Disney Springs is a Theme Park

Edited: February 18, 2018, 8:04 AM

When Universal Orlando opened the AMAZING Volcano Bay, it touted the resort’s expansion as its third theme park.

And they were right! Volcano Bay is a theme park – the third park on Universal’s world-class resort property.

And based on Universal’s claim, their friends down the road are now successfully operating seven theme parks on the Walt Disney World property. Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and Disney Springs.

My son and I experienced the virtual reality experience at The Void – Star Wars Secrets of the Empire. As I exited what is the second most amazing theme park attraction I have ever experienced (‘Flight of Passage’ remains on top of the list), I came to the conclusion that Disney Springs is, in fact, a theme park.

It has attractions. It has themed environments. It has live entertainment and unique dining experiences. It has drawn millions of guests every year.

Universal set the standard when it called Volcano Bay a theme park. With the broadening of the definition, Disney Springs is absolutely a theme park. And it’s one of the best on the planet.

Replies (101)

February 18, 2018, 9:14 AM

I dunno.

Including water slides in the general definition of "ride" makes sense, and there's plenty of precedent for theme parks to have water slide areas within the park (The Beach at Wonderland Sydney, Blue Lagoon at Dreamworld Australia). Declaring a water park to be a specialised type of theme/amusement park makes sense

A highly themed shopping district is a step away.

Edited: February 18, 2018, 2:08 PM

A highly themed shopping district with entertainment and multiple attractions is not even close to being a “step away”.

Try again.

February 18, 2018, 2:13 PM

Not arguing but I sure wish it had dark rides or sumthin'

February 18, 2018, 4:02 PM

Bring back the nightly drone show and I'm down with this take.

February 19, 2018, 12:13 AM

lol Disney Springs is not a theme park. Saying Disney Springs is a theme park is like saying Time Square/Broadway and Nanjing Road/The Bund are theme parks.

Pretty much every major tourist destination area has a shopping/dining/entertainment mecca and Disney Springs is WDW's. It's an "attraction" in the literal sense of the world (it attracts people) but that doesn't make it a theme park.

Also who cares what Universal's definition of theme park is? Volcano Bay isn't any different than any other water park.

February 19, 2018, 12:13 AM

Ah TH... here you're hiding... spouting rhetoric in the discussion forum. You did not disappoint my friend. A hyperbole that only your son could appreciate and I hope he does. I am not from Florida and can successfully say that Disney Springs lacks nothing that my local high end mall provides, minus your precious virtual reality. The dining and shopping is nothing to write home about. Cute for the Florida locals but ho-hum for most. Yes, it is truly better than a water park for sure. Blizzard Bleach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Volcano Bay all pale in comparison to an outdoor shopping mall with a lot of restaurants and live bands. **Chuckle**

February 19, 2018, 2:46 AM

@the_man, the only reason I take exception with the "Time Square/Broadway and Nanjing Road/The Bund" comparison is that those are parts of a municipality, where as the Disney Springs theme park is part of a vacation resort property.

Like a sizable portion of TPI's content, the posts along this thread are subjective. And, in my opinion, the collection of entertainment, attractions, shops and restaurants are what makes Disney Springs the seventh theme park operating on Walt Disney World property.

February 19, 2018, 4:35 AM

You can make that argument, but its mere semantics. It is what it is, but I don't think many people would agree with you.

February 19, 2018, 7:11 AM

So I take it TH you have no objection to The Tower Of London taking over the title of worlds oldest theme park?

February 19, 2018, 8:26 AM

@ Chad H ... I guess not.


February 19, 2018, 11:02 AM

TH Creative - isn't Disney Springs still missing one necessary element? There is no need to purchase an admission ticket to be on the grounds. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but even before most major parks transitioned to the P.O.P. model there was at least a modest admission charge to enter. Knoebels in Pennsylvania still operates as a non-gated park, but they would "throw down" it anyone accused them of being a "theme" park.

February 19, 2018, 11:45 AM

@ Rob - I understand your point. The attractions and shows at the Disney Springs theme park are available on a "pay-to-play" basis. But I am not sure about why that condition should be considered (your word) "necessary."

February 19, 2018, 11:50 AM

I realize that the whole reason for the original post was to troll, but if we’re comparing apples to cantaloupes, then I guess Universal’s City Walk is also a “theme park”. It is similar to Disney Springs because it contains restaurants, retail, a movie theater, and a miniature golf course. There are also free boats nearby that one could choose to ride on (especially if they do not want to pay the supposed “upcharge” for the Harry Potter train). The car-boats at Disney Springs require an exorbitant fee in order to ride.

Disney was wise to upgrade the retail and restaurants at Disney Springs because it drives more local Orlando traffic to it. Outside the major theme park corridor in Orlando, the city is extremely deprived of high end restaurants and retail options for its local population (unless you consider a never-ending series of strip malls with vape shops as high-end retail).

The one business I wish Disney would enter and put their own unique spin on is escape rooms. The attention to detail, technology, and stories they could tell through this medium could be great. The Disney Quest building would have been the perfect place to renovate and add this as an experience there.

February 19, 2018, 12:17 PM

OK, please change the word "Necessary" to "Traditional".

Edited: February 19, 2018, 12:41 PM

Kris V: "I realize that the whole reason for the original post was to troll ..."

I Respond: No, it wasn't.

Kris V: "... but if we’re comparing apples to cantaloupes, then I guess Universal’s City Walk is also a “theme park”."

I Respond: Okay.

February 19, 2018, 12:35 PM

@ Rob: Okay. Then I regard the Disney Springs theme park as a non-traditional theme park -- but it's a theme park nonetheless.

In 1982, when EPCOT Center opened, there was a degree of confusion as to exactly what it was supposed to be. It certainly did not follow the conventions of previous theme parks - but (again) it's a theme park nonetheless.

February 19, 2018, 1:14 PM

If Disney Springs is a theme park, it's exceptionally lame :-D

I agree that Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon could be considered theme parks. Blizzard Beach in particular is highly themed and well executed -- I only wish it had more things to do.

