Too Much Fun - A Day at Disney Quest
by Debra Martin Koma, ALL EARS® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the November 16, 2004, Issue #269 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
"Look out! Look out! He's going to hit us!"
My husband, at the ship's wheel, shouted and gestured wildly, as I ran to the cannons on the port side, nearly tripping over my 12-year-old son, who was manning the aft guns.
The deck rumbled. Our ship, the Scurvy Scoundrel, withstood blast after blast from the marauding pirates who were fighting to keep us from stealing their gold. They fought in vain. Finally, we captured the last treasure chest from the last buccaneeror so we thought! With an explosion that shivered our timbers, the pirate captain who had been out of our view scored a direct hit on our ship and as we spiraled down, down, down, into the murky waters of Davy Jones' Locker, we heard him cackle, "Dead Men Tell No Tales!"
But instead of drowning, my son exclaimed, "That just blew me away! It was great!" and tore off his special 3-D goggles so that I could see him smiling from ear to ear.
And he was right -- Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold WAS greatas were all the virtual reality attractions and video games we had the chance to experience on a recent visit to DisneyQuest, the "indoor interactive theme park" found at Downtown Disney's West Side.
The five-story, blue building that sits adjacent to the white-tented theater of Cirque du Soleil opened in June 1998 amidst claims that it brought new meaning to the term "state of the art technology." I'm only sorry that it took me more than six years to catch up with it.
We ventured to Downtown Disney for our DisneyQuest adventure on a dreary day in Octoberas did what seemed to be at least half of the other families in Orlando that Columbus Day. We anticipated crowds, so we arrived early, well before the 11:30 a.m. opening time. Despite our punctuality, we discovered a line that extended past the DisneyQuest Emporium, then wrapped around the corner of the building! Fortunately, once the doors opened the line moved quickly and we found ourselves boarding the "Cybrolators" to take us upstairs, almost before we knew it.
The adventure began almost immediately -- without giving too much away, I'll just say that this place is so cool, even the elevator provides state-of-the-art entertainment! Before we could say, "Open Sesame!" the elevator doors parted and we were standing at the Ventureport, the starting point on the third floor, with a signpost pointing to four enticing destinations: the CreateZone, which offers activities that bring out the artiste in you; the ScoreZone, which features competitive games that keep track of points; the Replay Zone, with its nostalgic assortment of traditional video arcade games and bumper cars; and the ExploreZone, a combination of thrilling simulators and virtual reality experiences that take you on one adventure after another.
Staring at the signpost and then back at the map, we were rather bewildered as to which way to go first. We only had a limited amount of time (it was our last day in Orlando, dagnabbit!) and we were determined to make the most of it. We finally opted to head for our old friend Buzz Lightyear and his Astroblaster. After a few wrong turns, we arrived and were relieved to see the line wasn't too long. Within minutes we were climbing into our vehicles -- covered bumper cars armed with cannons that shot big rubber balls. The object was for the pilot to steer the car to sweep up the loose balls on the floor, while the "gunner" in the passenger seat loaded the cannon and fired on other cars. If you hit the star target on a passing car, it spun out of control, lights a-flashing. This worked fine for those players who had two in a car -- sadly, I was flying solo, and it took a full minute to figure out how to be both pilot and gunner of my own vehicle. Let's just say over the course of the three-minute ride, I spun a lot more than I steered! That's OK though -- it just helped confirm my dizzy blonde status.
Our appetites whet by this positive experience with Buzz, we headed into the ExploreZone and found ourselves standing at the top of some stairs. Below us was a sea of humanity -- the queues for the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Virtual Jungle Cruise. (There was another ride in the area -- Treasure of the Incas -- that was not operating. In fact, it looks as though it's closed for good, as it is not even indicated on the current guide map.) We quickly assessed the situation and realized the line for Jungle Cruise was moving much more quickly than the Pirates line. With more and more soggy and poncho-clad people pouring into DisneyQuest every moment, we decided to grit our teeth and endure the long wait for Pirates first.
