• Thursday, August 5, 2021
The Evolution of Disney Springs

The Evolution of Disney Springs

Disney Springs is one of the largest shopping and entertainment destinations in Orlando, and the wide range of shops and activities makes it an amazing place to enjoy the Disney World experience without even paying to get into the parks. However, the marketplace has undergone quite a few changes and transformations before becoming the location it is today.

Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village (1975 – 1977)

The Lake Buena Vista Shopping District originally opened in 1975 with the intention of being the “commerce district” of Walt Disney’s “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”.  The district featured 12 buildings located on the Village Lake, along with a boat marina and a “floating” seafood restaurant. Themed as a seaside Mediterranean village, the lake was adorned with Meditteranean statues all along the waterfront and a Captain’s Tower served as the complex’s major landmark icon. Each of the 12 hexagon shaped buildings were modeled after Swiss chalets with high ceilings and skylights and housed close to 30 shops and four dining locations. Shops ranged from grocery stores and barber shops to jewelry and clothing stores in order to satisfy the needs of all of the guests in the community. In 1977, Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village was renamed The Walt Disney World Village.

Original Shops & Restaurants
  • 24KT Precious Adornments: Jewelry Shop
  • 2R’s – Read’n & Rite’n: Stationary, Party Supplies, and Book Shop
  • Anniversary Room: Sold china, silver, and other gift items
  • Apothecary: Standard drugstore that sold items like cosmetics, film, and magazines
  • Bath Parlour: Bed and bath items
  • Candy Factory: Here, guests could watch their candy being made before buying it
  • Cane, Wicker, Rattan, & Suns: Sold wicker rickshaws, rattan gazebos, and can-backed rocking chairs
  • Captain Jack’s Oyster Bar: Known for oysters on the half shell, strawberry margaritas, and unrivaled views of the lagoon
  • Captain’s Tower: The centerpiece of the village was used for special events
  • Carolyn’s Couture: Clothing store that featured various designer; Lilly Pulitzer created a collection to be sold here in 1975.
  • Chalet Candle Shop: Originally, craftsmen made candles here but the shop eventually became Guest Services.
  • Country Address: Sold casual clothes for women
  • Cristal Arts: Guests could watch crystal cutters live in action at this shop.
  • Flower Garden: Sold floral arrangements and live and artificial plants
  • Gourmet Pantry: The village’s grocery store
  • Heidelberger’s Deli: Known for their “palm stretching” giant sandwiches
  • It’s A Small World After All: Disney souvenir shop
  • Lite Bite: A fast food/quick service restaurant
  • Michael’s: This barber shop, offering hair cuts and manicures, was closed on Sundays
  • Miss Merrily’s Madness: Clothing store for young women
  • Pipe Dream: Tobacco store
  • plus you: Accessories store
  • Port of Entry: Before Epcot opened, this is where guests could shop for items representing countries all around the world
  • Posh Pets: Sold live animals and accessories as well as offering pet grooming services.
  • Post Office
  • The Pottery Chalet: Guests could watch live pottery making while shopping for decorative collectibles
  • Sir Edward’s Haberdasher Store: Mens’ clothing store
  • Shoe Time: Shoe retail shop that opened in the former Michael’s barber shop in 1976
  • Toledo Arts: Live demonstrations of damascene work, which is the process of etching metal with acid and adding gold or silver details
  • Toys Fantastique: Replaced Posh Pets in 1976. This toy store was known for its beautiful intricate displays and sold elegant toys like Breyer horses, Madame Alexander dolls, and teddy bears made from mink fur.
  • The Village Restaurant
  • Village Spirits: Local liquor store where guests could purchase beer, wine and spirits from all around the world
  • Von Otto’s Antiques: Sold antique treasures like mahogany beds, Spanish knight puppets, gilt edge mirrors and Grandfather clocks
  • Windjammer Dock Shop: Attached to Captain Jack’s, this shop sold swimwear and other water gear

