If you are planning a Disney World vacation and aren’t too familiar with the property, you might run across mention of Disney’s Boardwalk vs. Disney Springs. People generally say how they love to spend an evening on Disney’s Boardwalk. Others will chime in that they prefer to go to Disney Springs for all the dining options and shopping.
For starters, Disney’s Boardwalk and Disney Springs are two entirely different places in almost every relation. One is a resort with a themed area, while the other is a tremendous shopping, entertainment, and dining venue.
In similarity, both Disney’s Boardwalk and Disney Springs are free. You don’t have to pay admission to access either. However, if you drive to the Boardwalk you will need to have a dining reservation in order to park there. While parking at Disney Springs is free and doesn’t require anything.
In this review, we will take a look at the differences between Disney’s Boardwalk vs. Disney Springs. Then, I’ll provide an overview of what you can expect at each location, a few tips for dining, and guidance on using Disney transportation to get to each location.
Disney’s Boardwalk vs. Disney Springs
As mentioned above, the Boardwalk and Disney Springs should not really be compared as similar locations. The Boardwalk is actually part of Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort and Disney’s Boardwalk Villas. This resort hotel is classified as a Disney deluxe resort and deluxe villa resort.
Related: Disney Boardwalk Inn Review
The backside of Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is designed to look like a turn-of-the-century seaside boardwalk. It even has wooden flooring. While on the Boardwalk, you’ll run into a variety of shops, dining venues, and activities.
One of the charming things about staying in a Boardwalk villa or guest room with an upgraded view is looking out onto the Disney Boardwalk from your room. This is one of the resorts where we can say an upgraded room is definitely worth it.
As for Disney Springs, it’s about 1.5 miles down the road from Disney’s Boardwalk. However, both locations are conveniently located off Buena Vista Drive.
Disney Springs has right at 100 shops, 60+ dining locations and currently offers 20+ different entertainment options. In comparison, Disney’s Boardwalk Resort has a little over 10 dining options along with a few shops and entertainment.
Some of the popular dining options at Disney Springs include:
- Morimoto Asia
- Frontera Cocina
- Raglan Road
- Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill
- The Boathouse
- Deluxe Burger
- STK Orlando
- Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
- Blaze Pizza
You can read more about these options in our guide to the best restaurants at Disney Springs. It also includes tips for securing hard-to-get dining reservations at the venue using OpenTable.
At the Boardwalk, you might like to eat at one of the following locations:
- Trattoria al Forno
- Flying Fish
- Big River Grille and Brewing Works
- ESPN Club
- Boardwalk Bakery
- Pizza Window
- To Go Cart
- Joe’s Marvelous Margaritas
We have a full restaurant guide to Disney’s Boardwalk Resort available if you would like to learn more about these options.
While both of these locations have plenty of restaurants, you’re going to have much better luck at securing reservations at Disney Springs. Additionally, there are more walk-up options at Disney Springs that don’t require advanced reservations.
When it comes to shopping, you’ll definitely want to visit Disney Springs. However, the Boardwalk does have some charming shops like their large resort gift shop, The Screen Door. And they have a wonderful art gallery at The Wyland.
However, Disney Springs has a variety of shops featuring big brand names that you won’t find just anywhere. Some of the stores include:
- The Lego Store
- Vera Bradley
- Alex and Ani
- American Threads
In addition, this is one of the best places on Disney property to shop for Disney-specific merchandise. Some of those shops include:
- Ever After Jewelry Co. & Accessories
- Disney Style
- The Art of Disney
- Marketplace Co-op
- Disney’s Days of Christmas
- World of Disney
- Once Upon a Toy
You can preview the entire list of shops available at Disney Springs here.
Additionally, both of these locations have some entertainment options. For instance, the Boardwalk offers a few carnival-style games.
There are also Surrey bike rentals available to ride around the Crescent Lake area.
Speaking of Crescent Lake, my favorite thing to do here is take an early evening stroll around the lake. You can stop in at the different resorts in the area to tour, browse the gift shops, or pick up a cocktail.