As you've already read, it was well worth the wait. The three of us were shown to our own booth, dubbed the Scurvy Scoundrel, given our 3-D headgear and a quick explanation of how the game was played, and we embarked on our journey for pirate gold. The interior of the booth is designed to resemble a ship's deck, complete with a captain's wheel and a number of cannons with pull strings that allow you to "fire" them. My husband, who owns his own 27-foot fishing boat, volunteered to be our captain, while my son and I positioned ourselves on each side of the deck. A 3-D film is projected on a screen that curves around the front two-thirds of the booth. The action is thrilling, the floor moves underneath you, and as you scurry from gun to gun to blast the skeletal pirates out of their ships, you really do feel that you're on the sea -- in fact, when the ride was over, I even got that wobbly, land-lubber feeling I sometimes have when I go ashore after being on our boat for several hours.
By the time we were back on solid ground, we discovered the queue for Pirates had more than doubled! Thank goodness we had gotten in line when we did, or we would have never done it. As we had noted before, the line for Virtual Jungle Cruise was steadily moving, so we hopped directly into it. After a short wait, we were shown to our raft and given our instructions.
We were seated on a real fully-inflated rubber raft, positioned in front of a screen on which was projected a tranquil tropical river, not unlike the original Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom -- there's even an image of Cinderella Castle way off in the distance. We took our paddles (at least we weren't up the river without them!), which were equipped with sensors that had to make contact with the floor to influence the images on the screen. The premise of the ride is explained to you at the film's onset by Dr. Wayne Szalinski, he of Honey I Shrunk the Kids fame. He's lost a "gizmo" and you're to help him find it by going back through time to the dinosaur age. Fine. As we paddled, the river became increasingly prehistoric, not to mention wilder, until it was a full-fledged white-water experience, with volcanic eruptions dumping hot lava in our path as all manner of dinos darted out at us. We pitched and rolled -- I was even spritzed with water at one point -- and wound our way all through time and back again, without any hint of finding the missing item. But it sure was fun! Getting out of the low raft after being jostled like that was a challenge, but we emerged relatively unscathed and laughing at ourselves and our tired rowing arms.
As we made our way out of the ExploreZone, we realized how convoluted a place DisneyQuest really is. Some stairways were marked UP, others marked DOWN and in many cases we proved that old chestnut -- you can't get there from here -- to be really true. Elevators were hard to find, and when we did stumble upon them waits were long. So long that we eventually gave up and searched for another stairway, hoping it would take us to the floor we were trying to reach.
As we meandered we noted that the place was jammed with people -- the peril of coming on a rainy day. We tried, but couldn't even get close to the activities in the CreateZone. The best we could manage was staring over the shoulders of folks engaged in distorting their own images at the Magic Mirror. We also spent several minutes listening to and watching some cute little girls singing in the sound booths to make their own CDs at the Radio Disney SongMaker. They were having a great time, and we enjoyed watching them enjoy themselves.
Having so much fun works up an appetite, and we realized our stomachs were growling -- it was after 1:30 p.m. already! We managed to find an UP stairway and worked our way to the Wonderland Cafe on the fourth floor. Although the selection of desserts, snacks and specialty coffees was enticing, we knew we wanted chew-and-swallow-type food, so up we went another floor to FoodQuest, with its full menu.
The choices at this Cheesecake Factory-operated eatery were almost overwhelming: pizza, pasta, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and snacks like chips and salsa or nachos. The lines moved quickly, and we spotted a comfy booth for noshing our meal. (While you're wandering around looking for a table here, don't forget to look up. There's a gorgeous celestial mural on the dome overhead.)
My husband and son both opted for a plain old burger and fries ($5.50/$1.00), but they were not sorry for such simple fare. The sandwiches were huge with a generous amount of fries on the side. I, on the other hand, was sorry with my choice, but not for the food's quality. I had opted for the Chicken Caesar Wrap, a gigantic rolled flour tortilla overflowing with grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, tomato, croutons, parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing, with a generous helping of tortilla chips on the side ($6.95). Oh, did I forget to mention that it was loaded with garlic? Yikes. I really savored every bite of the tasty wrap as it went down, but later? Even after several Listerine Breath Strips I still could barely stand myself. Too much information? Sorry, I suppose so. But it WAS good.
After digesting for a few minutes, we were off to Quest some more. We stopped on the third floor ScoreZone where the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam caught our eyes. After watching a few rounds of play, we got in the fairly short line to try our hands at acting as human pinballs. Each numbered station has a simulator that resembles one of the animated hockey-playing Ducks, with handles that you grasp to maneuver the vehicle. The platform you stand on rocks back and forth, but note that younger children who don't weigh very much might not have the oomph behind them to make the thing move. (There's a stationary platform with a joystick for just such an occasion, or for those under 48" who are too small to play.) When you see your numbered pinball on the 20-foot high pinball machine screen in front of you, you jerk and pull your simulator to and fro to try to score, bouncing your ball off the flippers and bumpers to stay in play. Watching the intensity that registered on my husband's and son's faces was more enjoyable than playing, so I stayed on the sidelines snapping photos. Imagine our surprise when the final scores showed at the end of play and they had finished with the third and fourth highest!
