As of fall 2015, Downtown Disney was officially rebranded as Disney Springs, complete with an aesthetic makeover for certain areas,
and some new shopping and dining openings. Why, you ask, did they rebrand the ever-popular shopping and dining attraction known for its nightlife scene?
Darn good question. And one that I personally still don’t understand the answer to.
(If you can’t tell, I’m not a big fan of the transformation to DS… but I’m trying to give it a chance!)
Anyway, according to various Cast Member’s we’ve asked (and yes, we are big enough Disney nerds to really go around asking CMs about the company’s branding decisions), the Walt Disney Company felt like Downtown Disney just didn’t have a story. According to the CMs we’ve spoken to, Walt Disney himself was an advocate that everything had to have its own story. So (allegedly) the decision was made to rebrand Downtown Disney into a place with its own narrative.
Here is a direct quotation from the official announcement in 2013, from Tom Staggs over at the Disney Parks Blog:
“The story of Disney Springs begins at our new Town Center, which is oriented around a series of bubbling natural springs that first attracted settlers to the area. From there, the town grew to encompass three additional neighborhoods: The Landing, Marketplace and West Side – each with its own distinct charm and atmosphere.”
You can read the full blog post announcing the rebranding and expansion here.
One thing I really do love about the aesthetic renovation is the copious fountains everywhere – they truly are spectacular. Many new shops and restaurants have opened as well, including the very popular Sprinkles Cupcakes, a large UNIQLO, and (my wallet’s Achilles) Lilly Pulitzer.
In trying to articulate why I preferred the Downtown Disney branding to the Disney Springs branding, I think it’s that I always saw Downtown Disney as an experience destination in and of itself. When my dad took me to Disney World for the Millennium in 2000, I begged him to take me to Downtown Disney so that I could feel like a cool kid. I was 14 at the time, and I really did feel like a cool, snazzy, jazzy, hotshot adult traipsing about Downtown Disney. I guess I always thought the point of Downtown Disney was to have a little bit of nightlife for the 21-and-up crowd to enjoy.
So when I first heard the news about the rebranding, I was immediately skeptical based on the name alone. The downtown in Downtown Disney felt sleek and sophisticated — exactly what a Disney-space-for-adults should be. The spring in Disney Springs just felt … frivolous and jarring. Kind of like that feeling when you’re in a dark theatre watching some tense drama, and someone opens the emergency exit doors and the entire theatre is flooded with bright sunlight.
Of course, I totally realize that my opinion on this is probably the exception to the norm, and I have no idea if my dark-theatre-bright-light metaphor makes any sense to anyone outside of my head. But still, my personal opinion is that the rebranding — both the name and the new architectural styles — feels way too light and airy. In this photo of the iconic Mickey balloons, you can see both in the background and in the balloon reflections that many of the new buildings are done in a Spanish colonial revival style, with bright white stucco as far as the eye can see. Personally, I love this style on homes, but when it comes to Spanish colonial revival style commercial buildings, it feels like such outdoor mall cliche at this point. At least where I am from, it feels like every other upscale outdoor mall is done in this style, which is perhaps why it disengages me for Disney Springs to encompass this mall-typical style.
Basically, Disney Springs feels just like an outdoor mall now. Not like an enchanting, magical destination experience the way Downtown Disney did.
I mean, I get that Disney wants me to drop some cash here (and don’t worry guys, I do!!! my husband knows this all too well 😉 ), but I don’t want it to feel like a typical mall. I want it to feel magical, and for me at least, it just doesn’t.
Anyway, regardless of my opinions on the new name and architectural styles, I really do love coming to Disney Springs. It’s a tradition for me and my husband to come to Downtown Disney/Disney Springs the first night of vacation. After we’ve checked in and unpacked, we head over to Disney Springs for an evening of relaxation and shopping. So, here are some of my favorite places and things to do at Disney Springs.
Whether you’re arriving by boat, bus, or your own car, as you approach Disney Springs, you will see the Characters in Flight hot air balloon hovering in the distance.
I am ashamed to say I have still never taken a flight on this iconic balloon, but I’m hoping to change that soon! At $12 for children and $18 for adults, it’s not too terribly pricey.
Also, for me and my nerdy husband, no trip to Disney Springs is complete without a trip to the Lego store to drool over all the bricks ever. My husband even got me the Lego Cinderella Castle for my birthday!!!!!!
As for places to eat, you’ve really got your pick at Disney Springs. One thing I absolutely love about how they’ve done it is the plethora of sidewalk food and beverage carts and food trucks. Sometimes we’ll stop by Raglan Road for a glass of wine (although I’m sure it’s more popular for ales and beers! We just don’t drink beer).
And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, Disney Springs is definitely the place to be, especially now that the much-anticipated Sprinkles cupcake store (and ATM!!!!) has opened. Yes, a cupcake ATM. I KNOW.
**wipes away drool**
As for things to do, there’s no lack there either. In addition to the hot air balloon, other entertainment options include Disney Quest, an AMC movie theatre, Splitsville Luxury Lanes, and Cirque du Soleil la Nouba.
Oh, but my absolute favorite thing about Disney Springs? IT’S FREE. Which means it’s perfect for padding any vacation days where you don’t have a theme park admission ticket.
So tell me, what do you think of the rebranding of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs? What are your favorite places to shop and dine here?