There are swing sets on the sandy beach at Disney’s Beach Club Resort if you would like to enjoy the sunset. (I’ve sat here many times over the years and am definitely the better for it.)
Since Disney’s Riviera Resort has opened, you can hop on the Skyliner from this same area and tour that hotel as well. You might even walk over to Caribbean Beach Resort and check out the Banana Cabana.
In comparison, Disney Springs will have much more to do in the way of entertainment. Perhaps, one of the most popular touristy things to do is take flight on the Aerophile balloon.
If not, it’s still lovely to see it from various viewpoints while you walk around Disney Springs.
AMC Disney Springs Dine-In Theater is also available, offering a unique dinner with a movie experience. If you’d rather have dinner elsewhere, there are regular theaters available as well.
The Boathouse restaurant has amphicars, which are actually boats that you can drive out onto the water at Disney Springs. So this might be a fun option and definitely something different.
Sports fans will love Splitsville, a bowling alley that doubles as a restaurant. And the NBA Experience is supposed to be pretty cool when it eventually re-opens.
For a more elaborate form of entertainment, you might choose to purchase tickets for Cirque De Soleil (Drawn to Life). This is a new experience coming soon.
Additionally, Disney Springs usually has live performers (anything from musicians to artists) out and about during the evening hours. You’ll be able to find plenty to do here, ranging from free to extra cost activities.
As far as adult-only entertainment goes, the Boardwalk has Jellyrolls and Atlantic Dance Hall for adults over the age of 21. These are both temporarily unavailable, so make sure to check if they are open before heading over that way. And Disney Springs has The Edison, which turns into more of a nightclub scene later in the evening.
Both Boardwalk and Springs have a lot going for them. However, those looking for a variety of things to do will be better off at Disney Springs. And anyone looking for a more calm, casual vibe will likely enjoy an evening on the Boardwalk.
Traveling to Disney’s Boardwalk or Disney Springs
Lastly, I want to share with you a few tips for getting to Disney Boardwalk and Disney Springs. For accessing the Boardwalk, guests of the monorail resorts (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary) and Wilderness Lodge will want to take a Disney bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and walk to the Boardwalk. Or they can take the monorail to Magic Kingdom and then take a bus to Boardwalk Inn.
Guests of Animal Kingdom Lodge and surrounding resorts (Coronado Springs, All-Stars) might take a bus to Animal Kingdom and take a bus from there to Boardwalk Inn. Or you can take a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and walk over to the Boardwalk.
Those staying at a Disney Springs area resort (Port Orleans Resorts, Saratoga Springs) will want to take a bus to Hollywood Studios as well. Then walk over to the Boardwalk.
And guests of the Skyliner Resorts (Riviera, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation) can take the Skyliner to either Hollywood Studios or Epcot’s International Gateway (International Gateway will be closest) and walk over to the Boardwalk.
If you are staying at one of the Epcot Resorts, like Beach Club, Yacht Club, or the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort can walk over to the Boardwalk.
Okay, so if you’re traveling to Disney Springs, that’s an entirely different ballgame. Every Disney Resort hotel offers direct bus transportation to and from Disney Springs.
However, if you leave a theme park to get to Disney Springs, you will want to check out our Disney Springs transportation guide. This guide will help you with different routes to get to Disney Springs and around the venue if you don’t want to walk the entire thing.
Wrapping things up, I hope this review was able to give you a better idea of the differences between the Disney Boardwalk vs. Disney Springs. I know that planning a Disney vacation can be quite challenging.
When you start doing your research, it’s easy to get confused, given the amount of information available. Unfortunately, when you join some of these mass groups on social media, you get overwhelmed by reading one-off experiences from people who mean well, but don’t always get it right.
If you are interested in learning more planning tips for Disney, make sure to join us here in the Resorts Gal Lounge. All Disney fans are welcome!
We strive to provide helpful information that will benefit your trip. Additionally, there are several experienced, authorized Disney Vacation Planners from Firefly Travels in the group that can help answer your questions.
Have you decided whether Disney’s Boardwalk vs. Disney Springs is right for you? Which do you prefer? Let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.