WDW Shops, I'm Coming Soon!by Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
I haven't been to Walt Disney World or any Disney park in 17 months! I'm having serious withdrawal. For the last number of months, I've been focusing my Mouseplanet articles—and my personal Disney shopping—online to help scratch that itch. That said, I'm happy to say that I've taken the plunge and booked a trip for the fall—so I'm ready to start looking forward to when I can finally take that stroll down Main Street USA, pass under Spaceship Earth, (finally!) ride Rise of the Resistance, and watch the Tree of Life light up at night.
Of course, I'm also ready to hit the shops and see what I've been missing for almost two years. What new park exclusive merchandise have they brought out? Which shops have been rethemed and remodeled (I'm talking to you, Creations)? What's changed and what's stayed the same during this crazy time?
Today, I'm going to ponder these questions and think about what I look forward to the most when this long Disney drought is over. We'll walk through my trip and what shopping and merchandising opportunities I plan to enjoy while there. Lest you think I'm completely insane (I'm only a little insane, I promise), I'll also be riding all the rides (Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, I'm coming) and eating like crazy (the recently discovered Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich with Nutella at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments)—but shopping is my Mouseplanet beat, so here we go.
First stop for me and family? Epcot. The food and wine festival will still be going. Remy's Ratatouille Adventure will be open (I'm ready and willing to wait in very long lines), and Creations, the new flagship store at Epcot will be open, so one of my first stops is to bank left beyond the big golf ball to check it out.
I'm a little sad on this one, as Mousegear has always been one of my favorite shopping venues in all the (Disney) World.
That said, I always get excited about a new Disney experience, and the concept art for the new shop makes it look pretty cool. There will be a large Mickey Mouse murals and art all over the shore, and floor-to-ceiling windows to make the space bright and airy. More importantly, it sounds like they want to pack it with really interesting goods. As per the Disney Parks Blog, "The products you'll find here will extend Disney storytelling and allow you to bring that experience home with you, all the while encouraging you to explore your own expressiveness and creativity".
My hope is for Creations to be filled with items that are specific to Epcot and truly represent the Epcot experience. For now, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and I'm excited to check it out for myself.
Next up on the shopping tour is in World Showcase, at The Art of Disney Epcot, another one of my favorites. Alas, the original location has been demolished along with the rest of Innovations West to make way for the upcoming festival center and Journey of Water, two attractions I'm excited about. To get my animation art fix, I'll be headed around the lagoon to the American Adventure, the temporary housing for Art of Disney at Epcot.
I've written a ton about animation art and how I love to look at and collect it. Original production cels are long gone at Disney shopping venues, but there are a stable of extremely talented artists who create works of art, ranging from original paintings to post cards to figurines, that remind us of our favorite Disney properties. There's something new every time I go, and I can't wait to see what they have.
Lastly, I'm planning on visiting my favorite of the World Showcase shops, Mitsukoshi Department Store at the Japan pavilion. I've actually been to Mitsukoshi's flagship store in Tokyo, and the one in Epcot is a pretty good, albeit much smaller, re-creation of the real thing. I'm looking forward to the kids getting their actual pearl from a real oyster. I like strolling by the beautiful clocks and artwork on the walls. I also always peruse the sushi sets and bonsai trees at the back of the store (I'll take advantage of the shipping option to bring one of those home one day in an attempt to reverse my not-so-green thumb).
Those are the highlights, but there's so much at this park that I miss, that I'll be weaving in and out of the buildings all day.
Moving on from Epcot, the next park we have reservations for is Animal Kingdom.
I'm dreaming now of walking through the Oasis at the park's entrance and stopping to see the beautiful wildlife that live there (most people run through it on their way to the safari and Expedition Everest—please take the time to enjoy this beautiful, well, "oasis." In my mind, I'm taking a left at the Tree of Life and exploring the numerous trails around the tree (it took me, Disney fanatic supreme, almost 20 years to discover these trails and the kangaroos that bounce there—check these out, too). I'm also continuing on into the Africa section of the park to visit my favorite Animal Kingdom shop, Mombasa Marketplace.
