, which covers two giant levels, offers what seems like every Coca-Cola-themed product you could imagine — from fancy soda bottles to Christmas ornaments.

On the highest level, you'll also find a rooftop bar where you can purchase alcoholic drinks and Coca-Cola sodas from around the world.

Afterward, I'd suggest stopping at Guy Fieri's Chicken Guy! restaurant.

The Chicken Guy! by Guy Fieri at Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

If you're a fan of chicken, this is your spot. The restaurant — located across from the Coca-Cola store — has a menu filled with sandwiches, pickle chips, mac 'n' cheese, and of course, chicken tenders. That's not to mention the 22 dipping sauces available.

I've loved multiple menu items, and personally would travel all the way back to Florida for the fries alone.

But if you're looking for something a bit more upscale, there's a Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill next door.

From there, you can enter a shaded shopping center called the Market Building.

Inside the Market Building at Disney Springs in December 2021.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Fancy some shopping? Those who like to spend on vacation will appreciate the stores in this building, which include Tommy Bahama, Everything But Water, and Sperry.

My personal favourite is Sugar Boo & Co., where you can find quirky art, handmade items, and accessories. 

Outside, you'll find more popular stores like Zara and Free People.

Jo Malone London and MAC Cosmetics are just two beauty stores you'll find there.
Amanda Krause/Insider

There's also Coach, Kate Spade New York, Sephora, and more.

When passing Zara, you can either turn left toward the middle of Disney Springs or continue heading straight.

There are pathways leading in every direction throughout Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

If choosing the former, you'll find the Disney Springs Welcome Center near restaurants like D-Luxe Burger and Frontera Cocina.

There's also a Disney ticket center nearby and stores including Francesca's and Alex and Ani.

If you keep walking past Zara, you'll find more stores like Anthropologie and Uniqlo.

Uniqlo is the perfect place to find affordable Disney-themed clothes and accessories, in my opinion. There's a section of the store dedicated to character items, too. Most cost under $25 (R394)

My favourite store in this section of Disney Springs is Ever After Jewelry Co. and Accessories.

I found these headbands and backpacks at Ever After Jewelry Co. in December 2021.
Amanda Krause/Insider

At the store, you can find popular Disney-themed accessories like Loungefly backpacks, embellished Minnie Mouse ears, and BaubleBar jewelry.

This path eventually leads you to Disney Springs staples, like The Polite Pig and Amorette's Patisserie.

Disney Springs visitors dine at The Polite Pig in December 2021.
Amanda Krause/Insider

The Polite Pig is a barbecue spot with indoor and outdoor seating, while Amorette's Patisserie offers artisan pastries.

World of Disney — the ultimate souvenir shop — is also located here.

You can purchase snacks, clothes, and plush toys at World of Disney.
Amanda Krause/Insider

This store is a must-visit for Disney fans. Whether you're looking for something small, like a mug, or larger, such as home decor, this mecca for all-things Disney includes clothes, plush toys, accessories, and limited-edition merchandise.

But if you're after a deal, consider a short trip to the Disney discount store, a 20-minute drive from Disney Springs.

After exiting, you'll find a waterfront stage to your left and more stores on your right.

Basin is a body-care shop located near World of Disney at Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

The former spot often has free musical performances at night, though there are sometimes daytime events too.

In the meantime, pop into Basin to find shower products, Mickey Mouse soaps, and other beauty products.

Be sure to stop at Marketplace Co-op, one of my favourite spots at Disney Springs.

People visit Disney's Market Place Co-op in December 2021.
Amanda Krause/Insider

At the Marketplace Co-op, you'll find small market stalls filled with different merchandise, from designer bags to small art prints.

My tip: this spot is usually where I find the most unique souvenirs, and I could easily spend hours making my way through the booths.

Across the way is the Marketplace Snacks booth where you can enjoy sweet treats.

If you're craving Dole Whip, this is one place you'll want to visit in Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

When I visited in December, traditional Dole Whip cups were sold at this stand for $5 (R79) each. I ordered the swirl and felt as if I had been transported to Magic Kingdom.

Today, the Marketplace booth sells waffles and drinks, while Dole Whip is sold at Disney Springs' Swirls on the Water. Still, it's worth a visit if you have a sweet tooth.

This is the perfect destination for travelers with kids.

Once Upon A Toy is decorated with nods to the Disney film "Toy Story."
Amanda Krause/Insider

Here, you'll find a small train ride, carousel, and Once Upon a Toy store.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique — where children can get princess makeovers — is also found here, though it's temporarily closed at the time of writing.

Star Wars fans will also want to visit.

An interior view of the Star Wars Trading Post at Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Across from Once Upon a Toy is the Star Wars Trading Post. Inside, you'll find merchandise from Galaxy's Edge at Hollywood Studios and other space-themed items.

