What are you going to do for fun on a steamy-hot August day in Florida? We all wanted something new, something different. On advice of several family members, we decided to try an indoor activity "guaranteed" to tickle all our fancies.
The gang met up at Waffle House and, well fortified, we began our trip toward the east, and Disney World. I may be a 2nd generation Floridian, but I also know my limits and melting my way through an amusement park in summer isn't even a consideration for me.
Both my older grandsons and my son-in-law enjoy video games and the boys had never experienced virtual reality games so going to Downtown Disney to try out Disney Quest seemed like a natural. My daughter and son-in-law had been there before and explained that the experience takes place in a five story building and includes every video game and virtual reality experience you could ever want to try. Even the toddler plays baby games on the computer.
We arrived at Downtown Disney about 10:30 and Disney Quest opens at 11:30 am so we had some time to explore. Parking at Downtown Disney is free but the lots fill up very fast so arriving early is smart. We visited several can't miss shops including the Magic Shop where private lessons come with your purchase and a Candy Store which is delightful. There is a Princess Diana museum (until Nov. 30, 2009) and many interesting places to eat including everything from Wolfgang Puck's to McDonald's. There's also Fulton's Crab House, set in an authentic riverboat replica docked on the waterfront,
Cirque du Soleil - La Nouba anchors the west end of Downtown Disney. We walked at a leisurely pace, in and out of shops, across footbridges and on to Lego Land. It is a magical place for boys and girls of all ages. A small playground is flanked on one side by a shady park, and on the other an outdoor Lego exploration area is set up with kiosks at child height. In the center of each kiosk is a bowl full of Legos of every shape and color that the kids can enjoy freely. At one end there is a large race track set up for Lego car races. Helpful employees keep the area clear of debris and keep everyone reaching for more. Near the entrance to the store are lifesize characters and animals made entirely of Legos, thousands of Legos. Inside the Lego store, every known kit and mini-figure can be found and you can buy Legos by the cup from a wall outfitted with buckets of colorful Legos.
As of September 28, 2008, all the nightclubs on Pleasure Island were closed, but new stores have already begun moving in and it is still an exciting place to visit. We resisted the candy shop a second time on the way back promising ourselves to stop there for desert.
Since the day was so hot, I was tempted to see what was showing at the 24-plex theater near the center of Downtown Disney. But I raised my umbrella and kept walking.
We saw several "princesses" who had gotten a Princess Makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Little girls love the pampering and dress-up fun there.
By this time, everyone was ready for lunch so we went inside the T-Rex restaurant which promises "a prehistoric family adventure." That turned out to be no exaggeration. The youngest of our group tightly gripped his daddy's shirt, eyes wide with anxiety as we approached the hostess because behind her a 20 foot tall T-Rex had begun to roar and toss his head in a very threatening way. Even the older boys stepped a bit closer to us. Everywhere we looked were prehistoric behemoths, craggy cliffs and outlandish greenery. We were seated in an aquatic environment beneath a glowing jellyfish that was at least 10 feet in diameter. The walls in this part of the room were covered with replicas of every type of coral and sponge you can imagine and there was a huge tube shaped aquarium at one side filled with colorful tropical fish. Every few minutes an icy looking blue lighted cave would begin to change to a reddish color and the air would fill with noise simulating an earthquake. The animated animals would stop and stare and so did we. It was nothing short of amazing. The food was good too. We'd had a huge breakfast and decided to have just appetizers and drinks. Good thing too as even the appetizers were mammoth. I ordered sliders expecting silver dollar sized burgers, but I was served three tasty little burgers about the size of a "Junior Whopper." The boys each ordered from the childrens menu, one had shrimpettes, the other pasta and my daughter and son-in-law shared the biggest order of nachos I'd ever seen. The total bill was $65 but the experience alone was worth it.
I was once so addicted to Ms Pac Man that I lost about 30 pounds playing it instead of eating lunch every day for a few months, so I could understand the attraction. But I had no idea of the volume and variety of games. It was well worth the $43 per person charge of admission with everything included.
In addition to thousands of video games, there are virtual reality experiences and design opportunities. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride was a favorite in my family because they loved pretending to be pirates and steering the ship. Next best they said was designing their own dream roller coaster ride on a computer, then actually riding a simulator that gave them all the twists and turns, dips and dives they desired. Astroblasters, a futuristic bumper car game that dares you to fire "asteroids" at the other cars. Ride the Comix takes you through a virtual reality comic book world and Alladdin's Magic Carpet Ride takes you through alleys and streets of Agrabah to find the magic lamp and save the Genie. The five hours we spent in Disney Quest flew by like Alladin's Magic Carpet as we were constantly moving and trying new things. We stopped for about half an hour at the internet-interactive cyber cafe where we enjoyed drinks and ice creams and allowed the toddler to play with the well-protected computers provided for guests. They are mounted on sturdy tables and the flat-screen monitors are covered with Plexiglas so not much to fear. The little one was thrilled to be allowed to play all he wanted and was surprisingly capable of handling the mouse for a toddler.
We could have stayed until 10pm (11pm on Fridays and Saturdays) but even we have our limits. So we headed for home at dusk just as the first live performer took up his guitar on the porch of House of Blues and began to sing. Maybe next time we will stay awhile and chill out with a drink or too. It was quite a day.