Disney Springs Archives

January 15, 2017

Classic Boats at the Dockside Bar

Gary Cruise banner

Last fall Carol and I enjoyed our first dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant in Disney Springs. On our way to the check-in desk we paused to watch the Amphicars come and go at the launch ramp directly beside the restaurant entrance.

Amphicar Landing

Our meal was a wonderful experience; we savoured delightful food as we sat overlooking the waters of the lagoon. I was mesmerized by the Amphicars which sailed past throughout our dinner. The old classic cars . . . or boats . . . or whatever they are, were shining brightly in the long rays of the setting sun.



I was so wrapped up watching the Amphicars that I didn’t even notice the other classic boats until it was almost dark. A wooden dock runs from south end of the Boathouse Restaurant out to the Dockside Bar, built on posts in the middle of the lagoon. The dock carries on past the bar and at the opposite end reconnects with the Boathouse Restaurant at its northern end. The outer portion of the dock is lined, on both sides, with some amazing old boats.

Dockside Bar
The Dockside Bar is directly under the balloon. The classic boats are to the right.

After dinner we wandered out along the dock and took our time admiring an astounding array of teak, mahogany, fiberglass, brass, steel and chrome.

It took me back to my youth. I grew up in a small village on the north shore of Lake Erie and as far back as I can remember we had a power boat docked along the river right behind our home.

I tried to capture a few pictures, but there just wasn’t enough light for our little point and shoot camera. Here are the best shots I got that night.

Cadillac Sea Lark

Cadillac Sea Lark

Look at those tail fins on the 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark! Wow!

I just had to see some more of those boats, so just a few days later we drove back over to Disney Springs. We walked past the Boathouse check-in podium, through the restaurant and out onto the dock leading toward the Dockside Bar.

The flashbacks began almost immediately! The mahogany boats reminded me of the first boat I remember, our 1954 18’ SeaBird Runabout. It was built in Ontario by the Port Carling Boat Works and was powered by a 4 cylinder Buchanan engine which put out a whopping 60 horsepower! I don’t have a picture of our old boat, but here is a SeaBird from the same era!


This beautiful old Chris Craft sure reminded me of our SeaBird!

Chris Craft

The wooden and fiberglass gems line the dock, and each one has a plaque describing its history and background. Take time to read the messages, each of the boats has a story to tell!

Classic Boats

Gods Time

God's Time was one of my favourites, I love those gull-wing doors in the top!

Gods Time

Gods Time

Walts Dream
Walt's Dream is a 1947 Chris Craft Runabout, beautifully restored.

If speedboats are more to your liking, here are a couple of beauties!

U22 Alter Ego
Alter Ego is a 32' Hydroplane powered by a 1500 horsepower Allison V12

G-99 Miss Belle Isle
G-99 Miss Belle Isle

Do you like fiberglass and fins?

Here's a daylight picture of that 1956 Cadillac Sea Lark.

Sea Lark

1950s Fins

There are lots of other 1950's fins to see!

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Even the big Mercury outboard engine is pink on Marilyn's Meteor Mate.

Marilyns Meteor Mate

Marilyns Meteor Mate


Keep an eye out for Gadget, a teeny weeny tug boat and the beautifuly restored steam powered boat pictured below.

Steam Power

The Boathouse

Next time you visit Disney Springs take a stroll along the dock beside The Boathouse and enjoy some nautical history!

December 5, 2016

Art Smith's Homecoming beefs up Disney Springs' restaurant offerings


Guests at Art Smith's Homecoming in The Landing neighborhood at Disney Springs prepare to dig in to some of the restaurant's signature items. [Courtesy of Art Smith's Homecoming]

As celebrity chefs go, Art Smith is the antithesis of the flashy food mavens you often see on TV cooking channels. He's thoughtful, articulate and genuinely down-to-earth.

But that doesn't mean Smith isn't passionate about what he does.

