Christie is the founder of Raising Whasians, an award-winning family blog following the journey of an Asian mom raising two biracial children. Featured on local and national publications, such as Yahoo, MSN and Good Morning America, Christie is also a Rotten Tomatoes movie critic for family-friendly films. On her blog, Christie loves sharing family travel tips, parenting moments, food ideas and creative crafts — all "mixed" with family fun.
Not all the best Walt Disney World® Resort destinations require a theme park ticket!
As a Disney-obsessed adult and local Orlando expert, our family has spent quite a bit of time roaming Disney Springs, one our favorite Disney spots, especially when we want a little pixie dust on a budget.
When we recently took a staycation at one of our favorite family-friendly resorts around the corner, Holiday Inn Club Vacations® Orange Lake Resort, we knew that a taste of the magic would be good for our souls — all while keeping our family healthy and safe.
The options are endless when you visit the newly expanded Disney Springs area (formerly known as Downtown Disney) with hundreds of unique shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants and great entertainment and attractions for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for things to do at Disney Springs with your family during the day or for a romantic couples’ date night with your partner, I created the full guide to making your visit magical and memorable.
Ice cream is a great way to start and/or end your Disney Springs day!
Best Things to Do at Disney Springs for Families
Orlando’s landscape has changed quite a bit in recent years, and the Disney Springs makeover has made this destination busier and more family-friendly than ever.
This popular vacation spot now offers more than just shopping. From eating to playing to exploring, there’s a little bit of everything for the whole family at Disney Springs.
Spend an hour or a full day, the choice is up to you!
1. Shop till you drop, Disney style!
Did someone say shopping? Over 100 well-known brands, stores and unique boutiques can be found here — with rare finds, deals and, of course, Disney merch.
Whether you’re a casual shopper or the ultimate deal hunter, Disney Springs has some of the best shopping in the Orlando area.
So grab a gift, splurge on souvenirs or stock up on Disney fashion for your family to wear on their next trip to Disney World’s theme parks!
Exclusive Disney stores:
- The Biggest Disney Store in the WORLD
- The WonderGround Gallery — for unique Disney artwork from your favorite artists!
- Star Wars Galactic Outpost
- Ever After Jewelry Co. & Accessories
- Disney’s Days of Christmas
- Super Hero Headquarters
- Disney Pin Traders
- Disney Cruise Line Pop-Up Shop
- Once Upon a Toy
- Lilly Pulitzer
- Alex & Ani
- Under Armour
- Vera Bradley
- Ron Jon Surf Shop
- Lefty’s — The Left-Hand Store
- Happy Hounds
- Sugarboo & Co.
- The Spice & Tea Exchange
- Savannah Bee Company
2. Bite into these (budget-friendly) Disney Springs snacks and treats.
Treat yo’self! If you’re looking for some of those famous Disney World foods without stepping inside the theme park, Disney Springs has you covered!
From savory eats to magical sweets, there’s something on the menu for every taste bud.
Hungry yet? Here are some of my family’s favorite snacks for under $10!
Grab an authentic Dole Whip from Marketplace Snacks, along with limited-time summer offerings, like the Watermelon Whip Taco (YUM!), beverages and desserts.
It’s always a favorite stop of mine when we explore the east side of Disney Springs.
The Watermelon Whip Taco from Marketplace Snacks is the perfect beat-the-heat treat in the summertime.
Enjoy churros, churros and more churros from Sunshine Churros with gourmet flavors like Salted Caramel, Apple Cinnamon and Rose Gold dipped in chocolate and Nutella!
Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy
Get chicken tenders to-go from celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy. With lots of quick bites and over 20 dipping sauces, you really can’t beat this delicious combo.
My son highly recommends the honey mustard and BBQ sauces!
Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
It’s like a sip right out of the parks! Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company offers your favorite specialty beverages with customized Disney character latte art.
Morimoto Asia Street Food
Craving Asian food without the wait? Walk up to Morimoto Asia Street Food for a Pan-Asian taste of Pork Egg Rolls, Baby Ribs and Boba Tea on the open-air patio.
