Playing Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World (And Why a Grown Man Would Do This)

Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World
This was me playing Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World’s Epcot, right after conquering the Pokémon gym at the torii gate in Japan. (And yes, I left behind a measly Pinsir to defend it.  :-) )

With Pokémon GO sweeping the world in the last week since it was introduced, I thought it might be fun to try playing the game at Walt Disney World, so I spent a few hours playing Pokémon GO Monday at Epcot.

For those who don’t want to read the entire post, I’ll start with a summary of how the game went, and then I’ll add more details for those who are considering trying this themselves, or who have children who are. I’ll finish with some more personal and even philosophical comments on what drew me to the game in the first place, and why you might want to consider playing as well, even if you don’t fit the typical “Pokémon-loving” demographic.

First, the bottom line for those who don’t want to read any further: playing Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World is awesome! The game is so much richer in the park than it is around my own neighborhood that it’s almost painful to play now outside of the parks. If either you or your kids play the game, I’d highly recommend taking some time out of your normal park touring schedule to give it a try. (And if you’re using RideMax to plan your Disney visit, and have a RideMax plan with a block of free time on it, playing Pokémon GO would be a great use of that free time.)

Just in case some of you have been living under a rock for the past week, let’s cover some basic “glossary” for those who aren’t at all familiar with the game. There are three main items of interest in the Pokémon GO world. There are PokéStops, where players are able to collect objects of value in the game, there are Gyms, which are locations at which players battle each other for control, and there are the Pokémon creatures themselves, which players try to capture as they move about in the Pokémon GO world.

Something that makes this game unique is that the virtual “game world” is overlaid on top of a map of the real world. The game uses GPS to track your position, and in order to move to a new location in the game’s virtual world, you have to physically move to the corresponding location in the REAL world.

Pokémon GO World near Epcot's Spaceship Earth

You can see how this works in the image above. This screenshot was taken near the entrance to Epcot, as I’m standing off-center underneath Spaceship Earth, facing back toward the park entrance. You can see the lines of Epcot’s parking lot off in the far distance, with the entrance turnstiles centered around the area with the red pole (the structure on top is a Pokémon Gym), and the shape of the millennium wall outlined closer still. The gray circle on the ground near the middle of the picture represents the fountain area just in front of Spaceship Earth.

Advantages of Playing Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World

OK, so I mentioned earlier that playing the game in the park is a richer experience than playing it elsewhere, so you may be wondering what those advantages are. Let me list four of these, then elaborate on each:

Advantage #1: PokéStops and Gyms are packed much more densely than they are in a typical neighborhood outside the parks.

Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World Comparison

Take a look at the picture above, which shows a Pokémon GO map of my own neighborhood, located in the outer suburbs of Orlando. You can see some of the landmarks and streets around the area, but there are NO PokéStops or Gyms visible. The nearest of these are about 1/2 mile away. So, if I’m at home and want to interact with a PokéStop or Gym, that’s how far I have to go in order to do so. Sure, I can (and do) get some exercise as I walk over there — and I’ll catch Pokémon along the way — but it’s a lot of work to do so.

PokéStops abound at Walt Disney World

Contrast the scene from my own neighborhood with the image above, which shows a small section of Epcot as seen from within Pokémon GO. Here, I was standing just outside the Land Pavilion, looking off at an angle in the direction of Mexico and Norway. To give you a sense of scale, the taller blue object off in the distance (the one with rays of light coming from the top of it) is a Pokémon Gym, which is located at the Mexico pavilion. All of the blue box-like structures, as well as the “disks” near my avatar, are PokéStops.

In the image above, I count twenty-three PokéStops and one Gym, and remember, this is just a slice of what’s available in the park. In total, I counted around 80(!) PokéStops at Epcot, as well as five Gyms. Walk in any direction and you would almost have to try hard to *avoid* walking within range of a PokéStop.

Advantage #2: Due to the number of people in the park playing at the same time, you’re much more likely to encounter a Pokémon Lure.

