The next time you head down to Disney World and are about to begin your on-property spending spree ... STOP! Before you open your wallet, be sure to check out those official Disney factory outlets that -- in some cases -- are literally just down the street from the WDW Resort.
Yes. You heard right, folks. Disney factory outlets. And they are all open to the public. They make a really great place to spend a rainy afternoon. They also make a fun place to shop if you're just looking to get a break from the theme parks. And can you find bargains? Absolutely. That's why I make sure to hit one every Friday night on my way home from work.
"So where are these outlets located?," you ask. Well, the first one to open in this area was the "Character Warehouse" in Mall 2 at the Belz Factory Outlet Mall on International Drive. This shop -- which features discounted & discontinued merchandise from the Walt Disney World Resort -- proved to be so popular that, a few years later, Disney opened a second factory outlet in Mall 1, "The Character Premiere Shop."
"So what's the best way to shop at Belz' Disney outlets?," you query. Well, as a seasoned pro, what I do is park by the bridge that links Mall 1 & 2. That way, my car is always in a central location as I shop. Making it a convenient place to drop off my purchases as I move from "The Character Warehouse" to "The Character Premiere Shop."
Now don't make the mistake of thinking that just because there are two Disney factory outlets at Belz that "The Character Warehouse" and "The Character Premiere Shop" have the exact same merchandise. Sure, there's bound to be some duplication between the two stores. But I'm often amazed by the stuff that I find in one Disney factory outlet that doesn't pop up in either of the other stores.
"What sort of stuff?," you ask. Well, how about a Rock N' Roller Coaster ceramic trinket box? Or a Mickey-shaped doormat that (I think) I paid $10 for. Or expensive Disney-themed jewelry (which can be found in the store's glass cases). Most shoppers overlook those cases. DON'T make that mistake. You'll find some truly great items in there -- stuff that's come straight from the parks -- which is for sale for as much as 75% off!
You'll also find a wide selection of discounted clothes in the outlet's Men's Department, Ladies department and Kids department at each location. As you explore the racks, you'll find marked-down T-shirts, sweatshirts, golf apparel, shorts, PJs and much more. Each store also offers a selection of plush, a small amount of Christmas merchandise as well as kitchen merchandise wares.
Of course, the best part of being an Orlando local is that I know that -- eventually -- all WDW's leftover merchandise eventually ends up at "The Character Warehouse" and/or "The Character Premier Shop." Which is why I almost never purchase Special Event merchandise from such seasonal events as "Mickey's Very Merry Christmas," "Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party," "Star Wars Weekend" or "Super Soap Weekend" products. I know that all the stuff that doesn't sell (Like that limited edition "Star Wars Weekend" poster that I just picked up for five bucks!) will eventually end up here.
Mind you, for those of you who aren't willing to travel all the way down to the Belz Factory Outlet on International Drive, there are two Disney outlets located relatively close to property. One is located in the Orlando Premium Outlets mall at 8200 Vineland Avenue. Which is virtually across the highway (I-4) from the "Crossroads" shopping complex.
Here, in "Disney's Character Premiere Shop," you'll find virtually the same merchandise that's on sale at Belz's two Disney factory outlets. For example: During a recent trip to this shop, I was able to pick up the entire "Disney Attraction Desk Set." Which included:
... all at 50% off!
Mind you, not all the merchandise that's for sale at the Disney factory outlets at the Belz Factory Outlet and the Orlando Premium Outlets mall is marked down quite that severely. The Disney pins that you'll find for sale in these shops sell for pretty much the same prices that you'll find in the theme parks. As do the snacks and the candies.
Of course, if you're looking for discounted Disney pins, then perhaps a trip to "Character Corner" over at the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores is in order.To be honest, this is my least favorite Disney outlet. While "Character Corner" does carry a lot of discounted merchandise from the Parks, the store also features a ton of clothes that have the characters with the word "FLORIDA" on them. You know, the sorts of shirts that you can find in virtually every other gift shop in Orlando?
But -- that said -- "Character Corner" does occasionally have $.99 Disney pins for sale. Which -- for those of you who are looking for cheap pins to trade while you're strolling around property -- makes a trip to the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores worthwhile. Plus -- every so often -- I've found some real bargains here. So I guess the "Character Corner" really is worth a look-see.
So remember, before you pay retail for that WDW knickknack for Grandma, be sure to check out the Orlando area Disney outlets. A quick trip to the "Character Warehouse," both of the "Character Premiere Shops" and/or "Character Corner" will allow you stretch your vacation dollar that much further.
Which means that now you can splurge on something expensive for you. Woo Hoo!