Have a Coke and a smile at Disney Springsby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
The Disney theme parks and Coca-Cola have had a long relationship dating back to the very beginning. Starting way back on July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened with the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner on Main Street U.S.A.—and since then, Coke products have been the mainstay official beverage at the Disney theme parks. We've all been fans of Club Cool at Epcot, which to this day delights soft drink fans with the chance to sample the world famous Beverly (more on that later).
The relationship between the two companies continues to grow in present day with Coca-Cola Store, a massive presence at Disney Springs. It's located in Town Center, not far from the Orange Parking Garage, behind the AMC Theater. It covers what would be a nice-sized city block and stands three stories tall, with two floors of merchandise and a sprawling roof deck bar.
You walk into the store and there's no doubt where you are. From the huge glass bubble chandelier that hangs overhead (made from recycled and repurposed Coca-Cola bottles) to the the familiar red-and-white logo as far as the eye can see, you have definitely entered a Coke lover's paradise. As per Coca-Cola, the architecture of the store is modeled after a 1920s bottling plant—hence the brick exterior and exposed brick walls in the store.
There's also a lot of gleaming glass, including a green glass-accented entry designed to remind you of the company's famous green glass bottle. There are elevators to take you up, but the fun way to go from floor to floor is the huge ramps that encircle the building. They're surrounded by glass that gives you great views of Disney Springs and the inside of the store, itself.
The highlights of the first floor are clothing-related and some great artistic pieces. There are, of course, tons of T-shirts in all colors and sizes, mostly bearing a simple Coca-Cola logo in that famous lettering. There are also tank tops, sweatshirts and those great "team" jerseys and crazy socks that are popular now (also check out the fun shoelaces). Prices run about what you'd expect at Walt Disney World in general. You can get a fairly simple T-shirt for $24.95, while a heavy hooded sweatshirt will run you $49.95.
After deciding how to enhance your wardrobe, you should take the winding ramp around the building, admire the view, and head up to the second floor. For me, this is where the fun is. Floor number two is where housewares reign, and there's a wide variety from which to choose. First, there are tons of glassware, some of which blare the Coke logo in neon colors, while others are far more subtle.
My favorite item at the store is a set of classic Coke glasses. Like the classic bottles the beverage comes in, the drinking glasses come in the same standard green glass—but their shape is upside-down from the bottles and are inverted, so that they grow wider as they get towards the top. There's the ribbed pattern around lower part of the glass, with the Coca-Cola logo etched towards the stop.
These drinking glasses evoke the old 1950s malt shop and are a conversation piece whenever we have people over for dinner (where we of course serve Coke products in the Coke glasses). The set goes for $19.95 at the store, and if that were my only option to purchase these, it's well worth the pricetag—but let me share a tip: If you have a Christmas Tree Shops retail store near your home, you can buy the same glasses for a dollar each.
In addition to glasses, the store also sells dozens of different styles of mugs.
Another unique item you can get is called Style My Coke. This reminds me of Vinylmation in some ways, because it features a standard Coke bottle, but which comes wrapped in many different guises, from languages, to geographical locations, to sports teams. These products provide a way to make a Coke bottle a souvenir of your trip or into something personal that you love.
For obvious reasons, glassware is the star here—but in terms of housewares, you can also get plates, bowls and serving dishes, all emblazoned with some version of the Coke logo, usually in the telltale red and white.
In terms of something a bit different, I'm also a big fan of the vintage-style signage they have for sale. These are replicas of actual Coke ads from the 1930s, '40s, '50s, and those more recent. A few standouts include wooden signs that could have hung in front of a Depression-era gas station, and those featuring 1950s pin-up girls. To date these a bit, a few of the signs had Coke advertised for 5 cents a bottle. Good luck finding that now.
This being Walt Disney World, of course there's plenty for the kids here. There are some great toys, like Coke trucks. More prevalent are a variety of items featuring the Coke mascot polar bear, made famous by those great commercials (picture animated polar bears sledding during the holidays). There's a ton of polar bear plush as well as comfy fleece pajamas (in both child and adult sizes). For a fun diversion, there's a meet-and-greet experience with a huge version of the bear on the second floor of the building. I believe he is seven feet tall, and you can pose with him in front of a variety of digital backgrounds (photos for sale, of course).
