Is a trip to Walt Disney World complete without a visit to Disney Springs? If you classify yourself as a professional shopper then definitely don’t let Disney Springs pass you by. After completing a vast and extensive renovation a few years back, the original Disney Shopping Village Marketplace, and then Downtown Disney, was officially rebranded to Disney Springs. With that rebranding came a whole new array of food and fun.
ou can now literally spend an entire day, or a full morning, afternoon, or evening at the Springs, and never once run out of something to do. Many more stores were added, some pricey, some reasonable. I didn’t run into anything that would be considered low cost, but you can definitely make your own fun too with little to no money involved. Parking is still free, thank goodness. And there is usually live entertainment on stage by the World of Disney store every time I’ve visited recently. So grab a coffee from Joffrey’s (a storefront Joffrey’s!) and stroll around the West Side, the Landing, and the Marketplace, for a nice outing outside of the ticketed Disney Parks.
On this particular visit we we were searching for dinner reservations at The Boathouse. I was trying to reserve dining through the My Disney Experience app, but I ended up booking dinner through OpenTable. The Disney app has given me nothing but grief and trouble for at least a few years now. So finally, after countless attempts to resolve, I took some drastic Disney action and deleted the app from my phone altogether. As a formerly huge Disney fan (now just a casual fan) this was a big step for me to take, but it had to be done. The app officially would not let me reserve anything anymore, rendering it almost totally useless for me. One of the issues was that it kept asking for an updated credit card, and I gave it this information more than you really want to even know. Error processing notifications were constant. Well, if you don’t give The Mouse your money, The Mouse doesn’t let you play. Dining reservations, theme park tickets, hotel reservations, mobile quick service food, drink, and snack ordering, etc, are all on the app now, and all need your credit card. My husband had the same problem, consistently, and it wasn’t our cards. We were able to reserve over the phone if we called just fine. It was definitely the app. The app also would not recognize a change of address or any other profile update I attempted. I always had to call, and wait in queue, to do anything with Disney.
I needed to find a new way to book a dinner reservation with Disney, without wasting too much of my time, and had just about to given up on Disney Springs altogether when I went to my Opentable app. When I searched restaurants in Orlando many of the Springs restaurants came up as available. I was shocked actually because after booking countless dining reservations through Disney in the past, and aware of their ‘if you don’t show up’ fee per person applied to your credit card on the reservation, it ended up being so easy to book Disney dining through OpenTable. And a credit card wasn’t needed, and I earned points in the process as well.
We did end up at The Boathouse for dinner, and it was one of the most fabulous dinners of my life in Florida. Having dined there in the past on a trip to Florida before moving down here, at the time I remember thinking the exact same thing - one of the best meals of my life. And that was when I lived in the Chicago area, where the best food in the world comes from, no joke. I do have a theory on why I love the food at The Boathouse so much. It’s owned by Gibson’s, a Chicago based restaurant group. Naturally, the Chicago-instilled history of The Boathouse is why the food is so darn good, of course.
As soon as our server first came to greet us at our table I noticed his Disney name tag as being from Chicago, IL. ‘Ooooh!’ I said, surprised. ‘You’re from Chicago! We are from the Chicago area and moved down a few years ago.’
He said he and his wife had done the same thing. Why would anyone live with those harsh winters?!... We all agreed and laughed.
It turns out he grew up in my hometown, and went to the high school just across town. He took our order and asked if we were in a hurry? ‘No,’ we said, ‘definitely not.’
We weren’t going to the theme parks, had zero fast pass reservations to rush off to, and were not watching fireworks anywhere that evening. THIS was our entertainment. Knowing we were not in a rush, he said he would bring out our courses on a leisurely basis, instead of the quick pace that some might need and require while on a Disney vacation.
Well, I had the best, most flavorful, and absolutely lovely meal of my life. So simple yet so good. Shrimp cocktail to start, tomato salad, and filet mignon sliders for the main course. Afterward we said goodbye to our server and wished him well on our way out. The rest of the evening we spent going in some shops that I hardly ever get a chance to visit.