Walt Disney World Village (1977 – 1989)

In addition to the Village’s new name, a few other changes came to the district in 1977. The Empress Lilly Riverboat was added, replacing the “floating” seafood restaurant from earlier years. The riverboat housed several dining and entertainment areas on the main, second, and third decks. The main deck featured a steakhouse called Steerman’s Quarters as well as The Baton Rouge Lounge. On the second floor deck guests could enjoy The Fisherman’s Deck and The Empress Room, a high end lounge complete with a live harpist. The top floor deck was home to Disney World’s first character breakfast, which took place at The Captain’s Table restaurant.

The Village Pavilion, a multipurpose food building, also opened in 1977 located between the Empress Lilly and The Pottery Chalet. It originally featured The Verandah Restaurant, which was a casual dining spot that was open for lunch and dinner. The restaurant had two adjoining rooms that housed a fast food restaurant, a confectioner’s shop, and other little stores over the years. During this period, Walt Disney World Village was still the closest place for guests who were staying on the resort at Disney hotels to shop and eat at.

Over the years, plans for a Disney city were developed that would make the Lake Buena Vista Shopping District more like Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. The ideas for the complex’s makeover were to make it more of a “downtown” area, with hotel rooms on one level and shops and restaurants on another level. Those plans never actually came to fruition and the area operated as Walt Disney World Village until 1989, when it was rebranded again as Disney Village Marketplace.

Shops & Restaurants
  • 24KT Precious Adornments
  • 2R’s – Read’n & Rite’n: In this time, the shop gained sponsorship from Western Publishing. It later relocated to the Village Gifts & Spirits building and was renamed 2R’s Reading and Riting
  • Artespana: Opened in 1986 in a new building as part of an expansion. Presented by Arribas Brothers, the shop sold artisan gifts from Spain. The name was changed to Eurospain in 1988.
  • Bath Parlor: Formerly known as Bath Parlour
  • Captain Jack’s Oyster Bar
  • Christmas Chalet: The year-round Christmas store opened in the former location of the Anniversary Room.
  • Country Address: Moved to a store between Shoe Time and Mickey & Co., but still sold clothes for women and juniors
  • Cristal Arts: Now presented by Arribas Brothers
  • Gourmet Pantry 
  • Empress Lilly Riverboat: Floating seafood restaurant
  • Great Southern Craft Company & Lillie Langtry’s Old-Fashioned Photo Studio: Sold supplies for needlepoint, quilting, latch hook, and macrame as well as other handcrafts and household items. In the photo studio, guests could pose for old-time photos.
  • Mickey & Co.: Sponsored by J.G. Hook, this store sold Disney inspired clothing
  • Mickey’s Character Shop: 
  • It’s A Small World After All
  • Pottery Chalet
  • Resort Wear Unlimited: Leisure wear and swimwear store in the former home of Carolyn’s Couture
  • Sachet In: Replaced Pipe Dream, sold soaps and sachets next door to Bath Parlor
  • Sassy’s: Sold fashions for women and children in the location formerly known as Toys Fantastique
  • Shoe Time 
  • Sir Edward’s Haberdasher 
  • Toys Fantastique: Closed in 1988
  • Verandah Restaurant: Offered light fare such as soups and sandwiches
  • Village Ice Cream Parlour & Bake Shop: Bakery and ice cream shop located near Artespana
  • Village Gifts & Sundries: Featured Florida souvenirs and gifts; formerly The Apothecary
  • Village Restaurant & Lounge 
  • Windjammer Dock Shop 

Disney Village Marketplace (1989 – 1997)

In 1989, the Disney Village Marketplace was starting to make its way towards being a more character driven “Disney destination” and less of a community shopping district. The Character Shop, similar to Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Emporium, took over the area formerly inhabited by Port of Entry, Bath Parlor, Satchet In, and The Great Southern Craft Company.

During this period a significant portion of the undeveloped land surrounding the village, originally set aside for housing, was sold off and became The Crossroads Shopping Plaza.

