Many of the attractions at Walt Disney World keep the guest as a passive observer. You sit on the immutable ride and the oft-told tale of Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, or Finding Nemo unfolds before you, same as it ever was. While this passive observation is A-OK with me, there is a sizable subset of guests who want some interactivity during their Disney day. A few rides have interactivity built into their DNA, Buzz Lightyear and Toy Story Mania, for example. But for guest who crave more participation, the are numerous opportunities for activity control in the many arcades on Walt Disney World property. If you want to push some buttons, here’s what you need to know:
Where can I find arcades at Walt Disney World?
There are true arcades located in or near the lobby of all the Disney-owned hotels: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Art of Animation, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Caribbean Beach, Contemporary, Coronado Springs, Fort Wilderness, Grand Floridian, Old Key West, Pop Century, Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside, Saratoga Spring, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club (shared with Beach Club).
Additionally there are true arcades inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios (at the Pizza Planet restaurant) and at the Magic Kingdom (in the Space Mountain exit building).
What are the arcades like?
Honestly, they’re pretty standard arcades that you might find in any town in America. There are a combination of games like pinball, skee ball, tossing hoops, air hockey, racing games, shooting games, music and dance games, fun photography machines, and “the Claw” style prize collection games. These are virtually all off-the-shelf games that you truly could find anywhere.
What are the hours of the arcades?
These vary slightly by location, but generally the resort arcades are open from about 8:00 a.m. until midnight. The in-park arcade mirror park hours.
Why would I come all the way to Walt Disney World to spend time in a standard arcade?
Well, some folks really like them. And there are subsets of guests who find them to be a good escape from the newness of the other stimulation in the parks. Also, the resort arcades may be a good place to keep junior occupied while mom and dad take a little rest.
Is there a charge to play the games?
Yes. The prices vary according to the game or activity. There are some games that cost as little as a quarter, while some of the photography stations could cost as much as $5.00. Most of the games cost either $.50 or $1.00 to play.
How do I pay for the games?
In the resorts, you’ll be required to purchases a stored value card to pay for your games. The stored value vending machines accept cash, credit cards, or Key to the World cards as payment. You select the amount of play value you’d like on your card and then you’re off to the races. The stored value cards can be reloaded and used multiple times.
The in-park arcade machines are coin-operated or token operated. You’ll need quarters or tokens to play. There are change machines and/or token vending machines located at these arcades.
Can the arcade cards be used anywhere on property?
You can use the stored value game cards at any of the WDW resort arcades. This means that if you’re staying at the Pop Century, but needing to kill some time at the Contemporary before dinner at Chef Mickey’s, you could use your arcade card at either location. It should be noted that the WDW arcade stored value cards are NOT the same as the Disney Cruise Line arcade cards. These are not interchangeable.
I’ve been given an arcade card as part of a package. Can I really use it?
Yep. There have been many promotions over the years in which guests were given a starter stored value arcade card as a package promotion. These cards do work, but you should consider them a gateway drug to future card purchases. If you don’t want to keep playing and paying in the arcades, don’t let your kids know that you have the card.
My child likes to win things. Can we win prizes at the Disney arcades?
In the parks, the only opportunity to win things at the arcades are with the machines (such as the Claw) which are specifically designed for prize acquisition.
In the many of the resorts, some of the machines dispense tickets for game play. The higher your score, the more tickets dispensed. Tickets can be traded in for prizes. Larger prizes cost more tickets.
What types of prizes are there to win?
These run the gamut from pencils and plastic party favors, costing just a few tickets, on up to large plush animals and neon signs costs several thousand tickets. The quality is not great, but I don’t think that’s the point.
What’s the noise level in the arcades?
Depending on when you visit, it can be anything from quiet to deafening. I tend to avoid the Hollywood Studios Pizza Planet restaurant near lunch time because it’s so darn loud in there.
What is DisneyQuest? Is that an arcade?
Sort of, yes. It’s a big arcade with a big cover charge. Admission to Downtown Disney’s DisneyQuest is by ticket only, but once you get inside, most of the activities are covered under your admission fee. You can expect that an older elementary to middle school aged boy would spend two to four hours at DisneyQuest. This is of course very different from a resort arcade which has no admission fee and where you can stay for just a few minutes at a time.
Are there any other interactive experiences in the parks?
In addition to the arcades, there are a few other interactive experiences in the parks. These include:
- The Frontierland Shooting arcade at the Magic Kingdom. This is a coin-operated shoot-the-target game.
- Innoventions at Epcot. Many opportunities for hands-on participation. One of the most popular activities is the Sum of All Thrills roller coaster simulator. Expect long lines for that one.
- The exit areas for Epcot’s Mission Space, Spaceship Earth, and Journey to Imagination rides all have some interactive electronics.
- The Animation pavilion at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a drawing class and some interactive electronics related to animation.
- There are carnival games at the Animal Kingdom.
- There are playgrounds and play fountains for physical activity.
Tell me folks, what have your experiences been in the Disney arcades? Do you love them or hate them? What about your kids? Are they a big part of your vacation or do you avoid them entirely? Let us know in the comments below.