Written by Joe Lane
Published: February 22, 2005 at 7:42 PM
It's another tepid Florida evening. The sun is fading leisurely into the West and night is descending upon the city of Orlando. It is this transition that signals the beginning of the nightly festivities at Downtown Disney in a place called Pleasure Island.
The nightlife hot spot first opened on May 1, 1989 in response to the demand for an adult venue for grown-up Disney Guests to enjoy. While PI has seen many changes over the years, the current incarnation features seven different clubs, two full service restaurants and a variety of smaller shopping, eating and drinking opportunities.
There's an official Imagineered history behind PI that many Disney Guests might not know about. Wealthy ship merchant Merriweather Adam Pleasure built an industrial district on the island in the 19th century as a part of his yacht-making business. Pleasure would often journey across the globe, addicted to the excitement and adventure. He disappeared in 1939 and the island was left deserted until Disney Imagineers "discovered" PI and converted its many warehouses and structures into nightclubs and restaurants.
The western end of PI is better known for the alluring Jessica Rabbit sign that looks out over Downtown Disney's West Side. Crossing the bridge and climbing the stairs brings places you at the West End stage where live bands sometimes perform and the New Years festivities take place nightly.
Directly to the right is The Comedy Warehouse. It's an improvisational comedy club where the comics perform spur-of-the-moment skits based on audience input, much in the vein of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" The quality of the show depends on a number of factors, including which comics are performing that evening, what time of the night you're viewing the show and how inebriated you may be. You should visit for the decor alone: a staggering collection of Disney memorabilia, including old props and signs from various Walt Disney World and Disneyland attractions, cover the walls and hang from the ceiling. There are five shows throughout the night and seating is first come, first served. Even with a seating capacity of 258, expect a full house for every show.
The BET Soundstage™ Club sits across the way from The Comedy Warehouse. The two-story dance club focuses on hip hop and R&B hits. There's also a V.I.P. section, complete with a separate dance floor, and to get in, you need only purchase a bottle of champagne, a bottle of wine, a bottle of Hpnotiq (pronounced hypnotic) or a bottle of Alize.
Next door to the BET Soundstage™ is the Adventurer's Club--an experience unlike anything else in Pleasure Island. The social lounge is best described as a themed interactive entertainment experience. The peculiar 1937-themed private club features a cast of unique characters in a fantastically themed atmosphere: comical artifacts and old photos with quirky captions cover the walls. Every night, the club members induct their new members (the visiting Guests) and hold a number of shows in different-exotically themed rooms. Although the basic storyline is the same, every night is different, depending upon the actors betraying the characters and how the audience reacts. Like it or not, you're a part of the show. The innuendo can get a little bit heavy at times--and that's part of the fun!
Continuing down the hill and across the street is 8Trax, a retro dance club features artists like the Bee Gees, Donna Summer and the Village People. Seventies memorabilia cover the walls and TVs scattered around the club display trivia questions and play commercials from the era. On Thursday nights, 8 Trax specializes in hits from the '80s.
Near the south entrance of Pleasure Island is Mannequins Dance Place, one of the most popular dance clubs on PI. The multi-storied club features techno trance music and a sizeable rotating dance floor (about 30' across). The interior decor includes trippy-looking mannequins suspended from the walls and ceiling and a very impressive laser lighting system.
Across from a Midway-themed area is the Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club, a multi-level, beach party-themed nightclub featuring live bands and a combination of classic and modern rock hits. The club also has a collection of table hockey, pool, darts, pinball and arcade games. The club features live music nightly, sometimes house bands, sometimes visiting groups. The Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club also has the best booze deal on island: small sand buckets of Bacardi mixed drinks for $9.25 with refills for $7.50.
The main strip ends at club Motion, a dance club catering to young adults, playing music and videos from the latest Top 40 hits. Just beyond Motion lies the Portobello Yacht Club and Fulton's Crab House, a pair of pricey, full service restaurants offering high class fare.
At 11:45 p.m., Pleasure Island prepares to ring in the New Year as part of their nightly tradition, complete with countdown and fireworks. Even after the celebration, the island ordinarily stays open until 2 a.m.
If you plan on visiting PI on your next Disney trip (or during Spring Break) there are some things you should know to better prepare yourself for the evening. PI currently operates on an "open gate" policy, which means you can walk the island for free, but you need to pay to enter the clubs. The island usually opens at 7 p.m. and stays open until 2 a.m. The clubs will be crowded on Thursday (Cast Members get free admission Thursday and Monday nights), Friday, and Saturday nights.
Age restrictions are in affect on PI and at many of the dance clubs. Persons under 18 must be accompanied into PI by a person 21 years of age or older. You must be 18 years or older to enter Club Motion, 18 years or older to enter Mannequins Dance Palace Sunday through Wednesday and 21 or older to enter Mannequins Dance Palace and the BET SoundsStage™ Club Thursday through Saturday. Bring a photo I.D. and be aware that smoking and photography are not allowed in the clubs.
Disney offers a variety of tickets depending on how often you plan on visiting PI. These are the current offers and prices, but they are subject to change. A "Single-Club Ticket" is available for $9.95 plus tax and will grant you admission into any one club of your choice with the exception of The Comedy Warehouse and the Adventurers Club, so choose wisely! A "Multi-Club Pass" grants admission to all the clubs on PI and sells for $20.95 plus tax. There's also a 5 For 5 deal offered seasonal offer that allows you to convert a single-day ticket into a five consecutive night ticket for five bucks.
If you're a frequent visitor, a "Pleasure Island Annual Passport" can be purchased for $55.95 plus tax, with a renewal price of $45.95 plus tax. There's a second version of the Annual Pass which will allow the Passholder to bring in one additional Guest during their visit (think of it as a Couples Pass). These are available for $99 plus tax, with a renewal price of $84 plus tax.
Pleasure Island admission is included with the new Magic Your Way Tickets that include the "plus options." If you have any old Park Hopper tickets, you need to look at your ticket benefits to determine if you're eligible for PI admission. Disney AP owners or people with a Disney Dining Experience Card can qualify for an admission discount. And parking is free for everyone. Additional admission may be charged for certain venues if a well-known artist or band is invited to perform.
Call (407) WDW-2NITE (939-2648) for tickets.
Theme Park Insider readers: be sure to check back next week for a review of Universal's CityWalk Orlando.