When Smith partnered with the Walt Disney Company to create Art Smith's Homecoming, one of the crown jewels of the newly transformed Disney Springs shopping, dining and entertainment district, he did so with the intention of bringing back the traditional family dining concept that's been lost in the hustle and bustle of our 21st Century lifestyles.

"It's great to see people enjoying food," Smith said during a recent interview at his restaurant, located in The Landing neighborhood of Disney Springs, the district's own version of "restaurant row."

Smith is a proponent of what he calls "celebrational family food," as well as sharing at the dinner table. "I like to serve food that's 'shareable'," meaning the meal is placed at the middle of the table and everybody just digs in.

"The sharing of food makes it more precious. And where I came from, we always had a salad with every meal."

Smith is no stranger to preparing delicious food, owning restaurants or being in the spotlight.

Chef Art Smith is a proponent of family style, shareable dining. [Courtesy of Art Smith's Homecoming]

He has cooked for several political leaders and celebrities, and was even Oprah Winfrey's personal chef for several years. "Oprah taught me some great lessons," he says with a laugh, "including, 'Wine with food, thank you very much!'"

He's appeared on a number of television shows and specials, has written four books, has traveled the world as part of the State Department's Chefs' Program, owns restaurants in Chicago [TABLE fifty-two] and Washington, D.C. [Art and Soul] and has won several awards, including the James Beard Foundation's Humanitarian of the Year in 2007.

Indeed, if there's one takeaway from talking to Smith is that he's a caring individual.

He cares about his home state of Florida [he's a sixth-generation Floridian whose great-grandfather was a moonshiner], making a commitment to use only Florida-grown products in Homecoming [as it says on the sign outside his establishment, "Florida Kitchen, Southern Shine"]. He also cares passionately about teaching children sound nutritional values. To that end, he founded the non-profit Common Threads. He's also on the board of a nutrition program in Minneapolis called Kids' Cafe.

Smith and his husband, Jesus Salgueiro, have four adopted children, so for him, the stakes are pretty high when it comes to children's nutrition.

Church Lady Deviled Eggs are one of many must-have selections at Art Smith's Homecoming. [Courtesy of Art Smith's Homecoming]

Years ago, "I played the whole funny fat chef thing," he said. At one point, he admits, his weight ballooned over 350 pounds. He credits healthier food choices and running marathons for helping him drop more than 100 pounds. "We have four kids. I wanna live a long, healthy life for them. You have to be responsible when it comes to your food choices, including cutting down on sugar and salt consumption. My No. 1 rule is don't drink your calories. When you take better care of yourself, you take better care of others."

Smith is involved in a number of projects which reaffirm his commitment to responsibility when it comes to the field of agriculture.

He recently purchased a former jai alai arena with plans to build a bakery and market. "I wanted to create a real farmer's market, one that showcased fresh items from Florida farms. You have to remember there are a lot of hard-working families on our farms," Smith said, adding that "Florida is the winter pantry of America."

Art's Fabulous Fried Chicken is buttermilk-brined, moist and tender. [Courtesy of Art Smith's Homecoming]

He also purchased an Antebellum house with the idea of turning it into a school of sustainability.

"Most chefs don't know where their food comes from," Smith says, adding that many have a "Cisco-to-table mentality," meaning they take food from a delivery truck, cook it, then serve it. "Chefs should be more conscious of health and wellness."

He's also involved in helping to bring back the sagging oyster industry in Florida. "In Apalachicola, the water has changed so much and the oyster industry has suffered because of it." An oyster farming program he helped initiate at a local community college is so popular that it has a six-year waiting list.

Smith is the first Disney College Program graduate to open a business on Disney property, a fact that he's very proud of. "That's me when I was a young pup," he says, pointing to a picture of himself while in the program in 1980.

"I'm a big believer in internships," he said. He's also a big Disney fan. "I admire the sense of team spirit at Disney, the sense of family. It's no wonder so many people stay and work here for as long as they do." Smith first visited Walt Disney World when he was just 12; he and his family stayed at the Polynesian Resort.