I'll travel name drop (again) for a second—yes, I've been to Kenya, and Animal Kingdom's Harambe is a pretty good, if sanitized, representation of the real thing. What I like about Mombasa Marketplace is its ever-rotating goods that are often handmade in Africa, itself. The hand-carved instruments, masks and animals always make me smile. I especially like walking around the outside of the building, where they have stalls with items for sale, just like the real thing, along with talented artists working on items, who are happy to talk to you about their process.
After a day at Animal Kingdom, it's time to head to one of my favorite places on the planet, Disney Springs.
Visits to Disney Springs are about shopping, food, shopping… and shopping—so I won't pretend it's about anything else. For me, I love to stroll the Marketplace section and the West Side, where the Disney-themed stores are. I spend less time at Town Center, which has some great stores, but those not of the Disney variety that I can find at home in New Jersey.
World of Disney is, of course, the whole Megillah—at least at one time known as the largest Disney shopping experience in the world. But after it went through a major renovation a couple of years ago (I wrote about it here), it's been a bit of hit or miss for me, depending on the visit. I've made some great finds there (their T-shirt selection is particularly good), but often I've found the selection to be a bit generic and of the "can get it anywhere" variety. That said, I'm now looking forward to running through the aisles, Supermarket Sweep-style.
First, I'll browse the aforementioned T-shirts, because they have the best selection on property, and Disney has been great in recent years about producing some clever ones. Then it's a jaunt over to housewares to see what's new. They're always adding new glasses, plates and utensils—and I got a great candle holder that projects an image of Cinderella's Castle when lit last time I was there. Then comes the quick jog through all the aisles to make sure I didn't miss anything.
After World of Disney, I'll walk to the edge of the Marketplace and hit Art of Disney. I know I've already been to Art of Disney at Epcot (and will go to Art of Disney in the Magic Kingdom later in the trip), but the selection at each of the stores is a bit different, so I don't want to miss anything. I know a lot of what they have is mass produced, at least to some extent (like puzzles and prints), but they do a great job of making it feel like an art gallery, and I'll never get tired of walking through and viewing the iconic images of the characters that I've missed so much.
Then we go across the way to Disney Days of Christmas. I love this shop. It always just smells like the holidays. The rows and rows of Disney ornaments, tree skirts, and other holiday items always make me feel like it's that time of year. The breadth of the product line here has diminished a bit in recent years (think of it as the takeover of the ornaments), but the holiday feel is unmistakable, and there are great finds to be had.
I bought a set of Christmas stockings here that had plush at the top of each of the main characters and had each member of the family's name embroidered on the stocking (including the dogs—one of which got Pluto, of course). It's finds like that and the overall atmosphere that make a visit here worthwhile, so I'll be sure to go,
Next, it's back towards the Lime Parking garage and the Marketplace Co-Op, of which I've been a fan for a while. The Co-Op's basic setup has always been to enable a rotating line-up of pop-up shops, so I'm especially curious to see changes since I've been there last. Latest addition I've read about is a shop dedicated to the Disney Cruise Line. The shop has tons of logo merchandise, accessories, and "cruise wear".
You interestingly get alcoholic beverages in Disney Cruise Line embarkation glasses at Dockside Margaritas across the way (I love Disney corporate synergy).
I'll probably do a quick stop at Uniqlo to check out the cheap Disney T-shirts and then off to bed to sleep off a fun day.
The next day we hit the Magic Kingdom. I'm excited about finally doing the Disney mountains (Splash, Big Thunder, and Space), riding my favorite classics (Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the new and hopefully improved Jungle Cruise), again eating like crazy, and of course, hitting the shops on Main Street USA.
I'll look up at Cinderella's Castle, heave a big contented sigh, and then turn left into the Emporium, the grande dame of Magic Kingdom retail. This has always been a general peruse-and-see-what's-up kind of stop for me (I do most of my Magic Kingdom buying at the specialty shops across the street), but I love the old-timey feel of store and the wide department store-like selection.