On the way back to our hotel we stopped at Twistee Treat for dessert. Which I have officially-unofficially classified as the best and most quintessential ice cream shop in all of Orlando. I first learned about Twistee Treat from Teresa Echols @ The Dis, (one of my favorite Dis team members by the way) and then, I saw the cone in The Florida Project and knew I had to try it. I’ve been to Twistee Treat a number of times now and it does not disappoint. LOVE that place! So while a professional shopper needs to visit Disney Springs, an ice cream aficionado needs to go to Twistee Treat.
Back at the hotel after a lovely evening, I reflected on the night’s experience. Once again, I reminded myself that it’s those little things — those small interactions with cast members — laughing hysterically at the shared trauma of experiencing Chicago winters in the past that we have said goodbye to, magical moments with family and friends, and of course, good food.
I may not be a Disney Annual Passholder anymore. Nor a Disney Vacation Club Member, Tables in Wonderland card holder, or even a Disney shareholder any longer. Heck - they are even ripping out my brick on the walking path in front of the Magic Kindgom this year! But my history with Disney runs deep, and I do respect that past. I know that without Disney and without Walt, I simply would not be who I am today or where I am today, literally and figuratively. I’m 38, with no children, and I have always known that if I ever had a boy he would be named Walt. That fact remains today. I love Walt and thank him for the kindness he left in this world. So while my Disney fan status has dropped significantly in the past few years, most of which is due to massive — and what I deem simply harsh — price increases to experience anything Disney present day, there will always be a place in my heart for The Mouse, even if he is no longer on my phone.
Well, we’re really in the dog days of summer now, that’s for sure. Known for being the hottest of hot days of the summer during the time period between July and August, the dog days come around this time each year. This season is absolutely screaming for you to have some quality time in the water... in the pool, in the lake, in the springs, or in the ocean. And let’s not forget about popsicles, freezer pops, lawn sprinklers, and kids playing baseball games in their neighborhood street.
When I look straight up toward the sun in the middle of summer and see that bright, hot, and hazy glare staring back at me, I remember being a kid and having so much fun during this time of year. But then the weather always failed me... it got cold out again and summer was over. Along with the hose and the lawn sprinklers and the ice cream melting in my hand as I ate it off a wooden stick. So long until next year. When you grow up in Illinois, summer really is a defined time period each year; and as certain as you are that it will come, you are just as certain that it will end. And out came my puffy winter coat and big, heavy winter boots.
But now that I live in Florida, summer heat and that endless summer feeling never end. Like, for real! Weather was the number one reason I moved here and remains the single best reason I continue to live here a few years later. When it’s January 21st in cold Chicago it’s very hard for any Illinoisan to imagine a place where you can stand outside by the ice cream truck and eat ice cream off a stick, on that very same day, year round? Those places were only in my dreams before Florida.
I remember seeing in the news recently that Universal Orlando Resort opened a new hotel on their property. That’s pretty big news for Universal, as they have far less on-site hotels than their competitor, Walt Disney World, down the street. Well, they named this new hotel the Endless Summer Resort. And almost immediately after the announcement, in some online travel forums there was talk making fun of the name. Tons of folks complained and made fun of the name Endless Summer for a hotel. How can a hotel be named Endless Summer? They said that isn’t a name. It’s more like a state of being. EXACTLY. A state of being. Universal got it and they got it good. I know exactly why they named the hotel Endless Summer. Endless Summer is not just a feeling, it’s a complete way of life down here. What better theme for a resort catering to tourists from out of state, from let’s say places like Illinois, than to evoke and market coming to stay there based on that endless summer childlike feeling we all want to savor and we all want never to end.
I definitely plan on visiting Universal Studios in the near future. And now with the very reasonable room rates, the chic, contemporary and surfer vibe decor, Endless Summer is definitely a place I will consider staying at. But in the mean time, I’ll be soaking up the sun and enjoying doggiest of dog days of my Endless Floridian Summer. So come on down. The water’s warm and the sun never rests. I promise.
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