According to Chef Art Smith, Homecoming's desserts "taste like momma made 'em." [Courtesy of Art Smith's Homecoming]

Sense of family is so important to Art Smith and it shows through in the signature items Homecoming offers.

His Church Lady Deviled Eggs are truly mouth-watering. Momma's Mac and Cheese ... delicious. His buttermilk-brined Fabulous Fried Chicken is moist, tender and absolutely scrumptious. Addie Mae's Chicken and Dumplings ... superb. There's also fried catfish, shrimp and grits and an assortment of sandwiches and burgers. Homecoming also has a full bar with a variety of signature drinks.

And then there are the rich, decadent desserts ... desserts, Smith says proudly, "that taste like momma made 'em."

Smith says that Homecoming was five years in the making, but during the process, he never once thought about how much it would cost. "I'm a big believer in dreaming it and making that dream come true.

"I hope you find inspiration here. For all of us, the sharing of a meal is a common, anticipated ritual that reunites us with loved ones and brings a sense of balance to our lives. It's my heart's desire ... to serve a simple, unfussy meal of freshly made foods ... and see how it enriches your lives."

November 2, 2016

From Black Lake to Disney Springs

Gary Cruise banner

A long, long time ago there was a quiet, tranquil pond outside the sleepy little Florida village of Vineland. The pond was called Black Lake; it was surrounded by struggling vineyards which gave the nearby village its name, some mature orange groves, a few old cherry orchards and swamps. Lots and lots of swamps!

Farming was always a struggle in central Florida so it must have seemed like a miracle when a mysterious buyer started optioning and buying large tracts of swamp, grove and orchard in 1964. I’m sure that most of those hard working farmers were thrilled to have the opportunity to retire in comfort!

On November 15, 1965 Florida Governor Haydon Burns made the big announcement; the Disney Corporation had bought up over 30,000 acres of land, about 48 square miles, and planned to build “the greatest attraction in the history of Florida."

Walt Disney press conference 1965

Construction began in 1967 and the sleepy area around Black Lake has never been the same! Bulldozers, back-hoes and cranes were busy everywhere. New canals were dug and soon did their jobs draining the swamps. New roads and highways were built, new hotels sprung up, new stores and shopping centers took shape, all in anticipation of the tourism boom that Disney’s new Magic Kingdom would create.

And it certainly was a boom. The Magic Kingdom opened on October 1, 1971 and only 8 years later, on October 22, 1979 they welcomed their 100 millionth guest. It was still only one theme park, but it was already the most popular tourist destination in the world!

But let’s skip back to Black Lake, and let’s take a look at the area within a mile of the lake. One of the first things Disney management did was rename the lake, they called it Lake Buena Vista, in honour of Buena Vista Street where Disney’s Burbank studios and headquarters are located. And Lake Buena Vista is still there, not far from Hotel Plaza Boulevard, just behind the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Hotel. It is connected by canal to its man-made sister lake, Village Lake, which is now the focal point for Disney’s shopping and entertainment district.

It didn’t take long after the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 for the world’s richest mouse to realize that many of his guests were leaving the Disney resort area to shop, dine or be entertained somewhere else. Mickey took quick action to plug that financial leak!

The new Disney shopping area, Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, opened March 22, 1975. Guests at Walt Disney World could stay in the 133 town homes or the 60 tree house villas at the nearby Buena Vista Club.

Two years later, in 1977 Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village was renamed Walt Disney World Village.

The earliest printed information I have is an article from the February 1981 issue of Walt Disney World News pictured below. It gives some examples of the shopping and dining that was available in those early days.

Walt Disney World News February 1981
Click on the image to see a larger, easier to read version.

My earliest recollection of the area dates back to a trip in about 1979 when we enjoyed dinner and Monday Night Football in the upper deck bar in the Empress Lily, which we now know as Fulton’s Crab House. My memories of the shopping are a bit vague, but that evening was my first experience with Florida’s “love-bugs” and I remember them quite vividly!

