Disney Quest

Billed as five stories of interactive fun, you can't miss the DisneyQuest building standing tall in the West End of Downtown Disney. It's not cheap. It will cost you $33.02 for adults ($26.63 for children 9 and under) and that may seem awfully steep for a couple of hours of entertainment when you have a quarter of that will buy you a movie at the AMC theater next door. But go ahead and give it a shot -- at least once. You might soon find that you are smitten with the place!

What will you find? Once inside you board an elevator that will take you halfway up the building. Even the elevator is an experience as Aladdin's Genie is your guide on the brief trip skyward. Don't like elevators? They will let you bypass it if you ask and you can come in through the ground floor's exit. Each floor has a different theme. One floor has retro arcade games. Another has prize redemption games which is the only set of games that will require an additional purchase (they sell swipe cards right there). Even if you hate redemption games or paying more than you already did to get in, keep in mind that it's for those very reasons that even if the rest of DQ is crowded that you will usually find the redemption area cozy and not as crowded. But you can play Dance Dance Revolution or Space Invaders anywhere else! You came here for the good stuff. On that front, Disney delivers.

There are two crowd favorites. Down on the bottom floor you have Pirates of the Caribbean. It's an amazing game where you and up to five other guests step into a private room where a ship with a steering wheel and five cannons are surrounded by a huge playing screen. Once the action starts you go about shooting at the other ships to steal their booty -- their gold! The key to success here is to make sure that you have a capable captain. You don't want someone speeding away or going around in circles so the players can't finish sinking the opposing ships. A patient captain makes all the difference. In the end you will have to have a quick wrist and good aim to score well against the skeleton pirate who originally serves as your guide. The game is brilliant. Do NOT miss it.

The other big winner here is Cyberspace Mountain. There, Bill Nye will help guide you into building your own virtual rollercoaster. Once you're done you get to ride it in a spinning simulator -- loops and all! After building your ride it gets graded from 1 (tame) to 5 (wild). If you want the craziest ride and don't get to program a 4 or 5, don't sweat it. Just go up to the ride attendant and ask them for their wildest simulation. The capacity here is lower than Pirates so hit this one first if you arrive at the opening -- or last if you show up towards the end of the day.

But that's not all! Another unique attraction is Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters -- bumper cars where two riders (must be at least 51 inches tall to experience the Buzz or Cyberspace Mountain rides) hop into a covered bumper car then compete against others -- scooping up medicine balls and firing them at the other "spaceship" cars. You can strap on virtual goggles and go on a magic carpet ride. You can hop on a raft and paddle your way through the jungle (complete with spraying mists). You can Ride the Comix where you engage in a virtual laser sabre battle. There is so much to see and do and, best of all, you have amazing Cheesecake Factory counter-service food served on the fourth (desserts mostly) and fifth (three different counters serving a wide variety of food) floors. If you're not the gaming type don't miss the Animation Classes where they teach you how to draw the Disney characters. If you want a special souvenir record your own karoke or make your own toy from doll parts the way Sid did in Toy Story!

Tip: Disney Quest opens late -- at 11:30am, daily. If you sleep in or the parks are too crowded, come over when DQ opens and you will have the shortest lines of the day for the first hour or so. After that, it can get crowded. However, late afternoon (when many others are having dinner elsewhere) or the last hour or two of the operating day (DisneyQuest closes at mindight on Friday and Saturday and 11pm the rest of the week) are the best times to avoid the crowds.

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