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Pleasure Island Disney's Nightspot for Adults
Friday, September 14, 2001
In 1989, Disney opened Pleasure Island, the first park geared towards adults rather than children and families. There is a story behind the island, named for Meriweather Pleasure, and on each building there is a plaque signifying part of the legend. Not much attention is given to the legend though; the nightclubs are the draw here.
Pleasure Island is Disney's version of downtown Orlando's Church Street Station and Universal's City Walk. During the day anybody can stroll through but other than a few shops there really is nothing significant to see. The Island opens at 7 p.m., although some clubs do not open until an hour later. Beginning at 7 p.m. guests must have an admission pass and enter through turnstiles; guests who enter before that time cannot enter any of the clubs nor purchase any alcoholic drinks from the street bars until they exit and re-enter using a valid admission pass.
Pleasure Island is the middle section of Downtown Disney, flanked by the West Side and the Marketplace. After 7 p.m. there is a walkway that allows guests to bypass Pleasure Island on their way between the Marketplace and West Side. Admission is currently $21 per person, but for an extra $5 you can add admission for the next five consecutive nights. An annual pass is available for $54.95 (plus tax). Admission is included in the Premium Annual Pass, the Unlimited Magic Pass, and is a "plus" option with the Park Hopper Plus Pass. There is no reduced price for children, although children under 3 are free. Guests under age 18 are not permitted unless they enter and remain with their parent or guardian at all times.
Whether children belong in Pleasure Island will likely be a subject debated for decades. It seems the majority of guests do not want children there, for a number of reasons. However, as long as Disney allows it we will continue to see small children in smoky nightclubs watching drunken behavior at midnight. My opinion is that while parts of the Island are fine for teens, children younger than that are better off spending their time elsewhere. However, parents must individually decide what is best for their child. Keep in mind that the dance clubs are filled with cigarette smoke and have that stale smoke smell even when they first open. Non-smokers and people with breathing concerns would be happiest at the two non-smoking clubs, and perhaps the PI Jazz Company.
There are currently eight nightclubs on Pleasure Island, and admission to the Island includes admission to each club - although drinks, snacks and souvenirs cost extra.
The most unique club is the Adventurer's Club, located near the top of the hill towards the West Side end. This is one of the two clubs that are entirely non-smoking. The club is full of strange artifacts picked up at garage sales and is themed as a 19th century explorer's club. To further enhance the theming there are a number of characters played by very talented actors who do shows and interact with guests using improvisational humor.
It may seem a bit strange at first, but is actually lots of fun. There are several different shows nightly in the library, as well as shorter shows in the Mask Room and the Treasure Room, plus activities in the main salon. It is possible to spend an entire evening rotating through the different rooms. Although the shows in the library have not changed in many years, there is enough improvisation going on in the main salon to make it worth a visit even if you have been to the club recently.
This club also has a large and loyal following, but it is the kind of place that is more fun when crowded. They have a signature drink called the Kungaloosh (named after the club greeting you learn) that is very popular. Warning to parents - be prepared for the possibility of sexual innuendo or other comments that may not be appropriate for children to hear, and that you may be picked on by the characters for bringing your children to a bar.
Right next door is the BET Soundstage Club, which is one of the two clubs limited to adults age 21 and over. This location used to be the Neon Armadillo years ago, but has been redecorated to eliminate the country western feel. The club rarely seems busy, usually does not open until 8 p.m., and features hip-hop, and rhythm and blues music.
Across the street from BET is the Comedy Warehouse, the other non-smoking club. There are four or five shows depending on the night of the week, each lasting approximately 35 minutes. Guests are kept outside in line until seating time, and must exit the club after that show. Seating is done by the cast members to fill in every row, so your entire party must be together before entering the queue area. You can purchase popcorn, and servers hurry to take drink orders before the show begins. Although the club seats about 250, the last 100 or so are seated behind other people. Depending on their size you may not have a very good view, so get there early or wait for a later show.