February 19, 2018, 2:25 PM

Honestly, the point of the thread was to examine what constitutes a themed entertainment experience. Disney Springs seems like its an enormous success. On weekends the garages are regularly filled. Planned expansions (Jaleo, the NBA Experience, another VR attraction, etc.) will likely continue to draw thousands. And those crowds will be made-up of both locals as well as vacationers. Too bad TEA/AECOM won’t publish an estimate of Disney Springs’ annual attendance ... the way they do for the other theme parks. :o)

Edited: February 19, 2018, 2:39 PM

If Universal chooses to call Volcano Bay a theme park, then it can, but Disney didn't declare Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and Disney Springs theme parks although they could. So this is an argument absent an argument.

Universal didn't say CityWalk is a theme park, but let's say it is. This means Universal has 4 theme parks to Disney's 7 theme parks. Either way, Universal is catching up. Maybe Universal should buy SeaWorld at rock bottom prices and declare the competition even.

February 19, 2018, 3:08 PM

TH's logic is quite flawed, as usual.

Volcano Bay is a theme park, so Disney Springs is a theme park?

A swing and a miss!

But I agree with TH on Blizzard Beach :-D

Edited: February 19, 2018, 3:13 PM

Universal can learn from Disney by opening a theme park with 4 attractions, a barely there theme park. It worked for Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios for decades.

February 19, 2018, 3:34 PM

Anton -- I never counted before, but that is astounding. They actually hardly count as theme parks, and by TH's reasoning, maybe Disney Springs does fit in as a theme park in the disney portfolio. LOL!

February 19, 2018, 4:05 PM

I will not argue will anyone here. You can call them whatever you want. They are not theme parks to me, but extensions of them. I am forced to go through the shopping areas at Universal Orlando and DL, otherwise I never would. Of all the times I have been to WDW, I have never been to Disney Springs or whatever they have called it. It is a shopping area, and I did not come to WDW to shop. Granted, I am a huge Star Wars fan and the new virtual reality may lure me there, if only they have convenient transportation there and back. I will say I hope they build the mess out of Disney Springs, to pull people away from the parks. But whatever you want to call it is fine with me.

February 19, 2018, 4:15 PM

Main Street USA is also a “shopping area.” Which is one feature typically found at theme parks. Along with dining experiences, attractions and live entertainment. All of which can be found at the Disney Springs theme park.


February 19, 2018, 11:02 PM

The only problem I can see with calling it a theme park is that people travel great distances to theme parks, I don't think there are many willing to travel 2 to 3 thousand miles to get to a shopping center. My family and I find it a good way to spend a couple of hours before we need to get to the airport but I would never travel to Orlando just to go shopping or to a restaurant.

February 20, 2018, 4:18 AM

I guess the most persuasive assertion that Disney Springs is not a theme park is that Disney doesn't regard it to be a theme park. Whereas Universal has promoted Volcano Bay as its third park (rightfully so, IMHO) WDW has not attached the same title on Disney Springs.

Good talk!

February 20, 2018, 5:56 AM

You suggesting Disney Springs is offering the same level of immersion that Main Street USA is? You are being a tad bit provocative.

Edited: February 20, 2018, 10:07 AM

I don't consider Volcano Bay a "theme park", it is a highly themed water park. Universal can call it whatever they want, but it's still just a water park to me. You have to put on a swim suit to experience the park so to me it will always be a water park unless they expand it so guests can enjoy it without having to change into swimming/beach attire.

As far as Disney Springs, if it's a theme park, then so are my local "big" malls. The closest to my house, Tysons Corner Center in Vienna, Virginia, has almost the same number of experiences, live entertainment stages, restaurants, and shops as Disney Springs. Individual stores are themed far beyond what you might see from those retailers' other stores around the country because this specific mall is incredibly competitive. There are VR experiences, a movie theater, a candy story that rivals Honeydukes, and even Cirque du Soleil frequently sets up a chapiteau in a neighboring empty lot for the latest traveling production (in fact they'll be setting up one in a couple of weeks for Luzia). The parking garages at Tysons Corner are constantly packed, and the mall itself can be shoulder to shoulder with people on just about every weekend (not just during the holiday season). The only differentiator between Tysons Corner Center (and many other similar high end malls near urban centers) and Disney Springs is that Disney added some theming to the facades of what would normally be generic storefronts (where most malls defer to individual stores to decorate and theme their storefronts - some at Tysons are highly themed, while others are more generic). There are some other "big" malls in my area (Potomac Mills in Woodbridge, VA and Arundel Mills in Glen Burnie) that do have themed "neighborhoods" where groups of stores are similarly themed, many with playgrounds and seating areas embodying the themes displayed on the surrounding storefronts.

Sorry TH, but if Disney Springs is a theme park, then there are a lot of malls that could make the same claim. Disney Springs is a fancy SHOPPING MALL, nothing more. It's a complex where individual companies rent/lease space to operate retail locations (whether for direct sales or experiences like movies and VR). There are additional public spaces managed by the facility operator for public performances, relaxation, playgrounds/water fountains, and art. That is a shopping mall, not a theme park. Yes, there are some theme parks where outside companies lease space to operate within theme parks (Starbucks, some of the EPCOT restaurants, Panda Express, Cinnabon, etc...), but a majority of the space in a real theme park is owned and operated by the land owner. Disney Springs is most decidedly NOT a theme park.

February 20, 2018, 11:13 AM

Mr. Meyer writes: "Sorry TH, but if Disney Springs is a theme park, then there are a lot of malls that could make the same claim.

I Respond: Fine with me.

February 20, 2018, 11:26 AM

JC writes: You suggesting Disney Springs is offering the same level of immersion that Main Street USA is?

I Respond: No. I'm suggesting Main Street USA is a shopping area that's part of a theme park. And I'm not sure how immersive a themed area is when it claims to be a quaint, early twentieth century, middle American town that has a 180 foot tall medieval castle at the end of the street.