Along with the new name the complex also added Pleasure Island, making it even more of a full tourist destination. On opening day, Pleasure Island consisted of two comedy clubs and four dance clubs: 8TRAX, BET Soundstage, Comedy Warehouse, Mannequins Dance Palace, Motion, Pleasure Island Jazz Company, Rock’n’Roll Beach Club and The Adventurers Club.

The intention of adding Pleasure Island to the village was to compete with the clubs at Church Street Station in downtown Orlando, in an effort to keep nightclub-aged visitors on Disney property instead of looking elsewhere for late night entertainment. However, the nightclub vibe of Pleasure Island was a bit of a clash with the more mature “resort town” feel that the village was known for, so quite a few changes had to be made in order to make the two sections of the complex come together.

Shops & Restaurants
  • 24KT Precious Adornments: Closed in 1997
  • 2R’s Reading and Riting
  • The Art of Disney: Replaced Village Gifts & Sundries and sold animation art and other Disney works
  • Captain Jack’s Oyster Bar
  • Character Kids Tower: The former Captain’s Tower was converted into a character clothes and costume shop for kids
  • Christmas Chalet
  • The City: Trendy fashions for men sold in what used to be It’s A Small World After All
  • Donald’s Dairy Dip: The new name for the Village Ice Cream Parlour
  • Discover: A nature gift shop located in the original location of 2R’s Reading and Riting
  • EUROSPAIN: The new name for Cristal Arts by Arribas Brothers
  • Fulton’s Crab House: Formerly known as the Empress Lilly
  • Goofy’s Grill: Quick service restaurant featuring burgers, fries and shakes
  • Gourmet Pantry: By 1996, this was considered both a grocery store and a restaurant. The restaurant portion offered pastires, coffee, salads and sandwiches
  • Harrington Bay Clothiers: Opened in 1992, the store sold men’s fashions from popular brands like Polo, Nautica and Tommy Hilfiger
  • Mickey’s Character Shop: This shop closed when World of Disney opened
  • Resortwear Unlimited 
  • Summer Sands: Replaced Village Gifts as the go-to spot for Florida souvenirs and gifts, took over the former home of Toys Fantastique
  • Team Mickey’s Athletic Club: When the sports shop opened in 1987, it took over the spot formerly inhabited by Shoe Time, Country Address, and Mickey and Co.
  • Toys Fantastic: opened in 1992 as a toy store sponsored by Mattel.
  • World of Disney: Disney superstore that replaced Mickey’s Character Shop
  • You and Me Kid: Named after a Disney Channel original show, the kids’ clothing and toy store opened in 1988.

Downtown Disney Marketplace (1997 – 2015)

In 1997, Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island were combined and the entire area was renamed Downtown Disney Marketplace. The complex was also expanded with another new addition called The West Side. Many of the Disney character-centric establishments that had existed in the marketplace in prior years started to get replaced with outside business including the addition of a large McDonald’s restaurant and a LEGO store taking over Pluto’s Dog House. Chef Mickey’s was moved to The Contemporary resort and a Rainforest Cafe opened up in its place and the Empress Lilly was sold to Levy Restaurants, who renamed it Fulton’s Crab House and removed the recognizable smokestacks and red water wheel to make it stationary. Other additions to the Marketplace included a carousel and train ride for kids, a huge Virgin Megastore, indoor amusement park DisneyQuest, and La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil.

Due to low attendance, Pleasure Island became free to enter in 2004. While there was formerly a cover charge to enter the nightlife complex altogether, guests would now only have to pay to enter select clubs. Unfortunately this change only resulted in a surge of younger clientele entering the area, which was pretty undesirable for adults who were old enough to party. By 2008, all of the clubs in Pleasure Island were officially closed to the public.

