Home » The 8 Essential Shops You HAVE To Visit on a Walt Disney World Vacation

The 8 Essential Shops You HAVE To Visit on a Walt Disney World Vacation

What’s the best part of a Walt Disney World vacation? Don’t lie and say the rides or the meals or something cheesy like the sound of a child’s laughter. We’re being serious right now, and the serious answer is that everyone’s favorite part of vacation is shopping. Everyone wants souvenirs from their big trip, and Disney creates some of the best merchandise in the world. Where is the best place to load your shopping cart with the best stuff? Here are eight of the best stores at Walt Disney World.

8. The Toy Soldier at Epcot

Image: DisneyChoosing the best stores at Walt Disney World is an impossible task. There are literally dozens of places worthy of recognition. In trimming this list from its original group of 20 to a final list of seven, I chose a few criteria. The primary ones are convenience and rarity. Everything listed here is at one of the parks, resorts, or Disney Springs save for one noteworthy exception.

Rarity of goods is a matter of personal opinion. When I shop, I’m looking for gear that will make me happy. While most Disney merchandise delivers that sort of satisfaction, some places are better than others. For example, The Toy Soldier doesn’t sell your run-of-the-mill Disney goods. Instead, you’ll find a host of popular British toys, ones befitting the United Kingdom Pavilion at the World Showcase.

The items on sale here are eclectic in the best possible way, especially for those of us who watch BBC America religiously. T-shirts of popular British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are in high supply here, and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust phase is well-represented, too. Fans of Doctor Who will love the clothing and toys available here. It’s a go-to place for fans of Western European culture.

7. Windtraders at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Image: DisneyPandora – The World of Avatar became an instant blockbuster when it opened during the summer of 2017. It singlehandedly increased traffic at Animal Kingdom by 25 percent. Everything about the place was original, too. The food wasn’t standard theme park fare. Instead, it was Pandoran cuisine, which is apparently a bunch of pods that somehow taste like cheeseburgers.

The merchandise at Pandora is equally novel. When you explore Windtraders, the retailer in this themed land, you’ll see items that aren’t available anywhere else. The explanation is that you’re not at Walt Disney World any longer. You’re a tourist in Na’Vi country, and the goods here reflect your locale. You’ll see native Na’Vi musical instruments, clothing, and the most popular toy at Walt Disney World for about 18 months.

I’m speaking of the Banshee, an interactive toy that comes in 10 different styles. They’re capable of unique movement of their heads and wings. These Banshees feel less like toys and more like pets. Everyone needs one.

6. Souvenirs de France at Epcot

Image: DisneyWhen you shop at the France Pavilion at the World Showcase, you’ll expect certain knickknacks. Yes, they sell miniature Eiffel Towers and Paris t-shirts. In that way, you’ll totally believe that you’re a tourist in Paris. It’s not the primary appeal of Souvenirs de France, though.

You may not realize this fact, but a lot of Disney characters have ties to France. The most famous of them is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She has a strong merchandising presence here, as do Marie from Aristocats and Remy from Ratatouille. You’ll find plenty of adorable items featuring these characters along with some brilliant shirts combining Minnie Mouse with French culture. The goods on sale here are among the most original at Walt Disney World, and that’s why my family stops at this store every trip.

5. Mitsukoshi Department Store at Epcot

Image: DisneyI’m admittedly a superfan of all things Japanese. I love the culture and the food and the entertainment. I grew up watching anime back at a time when people didn’t know what that was. I’m a diehard gamer who adores the collective works of Hayao Miyazaki, too. In other words, Mitsukoshi Department Store is my happy place.

Almost specifically designed for Japanese pop culture obsessives, Mitsukoshi’s right side is a haven for rare merchandise you won’t find elsewhere in, well, Florida. Whether you love Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Totoro, or Ultraman, you’ll find some gear that fits your personality here.