A bubble waffle cone with sweet filling, the AristoCrêpes snack is like sinking your teeth into a piece of France. And it’s 100% Instagram-worthy.
They had me at ½ lb. cookies!
Gideon’s Bakehouse is a delicious dessert experience that features HUGE scratch-made cookies, cakes and iced coffees — from popular favorites to new flavor combos.
It’s the newest trendy spot for a photo-worthy dessert. And it also happens to have my daughter’s favorite chocolate chip cookie, which she happily inhaled in ½ a second.
Gideon’s Bakehouse has giant, gooey cookies that you need to get while in Orlando.
The Daily Poutine
Grab a taste of poutine from The Daily Poutine, which has savory favorites with a twist, inspired by countries around the world.
Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
Sprinkles Cupcake ATM is a one-of-a-kind cupcake experience. For as low as $5, you can actually get your own boxed treat delivered right from a bright pink ATM!
West Side Disney Food Trucks
The West Side Disney Food Trucks have a ton of flavors, including Mexican barbacoa and tasty mac n’ cheese dishes, for when you’re in a hurry and/or on a budget.
Pro Tip: The $11.99 Taco Cone is totally worth the extra splurge!
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Ice Cream Shop
You can smell the fresh-made cones before you even see Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Ice Cream Shop. This dessert spot is always a favorite stop for our family.
Split a hot fudge sundae (or don’t!) or grab an ice cream cone to-go.
The Basket at Wine Bar George
Build a picnic to-go at The Basket at Wine Bar George, which has famous Frozen and on-tap wines, cheeses and loaded French fries.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC serves famous vegan and allergy-friendly baked treats, perfect if you’re craving sweet and/or savory.
3. Uncover unique entertainment and attractions.
Disney Springs is more than a food and shopping district. You’ll also find some of the most exciting and fun experiences for the whole family.
Take flight high in the air or explore by sea, watch a show or experience the arts.
There are attractions for everyone young and old and you’ll truly uncover so much more to Disney Springs during your Orlando vacation.
Touring Lake Buena Vista in this vintage car/boat combo is such a cool family or date night activity!
Taking a ride in a vintage Amphicar is one of the most unique experiences at Disney Springs. Get a fully guided tour of the waters as you cruise by land and sea, in style!
Take in the tallest panoramic views of Disney Springs aboard its iconic symbol.
Aerophile — The Leader in Balloon Flight offers families an 8-minute tethered balloon ride up to 400 feet on the world’s largest hand-painted balloon.
Splitsville Luxury Lanes
Bowl a strike at upscale Splitsville Luxury Lanes. Multiple floors of bowling, billiards and a modern lunch/dinner menu make this place 100% family-friendly.
Family Photo Ops
The photo ops are truly endless at Disney Springs. Take advantage of photo-worthy spots throughout the area, including scenic Lake Buena Vista, Disney mural walls (like Orange Bird), LEGO statues and more.
(And if you’re staying at Orange Lake Resort, be sure to snap a pic at its brand-new mural wall, too!)
Marketplace Train Express & Carousel
Who says Disney Springs doesn’t have kids’ attractions?
The whole family can climb aboard the Marketplace Train Express and Marketplace Carousel to get their fill of some of those magical Walt Disney World attractions.
Surround yourself with live entertainment on multiple stages throughout the area, including music, performances and more.
Taking art to the people, Disney Springs also has street performers who are talented and entertaining as they stroll along the shopping and dining districts.
Watch newly released films on the big screen, right in the heart of Disney Springs.
Cirque du Soleil
We can’t wait to see the all-new (and thrilling!) Cirque du Soleil acrobatic show, Drawn to Life, coming soon to Disney Springs West Side.
Raglan Road Irish Pub Rhythms of Raglan
Be sure to have your camera ready for this one!
Your kids will love becoming part of the Rhythms of Raglan show as they get hands-on Irish dance lessons from the pros.