Edited: February 20, 2018, 11:45 AM

OK TH, then I guess we'll just keep diluting what is considered a theme park. I think there's already a pretty clear delineation between a theme park and an amusement park, but to now extend the definition to include shopping malls, then aren't we belittling every park on the planet that strives to weave themes into their properties? Do you really think Imagineers would call a mall a "theme park"? I mean the next thing, we'll be calling Applebees or Olive Garden theme parks. I guess then my basement (with 3 video game consoles, air hockey table, dart board, and sport memorabilia on the wall) is also a theme park (how much should I charge for admission?).

I'm not willing to make that jump, because Disney Springs and real theme parks are fundamentally different places that could not be operated more differently. Disney Springs is a SHOPPING MALL. Is it a classic mall with 4 anchor department stores, a place to meet Santa, a Hot Topic, some shoe stores, and some jewelry stores, nope, but the classic stereotype of a "mall" has changed, and is now a relic.

I know you initiated this thread to pimp Disney Springs, but I cannot allow you to contort the definition of a theme park to include shopping malls, and Robert's tacit support for your thesis is almost as disappointing as him awarding TPI's Best New Roller Coaster to a water slide.

February 20, 2018, 12:01 PM

Um ... you "cannot allow" me to do something?


February 20, 2018, 12:55 PM

I'm not going to argue this point as I don't feel like getting into it, I'll just leave my definitions here:

-Amusement Park: A park that contains a collection of attractions, typically rides, games, and shows, with the primary focus being to entertain visitors.
-Theme Park: An amusement park that is divided into smaller sections, each containing a continuous theme among the rides and buildings, and with a central theme that links the individually themed areas.
-Shopping Mall/Center: A collection of buildings containing retail outlets, oriented in such a way that all stores may be accessed by foot.
-Family Entertainment Center: A small amusement park that may feature mechanical amusement rides but focuses primarily on other types of entertainment, and may be combined with elements of a theme park or elements of a shopping mall.

I'll leave it up to everyone to decide which category Disney Springs falls under. For me, it could potentially fit into two of the above...Theme Park is not one of them.

Edited: February 20, 2018, 1:44 PM

LOL TH. I can't stop you from saying or doing whatever you choose, but I can point out how absurd and ridiculous your statements are in this public forum.

Just so that I'm clear, here is why you think DS is a "theme park".

1. It draws a lot of people.
2. It has attractions.
3. It has themed environments.
4. It has live entertainment.
5. It has unique dining.

I would agree that just about every place that either calls itself a theme park or could be categorized as a theme park by industry professionals would include those 5 characteristics. I would probably dispute whether Disney Springs really has "themed environments", but I'll let that one go for now. However, by limiting the definition of a theme park to just those 5 aspects brings other entertainment complexes under that same umbrella. I think it's foolish to think so broadly when people have a very clear picture of what a theme park is and should be along with what other entertainment complexes are and what those should be called as well. Simply expanding the breadth of what could be defined as a theme park is a straw man argument.

Shopping malls are not theme parks. Go to any person in the world and ask them if a high end mall meets the 5 criteria you've provided and then tell them they just confirmed a shopping mall is a theme park, and they'll look at you like you're crazy. I don't dispute that shopping malls are entertainment complexes, and that Disney Springs is a very well done entertainment complex, but it is not a theme park for the following reasons...

1. Every place that defines itself as a theme park (or is defined as a theme park by industry professionals) is operated by a single company or partnership. That's not how Disney Springs operates. Disney owns the land and built the buildings, but aside from the Disney-branded stores and "public" spaces, a majority of the leased-out space is designed, operated, and maintained by individual companies (sometimes with Disney helping here and there as with The Edison and The Boathouse). The attraction that you say is the second best themed attraction you've ever experienced is not even owned or operated by Disney. VOID can do anything they want with that space, just as any company leasing space in Disney Springs. I'm not aware of a single major attraction within a place commonly referred to as a theme park that has a marquee attraction completely owned and operated by an outside company. Maybe you can provide one TH.
2. There is no admission charge. While that alone is not a valid reason to discount Disney Springs as a theme park, the fact that the pay per play admission does not go to Disney does validate this argument. I suppose one could establish a "theme park" where they lease space out to various operators that can create independent attractions (Six Flags land juxtaposed next to lands created by Disney, Universal, and Sea World), but I don't think it's a theme park if those admissions go to each individual operator (not to the lessor). That would be a bunch of different individual theme parks operating next to each other on leased property, like what's being done in the UAE. If we want to apply that construct here, then VOID, The Edison, Rainforest Cafe, Lego Store, et al, would need to independently meet the definition of theme park. Those wouldn't meet more than 2 or 3 of "your" criteria under that scenario.
3. None of the "unique dining" is operated or owned by Disney with each doing their own thing to succeed under the Disney Springs concept. This is a critical distinction here. What makes dining in a theme park unique is that it's integrated into the atmosphere and theme of the overall complex. That's not the case with restaurants in Disney Springs. Each restaurant has its own theme that doesn't necessarily compliment eateries around it. Theme park restaurants lend to the theme of the park, not creating their own independent theme as is the case with Disney Springs.
4. Theme parks offer many one of a kind experiences that can only exist within the construct of a theme park. While some theme parks occasionally have attractions and experiences you can do at home or in retail settings, Disney Springs is almost 100% derivative. There is not a single original, can't do it anywhere else, experience in Disney Springs. I may consider VOID one of those type of experiences (one that won't stay unique for much longer), but I don't think a single one of a kind experience makes Disney Springs a theme park.
5. Most employees/cast members don't work for Disney Springs. Sure, janitorial and maintenance staff probably work for Disney Springs, but everyone else either works for a company leasing space in Disney Springs or is an independent contractor. Yes, theme parks have been using independent contractors as a primary source of live entertainment for years. However, at Disney Springs, those independent contractors are looking out for themselves, not the complex. The live entertainers at Disney Springs perform for self-promotion, not to serve the complex like entertainers at a theme park. People who work in the individual stores and attractions work for the companies leasing space, and serve those companies, not the complex as a whole. They don't care how well the rest of the complex is performing, as long as the individual store/attraction they're working for is successful. That's a big distinction there, and one that should not be dismissed.