Here are a few brochures that will give you a sampling of what guests could enjoy back in those early days. (Don't forget to click on the images)

1982 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1982 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1984 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1987 Walt Disney World Village Brochure

1987 Walt Disney World Village Brochure


In 1989 there were some big changes. The area was renamed once again; it became Disney Village Marketplace and a newly developed area called Pleasure Island opened May 1, 1989. Pleasure Island featured night clubs, restaurants, a dance hall and a variety of other entertainment geared toward adults.

Walt Disney World News 1990 Pleasure Island

Did you ever dance the night away at Mannequins or stomp your feet at Neon Armadillo?

Every night was New Year’s Eve at Pleasure Island! Frankie and the West End Boys played most nights on the outdoor Waterfront Stage and revelers danced the night away!

1990 Pleasure Island brochure

Two of the most popular venues in the new area were The Adventurer’s Club and The Comedy Warehouse, both of which developed groups of extremely loyal followers.

1991 Walt Disney World Village and Pleasure Island

1991 Walt Disney World Village and Pleasure Island

1992 Disney Village Marketplace

1992 Disney Village Marketplace

1992 Disney Village Marketplace

1993 Disney Village Marketplace and_Pleasure Island

1993 Disney Village Marketplace and_Pleasure Island

I wish I could pick up a few of the cels that they used to sell in the early '90's at Suspended Animation!

In June 1995 a further round of enhancements was announced. Disney Village Marketplace and Pleasure Island would be joined by a third entertainment zone to be known as West Side. The three areas would be known collectively as Downtown Disney. West Side officially opened September 15, 1997 and included a new theatre built specifically for the Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba, a Virgin Megastore, Rainforest Café, Planet Hollywood and Disney Quest. The House of Blues followed just a few months later.

2000 Christmas Brochure
Christmas 2000

Downtown Disney was a vibrant area during the first few years of the 21st century, on the east side the Marketplace shops were busy each and every day then Pleasure Island and the West End would come to life at night!

Sunday mornings were, and still are, a busy time at The House of Blues; their Gospel Brunch is a hand-clappin' toe-tappin' good time!

2001 Downtown Disney

2001 Downtown Disney

2001 Downtown Disney

Then after a few years things began to falter a bit in Pleasure Island. It seemed that the adult-themed area was having difficulty sustaining itself in the middle of a family-themed vacation area. One by one the restaurants and bars grew quiet and shut down.

2005 Downtown Disney

2005 Downtown Disney

2005 Downtown Disney

The Adventurers Club and The Comedy Warehouse carried on the longest, but eventually they too closed permanently, on September 27, 2008. Disney announced the complete shut-down of Pleasure Island “to make room for additional family-oriented entertainment”.

And then Pleasure Island sat dormant for a long time. A very long time! It took almost 5 years for new plans to materialize. During that 5 year period the only signs of life on Pleasure Island were at Fulton’s Crab House and Raglan Road.

2012 Downtown Disney

2012 Downtown Disney

The guide maps of the era designated a large portion of Pleasure Island "For future enjoyment"

Finally, on March 14, 2013 “Disney Springs” was announced, to include 2 multi-level parking garages and 150 new tenants in four distinct districts:
• The Marketplace
• The Landing (formerly Pleasure Island)
• Town Center
• West Side

Work on the areas being redeveloped for Disney Springs has been ongoing since 2013 and most of the venues in those newly developed areas are now open . . . but I have yet to see them! My wife Carol was there about a month ago and she has assured me that I will like what I see.

So that’s a brief history of how that quiet, tranquil little pond known 52 years ago as Black Lake has become surrounded by hotels, restaurants, theaters, night clubs and all the other infrastructure needed to sustain the largest and busiest tourist destination in the world. Buses, cars and trucks speed past, moving people and merchandise on new highways; boats transport tourists through the rivers and canals that lace the resort area; planes and helicopters pass constantly overhead; there’s even a balloon for sightseeing. Black Lake has seen a lot of change in those five decades!

