Florida Theme Park Vacation Day 3.5--DisneyQuest

Walt Disney World: My wife and I enjoy an evening at Disney's indoor virtual interactive theme park.

From Russell Meyer
Posted November 14, 2007 at 6:38 PM
After two great days at Universal, it was time to move on to the Disney portion of our vacation. We got a head start on Monday night by going to DisneyQuest. DisneyQuest is billed as an indoor interactive theme park. Guests can gain admission by purchasing individual daily tickets, getting a DisneyQuest annual pass, or by using a plus option on their Disneyworld Magic Your Way ticket. My wife and I always end up with plus options on our tickets, but due to the time of year we usually visit, we don’t like to go to the waterparks. Thus, DisneyQuest offered us the option to use a plus option. This is especially useful considering that you now receive as many plus options as days purchased on a ticket. However, DisneyQuest currently has an uncertain future, because of proposed plans for the west side of Downtown Disney, so this may have been our first and last time at this prototype theme park.

We arrived at 7 PM, and after some confusion with our tickets (we had pluses on passes we purchased prior to the opening of Disneyquest, which were not valid for admission), we were ready to go. In true Disney style, even the elevator ride up to the main floor was themed, with a greeting by the Genie from Aladdin. After a cool elevator ride, guests enter the complex on the third floor of five. Through the course of the evening, we made it through all five levels, experiencing most of the attractions inside. We started on the fifth floor, which contained a “Ride the Comix” virtual reality game, where guests are equipped with a virtual reality helmet and sword, which are used to slash virtual villains. This is a team event, available for up to six people per ship at a time. I've never been a big fan of these virtual reality games, and this attraction was no different. While it does feel that you are immersed in the environment, movements are jerky and it can be difficult to see the whole environment without giving yourself a neckache. This attraction is also available on the fourth floor. Throughout DisneyQuest, there are video games and pinball machines from the past 20 years, including favorites like Space Invaders, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, and Qbert, as well as the hottest new games, like Dance, Dance, Revoluion,

On the fourth floor, there were a number of air hockey tables and other sports related games. There is also a restaurant on the fourth floor, including internet access at some of the tables. On the third floor, we tried the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam virtual pinball machine, which I found quite awkward, but my wife enjoyed. Guests in this attraction stand on a movable platform, where guests lean in the direction they want their ball to travel – highest score wins. Also on the third floor was probably the second best large scale attraction, Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters. In this attraction, guests team up with a partner in bumper-car style vehicles with Plexiglas enclosures. Guests then drive around the playing field, picking up balls in their hopper, loading and firing their cannon, while trying to hit other vehicles in marked targets. When a vehicle is hit, it goes into an uncontrollable spin. The Astroblasters were quite exciting, and I’m surprised that I’ve never seen high-tech bumper cars at any other theme/amusement park.

Working our way down to the second floor, we found our most anticipated attraction, CyberSpace Mountain. For this, guests are given the opportunity to design their own rollercoaster with the help of Bill Nye the Science guy. You can select virtually any layout from gentle hills and curves, to wild barrel rolls, corkscrews, and loops. As you build your coaster, the terrain you select at the very beginning of the design process limits the coaster elements you can select, so doing continuous barrel rolls is simply not possible. However, you can still build a pretty crazy coaster with elements that could only be found in a virtual world. Once you've completed your design, your coaster is given a rating based on its thrill factor, and then you move on to the simulator, where cast members make sure you are ok with going upside down as many times as you have designed. Our first run-through on CyberSpace Mountain, I designed a coaster with five inversions and lots of crazy dips and dives. The simulator experience was surprisingly realistic, so much so that we tried it a second time, with my wife designing a slightly tamer, but still thrilling, coaster of her own. You are given the opportunity to purchase a video of yourself riding your coaster, though we declined to do so. CyberSpace Mountain was definitely the highlight of our DisneyQuest experience.

Also on the second floor is the chance to learn how to draw many of the favorite Disney characters. Through the use of touch screen technology and a well-trained instructor, guests learn the secrets of Disney animation. In our experience, we were shown how to draw Mickey Mouse. It was surprisingly easy, with the help of the cast member, and virtually every member of the animation class drew a character that bore a striking resemblance to the original Mickey Mouse. You are also given the opportunity to purchase your drawing upon the conclusion of the class. The animation class is timed, so it is important for guests wishing to participate to arrive early, because touch pads are limited, and it is not possible to join a class already in progress even if there are empty seats. This is definitely an attraction that “tweeners” would enjoy, as evidenced by some of the anime-looking Mickeys produced. Also on DisneyQuest's second floor was an Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, which is a virtual reality attraction that we did not have a chance to try.

On the first floor of DisneyQuest, there are two popular attractions, including Virtual Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold virtual reality games. Virtual Jungle Cruise begins with guests boarding a real inflatable raft, which floats on a large inflatable air mattress, representing the water. Guests must paddle on the water to succeed at the game. We found this attraction difficult and tiring. Not only that, but guests are sprayed with water as they float over waterfalls and tumble through raging rapids. It seems that you can't leave an Orlando attraction without getting wet. The Pirates of the Caribbean attraction was far better. Guests are grouped in crews and loaded into rooms with screens surrounding them, and a moving floor, to simulate a boat. There is a steering wheel to drive the boat, and several cannons around the edge. The objective is for the captain to steer the boat through the virtual world, and for the other members of the crew to blow up enemy ships to take their treasure. This game was a lot of fun, but probably would have been even better had we had a full crew complement. In the room there are six cannon stations and one captain station, and with only a crew of four, there was a lot of running around to other cannons for the best shot. DisneyQuest also has a snack bar and restaurant, so guests don't have to leave to find refreshments. However, I couldn't see staying for more that a few hours at a time (we were there until close at 11 pm). The place is a real sensory overload, especially when it's not very crowded, as it was when we visited (there probably weren't more than a few hundred people in the entire building). Nonetheless, DisneyQuest does provide a good value for the use of a plus option on a Magic Your Way ticket, and anyone wishing to experience DisneyQuest should try to go soon, because rumors suggest that it may be gone within the year.

From Larry Zimmerman
Posted November 15, 2007 at 3:22 PM
It's hard to believe that such a good draw might be disappearing - every time we've been by on a weekend, the place has been PACKED (think a hour-long wait for the Pirates game)! But it is a GREAT way to spend a hot, summer weekday when the Parks are likely to be crowded pressure cookers. Thanks for your post - it takes me back to the great panini I had at the snack bar...

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