Disney Springs originally opened as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village in 1975 and has evolved into an entertainment complex with over 150 shops and restaurants. However, the district is so much more than an open air market. The extensive expansions and renovations have made the sprawling marketplace a Disney attraction all on its own, complete with a backstory and theme just like the fictional lands found inside the parks. The legend of Disney Springs explains that the land was settled in the mid-1800s by a cattle rancher who first discovered the town’s natural springs. Each of the four “neighborhoods” in the complex reflects the function and time period that match its history.
Town Center is the newest addition to Disney Springs and serves as the “town’s” central business district. You could consider it to be like any other shopping mall, showcasing the hottest stores and restaurants, but the architecture with a strong 1920s Spanish Revival influence creates a unique shopping experience that flows perfectly with the Springs’ overall immersive theme. As guests explore the shops, they’ll hear music coming from the Springs Overlook. The outdoor alcove hosts 30-minute performances throughout the day, providing a peaceful soundtrack to a day of shopping.
The Marketplace is reminiscent of the American Craftsman style from the 1930s. This area offers a place for kids to play, and you could easily spend the whole day experiencing everything the original portion of Disney Springs has to offer. Kids can showcase their creativity by building a one-of-a-kind dinosaur complete with clothes, accessories, and unique sound bites at the T-Rex Cafe’s Build-A-Dino shop, sponsored by Build-A-Bear Workshop or get an enchanting makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the Once Upon A Toy Store. Girls can choose between a Fairy Tale Princess, Disney Diva or Color Star makeover, while boys can be transformed into regal knights. In addition to the fun shops, the Marketplace has two attractions perfect for the little ones, the Carousel, and the Marketplace Train Express. The nostalgic carousel, hand painted to feature familiar scenes from around Disney Springs, has the standard ponies as well as stationary carriages and spinning teacups, a nod to The Mad Hatter ride at Magic Kingdom. Both rides are $3 per ride. For family fun at no cost, hit the Marketplace stage. The open-air venue hosts special events, activities, and live performances including full band concerts and DJ dance parties for kids every day.
West Side is inspired by a 1950s Exposition Center, with a plethora of entertaining attractions. La Nouba is the resident Cirque Du Soleil show located in West Side. The stunning display of gymnasts, acrobats, and other amazing performers in the contemporary circus has been performed over 7,000 times since its arrival to Disney Springs in 1998. The show’s title is derived from the French “Faire la Nouba”, which means live it up. Aerophile, formerly named Characters in Flight, is an 8-10 minute tethered air balloon ride that allows guests to get a 360 view of Walt Disney World from 400 feet in the air. Rides cost $20 for adults and $15 for kids. For luxury indoor experiences, head to the AMC Fork & Screen Dine-In Theater or Splitsville Lanes. At The AMC Theater, you can enjoy food and cocktails from the comfort of your theater recliner, with a personal call button and seat-side service. One of the 24 theaters is an enhanced theater experience, with floor to ceiling screen, 3D technology, and higher than HD resolution and sounds. Splitsville is the modern spin on a retro bowling alley. In addition to more than 30 lanes to bowl, there’s billiards, bars, live entertainment, and an indoor/outdoor dining area. In keeping with the World Fair theme, Exposition Park hosts a group of food trucks and live music daily. The food trucks that can be found in the park are Fantasy Fare (theme park food), Springs’ Street Tacos, and World Showcase of Flavors, which serves sandwiches inspired by the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. The music varies from contemporary bands, DJs, and freestyle rappers. For more live music, check out Sunshine Highline. The abandoned railway track provides a performance space for both exotic and classic musicians, ranging from didgeridoo to saxophone.
The Landing, formerly known as Pleasure Island, is the fictional town’s transportation hub and marina. The newest attraction to experience in this area is the Vintage Amphicar Tour. Board a 1960s amphicar at the Boathouse to begin a 20-minute tour of the Springs. For extra special tours, guests can take the Venezia Champagne Cruise, which is a 30 or 60-minute tour complete with chocolate covered strawberries and a champagne toast or the Venezia Wine Tasting Cruise, where guests indulge in hor d’oeurves and award-winning wines served in a complimentary souvenir wine glass. On land, you can enjoy live music at Waterview Park or the Raglan Road Patio. Waterview Park is a miniature amphitheater overlooking Lake Buena Vista, with entertainment ranging from DJs to acoustic guitarists. Raglan Road provides the expected Irish tunes and energetic jigs performed by the Raglan Road dancers as well as musicians singing popular ballads.
Each fully imagined area of the Springs works together to create an overall experience that matches the creativity and imagination inside the Disney World parks, making Disney Springs an all-day attraction of its own. For more ideas of what to do at Disney Springs, check out these Happy Hour hotspots!