The announcement that an interactive, basketball-themed hangout called NBA Experience was moving into Disney Springs didn’t get the warmest response from Disney fans. As a Disney superfan myself, it certainly wasn’t on my list of things I thought Walt Disney World needed.
But as we like to say here at Main Street Pop In, “Disney’s not FOR everyone, but it HAS something for everyone.” Sometimes, what seems dulls to you, sounds amazing to someone else. Plus, Disney has a knack for introducing new ways to have fun. So it’s always good practice to give any new Disney offering a try.
So, I tamped down my doubts and bought some advanced tickets to NBA Experience with a happy heart, and for that, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t have to fake it. I truly had fun (and some sore arms at the end). More importantly, I also encountered the best collective group of cast members EVER. They were ALL patient, helpful, and enthusiastic. You really can’t go wrong when both guests and cast members are loving what they are doing.
NBA Experience obviously has a lot to offer a basketball fan. But it can also offer something to those who don’t know a basketball from a pumpkin. NBA Experience (like the AMC theater, Splitsville, and The Void) is simply a great hangout at Disney Springs for those who don’t enjoy shopping.
I can guarantee that on our family’s next Disney trip, the shoppers will head one way the those who want to “play” will head to NBA Experience.
So is NBA Experience something you want to try? Here are a few details to help you decide.
For one, if you like to play basketball, there is a lot you can get out of NBA Experience. I thought when I walked in that I was just going to be surrounded by gyms full of people playing basketball, kind of like an athletic club. But it’s not like that at all.
Guests enter onto center court under “jumbotrons” playing highlights from various decades (oh my gosh were basketball shorts short in the 80s). There are stats to look up, photo ops, and ways to size yourself up to the pros.
There are some serious areas. For example, drills, that involve wingspan and jumping ability, dribbling, dunking, and shooting at the buzzer. There is an awesome instant replay experience that allows you to view and guess if a ref’s calls should stand or be reversed. (We played that one twice, but unfortunately, it was films of all the same plays.)
There are also some less serious games. These are free-throw games like you’d find in an arcade. They count how many shots can you make in a minute, some have moving hoops, and my favorite let us launch basketballs with a giant slingshot.
What I really liked about NBA Experience was that once you paid the entrance fee (which is $34 for ages 10 and up and $29 for ages 3-9) everything inside was covered. There are no extra fees to play any of the games, even the arcade games. (My biggest pet peeve is the ridiculous cost Disney charges to play the carnival games at Dinoland U.S.A. at the Animal Kingdom, but that’s another story.)
I was also impressed with the NBA Store attached to NBA Experience. (Please note that the NBA Shop is open to the public and there is no cost to visit it.) We have two kids with wardrobes made up primarily of basketball warmup apparel. So, we took the opportunity to do a little school shopping.
The NBA store also has great memorabilia on display and unique Mickey Ears.
I’m not sure NBA Experience will make it. It wasn’t crowded at all, and I’ve heard since our visit that cast members have to fan out into Disney Springs with basketballs to promote the place. That doesn’t seem like a good sign.
Honestly, I did it once, but I probably won’t ever pay for myself to venture in again. However, I will gladly pay for my kids to return while I do something else in Disney Springs.
I can picture it now. Shopping alone with my wine slushy while the kids and their dad pretend to win the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. Mid-afternoon we’ll meet up at the House of Blues (right across from NBA Experience) for some Jambalaya, brisket and good music.
I’d call that a magical day!
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