A glance at our watches revealed that our playtime was coming to a close -- time really does fly when you're having fun. But before exiting, we had one more stop to make -- at one of the ReplayZone areas that featured video arcade games from our (my husband's and mine, that is) youth. Q-bert, Pac Man, and one of our all-time favorites, Defender, were there for free play and we couldn't pass them up. Pyooom pyooom pyoooom! The hours we had spent battling intergalactic foes at the video arcade during our dating years (why yes, we are geeks -- how did you guess?) came back to us, just as we were remembering the best way to fire the smart bombs at the aliensand just as it was time for us to head out, back into the dreary, damp day.
Looking back, for all we did, there was so much more we DIDN'T have time to do. We never made it to Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride, nor did we get to try any of the CreateZone activities. We didn't get to the Alien Encounter simulator or the Ride the Comix game. And perhaps the biggest disappointment, for me, at least -- we never built our own coaster at CyberSpace Mountain -- not that my two coaster-phobic menfolk would have tried the simulator with me.
I think my son Alex summed up our DisneyQuest experience best when he said, simply, "It was lots and lots of fun."
Hours: Current hours are 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m. - midnight, Friday-Saturday). Hours may be extended seasonally.
Prices for single-day tickets: Adults $34.08 (includes tax); kids 3-9 $27.69 (includes tax); under 3 free.
Annual Pass Holders receive $4 off regular admission prices for Guests ages 10 and up and $3 off for Guests ages 3-9 (up to three Guests per visit); 10 percent discount on select merchandise at DisneyQuest Emporium.
Disney Vacation Club Members receive a 20 percent discount on admission, a 10 percent discount on food at Wonderland Cafand FoodQuest, and a 10 percent discount on select merchandise at DisneyQuest Emporium.
(These discounts may not be combined with any other discount or promotion, are based on full-price admissions, and are subject to change without notice).
DisneyQuest tickets can also be purchased at a substantial discount from authorized ticket vendors such as MapleLeafTickets.com .
Height Restrictions: While DisneyQuest is billed as fun for the whole family, there are many attractions that little ones may not do. Some have height restrictions, such as Pirates of the Caribbean (35" minimum) and Buzz Lightyear's Astroblaster (51" minimum), while others might be too intense or scary (Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter). Be sure to measure your children in the lobby -- there's a replica of Genie (from "Aladdin") that serves as a measuring stick. And consult the guide map for height restrictions before you attempt to ride, just to avoid any major disappointment meltdowns.
Also note that strollers are NOT permitted inside the DisneyQuest building. Stroller Parking is located to the right of the main entrance.
Alex's DisneyQuest Tips:
1. Plan to spend a whole day at DisneyQuest. Just say, "This is DisneyQuest Day," and do nothing but that. You can easily spend most of the day here, especially if the lines are long.
2. Try to go on a day when the weather isn't so terrible -- the crowds are awful on a rainy day.
3. Be sure to study the guide map before you start out -- the floor plan can be very confusing. It's a good idea to choose a rendezvous point if your group wants to split up, or if you think you might get separated. Either FoodQuest or the Wonderland Cafwould be a good choice, as they have places where you can sit and wait.
4. Don't miss Pirates of the Caribbean -- it's awesome!
5. Try to go to rides or games that you think you'll like early in the day, before the lines have a chance to build.
6. Don't just go for the big thrills -- there's lots of fun with the retro games in the ReplayZone and in the CreateZone.
7. Take extra money for some of the arcade games that aren't included in the main ticket. Things like Skeeball earn you tickets that you can use to get other little prizes, but you have to pay to play them.
The Official WDW DisneyQuest site: http://www.disneyworld.com/disneyquest
Allears.net's DisneyQuest FAQ: http://allears.net/btp/dqfaq.htm
DisneyQuest Photo Gallery: http://allears.net/btp/dq_photo.htm
FoodQuest Menu: http://allears.net/dining/menu/foodquest/all-day
Other articles by Debra Martin Koma: http://allears.net/btp/dkoma.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.