Flamingo Crossings is a hotel, shopping, and dining district developed by Walt Disney World with budget-friendly accommodations that are located minutes from the parks. This guide will offer tips & info, and recommendations for this upstart area that we’ve dubbed WDW’s “Second Springs.”
Technically, “Second Springs” is inaccurate. There are a ton of springs at Walt Disney World, from Saratoga to Coronado. So many that Disney might want to consider creating a character named Springy, king of the springs. But I digress. The point here is that Flamingo Crossings is like Disney Springs, albeit on a much smaller and less ambitious scale.
Flamingo Crossings also has a lot less traffic, guest demand, and a tiny fraction of the crowds of Disney Springs. Located off Western Way and State Road 429 near (ironically enough) Coronado Springs and Animal Kingdom, this is actually an up-and-coming area of Walt Disney World and Central Florida, in general.
The saga of Flamingo Crossings dates back to March 2007, when Walt Disney World announced the 450-acre retail, dining and lodging district on the western edge of its property in tandem with the new Four Seasons Orlando. At the time, it was known simply as the Western Gateway or Builtway project. The plan was for a mixed-use tourist and commercial district just outside the Walt Disney World western gateway entrance, while still being technically on-property and part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Details from that time revealed a master-planned development in the design stage comparable in size to Animal Kingdom. The project combines third-party branded lodging, retail, and dining in a pedestrian-friendly environment. Early plans called for 4,000 to 5,000 value-priced lodging units and 300,000 to 500,000 square feet of commercial space. Designed around a retail village, the development would become a convenient shopping and service center for Cast Members, nearby residents, and Central Florida visitors. The project was to be built in phases over the next 8 to 10 years.
This was one of the very first projects I remember reading about back when I was getting deep into the Walt Disney World fandom, while we were still in college and living in Indiana. Fast-forward fifteen years later, and the Western Gateway project–now known as Flamingo Crossings–is partially complete, and we watched substantial progress made on it during our daily drives while living in Florida.
With Flamingo Crossings now coming into its own as a bona-fide ‘district’ of Walt Disney World, we thought it would be appropriate to bring you a guide to this long-planned area that we know you’ve all been anxiously awaiting! 😉
Against that backdrop, let’s take a look what’s already open at Flamingo Crossings, and what’s coming in the next few months…
Flamingo Crossings Debuting by Spring 2022
Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
Note that many of these have been open since last fall or earlier, whereas others have been opening throughout the last several weeks. Pretty much everything on this list that isn’t already open looks finished, with the exception of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shop, which had visible construction occurring as I walked past it. Probably another month or two on that one.
Flamingo Crossings Shopping & Dining Opening by Summer 2022:
Advent Health Primary Care+
Advent Health ER
Pita Street Food
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ
Hash House A Go Go
Ovation Bistro & Bar
All of these locations are actively under construction and, assuming no further delays, should open sometime this summer. With that said, it’s worth noting that construction has seemingly been the easiest part of many of these additions. For instance, we watched the Walgreens and Five Guys be built in practically no time (this isn’t “Disney-paced” construction), but they then sat finished for months before opening.
Flamingo Crossings Hotels Now Open:
SpringHill Suites by Marriott at Flamingo Crossings Town Center/Western Entrance
TownePlace Suites by Marriott at Flamingo Crossings Town Center/Western Entrance
Residence Inn by Marriott at Flamingo Crossings Town Center
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott at Flamingo Crossings Town Center
Homewood Suites by Hilton at Flamingo Crossings Town Center
Home2 Suites by Hilton at Flamingo Crossings Town Center
The SpringHill Suites and TownPlace Suites are the “oldest” of the hotels at Flamingo Crossings, having opened about 6 years ago. Everything else on that list is under 2 years old, with a couple being only several months old.
Flamingo Crossings Tips & Tricks
Next, some random advice about Flamingo Crossings based on our experiences with the district. None of this is comprehensive or even well-organized, just fleeting thoughts, more or less.
