Disney Springs for the Holidaysby Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
With the Holiday Season underway around the Walt Disney World Resort, and with many folks now focusing on Holiday Shopping, it is a natural time to take a look at Disney Springs for its "First-Ever Holidays Celebration." Even with its nearly complete transformation over the past several years from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs, it remains free to park (even in the new garages), explore, and enjoy a great deal of entertainment options; but, of course, shopping, dining, valet parking, and some entertainment venues still cost extra!
Though Disney does not call Disney Springs a mall, as you might expect (or hope for), Disney Springs has announced that "merchants throughout the retail, dining and entertainment district are taking part in that great American tradition of holiday shopping: Black Friday" on November 25. In fact, the sales and promotions will continue on Saturday, November 26 as well. All stores will open at 8 a.m. on both days. Visit DisneyWorld.com/BlackFriday for a list of participating locations. Disney Vacation Club Members and Passholders should also be sure to ask about discounts, most of which may not be combined with Black Friday discounts. Visit the Disney Vacation Club website or Passholder website for more information.
Last week, I had an opportunity to talk to Walt Disney World Ambassador Nathaniel Palma about some of the new offerings at Disney Springs and around Walt Disney World.
Nathaniel Palma, one of the Walt Disney World Ambassadors, talks about some of the new offerings for the Holidays at Disney Springs, and a few other places around the Resort. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
As longtime visitors may recall, what has now grown into the 120 acre Disney Springs began back in 1975, with the opening of the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village near the intersection of Buena Vista Drive and Hotel Plaza Boulevard along the south shore of Village Lake (which is sometimes also referred to as Lake Buena Vista). So we will begin our exploration of the Disney Springs Holidays Celebration in that area, now known as the Marketplace (the eastern-most part of Disney Springs, immediately across Hotel Plaza Boulevard from the non-Disney operated but on-property hotels).
The Marketplace is where many of the Disney-owned and operated retail locations are located, including World of Disney, Tren-D, Art of Disney, Twenty Eight and Main, and Once Upon a Toy. All are, of course, decorated for the Holidays and stocked with Holiday themed merchandise. Indeed, the Disney's Days of Christmas store is decorated for the Holidays year-round. Immediately next to it at the far end of Marketplace is a holiday themed sculpture that many guests use to create holiday themed photos and cards too.
The Disney's Days of Christmas store is near one of this year's new Holiday highlights at Disney Springs, the "Christmas Tree Trail." Enter the trail from the marked path next to the splash fountain between Once Upon a Toy/Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Earl of Sandwich. Built along the former Downtown Disney Marketplace bus stops, the trail features fifteen trees with distinct Disney theming and occasional Disney "snow."
Enter the new Christmas Tree Trail just to the east of the traditional Christmas Tree next to Earl of Sandwich near Once Upon a Toy/Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. A DJ often entertains in this area too. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Enjoy a full (spoiler-alert) walking tour of the new Christmas Tree Trail in the area adjacent to the former Downtown Disney bus stop in the Marketplace area of Disney Springs. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
Across from World of Disney, along Village Lake, children of all ages can meet Santa Claus in his Chalet, daily from noon to 10:00 p.m. On Black Friday, November 25, Santa will be available as early as 8 a.m.
Amorette's Patisserie, located just west of World of Disney (where the Town Center approaches Marketplace), has introduced several treats for the holidays. It has added both a new multi-layered holiday cake and new Disney character themed pastries to its menu for the Holidays.
The next area of Disney Springs west of the Marketplace is now known as The Landing. Formerly the home of the clubs of Pleasure Island, The Landing is now home to retail shops and many of the new restaurants opened in the past approximate eighteen months including: The Boathouse, Morimoto Asia, Art Smith's Homecoming Kitchen, and STK Orlando. The Indiana Jones-themed Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar is also located here, nearby to Raglan Road. All have varying levels of holiday decor and all will welcome guests throughout all of the Holidays Season. As the New Year approaches, those locations will soon be joined by two re-imagined restaurants: Paddlefish (formerly Fulton's Crab House) and Planet Hollywood Observatory (which sometimes is considered part of the Town Center area which we will discuss below)
The Landing area is the launch site for the Characters in Flight balloon ride. As it rises up to 300 feet, it is easy to see the future site of Wine Bar George next door to Raglan Road and the ongoing re-imagining of Fulton's Crab House into Paddlefish. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Having broken ground earlier this month, Master Sommelier George Miliotes expects Wine Bar George to open next door to Raglan Road in The Landing area in time for the 2017 Holidays. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Planet Hollywood Observatory says the new restaurant "will be reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century observatory with a modern design aesthetic, while the interior’s refurbished upholstery, spherical planet-shaped lighting fixtures and stylish finishing will create a welcoming atmosphere for fans to celebrate a new generation of superstar entertainers." Representatives say that the re-imagined restaurant is expected to open in December.
Under the dome of the re-imagined Planet Hollywood Observatory, diners will be able to view video projections of the "stars." Dining under celestial stars will also be available on a newly constructed patio on the outside of the dome. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Celebrity Chef and television personality Guy Fieri created the "Turkey Pic-a-nic Sandwich" which includes barbecue potato chips on the sandwich as part of the new menu for Planet Hollywood Observatory. It was quite tasty! Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Holiday decorations are displayed throughout The Landing area as well. The performance venue next to the Amphicar Launch at The Boathouse has already been home to MAC Cosmetic's holiday-themed Nutcracker Sweet (yes, it was spelled that way rather than Suite) show and more holiday entertainment is expected throughout the Season.