People who have other curiosities about Japan will love the left side of the store. It sells those oddly flavored Kit Kats you’ve heard so much about, along with other sugary goods that are otherwise unavailable in North America. And the apparel here is straight out of an Akira Kurosawa movie. Anyone who has ever wanted a kimono will think of this place as shopping nirvana. The helpful cast members here will do everything possible to find the silk robes that are right for you. This store is legitimately the next best thing to visiting Japan. My wallet whimpers any time I walk by here.  

4. Mouse Gear at Epcot

Image: DisneyTwo of the stores listed here are true Disney institutions. This is the first of them, and its lasting appeal is unmistakable to theme park tourists. Anyone who has spent any time at Future World at Epcot has given in to the siren song of Mouse Gear. It’s among the largest in-park Disney stores in the world, with merchandise that runs the gamut from Epcot toys to Disney clothing to festival-themed limited edition merchandise.

Mouse Gear is the most conveniently located of all stores listed here. It has two primary entrances at Future World, both of which you’ll walk past several times during a day at Epcot. Each time, you’ll feel that driving temptation to check out the best of Disney’s current offerings. The only tip I can give you here is to use the service that ships your purchases to your official Disney resort, alleviating you of the aggravation of carrying around all of your impulse purchases. Mouse Gear is that devil on your shoulder saying, “Buy stuff!” And that devil never takes no for an answer.

3. Bayview Gifts at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Image: DisneyOut of all the Disney hotels on the Orlando campus, the Contemporary is the most dangerous to my wallet. I love the food here, and it’s also home to two of my favorite Disney stores. Fantasia is a quick-hitter store with some unique goods that I mention primarily because it’s right beside Bayview Gifts aka BVG, the finest of all resort stores. You might as well check out both while you’re here.

At BVG, you’ll encounter some of the strangest shopping combinations possible. This store sells delicious baked goods and other snacks….and it also sells luggage. My family has purchased both here…at the same time.

As a resort locale, BVG runs the gamut with its merchandise. It caters to guests staying onsite who need basic goods like bathing suits, but it’s also a high-end Disney property. As such, you’ll find upscale purses and jewelry here along with some rare Disney movie-based lithographs that sell for $1,500 or more. How often do you shop at a non-electronics store where you can buy something for $5 or $1,500? That’s the incongruity of BVG, and I quite like disparity in goods.

2. World of Disney at Disney Springs

Image: DisneyThis selection is the common sense one listed here. It’s the other true Disney institution, along with Mouse Gear. Anyone who visits Disney Springs will enter the World of Disney at some point. I think that’s a defining law of nature. Describing it is simple. It’s a showroom for a large portion of the Disney Store’s online catalog.

World of Disney is broken into several sections such as apparel, toys and stuffed animals, jewelry, and home goods. It features 12 rooms worth of merchandise, all of which is delightfully Disney. From the moment you see the giant Stitch outside the building, you’ll know that you’re about to come face to face with the most tantalizing Disney gear on the planet. Before you break out your wallet and go nuts, however, you should know about the other option in the area…

1. Disney’s Character Warehouse

Some people reading this are nodding their heads knowingly while others are gazing in confusion. Anyone unfamiliar with the Character Warehouse locations has missed out on the holy grail of Disney shopping. This isn’t an exaggeration.

The greater Orlando area features two Character Warehouses, one at the Orlando International Premium Outlets and the other at the Orlando Vineyard Premium Outlets. Even guests who prefer to stay within the Disney bubble should grab an Uber and visit one of these stores. What you’ll discover will blow your mind.

Disney manufactures a lot of goods. Not all of them sell as well as projected. When Disney has overstocked products, the company ships these items to outlets like the Character Warehouses. In other words, it’s the same products that you just saw in the stores at Disney parks and resorts. The difference is in the pricing. You can watch the video linked above to see specific examples of the potential savings here.

Let me break this down into simplest terms. When you want to stretch your Disney merchandising budget, the Character Warehouse is the best place to go. You can get literally twice as many items for roughly the same price, possibly more if you’re a savvy buyer. It’s the place where Orlando residents go when they want to buy Disney stuff. Even as a tourist to the area, you should follow their example and buy a lot of wonderful Disney merchandise on the cheap!