It’s time for another Disney Springs photo report. Walt Disney World’s shopping, dining, and entertainment district has now been operating for exactly 3 months since reopening, and had yet to do another photo report since Our Ghost Town Visit to Disney Springs. If anything, this update is overdue–we’ve been back several times since then, and crowds ceased to be that low a while ago.
This results from a variety of changes and subsequent steps in Walt Disney World’s phased reopening. First came the reopening of World of Disney, D-Luxe Burger, and the Marketplace Co-Op at Disney Springs. Then the return of Disney Vacation Club resorts, followed by other hotels. Finally, the theme parks resumed operations. Suffice to say, a lot has changed and many more people are now in the Walt Disney World area.
It’s unsurprising that crowds would pick up as guests started to return to the Walt Disney World area. Our original expectation was that guest numbers would increase as tourists started to return and Floridians grew more restless, looking for things to do outside. However, there are a couple of other wildcards that have exacerbated crowds at Disney Springs…
All of the operational changes to Walt Disney World’s theme parks are contributing to the crowds. Without the park hopper option, more guests head to Disney Springs when they are “done” with whichever park they visit for the day. The shorter park hours have the same impact, especially since it makes more sense to do dinner outside the parks. Most people aren’t ready for bed at 6 or 7 pm.
The lack of in-park restaurant options and scaled back menus also push guests towards Disney Springs. The elimination of the Disney Dining Plan results in some guests being more deliberate and value-conscious in choosing where to eat, and the value proposition is better at many Disney Springs restaurants. Other factors also likely nudge guests towards Disney Springs.
Then there are locals, especially those who are Annual Passholders. When we initially covered the reopening of Disney Springs, we discussed diehard fans wanting to get their “fix” while Walt Disney World’s theme parks were closed. Originally, we would’ve expected locals to shift their visits to the parks once those reopened.
However, it’s unclear whether or to what extent that has actually occurred. We don’t need to rehash all of the Annual Passholder woes since then. Suffice to say, between AP cancellations and problems with the Disney Park Pass system, it’s safe to say that many Annual Passholders (orex-APs) are simply not visiting the theme parks instead. These locals are still visiting Disney Springs to get their “dose of Disney.”
Which brings us to the crowds we had experienced at Disney Springs over the last month-plus. We made a variety of quick visits during that time for random reasons (buying a dorky hat, returning online orders, urgent pizza & gelato needs, etc.) and noticed attendance climbing.
More concerning, we observed less rule enforcement, physical distancing getting lax, and mask compliance decreasing. It thus seemed like a good time to go back with my camera for the afternoon and evening to do a proper Disney Springs photo report…
In recent weeks, parking has been one source of frustration with Disney Springs. The flyover ramp for Orange Garage is seldom open when we go, which results in backups on the road and while entering the garage. This has been particularly bad on weekends.
This time, we went early enough in the afternoon to beat the post-work crowd, thus avoiding that problem. Parking and the temperature check were a breeze, taking a few minutes total.
Afternoon crowds at Disney Springs were virtually non-existent.
Definitely more people than you’d see in World Showcase at the same hour, but nothing as compared to what we’d recently witnessed at Disney Springs.
At this point in the day, crowds were around the norm for this time of year–which is to say, pretty low.
When schools go back into session and Walt Disney World enters its bona-fide late summer off-season, Disney Springs is usually pretty slow on weekdays.
To be sure, there were some areas of mild crowding. The exit of Lime Garage and area around Polite Pig is busier, as is the area in front of World of Disney, and a few other spots.
Our expectation was that this would pick up as the evening wore on.
That never happened.
Crowds probably peaked around 7 pm, and even then they weren’t particularly bad.
This wasn’t due to rain or other inclement weather–I’m not totally sure why crowds fizzled out.
Whatever the reason, it was a pretty nice evening at Disney Springs. Not at all what we expected.
As with so many other recent nights in the last couple of weeks, there was an absolutely epic sunset.
Many of these have come out of nowhere, with overcast skies that clear just enough to allow sun to poke through and illuminate the rest of those clouds.
One thing to underscore here is that we’re not casting doubt on reports of elevated attendance at Disney Springs.
We’ve experienced exactly that, so there’s no question to us that Disney Springs actually has been busier. The whole point of this visit was take my camera in order to document and report on those higher crowds!
Instead, we ended up with an experience that was not even remotely busy, but also wasn’t totally quiet or empty.
It was more or less comfortable–the normal low crowds that are typical at Disney Springs this time of year. That’s not exactly the most exciting or interesting thing to report, but we can only share and report what we observe.
What’s unclear to us is whether what we experienced was an anomaly or what can be expected going forward over the course of the next couple months as Walt Disney World enters its off-season.
Crowd patterns throughout Walt Disney World have been somewhat inconsistent, so it wouldn’t be the first time for an unexplainable one-off. However, we’re more inclined to think maybe Disney Springs is starting to “chill out.” (There’s also more and more open, which does help ‘absorb’ some crowds.)
A couple of unequivocally positive notes: mask compliance and physical distancing were both considerably better than in other recent visits to Disney Springs.
We noticed more Cast Members out and about, plus new signage scattered around walkways. The audio spiel that plays in the parks has also been added to Disney Springs–this was our first time hearing that. All of that definitely made a difference. Far less walking and drinking, fewer noses out, etc. Mask compliance probably around 95%, which was about 5% higher than our last visit to Disney Springs before this.
Another plus is that Chicken Guy had zero wait, so naturally we had to do a quality-check to ensure that the food was still delicious.
Jury is still out on that one. Will probably have to go back again soon for more thorough and comprehensive testing. It’s imperative. (Joking aside, I know the reaction among Walt Disney World fans has been mixed, but I’m a big fan of Chicken Guy–reasonable prices, addictively good sauces, and solid chicken. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s a solid meal with unique and indulgent flavors.)
In some other random updates, the Edison, Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, and Enzo’s Hideaway are all now open for dinner service beginning at 5 pm daily.
There was plenty of walk-up availability at these and most restaurants we walked past.
In even bigger news, visible progress is being made on Gideon’s Bakehouse.
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).
Bus service and lines at these depots towards the end of the night did not appear too bad.
We popped in a couple of times and saw tons of buses back here with only modest lines. That’s totally anecdotal, though–we didn’t sit around to thoroughly monitor anything.
Now that the AMC Theater is reopening and offering cheap tickets, maybe more locals will be drawn back?
That seems doubtful to us. We’re comfortable doing a lot of things right now…going to a movie theater is not among them.
Ultimately, perhaps this is not the most insightful or incisive report on crowds from Disney Springs. The fact is, we’re not 100% sure that this is Disney Springs turning the corner as a result of the off-season. Our plan at this point is to go back the weekend after Labor Day (if not before then for some random reason) to see what things look like on an off-season Saturday.
In the interim, our biggest piece of advice if you’re a tourist vacationing at Walt Disney World would be to avoid Disney Springs on weekends. Due to local turnout, Friday and Saturday night are busier than weekdays. Go late and stay late. Not only are crowds lower, but the weather is more pleasant and transportation (or the parking situation) should be more bearable closer to closing.
Regardless of attendance at Disney Springs for the next couple of months, we still expect crowds to pick up come November and December. The entire holiday season always results in a surge of locals doing Christmas shopping and meals with family. That’s pretty much a sure thing. It remains to be seen if the same (or something similar) holds true of weekends in September and October. We’ll report back soon!
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!