I'll stroll through the tech, small gifts and mugs near the store's main entrance, moving through the toys and plush until I get to the clothing that's further down the way. I usually pick up a pair of pajamas while I'm here, so I'll go through and see if there are any new sets in my size.
Hopefully with new PJs in hand (which I swaer I'd never wear during Zoom calls for work), I'll stroll across Main Street and hit Uptown Jewelers. I again love the old-timey feeling of this shop that's so in keeping with Main Street USA. I also love the display cases filled with jewelry, and more importantly for me, watches. Long-time readers know I'm a big Disney watch collector, and this shop has always had one of the best selections on property. I want to look over the cases and see the latest designs from both Disney and famous watchmakers.
There's also the Pandora (the charm, not the Avatar world) section in the back of the shop. The charms they sell are very innovative and collectible. My nieces know that Uncle Gregg is always good to hit up for a gift, particularly when he's been pent up and hasn't been there for a long time.
Next up, I want to cross the alley alongside Main Street and go to the Crystal Shop, to walk through the door and smell the faint burning smell from the craftsman creating glass towards the front of the shop. Arribas Brothers is king here, and they make such great stuff—from figurines to vases to picture frames. Again, they're constantly creating new things, so I can't wait to see what they've been up to for the last two years.
Beyond those, I just like to zip in and out of all the shops to see what they have. The Ye Old Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square is a favorite and a good mini-version of Disney Days of Christmas. Normally, I'd hit Art of Disney on Main Street USA, but at least for now, Bonjour Village Gifts in Fantasyland, which normally has some cool items at least loosely related to Beauty and the Beast is doubling as Art of Disney—so I'll be sure to go there.
The next day, we'll head on to Hollywood Studios. I believe I've whined to everyone I know and the online community about how extremely sad I'll be if I fail to get in a Rise of the Resistance boarding group. I'm also excited about my first ride on Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway as well as my usual favorites, Tower of Terror and Toy Story Mania. I also hope to hit the Hollywood Brown Derby for a meal, a place that we love.
I wrote an article a while ago on all the great shops along Hollywood Boulevard at the park's entrance. I'll be sure to stop in at Disney & Co and Keystone Clothier's to see what's new because I enjoy checking those out—particularly the latter. That said, my plan is a shopping beeline to Galaxy's Edge and Dok-Ondar's. Disney usually does an outstanding job on theming, but sometimes they do something so mind-blowing that even this jaded Disney veteran has to stop and catch his breath.
Dok's is so themed to its surroundings. You'd believe it was a trinket shop on some far-off galactic outpost. Todd King is our resident Mouseplanet Star Wars expert. I am a mere casual fan, but being in this world brought up all kinds of nostalgia for me. In terms of goods, again, I really appreciate the variety they had there. The presentation was special, and really gave that feel that the goods you were looking at were one-of-a kind antiques. I'm really looking forward to another visit here.
In terms of Walt Disney World shopping in general, I also want to see how the overall experience has changed. Are the aisles more sparse and spread out? Do they offer less? I'm curious to see how the global pandemic has impacted Disney retail, on a temporary and a permanent basis. What lessons were learned?
Another big draw of this trip is the fact that it's Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary. Disney does nothing small, so I'm sure that even though the sails were trimmed a bit due to COVID, it will be quite the blowout. There'll also be tons of swag, I'm sure, to commemorate the occasion. At every one of the above shops and then some, I'll be on the lookout for 50th branded merchandise, and I'm sure I'll walk out with at least one or two (or 10) items.
In any event, those are some highlights in advance of my upcoming trip. It's been far too long, and I'm bursting to go and have my usual incredible experience. Would love to hear about what you're all looking forward to doing, and if anyone's been, please let us know what you've seen and your thoughts.
Thanks as always for reading. Stay safe and see you next time.