With hand-clapping, toe-tapping live music inside and outside, delicious food and an Irish pub atmosphere, it’s one of the best family-friendly things to do at Disney Springs.
Holiday & Seasonal Events
Limited-time holiday and seasonal events can be found throughout the year, too.
From strolling past elaborate Christmas trees to meet and greets with your favorite Disney artists, the calendar is always full of fun events for families.
Best Things to Do at Disney Springs for Couples
Can you feel the love tonight?
One of the best-kept Disney secrets is how amazing Disney Springs can be for a date night out! It’s really one of the most romantic things to do in Orlando.
Whether you’re taking in a delicious meal, grabbing a cocktail or enjoying the nighttime entertainment, there are lots of options for two when the sun goes down (and the kids are sound asleep — thanks grandma and grandpa!).
Here are some of my personal favorite date night ideas at Disney Springs.
1. Treat yourself to your favorite cocktail at these Disney Springs bars.
Relax, unwind and enjoy quality time with your partner at a classic Disney Springs bar and lounge.
Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar
Rare, specialty cocktails inside an Indiana Jones-themed bar? Yes, please!
Get appetizers and fun, themed drinks and point out hidden movie Easter Eggs inside of Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar.
The view from the “boat” is one of our favorite ways to enjoy the Disney Springs nightlife.
Coca-Cola Rooftop Beverage Bar
West Side views with a bubbly experience!
Take your tastebuds to the next level at the Coca-Cola Rooftop Beverage Bar, and sip on trays full of 16 sparkling and still beverages from around the world, as well as cocktails and mocktails.
Wine Bar George
Wining and dining are a full experience at Wine Bar George. Indulge in huge cheese and charcuterie boards as you sip on wines paired by a Master Sommelier.
The highly popular Brunch and Bites & Boards menus make weekend day dates even more special.
While The Boathouse is known for its fresh seafood restaurant, the dockside bar out back is a great venue for sipping and people-watching. The long, winding docks connected to vintage boats make a great view as you feel the sea breeze in your hair.
My husband loves that no reservations are required, making it an ideal spot for a last-minute detour on our date night stroll.
One of my favorite Disney Springs secrets? Go watch the sunset atop one of its highest points. Paddlefish’s rooftop bar has the perfect 360-degree views of the Springs, with cocktails, appetizers and live music.
City Works Eatery & Pour House
Sports bar, but make it Disney! Head over to the West Side for one of the newest venues, City Works Eatery and Pour House.
With over 90 different craft beers (many of them from Orlando’s best breweries) and massive HDTVs at every angle, you can still enjoy the game and your time together.
Step back into the 1920s prohibition era at Enzo’s Hideaway. This hidden-tunnel speakeasy boasts a huge selection of scotches and rums in an intimate setting.
2. Pick a spot for some delicious date night dining at Disney Springs.
There are SO many options depending on what you both like and what you’re in the mood for.
From southern classics to sushi bars to spicy Mexican flavors, you really can’t go wrong with any of these Disney Springs restaurants.
Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
Southern comfort meets casual date night at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’.
Oprah’s former chef has crafted Florida-inspired cooking with finger-licking fried chicken, moonshine cocktails and divine desserts. Weekend brunch is also a must!
Thigh High Chicken Biscuits from Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
House of Blues
Weekend Brunch AND an intimate concert locale await at the laid-back House of Blues.
Southern-inspired cooking by day, full bar and music hall featuring big names by night, House of Blues is a great place for an all-inclusive date.
Iron Chef Morimoto has done it again at Morimoto Asia. Along with a sushi bar and Shanghai-inspired VIP lounges, flavors of Asia fuse into this unique experience.
Nighttime photos on the outside wall are a stunning way to capture the evening, too!
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill is one of the newest dining experiences at Disney Springs, with signature dishes inspired by the famous celebrity chef.
You can also take your dessert to-go from the walk-up Gelato Bar.