I'll let you start with those to see if you can still call Disney Springs a theme park without calling hundreds of other entertainment complexes theme parks too.

Edited: February 20, 2018, 2:17 PM

Um ... you will "let" me start with those? Isn't that another way for you to say you will "allow" me start with those

I mean ... Just, wow.

Edited: February 20, 2018, 2:40 PM

I have other lines of argument to disprove your hypothesis, so feel free and try to poke holes in those first 5, and I'll give you some more.

Your lack of support for your hypothesis in the face of multiple lines of argument is telling. If you do really believe DS is a theme park, defend it. Calling every entertainment complex on the planet a theme park just makes your hypothesis look even more foolish.

Is Chuck E Cheese a theme park?
How about Splitsville or other high end bowling alleys?
What about a multi-track Go-Cart facility with arcade?
Dave and Busters?
Is my Ice Skating Rink a theme park too?
I can think of a lot of ski resorts that meet your 5-point criteria.
How about the new apartment building across from my office that has an escape room, a concert venue, and a few restaurants?

I know you posed this hypothesis for dramatic effect to further your over-the-top praise for Disney Springs, but let's be real here. This is a theme park website, and while I very much disagree with Robert in falling for Universal's marketing shtick that VB should be considered a theme park, calling a shopping mall a theme park is borderline outlandish, especially when Disney doesn't even consider its own complex a theme park. As Popeye says, "I am what I am and that's all that I am".

February 20, 2018, 2:37 PM

Make me.

Edited: February 20, 2018, 2:52 PM

I guess you can run away for a few months again like you did the last time I criticized your overblown adulation for Disney Springs.

As I said then, I would view the complex with fresh eyes when we visited in October. I did so, and while I will admit to being harsh in calling it a "glorified outlet mall" before visiting the refurbished complex, I still stand by my statements that's it's nothing particularly unique in the landscape of modern retail complexes. It's very pretty, clearly buzzing with activity, and a massive improvement upon what Downtown Disney had become. However, you need a serious reality check to temper this deliberately exaggerated view of a shopping mall.

February 20, 2018, 2:56 PM

The guy who thinks he has the power to determine whenther or not someone will be "allowed" to offer a particular opinion on the board is claiming someone else needs a "serious reality check"?


February 20, 2018, 3:00 PM

Still waiting for you to defend your position....

Meanwhile, I guess I'll visit the theme park in my basement.

February 20, 2018, 3:45 PM


February 20, 2018, 4:09 PM


Edited: February 22, 2018, 2:53 PM

Hey, Disney Springs is more of a theme park than Hollywood Studios has been the past few months.

February 22, 2018, 3:12 PM


February 22, 2018, 5:48 PM

Amen, Trex! It's a wonder that DHS can successfully attract millions and millions of guests a year. Just like the Disney Springs theme park.

February 22, 2018, 7:54 PM

I will agree, TH, that the Springs has been a huge hit. I tried going to grab a bite to eat at D-Luxe Sunday around 9 at night and was greeted by full garages and a 30-minute wait for the food. That third garage can't come soon enough.

February 23, 2018, 7:01 AM

I had a hard time finding a parking spot at Chipotle the other day, and had to stand on line for 20 minutes to order my burrito. It was quite an adventure with suspense wondering if I would be infected with e coli after consuming my lunch, and there was plentiful entertainment supplied by the dozens of guests staring at their cell phones.

Chipotle corporate should pivot their marketing so they can capture the theme park audience, because the eatery is clearly a theme park.

February 23, 2018, 10:32 AM

This thread took my entire lunch to read but it was sooo worth it! :)

February 23, 2018, 10:35 AM

Russell Meyer said "Chipotle corporate should pivot their marketing so they can capture the theme park audience, because the eatery is clearly a theme park."

Perhaps they could offer a VR burrito adventure, and some interactive guacamole making?

February 23, 2018, 10:55 AM

@DBCooper - Parks always need to look to expand and improve their guest experience, so those ideas are probably being considered by the Chipotle Theme Parks. I mean some their theme parks are already getting into interactive role playing by placing numeric locks on their bathroom doors where guests have to punch in a secret code to enter.

February 23, 2018, 1:35 PM

Surely Chipotle was pipped to the post by Chuck E Cheese? Their use of Animatronics clearly dates them as the oldest fast food theme park.

Edited: February 23, 2018, 2:29 PM

I don't know Chad. Ronald McDonald, Hamburgler, Grimace and the McD-land PlayPlaces have been entertaining kids for decades. I think everyone's favorite fast food clown beat Chuck E. Cheese to the punch for oldest fast food theme park. They've also been using AR for a few years now in their Happy Meal attractions that Disney and Universal have been trying desperately to emulate. McD's theme parks even have touch screen consoles to entertain guests while they're waiting for the main attraction, just like Universal's Virtual Queue concept.

February 24, 2018, 3:03 PM

Saturday, 5 PM. All garages at the Disney Springs theme park are full. This place is an enormous success.

February 24, 2018, 5:27 PM

No sh*t

February 25, 2018, 6:33 AM

Whether or not its a success is irrelevant to whether or not its a theme park.

Edited: February 26, 2018, 6:54 AM

I had to park on the other side of campus Saturday morning to attend the Maryland/Michigan men's basketball game because the place was so packed and buzzing with activity. I guess at some point, the University of Maryland College Park will have to drop their non-profit status because it is most certainly a theme park too with unique restaurants, attractions, themed environments, and they even have resort hotels for guests that fork over their life savings to spend 4 or more years at this amazing theme park.