Carol and I will be pointing our motor home south and heading back to our happy place in just a few weeks. I plan to spend some quality time exploring Disney Springs while we’re there. Once we get back home I’ll be sure to share my impressions and some pictures with you.

October 2, 2015

Downtown Disney Transforms Into Disney Springs!


Denise Preskitt
AllEars® Guest Blogger


Downtown Disney has been in transformation for over two years, with a slew of new restaurants and shops opening over the past months. Signage has also been added through the past year with the moniker Disney Springs, but that name is now official as of yesterday, September 29th, 2015.

This past week has seen the opening of two new venues. Last week, the already extremely popular Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar opened to rave reviews. We were the first in the door when it opened to the public, and we had the opportunity to go back during a media event that included a visit to not only Jock Lindsey's, but also the new Morimoto Asia. In between the two restaurants, we attended a brief ceremony to cap off the Disney Springs name change.

Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar is themed to the adventures of the pilot to Indiana Jones. The reason it was geared toward the lesser-known character – as opposed to Indiana Jones – is to allow for a new backstory to be written. It gave Imagineers a lot more freedom.

Food and drinks at Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar are outstanding. Not only did the Imagineers utilize their creativity to the fullest, but the chefs did as well. There are items on the menu that I've never had anywhere else. We recommend almost everything, and the price point is very reasonable. From the Snack of Ra (a full meal in itself, regardless of everything being an appetizer) to the Rolling Boulder Meatballs, the dishes are served with aesthetics and taste buds in mind.

From Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar, we walked outside for the Disney Springs name change ceremony. It was open to the public, between Jock Lindsey's and the recently opened (and also fantastic) restaurant The Boathouse. ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Senior Vice President Maribeth Bisienere and Walt Disney World Resort President George Kalogridis spoke. Mark Daniel introduced Bisienere, who talked about the making of memories, story creation and even making the parking situation easier. Disney Springs will have 4 sections: The Landing, Town Center, Marketplace and the West Side. Kalogridis said that the project will have provided a total of 1200 construction jobs when everything is complete, and will add 4000 operational roles. He also continued,“One in every 50 jobs in the state of Florida is tied directly or indirectly to Disney."

The finale of the Disney Springs name change event was the switching of large cards that spelled out Downtown Disney, flipped to say Disney Springs. The weather held out just long enough to see almost the entire ceremony before the rain began, when umbrellas emblazoned with the Disney Springs logo were lifted almost in unison.

The last portion of the media event was visiting Morimoto Asia, which was just one day from opening to the public. Chef Masaharu Morimoto was featured both as a speaker during the opening ceremony, and later showcasing his culinary skills as he filleted a 100-pound tuna. A lion dancer helped open the ceremony, and Bisienere again was a speaker. She welcomed Patina Group CEO Nick Valenti and Chef Morimoto. Morimoto is apparently a huge fan of Mickey Mouse, wearing a Mickey pin and introducing Chef Mickey to the podium. He later proposed a toast over a special container of sake, joined by Kalogridis, Valenti, Bisienere, and Disney Springs Vice President Keith Bradford.

Morimoto Asia is a beautiful restaurant, with chandeliers that seem to go on forever. The restaurant fills the space of the former Pleasure Island Mannequins nightclub. Mannequins was one of the nightclubs I didn't spend any appreciable time in, so the space feels totally new to me. There are two levels, with an open kitchen on the first level and bars on both the first and second floors.

Chef Morimoto drew a large crowd when a 100-pound tuna was brought to him to filet. With quick agility, the tuna was soon looking like a meal and no longer like a fish. And within a half-hour or so, pieces of sushi with fresh tuna were brought out to guests.

The food we tried were some appetizer items, including Tuna Pizza and Duck Caesar Salad. What we had was tasty, and we look forward to enjoying a full meal at the restaurant in the future!

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About Disney Springs

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Disney Springs category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Dining is the previous category.

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