In the post Pleasure Island phase of the Marketplace, between 2008 and 2015, the abandoned park of the complex was to be rebuilt as Hyperion Wharf. The 20th century wharf-themed area would have featured all new restaurants and shopping locations. However, the plans for Hyperion Wharf were completely scrapped when the decision to rebrand Downtown Disney Marketplace as Disney Springs was made.

Shops & Restaurants
  • Arribas Brothers: Formerly known as EUROSpain
  • The Art of Disney
  • Basin: Soaps and other bath products
  • Captain Jack’s Restaurant: Captain Jack’s Oyster Bar was renamed in 2000
  • Disney Tails: Pet accessories shop
  • Disney’s Days of Christmas: opened in the spot previously occupied by Team Mickey’s Athletic Club
  • Disney’s Pin Traders: With the emerging popularity of pin trading, this store opened in the former Character Kids Tower in 2002.
  • Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories: Scrapbook shop that took over 2R’s Reading and Riting
  • Fulton’s Crab House 
  • Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop
  • Goofy’s Candy Co.: Opened along with Pooh Corner in the former home of Summer Sands, The City, and Resortwear unlimited
  • LEGO Imagination Center 
  • McDonald’s
  • Mickey’s Mart: A “$10 or Less” store inspired by a store of the same name in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom
  • Mickey’s Pantry: Kitchen and homegoods store that replaced Gourmet Pantry
  • Once Upon A Toy 
  • Pooh Corner: Replaced Disney Tails
  • Rainforest Cafe
  • Summer Sands: Moved to a new location near Arribas Brothers, was replaced by Tren-D in 2009.
  • Team Mickey Athletic Club: Relocated to the former home of Mickey’s Character Shop
  • Wolfgang Puck Express
  • World of Disney 

Disney Springs (2015 – Now)

The most extreme makeover to the Downtown Disney Marketplace was announced in 2013, and officially became the Disney Springs we know today in 2015. The renovation, which took a full three years to complete, brought more than 150 new shops and restaurants to the complex, almost doubling it in size.

The overhaul was more than just a new name and new businesses. Disney Springs was redesigned with a full backstory (more on that here) tying together four districts: The Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side.

Town Center is the most recent addition to the complex, and acts as the “town’s” central business district. The outdoor shopping center features all the hottest stores and restaurants, but blends in with the rest of the Disney Springs ambiance with 1920’s Spanish Revival inspired architecture.

Current Shops & Restaurants
  • ALEX AND ANI: Apparel & Accessories
  • American Threads: Apparel & Accessories
  • Amorette’s Patisserie: Bakery
  • Anthropologie: Apparel & Accessories
  • Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza: American Cuisine
  • Chicken Guy!: American Cuisine
  • Coach
  • Coca Cola Store & Rooftop Bar: Apparel & Accessories / Beverages
  • Columbia Sportswear: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • D-Luxe Burger: American Cuisine
  • The Disney Corner: Apparel & Accessories / Camera & Media / Gifts & Housewares / Mickey Ears
  • Edward Beiner Purveyor of Fine Eyewear
  • Ever After Jewelry Co. & Accessories
  • Everything But Water: Apparel & Accessories
  • Francesca’s: Apparel & Accessories
  • Free People: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Frontera Cocina: Mexican Cuisine
  • Johnny Was: Apparel & Accessories
  • Johnston & Murphy: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Kate Spade New York: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Kiehl’s: Health & Beauty
  • Kipling: Apparel & Accessories
  • Lacoste: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Levi’s: Apparel & Accessories
  • Lilly Pulitzer: Apparel & Accessories
  • Lucky Brand: Apparel & Accessories
  • Luxury of Time by Diamonds International: Apparel & Accessories
  • L’Occitane En Provence: Gifts & Housewares / Health & Beauty
  • MAC Cosmetics: Health & Beauty
  • Melissa Shoes: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Na Hoku – Hawaii’s Finest Jewler Since 1924: Apparel & Accessories
  • Oakley: Apparel & Accessories
  • Origins: Health & Beauty
  • Orlando Harley-Davidson: Apparel & Accessories / Art & Collectibles / Gifts & Housewares
  • Pandora Jewelry: Apparel & Accessories
  • The Polite Pig: American Cuisine
  • Sephora: Gifts & Housewares / Health & Beauty
  • Shore: Apparel & Accessories
  • Sperry: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Sprinkles: Bakery
  • Stance: Apparel & Accessories
  • Stargazers Bar: Spirits
  • The Store at Planet Hollywood: Apparel & Accessories / Gifts & Housewares
  • Sugarboo & Co.: Apparel & Accessories / Art & Collectibles / Gifts & Housewares
  • Superdry: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Trophy Room: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Tumi: Apparel & Accessories
  • Tommy Bahama: Apparel & Accessories / Gifts & Housewares / Shoes
  • Ugg: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Under Armour Brand House: Apparel & Accessories
  • Uniqlo: Apparel & Accessories
  • UNODE50: Apparel & Accessories / Art & Collectibles
  • Vera Bradley: Apparel & Accessories
  • Volco: Apparel & Accessories
  • Zara: Apparel & Accessories