As referenced above, all of these hotels offer budget-friendly accommodations. Prices can vary considerably based on demand, but we’ve frequently found options at or under $150 per night during normal seasons. This puts the hotels about on par with the Disney Springs Resort Area, but the difference is that many of these are family suites with more space. With Priceline Express Deals and Hotwire Hot Rates, under $100 is sometimes possible.
Disney transportation does not service the hotels at Flamingo Crossings, so you’ll need either your own vehicle or Uber and Lyft. Rideshare driver availability and wait times aren’t always great over here, but it’s consistently improving (and should continue to do so as this area gets more built up).
The Flamingo Crossings hotels themselves do offer shuttle service to the parks, but it has limited hours and is shared. I have not tested this yet and only will do so if there’s a lot of reader “demand” for it. My general experience with this type of shuttle service, not specific to these hotels, is that it’s usually inefficient to the point of being unusable.
We haven’t stayed in them all yet, but our favorite hotel thus far is the Residence Inn by Marriott, which is also the newest hotel in the area. There are a range of extended stay or family suite style rooms, all of which have fully-equipped kitchens so you can prepare meals. (Individual hotel reviews coming soon, to be completed as I can find deals on stays and time to write the reviews.)
Like the rest of the hotels, the Residence Inn is within walking distance of the Target at Flamingo Crossings. I don’t know what Target calls its smaller stores, but that’s what this is. (So not a Super Target.)
It’s like the Target version of Walmart Neighborhood Market, with a selection of fresh produce, frozen foods, pantry items, clothing, household goods, and a huge alcohol area (plus a CVS). It’s basically “Target’s Greatest Hits for Tourists & College Kids.”
I haven’t been to any other Five Guys since inflation hit hardest, but this one strikes me as having premium pricing (I like Five Guys, but have always felt it’s a bit overpriced). My recent meal here was almost $20 for just a burger and fries.
The Starbucks Flamingo Crossings has a drive-thru, making it the most convenient coffee shop for many commuters leaving Horizon West and heading this direction for work. Consequently, it can be incredibly busy during peak hours…and then totally dead an hour or two later.
In terms of practical advice, that’s all that stands out in my mind. I can supplement this based on reader questions, or as more opens in Flamingo Crossings.
Is Flamingo Crossings the Right Resort Area for You?
Flamingo Crossings occupies this interesting spot in the Walt Disney World resort districts. It’s part of the company-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District, but it’s not within the ‘gates’ of Walt Disney World. It’s essentially both off-site and on-site, in that Disney wants control over it, but not to have Flamingo Crossings viewed as part of the Florida Project.
The end result with Flamingo Crossings is something that’s clearly part of the real world (you could find similar developments all over the country) but also oddly part of the Walt Disney World bubble. Between Flamingo Crossings and Walt Disney World proper, you won’t see a single house or literally anything else. It’s all undeveloped land of back-of-house Disney facilities.
Flamingo Crossings is generally a quiet area, minus all of the traffic flowing from the sea of subdivisions that have proliferated in Horizon West during the last several years. Due to the development boom, this is constantly getting worse, so expect more traffic and people at Flamingo Crossings with each passing year.
However, it’s still very different from every other area of Central Florida (minus Celebration) in the general vicinity of Walt Disney World. There’s a lot of open space, master-planned build out, and it’s generally more laid back and less chaotic. This whole area feels like a rejoinder to the chaos and eclectic expansion of I-Drive and elsewhere.
Flamingo Crossings is also very boring. I don’t know what I expected when the Western Gateway was first announced, but definitely not this. The entire development is essentially a glorified strip mall built pursuant to a slightly upscale style guide. There’s absolutely no theme, no backstory, or even anything that gives it an iota of personality.
The original plans called for a walkable, downtown-like area with fountains and other placemaking, and there’s only a little bit of that. The entire thing is walkable from all of the aforementioned hotels, but you have to traverse expansive parking lots and empty space. There’s one little pedestrian street that feels vaguely alive, but that’s it. Downtown Winter Garden, Celebration, Windermere, and Doctor Phillips are all much more interesting and inviting.