One of the objects available to players in Pokémon GO is called a Lure. If you activate a Lure near a PokéStop, it will attract more Pokémon creatures than normal to the location of the Lure. And one great thing about a Lure is that other players in the game can also see it and take advantage of it.

While Lures are powerful, they’re also somewhat rare, since you obtain them very slowly as you progress in the game. You can also pay real money to obtain one, but this still means there isn’t exactly an unlimited supply of Lures in the Pokémon world at any given time. In fact, the first time I saw a Lure in action myself wasn’t until I played the game in Epcot.

Pokémon Lures are plentiful at Walt Disney World

In the image above, I count three Lures running simultaneously — they’re indicated by the pink petals around the PokéStops. This is one situation where more people in the park helps, as the more people playing at a given time, the higher chance someone will decide to use a Lure. As you can see on my phone’s time clock, this was taken at 2:31pm — a typically crowded time of day.

Advantage #3: You will encounter a lot of Pokémon.

Pokémon GO at Epcot

This one almost goes without saying, but with Lures going off all over the place, if you spend some time near those Lures (as well as activating your own Incense power if you have it), you’ll encounter a lot of Pokémon during your time in the park.

Many Pokémon to choose from at Walt Disney World

In the image above, you can see what I encountered at one point while I was standing near a Lure, with FIVE Pokémon available to me simultaneously. Although five Pokémon were the most I saw at the same time during my few hours playing the game at Epcot, I’ve never seen anything like this just roaming my own neighborhood.

Advantage #4: It’s MUCH easier to “level up” your position while in the park.

Level up your position in Pokémon GO faster at Walt Disney World

I had played Pokémon GO casually around my own neighborhood for just shy of a week before my visit to Epcot on Monday. In those six days outside the park, I had moved up to Level 7. As you can see on the screenshot above, I made it to Level 8 by 9:03am, shortly after the park opened. (This was also a day when I managed to be the first guest in line for the new Frozen Ever After attraction at rope drop, so I was actually pretty focused on getting to that first attraction — rather than playing Pokémon GO — early in the day. Although in fairness I will say that I started the day at the high end of Level 7.)

Leveling up in Pokémon GO

As you can see in the bottom left corner of the image above, by mid-afternoon I was up to Level 12, or an increase of almost five levels from where I had started the day. This would have basically been impossible to accomplish in the same time frame just running around my own neighborhood.

With PokéStops, Lures, and Pokémon all over the place, it’s much easier to gain the experience points that lead to higher levels when playing in the park than it is at home.

OK, Mark, but you’re a grown man! Why on Earth are you playing Pokémon GO?

Yes, I’m definitely older than the kids running around the neighborhood, or even than the millennials who grew up with the Pokémon cartoon series. In fact, I’m the parent of four kids who grew up watching Pokémon on TV. So, you might be wondering, what is the appeal of Pokémon GO to me?

<Warning: Sappy Philosophical Thoughts Ahead!>

I suppose this is the more “personal side” of Pokémon GO for me, and I’ll warn you in advance this might get way more philosophical than you were expecting from your basic Disney-related blog post. Even so, I hope you’ll indulge me for a minute here.

Shortly after Liesle and I were married, we were talking with someone whom I consider very wise when it comes to raising children. I think we were worried we might “mess something up” as parents, which I’m guessing is a common concern, especially among new parents.

Even though this conversation was many years ago now, something this man advised us to do at the time has stuck with us ever since. His advice was that if we wanted to develop positive relationships with our children, and if we wanted to build their self-esteem, that we should really try to “enter their world” from time to time as we interact with them.

He clarified that when he suggested we “enter their world,” he wasn’t talking about trying to get them to join us in something WE as parents were interested in doing. In other words, just because I feel like throwing a football or flying a model airplane in the backyard, that doesn’t necessarily mean that my son or daughter would feel the same way (though he or she might). Instead, he was suggesting that we watch for activities that our children are naturally interested in, and then see if we can JOIN them in THOSE activities. Thus the phrase, “enter THEIR world,” as opposed to “bring them into YOUR world.”