The Marketplace brings the 1930s American Craftsmen style to life and provides a place for kids to let loose a various attractions like Build-A-Dino and the Marketplace Train Express. This area features the most original elements of the Downtown Disney complex.

Current Shops & Restaurants
  • 4 Rivers Cantina Barbacoa Food Truck: Latin / Mexican Cuisine
  • AristoCrepesAmerican Cuisine
  • The Art of DisneyArt & Collectibles
  • B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co.American Cuisine
  • BasinGifts & Housewares / Health & Beauty
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: Apparel & Accessories
  • Build-A-DinoCustomizable Stuffed Animals / Inside T-REX
  • Crystal Arts by Arribas BrothersArt & Collectibles / Gifts & Housewares
  • The Daily PoutineAmerican Cuisine
  • Dino Store at T-REXApparel & Accessories
  • Disney Photopass Service StudioCamera & Media
  • Disney’s Days of ChristmasApparel & Accessories / Gifts & Housewares / Mickey Ears / Toys & Plush
  • Disney’s Pin TradersMagicBands / Mickey Ears / Pins / Vinylmation
  • Disney’s Wonderful World of MemoriesCamera & Media / Gifts & Housewares / Mickey Ears
  • Dockside MargaritasSpirits
  • Earl of SandwichAmerican Cuisine
  • Face Painting by Enjoy Your FaceArt & Collectibles
  • Florida Snow CompanySnow Cones / Desserts
  • Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate ShopFood
  • Goofy’s Candy CompanyFood / Spirits
  • Happy HoundArt & Collectibles / Toys & Plush
  • Initial RingsApparel & Accessories
  • The LEGO StoreToys & Plush
  • Lefty’s – The Left Hand StoreGifts & Housewares
  • Marketplace Carousel
  • Marketplace Co-OpApparel & Accessories / Art & Collectibles
  • Marketplace StageStage Shows / Concerts / Live Entertainment
  • Marketplace Train Express
  • Mickey’s PantryFood / Gifts & Housewares / Spirits
  • Once Upon A ToyApparel & Accessories / Toys & Plush
  • Pearl FactoryApparel & Accessories
  • Rainforest CafeAmerican Cuisine
  • Rainforest Cafe Retail VillageApparel & Accessories / Toys & Plush
  • Silhouette Portraits: Camera & Media / Art & Collectibles
  • The Spice and Tea ExchangeFood / Gifts & Housewares
  • Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire by ILMXLAB and The Void
  • Star Wars Trading PostApparel & Accessories / Toys & Plush
  • Super Hero Headquarters: Apparel & Accessories / Art & Collectibles / Toys & Plush
  • T-REX: American Cuisine
  • Tren-DApparel & Accessories
  • Wetzel’s Pretzels: American Cuisine
  • Wolfgang Puck ExpressAmerican Cuisine
  • World of DisneyApparel & Accessories / Gifts & Housewares / Mickey Ears / Camera & Media

The West Side addition was inspired by a 1950s Exposition Center, with a large variety of restaurants, shops and attractions.