Edited: February 26, 2018, 11:14 AM

Not even being facetious- this weekend I'm going to Grand Central Terminal, perhaps the most popular theme park in the world, which served about ten times as many guests as magic kingdom in 2016. A Mecca of shopping and dining, it also hosts event space, tennis facilities, musical performances and other varied entertainment options, as well as attractions like the whispering gallery and the main concourse ceiling. As with any park there are upcharge special tours that take you behind the magic. Generally the theme is art deco but with plenty of contemporary metropolitan flair. I'll be sure to provide a trip report next week.

February 26, 2018, 11:47 AM

So......will the new Star Wars hotel be considered a theme park?

Edited: February 26, 2018, 12:17 PM

If a shopping mall, medieval palace/fortress, restaurant, college campus, and train station are all theme parks, then I don't see why a highly themed hotel wouldn't be.

Perhaps TH could enlighten us since he's the one who broadened the definition of a theme park to include so many other places not considered theme parks previously. Without his expertise we might be confused into thinking the DMV and dentist offices are theme parks.

What say you TH? Oh, that's right, you're too busy driving around in circles trying to find a parking spot at Disney Springs.


February 26, 2018, 3:03 PM

Let's move in baby steps. Shopping malls are already turning into Entertainment Zones where restaurants, novelty food stands, and entertainment dominate due to the Amazon revolution. Malls can't just sell things since many people buy stuff elsewhere. People are mainly browsing. They do their actual shopping online. Beyond food, they are a mere step away from rides. VR, train rides, and carousels are popular at the biggest malls. Disney Springs offers a balloon and the aqua-car rides. It's a tourist site in it's own right. Nonetheless, it's not quite a park, even a theme park. It's an amusement shopping eating entertainment zone. To move a little closer to a theme park, it needs more landscaping, gardens, trails, and a few more attractions. Then you might ask, why not just go the Magic Kingdom.

Edited: February 26, 2018, 11:27 PM

TH is truly the troll of the year. Get this man an award! Russell Meyer per usual made some very valid points. I'm afraid these may be lost on the man that feels an outdoor shopping mall is a theme park.



February 27, 2018, 7:07 AM

I don't think I deserve credit for broadening "the definition of a theme park." Universal Orlando gets the nod after announcing that Volcano Bay is the resort's new theme park.

As I said from the opening post, Disney Springs "has attractions. It has themed environments. It has live entertainment and unique dining experiences." I consider the experience of visiting Disney Springs a theme park experience. I also recognized that Disney has never promoted it as a theme park. I have offered my opinion and as much of a defense as I care to submit.

What I don't believe I am doing is trolling. I think it is a topic worthy of discussion. Universal Orlando expanded its definition of a theme park -- a definition rejected by some ("I don't consider Volcano Bay a "theme park" ...).

The post I find most interesting (other than Robert Niles' taciturn [although probably tongue-in-cheek] endorsement of DSTP) was the thoughtful perspective of Anton M: "Shopping malls are already turning into Entertainment Zones where restaurants, novelty food stands, and entertainment dominate due to the Amazon revolution.

Anton continues: "Disney Springs offers a balloon and the aqua-car rides. It's a tourist site in its own right. Nonetheless, it's not quite a park, even a theme park. It's an amusement shopping eating entertainment zone."

Note: It also has a merry-go-round, children’s train ride and an extraordinary VR experience themed for Star Wars.

Anton M's post is also consistent with Chad's assertion that DSTP is "a step away" -- an assessment I initially rejected, but now I can understand why someone would draw that conclusion.

Because Anton's assessment (like mine) is an opinion (subjective) I won't attempt to undermine his assertion. Especially because, at the very least, it would give support to someone who might contend that (as it grows and evolves) Disney Springs could eventually come to be regarded as a WDW theme park.

Regardless, I believe that Disney Springs is already a theme park. And I will probably hold on to that opinion even if someone wants to throw (post) 1,000 word temper tantrums and proclaim that they will "not allow" me to do so.


Edited: February 27, 2018, 8:33 AM

TH: I'm glad you agree with almost all my subjective opinion. That step away also includes closing the gates and adding an admission fee. I doubt the many vendors that signed up are willing to take that step. Of course, Universal Citywalk in Hollywood has changed the game. They cut their vendor leases and instead bought franchises and opened their own branches. That's keeping all the profits at home except for paying royalty and franchise fees. No more sharing. Disney's leases are all top dollar. At some point, the vendors just can't afford it except for Starbucks. Disney can do the same by not renewing leases and just buying a franchise to open their own store, which they have the resources and management talent to do.

Edited: February 27, 2018, 8:37 AM

"I think it is a topic worthy of discussion."

And so we are discussing it. However, you are so very set in promoting Disney Springs as some incredible oasis (and seemingly spit in the face of anyone that doesn't think DS is the greatest place on Planet Earth) that instead of recognizing that you've made a null hypothesis (of which the only way to disprove it is to demonstrate its absurdity), you continue to make it bigger and bigger. Falling back on Universal's marketing shtick doesn't make the null hypothesis any more valid. At least one can see more theme park characteristics in Volcano Bay than can be seen in Disney Springs. However, if self awareness is the benchmark, which is what was used to initiate this discussion, then Disney Springs can't even be evaluated as a theme park unless Disney itself refers to the shopping and entertainment complex as a theme park.

We can't simply call every entertainment district a theme park, because the term then loses its meaning. "Hey kids, lets go to the theme park!" would bring an unnecessary level of confusion to a well defined and widely understood term. Universal self-defining a water park as a theme park (or as some type of hybrid park or more than the average water park) at least maintains the convention of a "park". Disney Springs, lacking the same self promotion, doesn't even have the modicum of characteristics to even be called a "park" of any type. It doesn't operate or function like any theme park in the world.

Does Disney Springs have some theme park characteristics? Sure, but so do hundreds and thousands of other places around the world that aren't considered theme parks as noted above. Your simplistic criteria alone do not make Disney Springs a theme park, and capitulating by calling those hundreds of other non-theme park-y places theme parks too doesn't validate that flawed hypothesis.