Another great item at the store, of which there is a large variety, is coin banks. My favorite is a huge plastic version of the green glass Coke bottle, with a slot to insert coins at the top (I had one of these for years, until my new puppy ate through the side—lesson to all: keep these away from your puppy). These also come in the guise of large and small Coke cans with a slot at the top and a stopper to remove your coins at the bottom. These are great for kids and for adults who want a place to throw their spare change at the end of the day.
I'd be remiss not to mention that if you want a quick gift or souvenir under five dollars, these are available all over the store. Finding a keychain, bottle opener, or refrigerator magnet as an inexpensive memento of your trip would not be difficult.
In terms of general merchandise, my one minor disappointment was the general lack of dual-branded items with both Disney and Coca-Cola (would have to have seen Mickey and Minnie swigging a Coke), but that's a minor quibble. The Coke-branded housewares are the star here, and that's how it should be.
As we get to the roof garden on the top level, we reach the Coca-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar, arguably the most unique and popular feature of the store (there was a line wrapped around the terrace the night I visited). Think Epcot's Club Cool on steroids (and without the free samples). There are over 100 different kinds of Coca-Cola products here for you to sample, from past and present (anyone remember Tab from the 1980s? They have it here). Options include sodas, waters, energy drinks, fruit juice, and more.
They also sell smoothies and ice cream floats, all featuring Coke products. There are alcoholic beverages served in the form of alcoholic smoothies. If you want a souvenir from up here, you can also buy your refreshing beverage in what they call specialty drinkware, which consists of either a crazy straw tumbler or a sipper cup. With these, you can get refills for only $1 each.
The most unique offerings here are their Tastes Around the World soda flights. The International tray, for only $8, is a sample of 16 different sodas from around the world, all made by Coke. Getting back to my Club Cool comment, this Epcot fixture has had free samples of the sodas of the world for years—but this is a chance to have them all in front of you at the same time so you can compare (and that sour Beverly from Italy—a joke people have played on their unsuspecting friends at Epcot—is included). For $8.50, there's the Float tray, a version with samples of eight different ice cream floats. Or for $14, choose the Combo tray and you can have them all.
On a nice day (or evening), the Disney Springs view from the terrace can't be beat, so this is great way to cap a visit to the store.
I wrote previously that Disney Springs' Town Center section was essentially a high-end mall that would be at home pretty much anywhere, and which didn't say Walt Disney World to me. The great theming of both the Coca-Cola Store building and products makes it the standout of the area and well worth a visit.
Shopping tip of the week
This week's tip features a wonderful program that Coca-Cola Store highlights. There's a great organization called Acacia Creations. Its mission is to "improve lives in a long-lasting and sustainable way by creating jobs, providing training and giving back to the community through healthcare and education initiatives." Based in Nairobi, Kenya, its goal is to give crafters and artisans in a less fortunate part of the world a chance to make a living and share their works of art. Their creations are also environmentally friendly; all materials are made from recycled and reclaimed materials. This is just one of several programs that have wares displayed here.
Similar to Epcot's now-closed Bead Outpost, the store features items from the great initiative that fit in brilliantly with the obvious theme of the shop. On the first floor as you walk in, there's a great display of merchandise fashioned from recycled Coca-Cola cans. Two notable sets of items were purses and jewelry made out of pull tabs (they were more attractive than they sound) and my personal favorite, animal figures made from the cans themselves. They had elephants, giraffes, and deer made from shredded red and white Coke cans. They were very imaginative and, as it turns out, very authentic.
I was talking to a Pangani Forest Exploration Trail cast member at Animal Kingdom later in my visit. She was from South Africa and had one of the elephants displayed near her. I asked her about it, and she told me these were made by locals in her country and commonly sold at street markets in her hometown. She was thrilled when she heard that the Coca-Cola Store sold them here, a small piece of her heritage being available at WDW. So when you buy one of these, you get an authentic souvenir and help out some great artists—a giraffe is now proudly displayed at my home.