Many repeat Disney guests are about to experience the now fully opened and reimagined Disney Springs (and the new experience of navigating the giant parking structures) for the first time. The construction for this project was a huge endeavor, and guests may have been temporarily inconvenienced by backed up traffic or lack of parking. If this was you, it may be that you are still feeling anxious about driving to (and parking at) Disney Springs. You might begin to fret just remembering the old days of the parking lots adjacent to (then) Downtown Disney, as drivers circled around and around like sharks, waiting for a place to open up. (And how many times did two sharks arrive simultaneously at an available spot from opposite directions, the drivers exchanging glares!) Parking at Downtown Disney was definitely not a magical experience.
But take a deep breath and prepare to trust again, because Disney has waved its magical wand over the whole area (not that the construction felt easy or magical for those who had to endure it!), and you will be amazed at the ease of the whole arrival experience – and the parking is still free. Buena Vista Drive has been widened, with separate lanes for Disney buses. Two large, intelligent (really!) parking garages (built atop the old parking lots) await. Welcome to Orange or Lime!
The Orange Garage is on the West Side. Choose Orange for Cirque du Soleil, DisneyQuest, Bongos, the AMC theaters, Splitsville, etc. (Large traditional parking lots are also available on the West Side: fruitfully named Strawberry, Watermelon, Grapefruit, and Mango!) Note that originally Disney seemed to plan to stress names of “neighborhoods” at Disney Springs – the new ones being the Landing and Town Center. But planners seem to have backed off this intention – you won’t find the word “neighborhood” on any signage or Disney Springs map – and the names of the sections appear only in small print on the Legend part of the map. The names are not used on the Disney Springs website at all. The “Landing” is still used as the dock name for the old Pleasure Island area. (The former name for the lake itself used to be “Village Lake,” but is now “Lake Buena Vista.”)
The new Lime Garage is most convenient to the sprawling section of shopping and restaurants which stands on what used to be the Pleasure Island parking lot. Both Orange and Lime are decorated with beautiful tile work (don’t miss the colorful risers on the stairs) and other touches of Spanish revival style architecture.
In typical fashion, Disney has made the ordinary … extraordinary. These are pretty garages – each with a cascading wall of greenery (which will presumably only get more lush with the passage of time). Smart digital parking systems tell you how many places are open in each garage – and even on each level of each garage — and even in each row of each level. In fact, each parking place is equipped with a small domed sensor extending down from the ceiling – look for one with a green light to find the place that’s waiting for you. No sharking required!
Note that the second floor will be your first choice for a parking place, since the one entrance to Disney Springs is from the second floor. (There are plenty of escalators and elevators to move from floor to floor within the garage – all adjacent to the main entrance.)
The Lime Garage is something of a “front door” for those arriving at Disney Springs by car. You’ll make a grand entrance down its escalators and stairs to a large, beautiful fountain with lovely tile work. As you enter, don’t miss the nearby Archimedes Screw – your kids will have something fun to contribute to discussion in their school science class. (The fictional backstory is that the device was used by early settlers of Disney Springs to draw water up from the springs. Give it a try!) The main promenade of Town Center stretches from the new Coke Store (three stories high – with a rooftop lounge) around to World of Disney at the far end, with a dazzling array of new shops and restaurants between and surrounding.
The Marketplace area, with Earl of Sandwich, Rainforest Cafe, World of Disney, etc. has only valet parking ($20 plus gratuity), but the Lime garage isn’t a long walk away. Guests staying at Saratoga Springs Resort have the best arrival option for the Marketplace, since they can just walk across the new(ish) bridge. Another shortcut that will ease stress and walkway crowding is the new “Village Causeway” – a wide, graceful bridge from one side of the Marketplace to the other. The causeway connects the area in front of the LEGO store with the Rainforest Cafe area and is punctuated with kiosks for shopping and snackage, so you won’t get hungry or bored as you traverse it!
Disney was wise to rename the whole district (from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs) because it is so transformed. You will find yourself stumbling upon a familiar landmark without realizing you were approaching it. “Oh, this is where World of Disney is?!” You’ll even wonder if they could have moved it. (They didn’t!)