So, self awareness, the criterion used to initiate this discussion, cannot be used to argue Disney Springs as a theme park, while a null hypothesis, which lumps hundreds of other complexes decidedly NOT theme parks under the definition, is really all TH can offer here. Yet, the many other logical reasons provided here as well as the obvious ridiculousness of the claim outlined by myself and others are either dismissed or contorted (or just ignored because TH clamps onto a colloquialism instead of the meat of a statement) so the hypothesis can remain valid in the eyes of the originator. You haven't addressed any of the challenges to your hypothesis based on how Disney Springs operates aside from Rob and the "pay per play" aspect of Disney Springs. What about the leasing of space? What about the discontinuity of theme between leased spaces? What about the motivation of individuals working at the complex? Those retorts are not invalid simply because you've chosen to ignore them, or because you cannot expand or contort the idea of a theme park to include those characteristics.

You can believe a hotel is a warehouse, an office building is a filing cabinet, and Disney Springs is a theme park, but having a skewed view of something does not make it so to millions of others that understand what words and phrases are supposed to mean.

Glad you finally found your parking spot TH. I'm sorry your local shopping mall is so busy.

February 27, 2018, 8:48 AM

Not trying to "make it so to millions of others." Just expressing my opinion. And I don't think I have "spit in the face" of anyone.

Edited: February 27, 2018, 9:20 AM

According to the definition that is being bandied about....I would be considered a theme park!

I have attractions...in fact, I'm quite attractive all mashed up in this spandex suit. I have several rides: Airplane, Piggie-Back, and what I like to call "Doggie" in polite company. I am live entertainment. I have a themed environment...of Deadpool the mostest kickiest @$$ superhero ever! Even my apartment is themed to the evil Ikea zone, with ode de old lady. And as for unique dining opportunities, anything that I cook will definitely be a unique dining opportunity (and potentially lethal). But you are far more likely to eat your own teeth after spending any amount of time near me.

DeadPark, the Exclusive and Mobile Deadpool Theme Park. Outrageously priced tickets now on sale!

February 27, 2018, 9:23 AM

@Deadpool ... I have always believed you were a theme park ... And I would never "spit in your face" .... Although if someone else wanted to spit in your face I will allow them to.

Now stand by for a five point, 1000 word screed on why this post is invalid.

Edited: February 27, 2018, 9:40 AM

Ignoring valid statements while discounting others to maintain the validity of your own is like a spit in the face or turning your back on the discussion. Go back and read how you respond. Those that argue that the definition of a theme park cannot be so broadly applied get a "shrug" or Okay to confirm you're fine calling everything under the sun a theme park, no matter how absurd and outlandish it may seem - turning the only reasoning against a null hypothesis against itself. Those that provide more detailed reasoning are ignored.

The tone and approach you've brought to this discussion appears to come from an authoritative position, and while you claim it's just your opinion, you exude and defend it with a smugness and superiority that seemingly invalidates any relevant questioning. It has the same trolliness that you displayed while talking about PtWoA and have elsewhere when extolling the irreproachable perfection of Disney Springs.

Feel free to use hyperbole, but don't be surprised when someone thinks you're just a shill because of your ostensibly exaggerated views of these places. Nor should you be surprised when someone questions whether you even believe your own outrageous statements that appear to be more like a marketing spiel from Madison Avenue than an opinion from a real live human experiencing these places. There's an almost deliberate over-the-top nature to what you say, and a calculated repetition that makes it difficult for anyone to reason with you.

I'd love to discuss what you think makes Disney Springs a theme park, but you're unwilling to actually engage, probably because you already know that such a statement is outre, and just want to go around in circles so you can pimp out Disney Springs as the greatest mall on the face of the Earth.

February 27, 2018, 10:18 AM

For practical purposes, I wonder why Disney shouldn't start selling day packages to Typhoon Lagoon for Disney Springs visitors. Typhoon Lagoon is just across the street. Provide a shuttle bus with swimsuits and sunscreen. You're there.

Alternatively, why not build a theme park adjacent to Blizzard Beach with the water park as add-on to the new theme park. There's plenty of land there. This will serve as the official 5th theme park to add capacity to the whole resort as well as increase attendance to Blizzard Beach. Maybe add Frozen as the new theme, which BTW is going to Paris.

The possibilities.

February 27, 2018, 10:34 AM

Meyer: "I'd love to discuss what you think makes Disney Springs a theme park ..."

I Respond: That's odd. A few posts back you said you would "not allow" me to have that discussion ... Apparently with anyone.

February 27, 2018, 10:36 AM

Meyer: "I'd love to discuss what you think makes Disney Springs a theme park ..."

I Respond: That's odd. A few posts back you said you would "not allow" me to have that discussion ... Apparently with anyone.

February 27, 2018, 10:49 AM

Figure of speech, meaning that I'm going to strongly challenge your assertion. I find it interesting that you take some statements so literally, but squeeze every figurative ounce out of others.

Let's start fresh...

1. What do you think makes Disney Springs unique to other similar retail/entertainment complexes that similarly don't self identify as theme parks?
2. If self-identification is not required to be considered a theme park, then why is your opinion based upon Universal calling Volcano Bay a theme park?
3. Does the way a complex operates affect whether it should or should not be considered a theme park (you seem to indicate it does when refuting the_man regarding Times Square and The Bund)?

Three simple questions that we can discuss, and I'd be happy to elaborate or discuss any questions that you'd like to ask me that may support your opinion.

February 27, 2018, 11:53 AM

Let's not ...


Edited: February 27, 2018, 1:04 PM

So do you want to have a discussion or not?

You threw this provocative spitball at the wall, and now just want to giggle in the corner like Muttley. You deflect what you view as invalid challenges to your assertion while ignoring those that stand to undermine your premise.