Next door to Planet Hollywood Observatory (in the transitional area to the new Town Center) is the new Coca-Cola Store which offers plenty of gift-buying options and an opportunity on the roof to purchase Coca-Cola beverages from around the world (try the Beverly from Italy, for example: I have and, while, on its own is not my taste, I found it mixed very nicely into a concoction that included all fifteen other international flavors offered as part of a flight called "Tastes of the World"). The Coca-Cola Polar bear has taken up residence on the second floor and is available for photos daily (photos which can be added to your Disney PhotoPass account).
Continuing along to the west, the next area of Disney Springs was the Westside addition to Downtown Disney back in the mid-1990s. In connection with its transition to Disney Springs, themed "abandoned" supports for an elevated railway were added. These have all been decorated for the Holidays and, in addition to providing some much-needed shade during the day, at night are often home to free live entertainers. The new Food Truck Courtyard also has holiday decor and nighttime entertainment.
As we reported in this week's Walt Disney World Update, on our Facebook page and Twitter, after receiving FAA clearance earlier this month, just last week Disney debuted a major new free nighttime Holiday entertainment offering at Disney Springs: "Starbright Holidays - An Intel Collaboration" featuring 300 Shooting Star show drones equipped with LED lights capable of numerous color combinations flying over Village Lake synchronized with holiday music and narration. The show is scheduled to be performed nightly at 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. over Village Lake between Disney Springs and Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort.
Scheduled to perform nightly at 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. through January 8, 2017, "Starbright Holidays - An Intel Collaboration" features 300 show drones equipped with LED lights capable of numerous color combinations which fly over Village Lake between Disney Springs and Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort in formations synchronized with holiday music and narration. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
After receiving FAA clearance earlier in the month, Disney Springs previewed "Starbright Holidays - An Intel Collaboration" for invited press and the public on November 16. MousePlanet broadcast that preview performance Live on our Facebook page and this is a replay of video of the entire show. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.
The most recent addition to Disney Springs is the Town Center which opened back in May. Built in former parking lots south of The Landing (formerly, Pleasure Island) and Marketplace, the Town Center features numerous retail stores, restaurants (which, right now include Blaze Pizza and D-Luxe Burger, with more to come), Sprinkles Cupcakes and free entertainment. The Town Center stretches from the newly built (and only recently named) "Market Building" (which we previously called the "Arcade of Shops") to the east all the way to the Lego Store to near the World of Disney in the (not-to-be-confused-with) Marketplace. It runs along the stunning "springs" imagineered as the "Source of Inspiration" for all of Disney Springs.
Troian Bellisario (on the right) was on hand for a Holiday Champagne toasting the new Origins store at Disney Springs Town Center. She currently stars in the Freeform TV Network's "Pretty Little Liars." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The Disney Springs Town Center store is one of only a handful of Levi's stores worldwide to include Levi's Tailor Shop featuring custom embroidery, tailoring, hemming and repairs. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Just last week, Disney announced this week's opening of the D-Living Home Decor Store in Town Center. Disney says "D-Living is the ultimate home decor store for Disney fans and kids of every age. In this dynamic location, guests will find a curated assortment of Disney-themed products and more that changes with each season. For the holiday season, this signature store will look and feel just like an inviting home on Christmas morning. In every room, and around every corner, guests will discover a charming selection of Disney-inspired furnishings, housewares, and decor sure to make every home magical and bright." D-Living is located adjacent to UNOde50.
ALL FOUR AREAS ACTIVITY
Disney has also announced an activity named "Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt" which is scheduled to begin on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Disney says that this will be a "fun-for-the-whole-family scavenger hunt-style activity" through all four areas of Disney Springs. Upon completion of the activity, "participating locations" will give participants a "limited-edition completer button." Look for signs around Disney Springs that likely will indicate where to begin and conclude the Hunt.
Disney Springs has opened two “smart” garages where open parking spaces are identified by digital signs outside and green lights over available parking places. The Orange Garage is directly connected by newly built ramps to Interstate 4 and can also be accessed by Buena Vista Drive; it has two pedestrian exits: one on the Westside near Splitsville and the Disney Springs AMC 24 Theaters and one a little further to the east near the Fork-and-Dine side of the AMC 24 Theaters, the Characters in Flight Balloon, the bridge to The Landing, Planet Hollywood Observatory and The Coca-Cola Store. The Lime Garage can only be accessed from Buena Vista Drive and its sole pedestrian exit is in Town Center and fairly close to World of Disney. Disney Springs also is connected to Disney resort hotels by bus, and to several nearby Disney Resorts that offer watercraft service (Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and Port Orleans). After 4 p.m., one-way bus service is also available from all four Theme Parks to Disney Springs (no direct return service is offered at this time). Disney Springs is open daily from 10 a.m. until midnight; it opens at 8 a.m. on Black Friday, November 25, and Saturday, November 26.