He further explained that sometimes the activities our children choose to do might seem trivial to us, but to them, those activities can be a HUGE part of their own internal world. And when a parent actually takes the time to ENTER that world in a positive way, it can be a very validating and positive experience for the child, and a boost to the parent-child relationship as well.

So, with that in mind, when our children were still very young, it wasn’t long before our two oldest sons started buying Pokémon trading cards, and words like “Charizard,” “Hit Points,” “Evolution,” “Energy Card,” and “Psyshock” started filling the air around our home.

Even though this whole Pokémon thing seemed sort of silly to me at first, it quickly became clear that this was indeed a huge part of my children’s world. And with that wise advice to “enter their world” still ringing in my ears, I decided to jump in.

Now, more than fifteen years later, all four of our children have moved away to college and life on their own, but to this day there still sits in the nightstand next to my bed a deck of Pokémon trading cards. The box is a little beaten and worn. However, it’s not only full of cards imprinted with images of Abra, Pikachu, Jynx, and more, but also of many happy memories spent playing with those cards in the world I chose to enter with my children. And it might surprise you to know that what started as an effort to “enter the world” of my children, gradually grew into a genuine enjoyment of the Pokémon game itself.

Pokémon trading cards
My personal Pokémon card deck, still ready to play more than fifteen years later.

Just last week, I saw a group text message from one of my sons, addressed to all of our family members. It said simply, “Did everyone get the Pokémon GO app?” At that point, I knew I had to try it. And guess what? I’ve been having fun with it ever since. It’s become something of a new “shared experience” among our family as we share tips and advice, though we’re separated now by thousands of miles. All these years later I’m still enjoying “entering the world” of my now-grown children, and I’m still enjoying the game itself, even though the Pokémon creatures now exist electronically rather than on physical cards.

To close the post today, I’m thinking about a scene I saw earlier this week. It was in the evening, and a father and his very young son were walking around our neighborhood together, the son holding a phone tightly, and the father walking alongside him making sure he was safe.

If I could, it would be great if I could talk to that father. If he’d be willing to listen, I’d love to share some advice from a dad whose own kids had fun with Pokémon many years ago, but who have now grown up and moved away.

I think my advice would go something like this:

Don’t just enter, but JUMP into your son’s world, the world of Pokémon that he seems to enjoy so much. The door into that world may not be open forever — fads come and go and interests change — but that door is open NOW, so take advantage of it! Learn a little about the game itself. Figure out how to use the app, learn the lingo, evolve your Pokémon, maybe even team up with your son to do battle for a Gym or two.

Jump into your son’s magical world of Pokémon creatures, and stay there for as long as you possibly can. By entering and playing in your son’s world for a while, you’ll be doing a lot more than just capturing the heart of a little Pikachu.

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2 thoughts on “Playing Pokémon GO at Walt Disney World (And Why a Grown Man Would Do This)”

  1. great article. We live in west Boca Raton, rural, as in no pokestops without driving far. I equate playing Pokemon Go to what it felt like the first time I put on my scuba gear and jumped into my pool….very boring!

    We travel to Disney several times a year, the last being just after Pokemon Go was released….We had a blast playing there! Just a little longer before we go back but we can’t wait.

    Like you, I am also a grown man who loves playing this game. Strangely enough, it isn’t the type of game I normally like,….I play Wow and have played for almost 10 years. Pokemon Go didn’t stir my attention until my 12 year old daughter asked if she could install it on her phone. I asked her to let me check it out first, after which I let her install it. Here is the coolest part of all: she and I haven’t every really bonded over much before Pokemon go, now we go places to play this game together. My wife and son play but not like my daughter and me.

    You left out one very important reason that playing Pokemon Go at DisneyWorld is amazing: you can walk around without getting hit by a car and you don’t have to worry about getting robbed.

  2. Thanks for the comments, and I think that’s great that this has opened up an opportunity for father-daughter bonding! And yes, I agree with the fact that you don’t have to worry about the hazards you have to be aware of outside the park when you’re playing Pokemon GO!

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