Disney Springs has Sprung!

The new look Disney Springs


Disney Springs, Orlando

Previously known as Down town Disney, Orlando.

Over the last couple of years we have seen huge developments around one of our favourite places to hang out – Disney Springs, Orlando.

The Walt Disney World resort offers plenty to do with the family with a pinch of Disney fairy dust, just so you don’t forget where you are!  With over 180 waterside places to eat, shopping and entertainment you can easily fill a day here or spend just a few hours to get your retail fix on your days off away from the parks, not forgetting the all year long Christmas store in the Marketplace.

From fine dining to prehistoric entertainment in the T-Rex dinosaur-themed café, face painting for the kids (any age!) or a dockside margarita there is really is something for everyone!


T-Rex Cafe at Disney Springs

There is a huge amount of new parking facilities or simply catch one of the Walt Disney World complimentary buses or boats.

If you have a free day in your Orlando holiday, this really is a great place to visit if you are looking for an exciting and busy atmosphere. We’d highly recommend booking a table before hand if you are limited to time or be aware it can get busy and you may have to wait for something to eat – more so if you wanting to eat at a particular place but you can check in and be sent away with a time slot or buzzer when your table is ready. There are plenty of places to pick up snacks, coffees and ice cream as you go… Did i mention the margaritas ;0)

If not a great day with the weather or you fancy staying out into the night, you could watch a movie and have a bite to eat at the same time in the 24 dine-in theatres. A great way to entertain the teens in your group, along with the new NBA Experience that has just replaced the DisneyQuest with hands-on activities and interactive experiences.

Like most things in America, Disney Springs is on the large scale so don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve seen it all! There are pathways and bridges between the 3 areas and you can even catch a ferry across the lake from one end to the other.

  • The Marketplace is the main shopping area with stores like World of Disney and The LEGO Store.
  • What was previously known as Pleasure Island is now where restaurants and shops largely operate, and is located in the middle. Have you got space in your suitcases for all your shopping! www.disneysprings.com/shops
  • The West Side is on the far side of Disney Springs, and is where more of the third party entertainment, shopping, and dining options are at.

We have been here many times when our little boy was too young to appreciate the parks but we all felt like we had a fix of Disney!

So who is off to Disney Spring this year? Check it out… www.disneysprings.com



No escape from Disney!


Disney Springs opening 2015 & 2016

Disney Springs opening finishes in Spring 2016

Disney Springs opening 2015

The BOATHOUSE at Disney Springs opening in 2015

Walt Disney World announced Disney Springs in March 2014 – a thorough renovation of Downtown Disney that is opening across 2015 and 2016 in phases.

Due to complete in Spring 2016, the final results will be more shopping, bigger and better dining and entertainment, and a fantastic open air experience with promenades, springs and waterfront features.  The theme of Disney Springs will focus on four areas, the Town Center, Landing, Marketplace, and West Side.

Disney Springs will see the following features now confirmed from our previous post:

  • An expansion of shops and dining from 75 to 150 locations
  • Town Center mix of dining and shopping with relaxing spaces for all the family
  • Landing dining experiences accompanied with waterfront views
  • Marketplace commercial area, with shops such as the CO-OP
  • West Side entertainment for all ages
  • Confirmed places to eat are STK Orlando, Morimoto Asia and THE BOATHOUSE
  • The Landing has already opened Apex by Sunglass Hut and Chapel Hats on January 30th 2015
  • Other confirmed retailers are Art of Shaving (grooming), Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC, Havaianas (create your own), Sanuk footwear, and Sound Lion music products

More here: source.  And connecting it all up here.

There’s already a lot of changes present, including a complicated mix of parking that will eventually result in a huge multi-storey car park.  So if you are planning to visit Downtown Disney or Disney Springs opening make sure you leave a little extra time in your schedule.

Disney Springs Parking

Parking at Disney Springs

We already recommend that every Orlando family holiday has a day at Downtown Disney, so this will be just another reason to make it happen, even if all you want is a Mickey Mouse Christmas bauble!


Orlando budget vacation – our itinerary

Our family holiday in the winter sun

We visit Florida every year to look after our private villa, so we often want to have an Orlando budget vacation and just enjoy the winter sun without too much stress or theme park expense.  In this post I will go through our basic itinerary so you can get some ideas for your own Florida holiday.

Step 1: Book our villa – we’re not joking!