You could have provided a detailed review on the Star Wars VOID experience, but instead posed an outlandish theory supported by little more than a crowded parking garage, decorative plaster, individually themed eateries, and street performers.

What is the purpose here TH? We get it, you love going to Disney Springs, but calling it a theme park was clearly strategic. What's your motive? Who's paying you, and who do I need to talk to so I can paid for making crazy assertions on discussion boards? Maybe you should angle so you can get some VIP parking at Disney Springs when you renegotiate your contract.

Edited: February 28, 2018, 1:09 AM

I think using waterparks as an example is a bit of a red herring. Waterpark Attractions as I've said before have happily lived in Theme Parks before. Surely if anything a waterpark is a subset of theme park.

Perhaps we should be looking at some sort of "Family tree". If we decide to make this family tree themed entertainment then I think it looks like this (Tree starts at Themed Entertainment):

........................................................|--->Theme Park--->Theme Waterpark
..............................Compound Themed Attraction(Dungeons)
Themed Entertaiment---->Theme Attraction---->Theme Restaurant
........................Immersive Edutainment (Living history, steam railway)

So a themed attraction would be a single experience, like a Ghost House, and a Themed Restaurant I'm thinking Mediaeval Times.

Where would Disney springs sit? "Themed Shopping/Enertainment Experience" off compound themed attraction perhaps?

Edited: February 28, 2018, 7:53 AM

That's a nicely done tree Chad. I've always thought of the distinctions as more like Venn Diagrams where some of the circles overlap or are completely consumed by larger circles (Entertainment complex being the largest circle with theme parks, malls, escape rooms, concert venues, water parks, and amusement parks being some of the smaller circles inside). The question then becomes, that if there are some characteristics shared between a shopping mall like Disney Springs, theme parks like the Magic Kingdom, and water parks like Volcano Bay, is there an actual overlap between those circles so that individual examples of each of those subsets can lie in both categories, or do they lie separately within the larger circle of entertainment complexes?

TH seems to think that answer is yes, but I think there's some pretty convincing evidence to suggest that you cannot make that overlap, because then it makes virtually every single individual circle within the larger entertainment complex category irrelevant.

February 28, 2018, 9:40 AM

Entertainment complex is a relatively new concept that isn't fully developed. It's a subset of theme parks and often a off-shoot. It can also be subset of shopping center or mall. So you have two mutual exclusive circles of shopping and theme parks with entertainment complex overlapping both.

Amusement parks is the superset of theme parks and water parks. They are usually built with it's intended purpose and never evolved from another separate category. Either it's a success or failure.

On the other hand, shopping centers had to change or adapt or risk obsolescence and closure. Many malls went upscale and added entertainment since the nature of shopping has changed. Just because it's an entertainment shopping zone, it isn't necessarily themed. Actually, there's less theming in shopping today. An example of this is Las Vegas where there's plenty of shopping in themed casino resorts. Today, the distinctive theming has gone away or lessened. It's more or less modern contemporary entertainment malls.

February 28, 2018, 10:15 AM

I don't think the concept of an entertainment complex is terribly new, but it has evolved over the years. Traditional "Shopping Malls" have had spaces devoted to entertainment for decades (arcades, mini golf, stages for performances, Santa/Easter Bunny, etc...), but I will note that more and more space is being shifted to direct entertainment mostly because of the ability to shop online (as Anton noted) and the decrease in the number of viable retailers willing to lease mall space. In a way, "shopping at the mall" has become its own form of entertainment as consumers use brick and mortar stores to touch, test, and evaluate products they will probably purchase online. Those same consumers then spend the rest of their time at the mall eating, lingering, and being entertained.

I actually think there is more theming in shopping today then ever before. Most stores have abandoned the racks and registers layout in favor of uniquely branded experiences with various approaches to how to get potential customers to interact with their products. Certainly the anchor department stores haven't changed much over the past few decades, but smaller boutique-style retailers have significantly upped their theming in recent years. Stores like Aeropostale, American Eagle, Victoria's Secret, and even the ubiquitous Spencers have brought in themed elements to establish the branding of their stores. I would note that those brands/themes are not different from mall to mall, but one store's brand/theme is in direct contrast to the store next door, and it's clearly deliberate. These themes are almost necessary to get customers in the door to see what's inside. Some stores are so highly themed that it's sometimes difficult to even tell what they're selling by looking at the storefront (West Elm or Anthropologie come to mind).

I think the concept of an entertainment complex is always evolving, and is different depending upon where you are. Some municipalities are moving towards a Bourbon Street (New Orleans), Beale Street (Memphis), 6th Street (Austin), or 16th Street (Denver) type complex with street-focused restaurants, entertainment, perhaps anchored by a concert venue or movie theater (this is what Disney Springs is right now, and yes, I consider Disney acting more like municipality in developing Disney Springs, not a developer). Cities and towns zone and encourage specific businesses to locate in these core areas to maximize foot traffic and impact. Other complexes have moved more towards the mall-focused concept where a single entity leases space to tenants to create their own destination. Places like Mall of America, Tysons Corner Center, The Grove, Mall at Millenia, etc... are more constructs by developers to increase the value of their properties. They don't necessarily care what goes into individual spaces, as long as tenants pay rent and draw people to the mall.

February 28, 2018, 8:21 PM

Branded stores with theming isn’t what I’m calling a themed mall. Malls are less themed. There’s no overarching theme that shopping areas need to adopt to market. Theming is no longer required to sell it since the entertainment and ambience is sufficient.

March 1, 2018, 7:27 AM

I don't know Anton. A lot of shopping malls in my area (Washington DC) have a lot more styling/theme that they used to. As I noted way above, there's a mall near me call Arundel Mills that has themed "neighborhoods". The central spaces are styled to a central theme. One area looks like a pinball machine, another like a forest, and another with a western motif. Also while some mall may not be themed wall to wall, they do use some here and there, particularly in areas where there is public art, fountains, and playgrounds/tot lots.

