Disney Springs is a shopping, dining and entertainment mecca in the shadows of Walt Disney World’s theme parks.
But it is not just that.
It’s a melting pot of, not just America, but of the world.
Stroll along the wide boulevards of the outdoor-indoor complex and you’ll hear Spanish and French, Chinese and Portuguese, and accents from all over the United States.
You can read the complex’s website in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese, too.
Visitors come from everywhere.
You’ll see little girls in shiny princess dresses, boys wearing Pluto ears, and adults in T-shirts and sweatshirts from Key West to Alaska.
Restaurants at Disney Springs span the globe, too.
An Asian restaurant serves dim sum and egg rolls, while a Mexican one offers carne asada. A large Brazilian restaurant serves skewered meat, while a French bakery specializes in fancy cakes, and an Italian trattoria in paninis and handmade pastas.
The Polite Pig offers Southern barbecue pork and chicken, The House of Blues combines beer, blues and BBQ.
The 69 restaurants and cafes in the complex sell pizza, fried chicken, churros, poutine, burgers, donuts and everything else imaginable.
By far, the most popular eatery when we were there was Gideon’s Bakehouse. At least 200 people stood patiently in line to wait for one person to come out so one more could go in.
The place specializes in small-batch “from scratch” cookies, weighing what they claim are almost a half- pound. The cost is $6 to $6.50 per cookie.
Most people probably flock to Disney Springs for the food, or to the movies at a dine-in AMC theater, or to see a spectacular show at Cirque du Soleil, which has its own soaring building there.
But it’s just as much fun to watch the people enjoying themselves in a pleasant environment.
On a recent Saturday, thousands of people of all ages mingled together along the boulevards, in the restaurants and shops. Despite the numbers, it all seemed very orderly. Very civil.
It was crowded, yes, but the crowds flowed, escalators took throngs to and from giant parking lots that are color-coded so visitors could remember where they parked.
“No one organizes better than Disney,” one man said, watching the processions. “That’s Disney’s specialty.”
The area Disney Springs now covers along Lake Buena Vista has evolved over the years. It started out as an area of nightlife, with bars and restaurants attracting mostly adults.
Then it expanded to a place for families, too, with the movie theater, restaurants, boat rides and even a giant record store. The record store is gone now, but the area has Splitsville Luxury Lanes for upscale bowling, a giant balloon ride and little colorful vintage sports cars that float along the lake.
A newer area has been added over the years to include all sorts of stores. Coach, Columbia Sportswear, Under Armour, Lacoste, The Lego Store, Star Wars Trading Post, Anthropologie, Tommy Bahama, Kate Spade New York, and even a Ron Jon Surf Shop are among the 97 places to shop.
For kids, there’s a giant Disney store, candy and ice cream shops, an M&M store, a soccer store, a Super Hero Headquarters and the Dino-Store at T-Rex, featuring a 15-foot T-Rex and discovery zones for dino enthusiasts.
One shop sells chocolate-covered apples sporting Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse ears.
Many buildings are Mediterranean, with red tiled roofs. One along the lake looks like a rustic boathouse on a working wharf. Old-fashioned street lamps light up at night. Musicians entertain on a stage looking out over the lake.
The boulevards get more crowded as the day progresses, as babies nap in strollers and tired shoppers rest on park benches.
On the day we visited, bubbles mysteriously started floating over kids in Mickey Mouse ears, around teens snapping selfies and adults clutching shopping bags. Bubbles breezed across shop windows, spun overhead.
No one seemed to know where they were coming from, but everyone watched as they sailed lazily toward the sky. They made me think of a sign I had seen that day in a shop window: Be as happy everywhere else as you were here today.
Where: Disney Springs, 1486 Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista
When: Hours vary, but most days are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Info: DisneySprings.com offers an interactive map, visitor and parking information and entertainment details.
Published February 14, 2024