Orlando budget vacation: Fantastic morning view from your villa in the Florida winter sun

Clearly we are biased, but it’s impossible to do Orlando on a budget without having your own family base.  Renting a villa saves a huge amount of money when all types expenses are considered.  You can stay in (or pop to the community tennis courts), enjoy the pool, sunbathe, cook your own meals (when you feel like it), entertain yourself in the games room, or just laze your day away reading a book.

All of this with the same sort of costs as being at home.  Just add food and drink to your private villa’s refrigerator and cupboards!


Relaxing underwater in our heated pool and spa

In the evenings once the little ones are asleep you can turn on the spa and crack open a domestic beer or chilled wine – as long as you’ve remembered to pop in to Publix or Walmart and stock up on essentials.  If you’re all watered-out then how about winding down with your family and friends inside with a mini-party and checking out what’s on the HD Cable for a few hours?


Say cheese – the Burton family enjoying their pool in Tuscan Ridge

We’ve had a few guest book comments telling us that their children learnt to swim in our pool.  Kids don’t seem to be able to get enough of the water and sometimes they don’t want to be at a theme park all day when they can be messing around in their own pool.  Send a pool selfie back to your friends at home to make them jealous.  Why not?

Staying in and enjoying our private villa in Tuscan Ridge: total of 4 days for free.

Step 2: Restaurants and Disney hotels are a theme park in themselves

Everything in Orlando’s Disney World is completely overwhelming and finished to an incredibly high standard for holidaymakers.  Their hotels and restaurants are a perfect example of this.

Pop down to Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs) to sample the T-Rex and Rainforest cafe menus. You don’t have to buy the biggest steak on the menu – the three of us were full up on a kid’s meal and sampler menu. There are also some little rides to sample and lots of entertainment in the form of Disney characters. You can also catch the ferry over to the Boardwalk from the top end of Downtown Disney.


Enjoying the T-Rex cafe surroundings


Outside the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney

With a full stomach it’s time to whizz off to some of the better Disney hotels to enjoy the surroundings and extreme scale.  We recommend the Art of Animation (full of the Cars cast including Lightning McQueen) and Animal Kingdom Lodge, complete with it’s own safari viewing area.

Enjoying Disney hotels and restaurants: total of 2 days for less than $150 worth of food between three of us.



Lightning McQueen at Art of Animation


Outside the Yacht club hotel in Disney

Step 3: Enjoy the theme parks and attractions that are better value

You don’t have to blow the budget on the Disney and Universal theme parks all the time.  There are plenty of areas to enjoy that aren’t $100 a pop.  Try Gatorland for a unique view of Florida’s alligators, or the Florida state parks for an adventurous day out in the wild.

One of he biggest Aligators in Gatorland Florida

One of the biggest Aligators in Gatorland Florida


Riding a Gator at Gatorland – great parenting!

Enjoying Gatorland and other lower priced parks: total of 2 days and less than $100 for a family of three

Step 4: Take advantage of Seaworld’s return visit offers

Personally our family enjoy Seaworld, despite the ongoing controversy surrounding the park.  They have a wonderful Christmas theme in December and if you take advantage of their return visit for $10 a person you can spread out the park over a couple of visits. There is easily enough to do in Seaworld to last two full days.


Shamu’s Christmas show


Dolphins at Seaworld


Our boy Rowan meeting Shamu at the Christmas themed days

Seaworld: total of 2 days and $150 for the three of us

Step 5: Hire or rent the biggest car you can (maybe not an Orlando budget vacation)!

OK, maybe this is contrary to the idea of an Orlando budget vacation, but sometimes you can get a lot of fun out of having the biggest and best car you can get from your car hire company – and just enjoying the driving out in Florida. Sometimes you can drive a bargain at the Airport, so hold out and negotiate for a Cadillac Escalade next time!


Cadillac Escalade in front of Dave’s Florida Villa

Orlando budget vacation - car hire

Car rental – Little and Large

Step 6: Get out and about around the Four Corners area

Shopping at malls (it’s easy to get carried away with the shopping in Florida – we prefer the Mall At Millenia), enjoying the picturesque Celebration, travelling out to see the classic American cars at Old Town, Historic Kissimmee, or even further afield at Florida’s gorgeous beaches, it’s all completely free apart from the cost of the fuel to get there.

Celebration, Kissimmee, Malls, Old Town: total of 4 days and less than $40 for the bike hire and fairground rides!



Old Town Cruise night


Splish splash in the public fountains at Celebration


Enjoying a 2 seater bicycle in Celebration

We hope this has given you inspiration for your next holiday to Florida – just make sure you contact us first to book our Florida Villa.