There is no stand-up comedy, and no foul language here. It is all improvisation, which means that every show is different. Five very talented actors take audience suggestions and create songs, poems, skits, and rhymes. There are many times (particularly later in the evening) when the suggestions and humor are definitely not appropriate for children, but the actors refuse to take a suggestion that are truly offensive (although at that point it has already been shouted out and heard by any minors present).
This club is my favorite place at Walt Disney World, and will most likely be the subject of its own article at some point. Beware: On Thursdays the audience is usually mostly cast members, who get in to Pleasure Island for free on Thursdays and Mondays, and many of the suggestions will be cast member-related. Fridays and Saturdays are exceptionally busy as well, with a lot of local guests.
Heading back down the hill the next club is 8Trax, which is themed to the disco era. The club features music from the '70s on most nights, with music from the '80s on Thursdays. It is a small club, crammed full of nostalgic memorabilia from the '70s. It is worth a peek, provided the cigarette smell does not bother you.
Located near the main entrance to the Island is Mannequins, the other club restricted to ages 21 and older. It does not look like much from the outside, but inside it is multi-leveled and has dance shows throughout the evening. It also has a revolving dance floor, and this club is very popular with young adults, particularly on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Across the street is the Pleasure Island Jazz Company, the only club with a kitchen. There is a terrific menu, and you can get appetizers that look delicious. There is a dance floor but many guests seem to prefer just sitting and listening to the band. For some reason this club does not seem to get as smoky as the other ones, although it definitely has a slight odor. This club opens at 8 p.m.
The newest club is Motion, at the Marketplace end of the Island in the location that used to be the Wildhorse Saloon (and the Fireworks Factory prior to that). Motion plays top 40 hits and some alternative music.
The final club is the Rock & Roll Beach Club, which guests enter on the second floor (elevators are available). It is also multi-level, enabling guests to sit and watch the action on the dance floor below. There are pool tables available, and bars on each floor. The music is basic rock and roll, and the club is popular with young adults, although it is more laid back and casual than Mannequins.
In addition to the clubs, the street becomes a party in and of itself each night. There are many bars selling alcoholic drinks (one outside of each club almost), some midway type games, and two stages with live entertainment. The Hub Video Stage is located next to the Rock & Roll Beach Club and is where the Pleasure Island Explosion Dancers perform short sets several times a night.
The main stage is at the top of the hill (near BET and Comedy Warehouse) and is called the West End Stage. Each night there is a live band that performs 4 or 5 sets, and the nightly New Year's Eve celebration takes place here as well. At 11:45 nightly there is music, dancing, and a countdown culminating with brief fireworks and lots of confetti being blown from the top of nearby buildings.
There are also many seasonal special events at Pleasure Island, which are generally included with the regular admission price. The exception is December 31 each year only a special ticket is valid, generally $150-250 per person and limited to age 21 and up.
One of the most popular special events is Mardi Gras, held each February for about four or five nights. There is a Disney version of a parade (with no nudity), complete with beads and doubloons thrown from the floats, stilt walkers, and lots of fun. In October there is a Halloween costume contest, and the costumes last year were just amazing! Special events bring with them larger-than-normal crowds, so it is wise to check the Disney Web site before your visit if this is a concern.
Transportation from Pleasure Island to the Disney resorts runs until 2 a.m. each day, and taxis are also readily available. Parking can be a problem during busy times, but valet parking is an option. Dress is casual, although some locals do dress up on the weekends. Anything acceptable in the theme parks is pretty much acceptable here, but if you dressed up you would not look out of place. With the exception of the appetizers at the Pleasure Island Jazz Company, food is limited to snack food. Guests, however, can leave to eat at either the West Side or Marketplace and then re-enter Pleasure Island.
Pleasure Island can be a fun place; definitely worth checking out at some point, but ideally when the kids are busy having fun somewhere else (think DisneyQuest, AMC movie theater, kids' club at the resort)!
Contact Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on Pleasure Island from MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide.
Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.
After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.
She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.
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