White tablecloths and exquisite meals grace the tables at STK Orlando. This upscale Disney Springs dining venue is the perfect excuse to get dressed up for a special occasion (or just because).
Terralina Crafted Italian
Fancy Italian, but somehow more delicious, at the romantic Terralina Crafted Italian. Wood-fired pizzas, pastas and wines taste even better on the outdoor veranda.
Award-winning chef, Rick Bayless, serves up the spice at Frontera Cocina, with upscale Mexican food done right.
Be sure to eat your salsa, guac and queso under the newly renovated, covered patio.
The Boathouse & Paddlefish
Love seafood? The Boathouse and Paddlefish both offer exquisite atmospheres for fresh seafood fare with a water view from your table.
Be sure to pop on up to the Paddlefish rooftop for a gorgeous photo op.
3. Watch Disney Springs nightlife come to life with your favorite person.
Disney Springs is about more than food and drinks! There’s plenty of entertainment that truly make it one of the most romantic things to do in Orlando, especially if you’re looking to mix things up from your go-to date night spots.
The grand staircase entrance of the steampunk-themed bar, The Edison, welcomes you into a lively bar and live entertainment venue.
With waterfront views, themed nights, tableside sleight-of-hand and Gatsby-style dancing, The Edison is always hopping with guests.
Live entertainment gets stepped up a notch when the sun goes down. Check out the outdoor stages throughout Disney Springs for vibrant nighttime concerts and shows.
Enjoy people-watching and a stroll as you grab margaritas to-go at Dockside Margaritas.
The late-night heat is turned up at Paradiso 37. Dancing, live entertainment and over 50 brands of tequila make this a popular spot at night.
Almost too cute to eat! The delicate pastries and famous mini cakes from Amorette’s Patisserie are as sweet to look at as they are to eat.
Perfect for sharing, you can have your cake and eat it, too. I really hope they bring back the cake classes soon!
Eenie, meanie, chocolate, YES! These little specialty squares at The Ganachery are always a good decision.
End your night on a sweet note with custom-designed chocolate dessert. You won’t regret it.
Where to Stay Near Disney Springs
Where do we stay when we want to feel at home while away from home? We recently did an Orlando family staycation and loved our time at Orange Lake Resort.
We got to be close to the magic, enjoy super fun amenities (hello, lazy river!) and have the coziness of home.
Seeing all the fun there is to do at the hugeeee Orange Lake Resort
I especially love how the villas are always clean and ready to welcome our family. With lots of space in our villa to spread out after a long day at the theme parks, it’s our ideal staycation choice.
(And thank goodness for the multiple bedrooms, so we could ALL get the best night’s sleep!)
Paired with its Safe Travels program, we knew our family’s health and safety were a top priority during our resort stay.
Orange Lake Resort makes a great home base as you explore the area, too. My husband likes having easy access to all the famous Orlando theme parks, dining and entertainment from our resort.
It’s located only a few miles from Disney Springs, and there are plenty of day trip spots and nearby activities you can do outside the theme parks as well.
Everything is just a short drive away, making our vacation stress-free!
Splashing away at the zero-entry pool in River Island
Bonus: Orange Lake Resort has one of the best pool/waterslide/lazy river combos we have ever seen. It’s like having your own waterpark right on-site, and it’s always a MUST-do for my kids when we visit.
When the lazy river is 1200-feet long, I can’t really blame them for wanting a little R&R, too.
Convenient location, lots of resort activities and great for our family budget? This choice was pretty simple for us and we were not disappointed.
Our Orange Lake Resort summer staycation made it easy to add a touch of magic to our travel memories, balanced with all the family fun at the resort, too.
And when it comes to planning your own Disney Springs family day or romantic couples’ date night, consider this: Why not have both?
Our guest bloggers are compensated for their writing contributions and honest opinions.
All information is subject to change. This article is a curated guide and is neither sponsored nor considered an official endorsement. Please be sure to check information directly with any/all tours, guides or companies for the most up-to-date and direct details.
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