Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pleasure Island vs CityWalk

During the 70's & 80's, the place to party in Orlando was downtown and if you wanted to club-hop to multiple venues in one place, that place was Church Street Station. Disney saw so many people that were staying on-property flee during the evenings to CCS that they devised their own one-stop-club-hop locale: Pleasure Island. Opening in 1989, it put CCS out of business during the 90's. Ten years after PI, the transformation of Universal Studios into the Universal Orlando Resort included not only the addition of Islands of Adventure but also the party place known as CityWalk. For whatever reasons, Disney conceded nightlife to Universal with the closing of the PI nightclubs in 2008. Which is/was better? Well of course you're not going to get a blog dedicated to Pleasure Island to say that CityWalk is better. And it's not. But why?

Pleasure Island consisted of 7 clubs just as CityWalk does. PI had two of their seven dedicated to forms of comedy whereas CW has two of their seven dedicated to other niches, i.e. karaoke and dueling pianos. So that leaves 5 versus 5 music/dance clubs. Some of the comparisons are a wash. PI's Rock'n'roll Beach Club was dedicated to R&R but CW has Margaritaville dedicated to pretty much the same thing. PI had Motion dedicated to mostly Top 40 and CW is using The Groove for that. PI had BET Soundstage dedicated to Hip Hop and R&B where CW's Bob Marley's has a band playing mostly Reggae but the DJ plays Hip Hop/R&B between sets. So three of the five music clubs kind of cancel each other out. But it's those other two that put Pleasure Island over the top; the two that were the most highly-themed: 8TRAX and Mannequins.

The other two at CityWalk are Latin Quarter and Red Coconut Club and I like them both. I've learned a lot about Latin music at LQ and I particularly like when resident DJ Leony (of Sirius XM's BPM techno channel) plays some of his House-music sets. The eye candy in there can't be beat! RCC is cute but it's just a small version of The Groove playing the exact same music. It competes with Blue Martini, not with anything PI offered. The Groove did add 80's Night on Thursday nights and brought in former 8TRAX DJ Doc; that has been a win for them and they even added 70's music to the night last month. They offer 80's video games and some of the waitresses wear retro clothes. It's been slow this winter; things will pick up again as we move into the tourist seasons. I'd love to see The Groove add a Dance music night too; the futuristic-looking club was originally built as a techno club. Until then, we all mourn the loss 8TRAX and Mannequins. Will they rise again?


Ken said...

Some other details about PI vs CW that were appealing to me are as follows:

- The PI all club access annual pass for around $50. CW doesn't have and never has had a comparable annual pass around that price range.

- The PI Live DJ booth. The PI DJs interacted with the visitors and accepted song requests. CW doesn't have that (at least not on a regular basis)

- The 2 big music video screens at PI. CW has a couple of mid-size screens that aren't that noticable and often will show sports events instead of music videos.

- The nightly fireworks at midnight. The fireworks seem to bring people together and promote a party atmosphere. Nothing like that at CW.

- Entertainment on the West End stage was always a good time, however, it did not occur frequently enough. CW does have decent entertainment every Friday and Saturday evening on their outdoor Plaza stage, so I would have to give the edge to CW on that detail.

Brian said...

pi had a NYE everynight (in the early years) PARTY on the west end stage!!!!!!! even frakie and the westend boys! I guess you did NOT go out to pi then???!!??!??!?!?!?!
so yes PI DID! so PI HAD the edge on that they ARE the who started it!! thank you very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
the place where you watch the live stuff @ city walk is in a BAD palce unlike PI!
city walk is a COPY of PI a sh*ty copy that is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
that is why I it SH*TY WALK
I hated it when PI did the get on PI (outside the clubs) for free! I think that was the start of the down fall of PI!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!

Anonymous said...

..went to CW tonight and had a great time! Red Coconut was packed, wife and I danced all night long. I hate the parking situation though :(

Anonymous said...

yeah parking @ CW is awful getting in stinks (they charge till 9pm) then you have to walk a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG way!

KingBob said...

Free parking actually does not begin until 10pm. After 10pm, they should consider directing all cars to the Level 3 "preferred parking" area rather than sending cars all the way around. That way everyone would generally be parked in one or two areas. There is safety in numbers and the walk would be much closer.

Ken said...

With regards to parking, most of the time visitors are directed to park in the parking garage to the left. Once you enter the level that is open for parking you will be further directed to park in a specific row. If the row number is a high number, for example, 453, then you are in for a long walk to the walkways. Instead of parking in a specific parking row as directed, continue all the way down to the end of the row and turn right as if you were exiting. Then turn right just before the exit and you should be near row 401. There should be some vacant parking spaces along that row or an adjacent row. From this area, it's only a skip and hop to the walkways. If its a real busy night and visitors are directed to park in the parking garage to the right, then the parking strategy is reversed and you will want to park near the highest numbered row.

Anonymous said...

After 10pm there is no one there preventing drivers from going up the Preferred Parking/Handicapped ramp (to the far left) and parking in the 300-303 rows, behind the handicapped parking area. From there you're on the same level as the moving sidewalks and much closer than parking way down.

Jordan Rockwell said...

I can't imagine going to CW, ever. PI had a sense of charm to it, the way you felt when you were there. CW is just full of doucehbags. no thanks.

Anonymous said...

Now THAT's constructive criticism!

KingBob said...

Ken, we thought CW was going to offer an annual pass after the free ones they gave to PI people expired. That never happened. I guess they figured they didn't need to. The Universal Preferred Pass includes the CW clubs, as you know, in addition to both theme parks.

I know that CityWalk has some "regulars" but I have to say it's far fewer than PI had. There were at least a hundred people that I'd see in the PI clubs if not every week then at least every other. When I'm in The Groove I do see a few people regularly, but very few. It's like a completely different assortment of people each week.

Both places had/have tourists but it's the regular locals that PI had that CW does not. PI had them because after the lump sum annual fee was paid, we'd return time and time again. They didn't make any admission fees from us but most of us delivered drink income to them. CW doesn't get anywhere near as much repeat business from locals because most locals aren't going to pay $13 every week. Some do, but not many. And it's because CW does not have an annual pass. Regulars are what saw PI through the slower seasons, IMO.