If you’ve never been to Downtown Disney aka Disney Springs, I suggest making it part of your next trip. I like the relaxed pace I adopt there, the chance to see the Disney touches and creativity of outside businesses. Then there’s the variety of shopping and dining – it’s all very low-key, “Disney down time.”
But if you’ve never visited, where do you start? Here are my top suggestions, with alternates, for things to do for a first timer at Downtown Disney.
Downtown Disney Marketplace or West Side
If you’re into Disney collectibles, make sure you stop by The Art of Disney. On display, and for sale, are Disney collector items in 2- and 3-D. Sculptures, prints, cells, figurines, crystal, lithographs. There are straightforward Disney representations, and re-inventions of classic characters and icons by various artists working in different media.
Although it’s waaayyy on the other side of Market Place, D-Street earns my vote for a first-timer visit, especially if you like Vinylmation figures. It’s THE place for Vinylmation, and guests can customize their own figures. The store is filled with Disney details, including a hidden Goofy, and props from the closed-but-not-forgotten Adventurers Club, the interactive Disney experience at Pleasure Island.
Goofy’s Candy Company, DTD Marketplace
Not just a candy store, this is a candy factory! At Goofy’s Candy Company guests get in on the action and create their own confections. You can customize an apple, rice krispie treats, gingerbread or fudge cookies, marshmallows, or pretzel rods. Or order up a Goofy’s glacier with a customized cup.
And, because it offers such a variety of sugar-rush sweetness, be sure to pick out a back or two to take home. Maybe by creating your own mix of candies.
LEGO Imagination Center, DTD Marketplace
The LEGO Imagination Center, which just re-opened in DTD after a substantial remodeling and expansion, is a hands-on creative center for LEGOs in addition to a store for LEGO building bricks, kits and related merchandise. There’s an outdoor play area for kids, which includes some racing tracks, and play and design areas inside the store. A new room will offer LEGO classes and house parties.
The new Center now features even more cool LEGO models in addition to its water serpent that emerges from Village Lake and the tourist family. Look for Disney scenes such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the “Sleeping Beauty” dragon, and Buzz and Woody from “Toy Story.”
Raglan Road, Pleasure Island/Hyperion Wharf or Earl of Sandwich, DTD Marketplace
As DTD is as much a dining destination in its current state as a shopping one, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. And dare I say it? The food at DTD restaurants, especially quick service, is as good if not better than many Disney counterparts.
For table-service, I’m a fan of Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant. Not only does Raglan Road serve Irish Whiskey (they offer both Irish and Protestant brands, yay!) and beer as a proper pub does, but some fine food as well. The soda bread and dipping sauce is a favorite starter, and the menu offers contemporary takes on Irish fare that elevates the dishes. Then there’s the live entertainment, with Irish music and dance that invites diners to join in the fun.
For a first-timer’s quick service option, try Earl of Sandwich. It’s earned a loyal Disney guest following for its fresh food and generous portions for the low prices. And I can personally vouch that it’s chocolate brownies are better than those found Disney counter service. (Extensive taste testing for research purposes, you know.)
World of Disney, DTD Marketplace
World of Disney is the flagship character store for DTD, the one that anchors the area as a destination for Disney merchandise. Inside, you’ll find just a little bit of everything, including t-shirts and other apparel, mugs and food, pins, toys, watches, collectibles. It’s also the home to DTD’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
As with other Disney stores, “look up, look down and look around” is a good rule of thumb for World of Disney and its details. The exterior, for example, features a Stitch icon that squirts water and has many sculptures for photo opportunities, from princesses to pirate skeletons. Inside, guests can check out the famous Disney characters that are on display near the ceiling. And one of my favorite areas in World of Disney is the Villains Room, where watches, jewelry and collectibles are sold.
Recommendations for a First Timer at Downtown Disney?
These are just some of my idiosyncratic choices for a first visit, as compared to Allie’s “To Downtown Disney or Not?” And I’m appalled – appalled, I tell you – at how I left off Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba,” DisneyQuest, “Characters in Flight” balloon ride (because of the extra ticket/admission fees), other specialty stores (e.g. Disney’s Days of Christmas store, Magic Masters, etc), and the varied snack and dining options.
Of course, if you’d like to conduct a more extensive exploration of DTD, you might try enjoy “Spending the Day at Downtown Disney.”
What are your recommendations for the Downtown Disney first-time guest? Let us know in the comment box below.