Orlando alternative days out

Fun for under $25?

It’s not difficult to get Orlando alternative days out for your family and our latest blog post tells you how.

Its not all about Mickey Mouse and fairy dust with an expensive park entrance fee in Orlando, here are our top ten attractions and activities to do for less than $25 per person! Starting with number one, and in no particular order….

1. Boat tours

Winter Park Boat Tours. Located on Lake Osceola in the quiet suburb less than 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, the boat tour offers hour-long, guided cruises through three of the seven lakes and two, narrow man-made canals on the tranquil Winter Park chain.

2. West Orange Bike Trails

Located directly on the West Orange Trail. Rentals start at Mile Marker 0 of this beautiful trail, which now stretches 22 miles along the edge of Lake Apopka and through the quaint downtown of Winter Garden. Some of the best rides on this trail are broken up by lunch or Ice Cream from one of the downtown shops.


West Orange Bike Trail Map

3. Florida Zoo

Besides seeing over 400 animals (that doesn’t even include the bugs in the Massey Services Insect Zoo), you can take to the sky and enjoy our aerial adventure course, ZOOm Air Adventure Park or bring your flip-flops and swimsuit to cool-off in the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground. – See more at: http://www.centralfloridazoo.org/visit#sthash.xAscSNpq.dpuf

4. Orlando Science Center

The Orlando Science Center has been a place that inspires curiosity and exploration. Truly one of the great activities for Orlando families, the Science Center encourages learning in a fun way.

5. Kings Bowling Orlando

Bowling should always be on the list for Orlando alternative days out (or nights).  Fun for all the family to eat, bowl and just chill out any time of the day or night.

kings bowling

Kings Bowling Orlando

6. Pirate Cove Adventure Golf

Not one but two 18-hole miniature golf courses in a pirate-themed setting (locations in the Lake Buena Vista and International Drive areas).

7. ACM Dine in Theatre

One of our favourite places to visit, not only does Downtown Disney offer various shops and places to eat, you can combine dinner and a movie with seat-side service.

8. Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Amazing Exhibits, Unusual Art, Unbelievable & Genuine Artifacts from Around the Globe! The Orlando location of Ripley’s is a good way to spend half a day on a budget.  Although it is not for the faint hearted – you have been warned!

9. Co Co Key Water Resort

Escape for the day and purchase Orlando water park tickets for CoCo Key Water Resort, where kids can play on our 14 slides and rides and parents can relax under the Florida sunshine. Our day passes are available for purchase 7 days a week and children less than 3 feet tall are free. Non-Resident Pass: $22.95 per person per day

10. Harry P. Leu Gardens

Explore an amazing 50-acre botanical oasis minutes from downtown Orlando.  One of the more relaxing days out in Florida for when you want to take it easy and lower the pace.

We hope this gives you some great ideas for Orlando alternative days out, no more expensive family tickets every day of your holiday!

2014 Orlando Attractions

New Orlando Attractions in 2014

Theme Parks

If you need something to look forward to in 2014, how about checking these new thrills and attractions out?  The are loads of exciting events coming – here are our top picks in the 2014 Orlando Attractions line-up.

Busch Gardens – Falcon’s Fury, climb nearly 300 feet, then pivot 90 degrees in mid-air to a daring dive position, eyes fixed on the ground far below. Plunge at 60mph straight down to where you started – a ride like you’ve never experienced before.

Duplo Valley at Legoland Florida. Visit the newest and most splashtastic place to play and explore for the littlest tots in your party.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort, the new land will boast a Hogwarts Express train to carry you from the existing Hogsmeade land to the new Diagon Alley.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

No official date yet, but the final phase of New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World with the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is one to look out for.

Ihu’s Breakaway Falls at Aquatica. The drop slide will be the tallest, steepest and only multi-slide ride of its kind in Orlando.

I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing, Vanguard Street, Orlando. state-of-the-art, eco-friendly electric karts for the whole family to enjoy.

Downtown Orlando

For those taking a trip out to Orlando, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando is a great place to visit.  They are giving the community a “sneak peek” at the much-anticipated 2014-15 inaugural Broadway Season, by announcing the Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical smash, Newsies, as part of their lineup.

Places to stay

More 2014 Orlando Attractions are the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Four Seasons Resort Orlando – 444 guest rooms, a golf course, full-service spa, three restaurants and an elaborate pool area

Cabana Bay Beach Resort – 1800 rooms – the largest on-site hotel inspired by retro resorts of the 1950s and ’60s.