When the NBA Experience at Disney Springs opened up in August 2019, I admit that I initially thought it was a restaurant (like the one that closed down at Universal’s CityWalk). Well, last summer my family had the opportunity to visit, and I can say it’s definitely not a restaurant! So, what is it? I’ll share my family’s experience, and you can decide if it might be something you’d like to check out.
My family of four all have different levels of interest toward the sport of basketball and the NBA. My husband and 9-year old daughter are NBA fans, I was a high school basketball player 25 years ago (go Bombers), and my 12-year old daughter is neither an NBA fan nor a basketball player. That said, we all love Disney and we all love to try new things, so we thought it would be neat to check out the NBA experience.
Getting There: Since my family was staying at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, we were able to easily walk over to the NBA Experience from our hotel. But, if you’re not staying at Saratoga Springs, you can take the Disney buses from any on-site hotel and then head toward the West Side.
Arriving: As we approached the experience, cast members were outside throwing basketballs around and beckoning people to come in. When we entered, it was pretty empty. Tickets were $34 for adults and $29 for children ages 3-9. We visited on August 20th, and at that time, there were no Annual Pass or DVC discounts offered.
When I asked a cast member for more information about what to expect inside, they were very vague about what the experience actually was, but we decided to go with it. We were told that we could stay as long as wanted, but once we left, we could not return later in the day. I think they have since changed their policy to be more of a 1-Day Pass.
Before entering the main experience, we used our MagicBands to register ourselves. We picked a screen name from a preselected list (I was JamHappy), and a favorite NBA team. Although we didn’t understand it at the time, we would come to find that the MagicBand could be scanned at different stations to track our progress, and consolidate our PhotoPass pictures and “stats” from the experience.
Inside the Experience
There is a downstairs and an upstairs, with various exhibits and interactive stations to visit. There were less than a dozen other people there when we went, with plenty of cast members. There weren’t any lines, and we were able to see and do everything we wanted to in less than two hours.
Photo Ops: This was by far my favorite part of the experience. We all got our picture with the MVP trophy in just about every combination of poses and family members you could imagine. My husband even had his picture taken with “Adam Silver,” the NBA Commissioner. These photos all showed up with our other Disney PhotoPass photos. I believe all the photos are included in the price of the experience, but I’m not 100% sure because I already had Memory Maker through my Annual Pass.
My husband was thrilled to “meet” the NBA Commissioner
Memorabilia: On the downstairs level, there was a section all about basketball players with items like player jerseys, shoes and fun facts. We didn’t spend that much time there, but my 9-year old still talks about how big LeBron James’ hands and Shaquille O’Neal’s feet are!
Documentaries: Also downstairs, there were two film screenings in standing room theaters. I will say that the cast member attending these stations did a great job of making the films sound interesting to us, so we decided to check them out. However, they were not that interesting to me or my husband. Our daughters enjoyed them much more than we did.
Combine: The combine station measured wingspan, vertical leap, and shooting angle and accuracy. Most of my family really enjoyed this station, although with the basketball rim at regulation height, it was difficult for one of my daughters to reach it. We did it a few times to see if we could improve our stats. Later, we were pleasantly surprised to see a summary of our results in with our PhotoPass photos.
Dunking: The dunking station allows you to adjust the height of a basket down to a level that can be just barely reached by a 5 foot 4 inch person with an 11 inch vertical leap. I almost hurt myself trying this, and my kids were too short to do it. My husband was able to do it though, and he enjoyed it.
So close… (I missed)
Dribbling: Everyone in the family was able to participate in the dribbling station. Each station had a basketball and a tv screen showing what to do. To participate, you dribbled along with the directions of the screen and the floor had sensors to evaluate how well you did. I enjoyed this station.
Shooting: This station featured a replica NBA court (although a bit smaller scale). When it’s your turn, you have 15 seconds to make 5 shots from 5 different spots on the floor. After you take the first shot, you run to the next spot on the floor, where a cast member passes you the ball. I enjoyed this station, and it kind of made me feel like an NBA player warming up before a big game.
Slingshot: This station occupies a significant portion of the 2nd floor, and it’s set up so that at least a dozen or so people can play against each other. Each player gets a station with a “slingshot” that fits a small foam-like ball. When the buzzer sounds, each player tries to make as many baskets as possible by slingshotting the balls into baskets on the wall. A winner is announced at the end of the round. I was initially baffled at the rationale for having a station like this; I couldn’t figure out what the slingshot had to do with basketball. Then my husband suggested it was similar to how mascots “slingshot” tee shirts into the stands at NBA games. So, now I get it (I think). I will say this station was a great workout, and I did “win” a few times…though the competition was a little light.
The slingshot can be a great workout!
There were also a bunch of arcade style basketball games, a trivia station, and a Replay station where you watch a video of a game play and make a “call” just like a referee. We spent a lot of time in the arcade section as a family, and we enjoyed being able to play as much as we wanted. We didn’t try the trivia station, but my husband enjoyed participating in the Replay station.
After the Experience:
I’m sure it’s no surprise that the NBA Experience exits directly into a gift shop! We did purchase a few unique NBA Experience t-shirts, but there was also a lot of standard NBA merchandise on sale that can be found in other stores.
Is the NBA Experience Worth Checking Out?
The NBA Experience is pretty unique. It’s definitely not a restaurant…or even an arcade…or a museum. It’s also not inexpensive. My family of four spent about $140 on tickets for less than two hours there. We could have stayed longer, but we had done everything we wanted to. Every family member experienced something there that they enjoyed or at least appreciated. However, part of the appeal for us was also that there were no lines for anything. If it had been a busy day, I don’t think we would have enjoyed it as much. The real highlight for me was the photo ops – they were fun to participate in, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them in my Memory Maker.
If you are a big NBA or basketball fan, I do suggest checking out the NBA Experience. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else, and it can be a lot of fun. But, if you are a family with varying levels of basketball interest, you might consider splitting up for a few hours while the fans in the family enjoy this experience.