For better or worse, Flamingo Crossings is the absence of pretty much everything that defines Central Florida. It lacks the energy, theme, and dynamism of every other area around Walt Disney World. This is where you stay if you want something quiet, predictable, and totally inoffensive–but also totally unexciting.
Flamingo Crossings is for people who want to decompress after a day at Walt Disney World, and want to do so in an environment totally devoid of stimulation. Those who don’t mind an area that reflects suburban blandness or ask “is it in a safe area?” when booking real world hotels.
Beyond that, we would only recommend Flamingo Crossings to guests who are doing Walt Disney World-exclusive trips to Florida. As the original name suggests, it’s located on the western edge of property. With only a few exceptions, pretty much everything else in Central Florida is located to the Northeast of Flamingo Crossings.
Access to everything at Walt Disney World is incredibly easy and smooth, minus the relatively mild (for now) rush hour traffic. Getting to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, or other theme parks is a colossal pain. Depending on the time of day, each of those might involve a 45 minute to hour-long commute. While the 429 can be faster (or at least have fewer traffic jams), it’s an indirect route to almost all attractions in Orlando. If you’re doing a variety of things while visiting Florida, stay in a more centralized location. Trust us on this one; we speak from extensive experience.
On another note, Flamingo Crossings has a “Pleasantville meets Disney College Campus” vibe to it. One of the big things that’s going to sustain all these new businesses (in addition to the hotels) are the collosal College Program campuses on the other side of Western Way. Just like the public-facing side of Flamingo Crossings, these aren’t totally finished and occupied yet.
Nevertheless, you will absolutely see Cast Members in their costumes all around Flamingo Crossings. On a recent research trip to Five Guys, I’d estimate that half of the patrons were tourists and the other half were College Program participants. If seeing a Kilimanjaro Safaris tour guide or World Showcase host shopping for bread in Target will “ruin the illusion” for you, Flamingo Crossings is absolutely not for you. There’s a lot of that.
On a different note, many of you have asked us questions about relocating to Central Florida. In the absence of a full guide to the communities around Walt Disney World, most of the above pros & cons could apply likewise to Horizon West. That’s where the vast majority of people moving to Central Florida right now end up, anyway.
Whether the ‘vibe’ of the area is right for you is probably something you can ascertain just when touring the various subdivisions and driving around. One thing to be wary of is developer promises about buildout, future amenities, schools, and also what it looks like now versus when development finishes.
So much of Horizon West is virtually unrecognizable now as compared to how it looked when we arrived in the area; we witnessed the addition of multiple traffic lights, road widenings, and an absolute explosion in traffic. The Orlando Sentinel has a good article on Horizon West’s “growing pains,” and that’s from 2019.
Development actually accelerated and relocations increased during the pandemic, and there’s still a lot more to come. (I saw a recent estimate that Horizon West is only about half-finished.) By contrast, most other areas of Central Florida are mature, meaning what you see is what you get when it comes to traffic and community character.
Ultimately, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about Walt Disney World’s Flamingo Crossings shopping, hotel, and dining district. It’s definitely not a Second Springs, but rather, a significantly smaller-scale, quieter, and less-interesting development on the opposite side of property.
Flamingo Crossings won’t be right for everyone and is definitely not a “destination” area. For those who want inexpensive accommodations plus groceries and some shopping and dining within walking distance, plus perhaps some semblance of the “Disney Bubble,” Flamingo Crossings is a good fit. Those wanting excitement, liveliness, an area with personality, or anyone venturing beyond Walt Disney World should probably stay somewhere else.
Have you stayed in Flamingo Crossings or been to this area of Central Florida? If you’re a tourist, which hotel did you do and what’d you think of it? If you’re a local, what do you think of this development and Horizon West as a whole? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!