The Mouse is the king of commercialism. In the parks you can’t walk off a ride or out of a show without visiting a gift shop. Places to spend money outnumber attractions at a rate of maybe 5 to 1. So why not cut out the roller coaster and just have places to eat, drink, shop? That is Disney Springs.

In so many ways this is the fifth amusement park and one that skews a little more like Epcot without an identity crisis. There is no admission fee and everything is à la carte. The theme is a little less Disney in some ways and Disney at their best in others. There are less characters but there is a story that loosely connects the bars, restaurants and theme of Disney Springs.

It is still a mall in many ways but for a day outside the traditional parks, it is a relaxing escape from fast passes, long lines, and parades.

5. Starbucks

Starbucks at Disney are great. Each park has one and it is a great way to stand in your first line of the day and get your caffeine fix. There are two in Disney Springs which by itself is noteworthy but even more special is the drink menu at the Marketplace store. Just a short walk from the Lego Store this location has the most creative drinks ever seen at a coffee shop. If you are there in the “cooler” months from fall to winter check and see if they have the Melted Snowman Frappuccino or during Shark Week the Shark Attack Frappuccino. Check out the chalkboard and see what they have that is off the beaten path.

4. Uniqlo

If IKEA got into the clothing game it would look like Uniqlo. Reasonable priced clothing that hails from Japan with creative design and pop culture infusion. This is a great place to drop in and find something unique for anyone in the family. They have some Disney designs but they are more pop-art than most of what you might find in parks.

3. Happy Hour

Being from North Carolina hearing happy hour usually means a cheaper appetizer and if you are lucky an entrée or two that is discounted. In Florida drinks are included in this mix and it makes Disney Springs a great early evening stop. Starting around 4PM this is a great way to visit a couple of the bars and try something new. All of the discounts aren’t overwhelming and some are on food but it is a nice change of pace and a chance to get in early and save a dollar or two. Be sure to check out Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar and Raglan Road two of our favorites.

2. Marketplace Co-op

This otherwise unassuming store has the coolest, retro, not in your face Disney gear out there. Want something creative that isn’t stuck on Mouse Ear? This is your place. From remembering old rides (RIP Mr. Toad) to unique art prints and kitchen supplies you can celebrate a little Disney without looking like everyone else visiting Orlando.

1. Dining

The number one reason to come to Disney Springs? To eat. The best restaurants in any park are at Disney Springs. They rival some of the best dining options in the high-end resorts. From quick to full meals this is the place to splurge on food. Our favorites are the Polite Pig, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’, The Edison, Earl of Sandwich and Morimoto Asia. There is something for everyone but be careful if you stop at the Paddlefish (formerly Fulton’s Crab House) – people will leave you in there if you are gone for more than five minutes.