By Dawn Allcot
One of the best things about Disney Springs is there is always something new to explore.
Whether it’s a small kiosk or a new restaurant, if you’re a regular visitor you’re almost bound to discover some unexplored corner of the vast, 120-acre shopping and dining extravaganza.
If you haven’t been there in a while, you will be amazed by the changes and improvements.
And Disney keeps adding more to do each year.
Here are a few Disney Springs adventures you won’t want to miss. (And most of them are free – or close to it.)
1. Take Your Picture with the Coca-Cola Bear
Venture up to the second level of the Coca-Cola Store and you’ll find the famous Coca-Cola Polar Bear all ready for a photo opp. The photos link to your Disney PhotoPass so you can download them free as part of your Memory Maker subscription.
Other reviewers say that you can even have a friend take a photo with your phone or your own camera to keep, for free. #PolarSelfie, anyone?
Keep going to the rooftop soda bar and taste a flight of 16 Coke beverages for just $9.
The LEGO store, one of the original retail venues when Disney Springs was still Downtown Disney, is a great place to spend time with your kids. We literally spent two hours there building and racing LEGO cars near the water’s edge.
Photo opps abound, but you’ll need to use your own phone or camera. You’ll find a dragon, Buzz Lightyear on a rocket, Woody and Buzz, the Incredible Hulk, LEGO friends, and the famous Loch Ness Monster peeking out from the lake.
You can also build your own LEGO creations on multiple tables throughout the store, or create LEGO mini-figs to take home, three for $10.
3. Become an On-screen Superhero
Ever wonder what you would look like as Iron-man, Captain America, or Black Widow?
Find out in the Marvel Super Hero Headquarters.
The magic of green screen technology puts your face onto the Marvel super hero of your choice and displays it on the wall-mounted monitor for all to see. The store’s team members clap when the latest super hero is born.
The experience doesn’t link to your Disney PhotoPass or MemoryMaker, but you can take a photo home for $30. Even if you don’t buy the print, the experience is worth a few minutes of your time.
4. Build Your Own Lightsaber
Disney Springs boasts two Star Wars stores – one right next to the Super Hero Headquarters. You can build your own lightsaber in either store from a wide collection of parts. No one frowns upon a mini-lightsaber battle inside the store, either.
While we didn’t purchase any of our lightsaber creations, you certainly can. But for our kids, the fun was in the building.
Make a right at the entrance to the TRex Café and you’ll find an alcove filled with sand and children digging happily. Whether or not you eat at the TRex Café, children can play paleontologist and unearth dinosaur bones with the brushes provided – or their hands.
Great for toddlers but I saw several tweens digging with younger siblings, too.
This one’s for the hard-working moms.
After a day of Disney parks and the Florida heat, you’ll want to chill out in Disney Springs with this free perk during Happy Hour. Stop by Wine Bar George for a free taste of Frose, the season’s coolest adult beverage.
Six- and nine-ounce pours are also affordable by Disney standards, so get one to-go.
Take a Break (From Spending) at Disney Springs
With more than 150 shopping, dining, and entertainment venues, Disney Springs can certainly get as expensive as other properties in the Disney World Resort.
But it is also fun to wander for several hours and take in the atmosphere without spending a bundle.
What’s your favorite free activity to do in Florida’s Disney Springs?
7 Things to Buy Before You Reach Disney
By Dawn Allcot
Disney is expensive. Between park tickets and lodging, you can spend a fortune before you even pass through the magical gates.
Once inside, that’s when the temptation starts. Mickey ice cream. Sweet beverages. T-shirts. Toys. It doesn’t end.
Carrying a well-stocked bag can help you avoid having to make impulse purchases at the park so you have money to spend on the things that really matter.
Here are 7 things you should buy before you reach Disney property, because you’ll save a bundle.
- Refillable Water Bottles
In spite of Disney’s high prices, the parks are accommodating to guests and do allow you to bring in water bottles, as long as they are plastic or metal. Glass bottles will be confiscated.
Since you don’t want to weigh yourself down with water, however, pack one bottle per person and plan to refill it at Disney’s water fountains. Since the water doesn’t exactly taste like Poland Spring, you may want to bring packets of flavor enhancers, and even Emergen-C for when the grown-ups start lagging later in the day. (Disney’s iced coffee is also delicious for a mid-day pick-me-up.)
- Spray Bottles with Fans
These devices that let you spritz water while enjoying the cooling comfort of a handheld fan are a great investment. But you can get them a lot cheaper off Disney property. Stop in to the local Walgreens or Dollar General before you reach the parks for a bargain bottle and batteries to power it.
Some Disney treats can’t be beat, especially in Epcot’s World Pavilion. It’s worth springing for caramel corn inside Epcot’s German Pavilion, Churro bites from Mexico or, well, virtually anything in France.
But for those times when hunger strikes and the kiddos aren’t up for traveling the world (so to speak) pack a bag full of easy-to-eat, non-perishable snacks. My kids like dehydrated apples, goldfish, granola bars, Pringles, cereal, and trail mix, so I’m stocking up before our trip with a quick stop at Publix.
If you don’t mind carrying a small cooler or lunchbox (Disney allows soft coolers up to 24-by-18-by-15 inches), the possibilities expand to things like yogurt, smoothies, string cheese, fruits, and vegetables.
- Disney Clothing
There is just so much shopping at Disney, it’s hard to resist the cute character t-shirts, hats, bags, and outfits. Of course, certain items can only be found on Disney property and you’ll have to decide if they are worth the splurge.
For everything else, try Kohl’s or Target, which offer a wide selection of Disney clothing.
For our upcoming trip, I picked up Stitch and Groot shirts for myself and my daughter, and a ton of Marvel tank tops for my son.
I love that Marvel is now part of Disney and very prominent in the parks, because it alleviates the princess overload and offers something my son loves. He will get lots of wear out of those shirts even after vacation.
- Rain Poncho or Umbrella
Although we snagged a great deal on a panda umbrella once in Japan at Epcot, for the most part raingear is not cheap inside the parks. You’ll spend less virtually anyplace else.
It’s also very sunny.
True story: I went to Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs), with a close friend and our one-year-old daughters, years ago. First-time moms, both of us. And we forgot to pack sunscreen. I think we spent something like $25 for a small bottle, which we shared and treated like gold.
- Glowsticks or Light-up Toys
The sun goes down, the carts come out …. Carts carrying all manner of light-up toys and glow items at Disney prices. Hit Family Dollar, Dollar General or Party City before the parks so when your child asks for a glowing princess wand, you can pull one out of your bag and save the money for Mickey Mouse ears, which are tough to find outside the parks, and are reasonably priced anywhere on the property.
Does It Ever Pay to Pack Light?
If you’re not on a budget, are the spontaneous type, or don’t have kids, you can probably get by with your park passes, cash and credit cards, smartphones, and ID.
You really can buy almost everything you need on Disney grounds.
But most of the items listed don’t take up a lot of room in a backpack or slingbag.
The convenience and cost-savings make it worthwhile to spend some time preparing for your days at the parks, so you can splurge without guilt on things like a meal with your favorite characters, a princess makeover, and the all-important Disney PhotoPass.
Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist, frequent Disney vacationer, and mom-of-two. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two kids, two cats, and two lizards. To learn more, visit www.allcotmediamarketing.com.
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