Current Shops & Restaurants
  • Aerophile: The World Leader in Balloon Flight
  • AMC Movies: Dine-In Movie Theater
  • AMC – MacGuffins: Seafood / American Cuisine
  • Bongos Cuban CafeCuban Cuisine
  • Curl by Sammy Duvall: Apparel & Accessories
  • Disney Food Trucks: Fantasy Fare & Springs Street Tacos
  • DisneyStyle: Apparel & Accessories
  • Disney’s Candy Cauldron: Food
  • Exposition Park: Live Entertainment
  • Fit2Run: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Haagen-Dazs: American Cuisine / Ice Cream
  • House of Blues: Concerts / Live Entertainment
  • House of Blues Company Store: Apparel & Accessories
  • House of Blues Restaurant & Bar: American Cuisine
  • Jaleo by Jose Andres (COMING SOON): Seafood / Spanish Cuisine
  • Memory Lanes: Apparel & Accessories / Art & Collectibles / Gifts & Housewares
  • Pele Soccer: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Pop GalleryArt & Collectibles
  • Something Silver: Apparel & Accessories
  • Sosa Family Cigars: Gifts & Housewares
  • Splitsville: Luxury Bowling / Live Entertainment
  • Splitsville Dining Room: American Cuisine
  • Star Wars Galactic Outpost: Apparel & Accessories / Art & Collectibles / Toys & Plush
  • Sunglass Icon: Apparel & Accessories
  • Vintage Amphicar & Italian Water Taxi Tours: At The BOATHOUSE
  • Yesake: Japanese Cuisine

The Landing replaced the Pleasure Island area, acting as the fictional town’s transportation hub and marina.

Current Shops & Restaurants
  • The Art of Shaving: Apparel & Accessories / Health & Beauty
  • The Basket at Wine Bar George: Small Plates & Shareable Cuisine
  • The BOATHOUSE: Seafood / Steakhouse / American Cuisine
  • Chapel Hats: Apparel & Accessories
  • Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’: American Cuisine
  • Cookes of Dublin: Irish Cuisine
  • The Edison: American Cuisine / Live Entertainment
  • Enzo’s Hideaway: Italian Cuisine
  • Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC: Bakery
  • Erwin Pearl: Apparel & Accessories
  • Eyecatchers: Art & Collectibles / Gifts & Housewares
  • Filthy Rich: Apparel & Accessories
  • The Ganachery: Food / Spirits
  • Havaianas: Apparel & Accessories  / Shoes
  • Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar: American Cuisine
  • Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante: Italian Cuisine
  • Morimoto Asia: Seafood / Sushi / Japanese /Asian Cuisine
  • Paddlefish: Seafood / American Cuisine
  • Paradiso 37, Taste of the Americas: American / Latin Cuisine / Live Entertainment
  • Pizza Ponte: Italian Cuisine
  • Raglan Road: Irish Cuisine / Live Entertainment
  • Rinse Bath & Body Co.: Health & Beauty
  • Sanuk: Apparel & Accessories / Shoes
  • Savannah Bee Company: Health & Beauty
  • Shop For Ireland: Gifts & Housewares
  • STK Orlando: Steakhouse / American Cuisine
  • Sublime Gifts and Finds: Arts & Collectibles / Gifts & Housewares
  • Swings N’ Things – The Hammock Experts: Gifts & Housewares
  • Terralina Crafted Italian: Italian Cuisine
  • Vivoli Il Gelato: Italian Desserts / Ice Cream
  • Wine Bar George: Wine & Spirits

Want more Disney History? Check out this post on the Evolution of Magic Kingdom’s Storybook Circus! Click around the Tickets2You blog for more fun facts and interesting tidbits on your favorite theme parks!

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