It’s been over a month since our last Disney Springs crowd report, so we figured it was time to drop in with another update from Walt Disney World’s shopping, dining, and entertainment district. In this, we’ll condense photos & commentary from a few visits to give you an idea of what to expect if you visit this fall.
Despite the lack of an update, we’ve been visiting Disney Springs about once per week in September and October. This is partly for “research” as I’ve convinced Sarah that a list of the best snacks at Disney Springs is an “essential topic” to cover. Along with that, I’ve made the case that rather than just building the list from what we’ve already tried, comprehensive taste-testing of new items is “necessary.” That list should be out in the next couple of weeks…right in time for me to start over with new holiday foods!
We’ve also gone back for various other reasons, mostly related to UNIQLO and some other store. Still not doing AMC A-List, though. Not that you care about any of this. The point is that the lack of a Disney Springs update has less to do with our visits and more to do with reader interest. It remains a topic about which few of you seem to care, which is honestly a bit surprising given operating hours of Disney Springs as compared to the parks, dining options, etc. Given the lack of interest, we’ll try to dispense with this Disney Springs report quickly…
First topic: crowds. In our last Disney Springs report, we indicated that many Annual Passholders (orex-APs) are simply not visiting the theme parks, and are instead visiting Disney Springs to get their “dose of Disney.” With Park Pass reservations now easier to score, this appears to less the case than previously.
Daytime hours have had uniformly low crowds. This is especially true on weekdays, which are pretty slow before 5 pm. On weekdays, evening hours are not particularly bad, either. Daytime on the weekends is a tad busier, but we’ve gone twice before 2 pm, and it was pretty slow both days.
Weekend nights are a totally different story. Here, we speak not at all from experience and entirely from word of mouth and what we’ve observed on social media. (We also drove to Trader Joe’s last Saturday night and saw traffic backed up all the way to Vineland. For those not familiar with the local roads, that’s bad.) We have zero plans or desire to visit on a Friday or Saturday night to confirm firsthand that crowds are heavy.
If you do opt to visit on a Friday or Saturday night for some reason, the good news is that Disney Springs is now open until 11 pm on both evenings. We wouldn’t be surprised to see that become the regular closing time throughout the holiday season in November and December 2020.
Here are some other quick hits from our visits…
Obviously, the hot topic is that construction continues on Gideon’s Bakehouse. We’ve seen workers coming on going on this, with visible work progressing on the facade.
While 2020 may have taken Ample Hills from us, it is going to give Walt Disney World fans the best cookies ever. Having both establishments in Disney Springs might’ve been resulted in overdoses of awesomeness (or sugar comas).
Signage has also gone up. We cannot wait for this.
(Also, a reminder to locals: The Frankenstein, arguably Gideon’s best cookie of the year, is only available for another week. Plan accordingly!)
While new eateries like Gideon’s Bakehouse, Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew, and the M&Ms Store are on the horizon, there have also been recent closures at Disney Springs.
The latest of these is the Lucky Brand store, which closed over the weekend.
We wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another wave of retail closures after the holiday season.
While Disney Springs is the closest mall for many locals (like us), some of the stores at Disney Springs are iconic “Americana” brands aimed at international tourists. These were deliberately chosen by Disney to keep those visitors from venturing off-site.
It’s unlikely international tourism to Walt Disney World will recover in meaningful numbers until at least 2022, and most locals aren’t visiting Disney Springs to buy denim or a purse.
On top of that, there have already been countless retail bankruptcies in the last several months, and likely more on the horizon.
Obviously, this is awful for those businesses and their employees. It’s also not great for malls like Disney Springs that will undoubtedly have vacant storefronts and trouble attracting new tenants.
It’s also an opportunity for Walt Disney World.
Disney Springs has done an exceptional job of curating a formidable lineup of small upmarket restaurants, local fast casual eateries, and original dining options.
While Disney Springs might be reaching its saturation point with dining (or maybe not–reservations can still be hard to score for some locations), the same could now be done on the retail side. No offense to Levi’s or Columbia, but Disney Springs could really benefit from fewer storefronts that are boring and generic. More homegrown concepts from Disney and Orlando-area boutiques would further bolster Disney Springs.
The biggest, most disappointing closure at Disney Springs thus far is the Void. We did this last year and absolutely loved it. Truly an underrated Walt Disney World experience.
While the present circumstances are not ideal, I believe immersive virtual reality experiences have a strong future. The Void was ahead of its time, and I can only imagine tech companies will further iterate upon the idea, improve it, and scale it up. Hopefully Imagineering has such projects in the pipeline.
In some potentially positive news, Wolfgang Puck Express may not be permanently closed.
In a statement to Orlando Weekly, a spokesperson for Wolfgang Puck Express denied that the closure was permanent, and stated multiple times that it’s only a temporary closure at this time. That conflicts with previous reports, and we’re still skeptical, but want to believe the newer report.
Speaking of shopping, there’s a bunch of new-ish stuff at the World of Disney store.
At this point, all of the Halloween merchandise is a couple of months old, but I spent like 10 minutes trying to get that projection without anyone in the frame, so I’m sharing it anyway.
Unsurprisingly, there’s also a lot of Baby Yoda stuff.
It’s nice to finally see some worthwhile Baby Yoda designs. When Disney was first racing to release stuff, the designs were pretty hideous.
There are also approximately 100,000 puzzles in stock.
Back in March when we had visions of what we’d accomplish while staying at home for months, one of my suggestions was “do a puzzle.” Sarah had more grandiose self-improvement ideas, wanting to read more books, learn a language, etc.
Thus far, we’ve done exactly zero of those things, puzzle included.
Not to boast too much about my achievements, but I have beaten every mainline installment of Metal Gear Solid and most of the Resident Evils, among other things. Next up, Ghost of Tsushima and Last of Us Part II. Sarah has also done a lot of gardening in Animal Crossing. Given how things are going, I feel my newfound zombie preparedness and stealth skills could come in handy. (Not that any of you care right now…but you will if you’re at Walt Disney World when the zombie apocalypse happens and my talents are needed.)
Speaking of things you don’t care about (this update has gone off the rails anyway, so might as well…), I really like this Zero hat. Most Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise is tacky or creepy (e.g. the infamous “Bone Daddy” outlet find shirts) but this is actually pretty simple and tasteful.
Sarah is a big Zero fan, believing he is a dachshund (I’m not sure about that) like our dog. Regardless, it’s a good hat and I might surprise her with it. (Assuming she doesn’t read this–a safe bet given that these Disney Springs updates aren’t even popular in our household!) You know what they say: dachshund hats are a girl’s best friend!
After a tad too much off topic rambling, we’ll end on a positive and useful note: the flyover ramp for Orange Garage has reopened! Not good news for those of you with poor taste in parking garages or who take Disney buses to Disney Springs, but huge for us. It’s like someone heard my constant complaints while driving past the closed ramp. (Now, if only they heard the Journey into Imagination rants.)
Ultimately, our key piece of advice if you’re a tourist vacationing at Walt Disney World is to avoid Disney Springs on weekends. Due to local turnout, Friday and Saturday nights are significantly busier than weekdays. If you do visit on a weekend, arrive earlier. Better yet, go on a weekday. That definitely should be the key takeaway from all of this. As we enter the Christmas shopping and dining season (and weather improves) that advice will likely be even more important than it is right now.
Have you visited Disney Springs since it reopened? Did you have issues with parking, crowds, transportation, or lines? Weekend or weekday visit? Where did you dine or shop? How was your experience? Would you recommend others visit, or hold off? Will you be visiting Disney Springs in the near future? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!