If you're collect pins, there's store just for you.

This circle-shaped shop is filled with dozens of collectible pins.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Disney Pin Traders is the ultimate spot for people who want to start a collection or grow the one they have. I've found everything from ride-themed pins to ones inspired by the Disney Channel here.

You can also buy MagicBands and similar accessories at the shop.

Of course, this section of Disney Springs wouldn't be complete without eateries.

Goofy's Candy Company and Rainforest Cafe are located next to each other.
Amanda Krause/Insider

There's Earl of Sandwich, Rainforest Cafe, and my personal favourite: Goofy's Candy Company.

There's a lot to take in, but don't miss out on the more unconventional spots — like Disney Springs' art gallery and Christmas store.

A view of The Art of Disney in December 2021.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Disney's Days of Christmas is truly a sight to see all year round. Plus, you will make you ready for the holidays by the middle of August.

The Art of Disney is also good for gifting. It feature one-of-a-kind creations inspired by fan-favourite characters. If you're lucky, you'll catch a Disney artist drawing in the store for visitors to watch.

When you arrive at the beautiful bridge, it will lead you to the other end of Disney Springs.

A view from the bridge (left) and one of the merchandise stalls (right).
Amanda Krause/Insider

Not only does this bridge have stunning views of the surrounding lake, but there are also small shop stalls placed across the walkway. It's also a great spot for an Instagram photo.

Once you've reached the Lego-made Dragon at the end of the bridge, you'll know where to head next.

Yes, this dragon is actually crafted from Legos and submerged in water.
Amanda Krause/Insider

This handmade structure has called this spot home for decades. It's a favourite among many Disney Springs fans.

Even if you don't collect Legos, the store at Disney Springs is worth a visit.

You don't have to enter the Lego store to see these builds.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Inside, you'll find many of the most popular Legos sets. But the real sight to see if the exterior of the shop, where there are incredible, hand-made structures of bricks crafted to look like beloved Disney characters.

On my latest trip, I saw Mickey Mouse, Kylo Ren, and Chewbacca sculptures. 

When you reach this point of Disney Springs, you might be hungry again — or at least, enticed

The BOATHOUSE and Paddlefish are two boat-themed restaurants at Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Luckily, there are even more restaurants nearby. There's Paddlefish, Raglan Road Irish Pub, Wine Bar George, The BOATHOUSE Restaurant, and Jock Lindsey's Hanger Bar, to name a few beloved options.

Iif you're only looking for a snack, Gideon's Bakehouse is the place to go.

The bakery (left) and me with Gideon's signature chocolate-chip cookie (right).
Amanda Krause/Insider

The gothic bakery is my favourite place at Disney Springs, and one of my go-to spots in all of Disney World. 

People typically wait a few hours in line for the famous cookies, which weigh nearly half a pound and take 24 hours to prepare. (They are $6 each (R95)). And that's not to mention the cakes, coffee, and other snacks on the menu.

As you head back toward the Orange garage, you'll find more food.

The exterior of Maria and Enzo's at Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

These spots include The Ganachery and Maria and Enzo's.

There's another small bridge that leads you to Starbucks, a Disney clothing store, and other shops.

People walk through Disney Springs in December 2021.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Some of these stores include a second candy shop called Disney's Candy Cauldron and the Marvel-themed Super Hero Headquarters.

If you're there in the evening, consider checking out the food-truck court, which has the best snack-sized portions of all kinds of cuisine.

From there, you'll find even more restaurants as well as some activities.

You can eat while enjoying a movie at Disney Springs' AMC theater.
Amanda Krause/Insider

You can catch a show at the House of Blues, shop at the M&M's store, watch a movie at the dine-in AMC theater, or try your hand at bowling at Splitsville.

Finally, you'll find the Cirque du Soleil building, which looks like, yes, a circus tent.

The exterior of the Cirque du Soleil building at Disney Springs.
Amanda Krause/Insider

Cirque du Soleil changes its shows throughout the year, but Disney fans will love the one currently scheduled, Drawn to Life, which mixes Cirque du Soleil's mesmerising performances with Disney's animation.

There's so much to do at Disney Springs that you may want an extra day during your vacation to experience it.

The rooms at the All-Star Resort are plain but nice.
Amanda Krause

After spending hours there, I like to load up on a few extra Gideon's cookies, ensure that I've purchased all the souvenirs I want, and head back to my hotel room for much-needed relaxation. (I prefer Disney World's cheapest option, the All-Star Resort).

Ultimately, it's up to you. You can go in the morning to avoid crowds, visit in the evening to experience the nightlife, or do what I do: make the most of it from opening to close.

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