You had noted Las Vegas. Those are some of the most themed shopping districts I've ever seen. The Forum shops, the shops at the Venetian, Paris, Madalay Shops, etc... All highly themed shopping areas. Many malls around the country have taken note of those highly successful shopping districts, and have used many of those elements in their designs and layouts.

Edited: March 1, 2018, 7:38 AM

Their theming is highly diluted to the point it doesn’t matter. It is certainly more than nothing, but closer to non descriptive especially in Las Vegas. It would seem odd to see a modern store in the Forums Shops for example. So the theming around it is downplayed. Places where former highly themed areas are Planet Hollywood and Treasure Island. The middle eastern theming is almost no more. The pirates theme is almost gone especially in its new 3 Story shopping center. The Wynn is a mix of styles. You almost can’t call it a theme.

Edited: March 1, 2018, 9:27 AM

@Anton - But those themes used at the Vegas hotel shopping areas are about as prevalent and continuous as what is at the Disney Springs retail complex. Definitely a step above a generic nondescript mall, but a far cry from the intricacy in an actual theme park, which is why the initial premise of this discussion was so ludicrous (perhaps deliberately).

Edited: March 1, 2018, 10:27 AM

That's what I said a few posts up with "Just because it's an entertainment shopping zone, it isn't necessarily themed. Actually, there's less theming in shopping today."

If there's a desire to call a shopping entertainment area a "theme park", then it's just a declaration.

TH agrees "I guess the most persuasive assertion that Disney Springs is not a theme park is that Disney doesn't regard it to be a theme park."

There you have it.

March 2, 2018, 4:57 PM

84 comments? Seriously? Really!

March 3, 2018, 4:41 AM

Yes Mr. McCullough, another classic TPI thread. But finally, in the end we can all agree: Disney Springs is a theme park.

Safe home everyone!

March 3, 2018, 8:32 AM

No, I don't think we can.

March 3, 2018, 11:19 AM

"Yes we can! Yes we can!"

March 3, 2018, 3:49 PM

Mr. Meyer providing the logic. Everyone else trolling the world. Great job everyone! What a thread!!

March 4, 2018, 8:49 AM

TH reels Russell in one more time with a controversial claim. And just to leave my 2 cents Disney springs is not a theme park. You gotta call things what they are otherwise you will live in confusion.

March 9, 2018, 3:33 PM

Currently at DSTP enjoying a dinner with friends at the Polite Pig

March 10, 2018, 8:23 AM

I hate that I am so late to the show!

I tried reading everything, but I kind of glazed over the second half.

To throw fuel on the fire, AJ's definition of a Theme Park sort of covers Disney Springs. Disney Springs is seperated into smaller lands with a unifying theme and then folded into a larger themed idea.

Do I consider Disney Springs a theme park? No. I also do not consider Volcano Bay (or Blizzard Beach) a theme park either.

I think what we have here is Disney (and somewhat Universal) creating a new genre of entertainment. Walt Disney took the idea of an amusement park and made it into a theme park that is considered the standard of everything that came afterwards. I would argue that they invented the themed water park as well which others have taken and made even better. Next on list, Disney creates themed shopping center. I don't see Universal being far behind.

As it appears, FL has become the hotbed of entertainment ideas. Disney and Universal take each other's ideas and make them better! There would be no IOA without Animal Kingdom and there would be no Flights of Passage or Galaxy's Edge without the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I can't wait to see Universal's response to Disney Springs.

March 10, 2018, 8:26 AM

And I love ya TH, but Disney Springs is NOT a Theme Park.

This gives ammo to Great America claiming that Hurricane Harbor is a SECOND park in their complex. Hurricane Harbor is not a theme park. Its barely a water park.

If that was the case, why not Navy Pier, or the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace? What separates Disney Springs from the Palazzo Shops of the Venetian?

As you can tell, I have been to Vegas recently ;)

March 12, 2018, 12:18 PM

Related: Universal Orlando has bought time on one of the digital billboards along I-4 to promote CityWalk's "free parking" (after 6 PM). Think they are feeling the heat from the Disney Springs theme park?

March 12, 2018, 12:27 PM

Considering that the parking for CityWalk is the same as the parking for the actual theme parks, it makes sense for them to publicize the free parking option to encourage more locals to visit CityWalk in the evenings.

Maybe if Disney Springs charged for parking like a real theme park, you'd have an easier time finding a spot.

March 12, 2018, 12:45 PM

I truly hope that the billboard promoting free parking (after 6 PM) helps CityWalk gain some footing when it comes to competing with DSTP.

Maybe UO can step-up their efforts and publicize some of its unique dining experiences like "Moe's Southwest", "Burger King", "Panda Express", "Cinnabon" or "Cold Stone Creamery."

Edited: March 12, 2018, 1:02 PM

And Disney Springs Themed Purchasing complex can advertise its "unique dining experiences" like Blaze Pizza, Earl of Sandwich, House of Blues, Starbucks, Sprinkles, Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex, and Wetzel's Pretzels.

They could also advertise their mall-eque staples like Under Armour, UniQlo, Anthopologie, Build a Bear, Columbia, Everything but Water, Kate Spade, and more...

March 12, 2018, 1:18 PM

Why would DSTP need to advertise? Aren't you the one who claimed that it's so popular that no one can find a parking spot?


Edited: March 12, 2018, 1:52 PM

Maybe if their main parking structure charged for parking most of the day like just about every theme park on the planet does, then they might need to advertise to let locals know that they can park for free in the evenings so they can visit their shopping mall.

BTW, you're the one who has noted on more than one occasion that the garages were full. I was only ribbing you since you seem to spend so much time at the mall (and miles of free publicity here) that perhaps they should give you VIP parking.

March 13, 2018, 8:29 AM

Come on - Let's get to...

Edited: March 13, 2018, 8:30 AM

...100 comments on this wack-a-doodle thread!


March 13, 2018, 8:57 AM

Pop ... Pour ... Toast ... And bow.

"Thank you ... And good night!"

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