Disney Springs has been growing and changing dramatically over the last few years.  It’s been part of a decades-long transformation from the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village I knew during my first Walt Disney World visits, into the dining, shopping, and entertainment behemoth that it has become today.  As large as the area has become, it still features some one-of-a-kind experiences that are easy to miss in a place with over 150 venues spread across 120 acres. These are just a few unique stories that I think are definitely worth your time and money.


 

Cake Decorating Experience at Amorette’s Patisserie

Amorette’s is a wonderful pastry shop that features some amazing and delicious treats.  My first visit there was about a month ago when I was working at the 2018 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.  I didn’t buy anything for myself, but my daughters snagged some yum-yums™ from there.  My older daughter Audrey wanted one of their signature Mickey Character Cakes.  She let me taste a bite and it was mouth-wateringly-good!  Now a pastry shop, as delicious as it might have been, isn’t necessarily unique.  Here’s what is: Amorette’s has a cake decorating class that you can take so you can make your own one of these little beauties! You can make a reservation for this 90 minute class – held daily at 9:00 AM from Sunday through Thursday – online via their page on Walt Disney World’s website.  Which day of the week you book, will determine the cake that you get to decorate. Classes on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday decorate the Classic Mickey Design while classes on Monday and Wednesday will get to decorate the Current Seasonal Mickey design. It costs $149 (plus tax) for up to 2 participants, age 10 or older. Groups larger than 2 will have to make an additional reservation. The fee includes the class, your cake, alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments during your class, and a special gift from Amorette’s. I know that Audrey would LOVE to do this class and maybe the little chef in your family would love it too!

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My daughter proudly shows off the Classic Mickey Cake from Amorette’s Patisserie. (K. Gillooly, photographer)

 

The VOID: STAR WARS™: SECRETS OF THE EMPIRE BY ILMxLAB

Now THIS is something that I can’t wait to try.  The VOID, which debuted December 2017,  is what Disney calls a “hyper-reality experience.” It combines virtual reality with physical sets and gives you that much more of a realistic experience. As if that doesn’t sound cool enough, it takes place in the Star Wars universe.  You get to go undercover as Stormtroopers to collect intelligence for the Rebellion.  Reservations can be made through their website, and it costs $29.95 for this one hour experience.  Although it was open when I was down at Disney Springs last month, we just couldn’t fit it into an already tight schedule for the conference.  Rest assured that it will be at the TOP of my list when I return and I will be sure to tell you what it was like!  Here’s a video to give you a taste…

 

Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Hotel

Although not necessarily part of Disney Springs, it might as well be with how close it is to the action.  Believe it or not, you don’t actually have to walk through a crosswalk to get from the hotel to Disney Springs!  This is courtesy of the relatively new pedestrian bridge that connects the Wyndham with Disney Springs across the street. This was a huge benefit that we took advantage of while we stayed there last month, especially because we didn’t rent a car.  We also benefited from the hotel’s continuous free shuttle service to all of the Disney Parks. Now, though very awesome, proximity wasn’t the only great thing about this hotel. First, the hotel recently completed a $10 million renovation, which is obvious in how new and clean everything looks as you walk through it.  I met Mr. Jay Leonard, the hotel’s General Manager at an event last year. Given how immaculate the hotel has looked during my two stays there, it’s no surprise that he was recognized as Central Florida Hospitality and Lodging Association Member of the Year.  Secondly, although the hotel is not owned by Disney, guests still enjoy some of the perks of Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests, namely Extra Magic Hours as well as the ability to make FastPass+ selections 60 days in advance (with a valid theme park ticket, of course).  Wyndham also features a very reasonably priced character breakfast three days per week in their Lakeview Restaurant.  Having paid the bill at a number of character breakfasts at the Disney Parks, I was pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive it was for a family of four given the high quality of the food and service.  They have a Disney-licensed shop right in their lobby where you can pick up that item you missed in the theme park.  By the way, we REALLY loved their pool and water play area.  While my daughters took a dip in the Oasis pool with some innovative interactive water attractions, my wife and I comfortably lounged near the bar.  Finally, rooms at the hotel are very reasonably priced and a great value given all the benefits of staying on the property.  I can’t recommend this hotel enough.  For more on this great hotel, be sure to check out Shawn McAskill’s blog post on it, which includes a YouTube video shot inside the hotel.

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Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Oasis Pool (K. Gillooly, photographer)

 

Live music at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant

Anyone who knows me is aware of the pride I feel for my Irish heritage. The traditions, the history, the music, and the culture are all fantastic. I can’t think of a better place to spend some time than in an authentic traditional Irish pub.  Remove your skepticism because Raglan Road can rightfully consider itself one of those.  Whether you’re sampling the items from Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon’s menu, or quenching your thirst at one of their FOUR imported 130+ year old walnut and mahogany Irish bars, you will feel as though you’ve been transported across the Atlantic and dropped into a watering hole on the Emerald Isle.  It’s not hard to believe that Raglan Road has become the top seller of Guiness beer in the United States. One of the best features of this restaurant is the daily live music played at the restaurant from late afternoon until closing. Guests are encouraged to clap and sing along, while children can come up and learn some Irish dance with the Raglan Road Irish Dancers.  The contemporary and traditional Irish music played in the center of Raglan Road’s Grand Dining Room provides the perfect accompaniment to enjoying a great dining experience.

Raglan Road Irish Pub Restaurant Disney Springs Walt Disney World

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant (K. Gillooly, photographer)

 

Splitsville Luxury Lanes

OK, bottom line up front…best bowling alley food I have ever had.  Period.  Now, I know that’s a low bar and in some cases bowling alley food is beloved because of how bad it sometime can be.  How about this? I would go here if it was just a restaurant and you couldn’t have their fabulous food delivered to you while you bowl with family and/or friends.  Now, the Splitsville near Fredericksburg, VA – where I have been a handful of times – has the great food I mentioned and 16 lanes for bowling.  The one that opened in December 2012 down in Disney Springs features the same great menu featuring items such as grilled Mahi Mahi and grilled chicken Parmesan, but sports 30 lanes, two floors, and two sushi bars!  The nice thing is, a majority of their menu items are shareable.  That way, you can order a couple of dishes, get some extra plates and share among your whole group.  If you’re looking for a unique family dining experience, this is definitely it.  By the way, fellow Traveling Dad Josh Rodriguez did a great piece on Splitsville and some other great Disney Springs restaurants.  For more great info, check it out!

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Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Disney Springs (Kent Phillips, photographer)

 

I never get tired of walking around Disney Springs.  It has almost become like a 5th Disney Park down in Florida. It’s got entertainment, shopping, fantastic food, and one-of-a-kind experiences that will add to your vacation.  Make sure this place is on your “to-do” list for your next visit to Walt Disney World.  You won’t regret it! For more on Disney Springs, check out our podcast!  You can also check out some other great Disney Springs blog posts from my fellow Traveling Dads:

How To Eat on a Budget in Disney Springs

5 Best Things to Do While Solo At Walt Disney World

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