It’s a theme park standard: attractions exit into gift shops. This forced shop stroll has become a cliche - and the butt of many jokes and eye rolls - and Disney is stepping up and taking notice. Most Walt Disney World attractions do employ this blatant merchandising push, but there are a few exceptions: a few that offer something different. When the souvenir budget is depleted, and you’ve purchased enough plush Mickeys and t-shirts to commemorate your visit, it may be tempting to fly right through those post-attraction zones on a mad dash to the next “fun” spot, but don’t neglect to notice the exit areas worth stopping for. Here are 8 post-attraction areas guests shouldn't miss.
1. Space Mountain
Although my family loves Space Mountain, I am not a fan. While waiting at the exit for the completion of their cosmic run one day, I noticed a large room adjacent to the gift shop. Lo and behold - it’s an arcade - and perhaps the finest one on Disney property.
There’s something for every gamer here - even those who don’t see themselves as modern-day masters of gaming. From classics like Space Invaders, pinball, and skee ball to the newest, most innovative favorites, the Tomorrowland Arcade has it all. This area also serves as a charging station (unattended and unsecured, but with seating).
The Tomorrowland Arcade is a fantastic, spacious spot for an indoor break. While most Space Mountain riders make a beeline for the shop’s exit, very few people even seem to take notice of this quiet little nook. A quiet arcade? Yes, it actually is! As an added bonus, photographers will appreciate the large windows offering a unique view of Space Mountain’s exterior and the Walt Disney World Railroad.
2. Tower of Terror
Even when an attraction does exit into a shop, it can be worthwhile to take a peek at the offerings. Some shops line the shelves with somewhat generic souvenirs that can be found almost anywhere on property, but others stock more original product lines uniquely themed to the location. One example of merchandise done temptingly right is at the Tower of Terror.
The Tower of Terror is themed around the Hollywood Tower Hotel. That theme lends itself nicely to an exclusive assortment of souvenirs quite unlike the standard park mementos. This “hotel” gift shop features plush robes, slippers, soaps, lotions, and other luxurious goods to make your stay more comfortable. Naturally, there’s more to this shop, but the quality and creativity of the hotel-related products are a genuine display of the Disney standard. If mouse ears are a requirement, however, they’ve got those too - in the form of the Tower of Terror bellhop costume.
3. Spaceship Earth
Epcot’s Future World is teeming with technology and postmodern demonstrations in science, medicine, ecology, and more. Spaceship Earth is the central hub of Future World, and it is also home to an intriguing 9,000 square foot post-attraction area, known as Project Tomorrow.
Presented by the electronics and engineering giant, Siemens, Project Tomorrow offers four interactive exhibits that highlight new technologies. Innervision tests your memory skills while providing a glimpse into the future of medicine - from preventive care, to diagnosis, and treatment. Super Driver is a motor vehicle simulator showcasing traffic management and accident avoidance systems. The shuffleboard-styled Power City demonstrates the challenges of energy production and conservation in a burgeoning population. The future of medical diagnostics and remote treatment is the focus of the 3-D Body Builder exhibit, which invites guests to piece together a lively skeleton on a virtual operating table.
Nothing like making learning fun, right? This is the running theme of most of the Future World area, and Project Tomorrow is only one example of Disney’s impressive progress toward that goal.
4. Test Track
In 2012, Test Track underwent a high-tech refurbishment, integrating new interactive elements into both the attraction itself, and the post-attraction area. Prior to entering the gift shop, guests are routed through the Chevrolet Showroom.
The showroom displays the most extravagant of all Disney gift shop merchandise - current Chevrolet model vehicles. For those not in the market for a new car on their vacation, there’s still opportunity for automotive fun. Give It a Spin digital gaming tables offer multi-player racing adventures, enhanced by the personalized features of your own Test Track vehicle creations. For a unique, fun photo session, green-screen stations lining the showroom virtually transport guests to dramatic scenes and landscapes, alongside concept vehicles.The appropriately named Showroom Showoff area invites guests to make a 15-second commercial promoting their original vehicle designs, which can then be emailed to dazzle friends and family back home.