The DisneyQuest project was designed as a way for the Disney brand to reach populations that may not have the chance to travel to its various theme park destinations. It was meant to target large cities and urban areas. Had the project continued, Disney had plans to construct locations in many major cities in the United States, like Philadelphia. However, only two locations were built; one in Walt Disney World and a much shorter-lived one in Chicago.
DisneyQuest first opened on June 19, 1998, as part of a major expansion of the Downtown Disney entertainment district (today Disney Springs) at Downtown Disney West Side, and was intended as the first of a larger chain of similar facilities.
The first DisneyQuest outside of a resort was opened in Chicago on June 16, 1999 with plans for more locations worldwide. The Chicago location was in a development, North Bridge, where ESPN Zone, a fellow Disney Regional chain, opened about a month later.
On December 9, 1998, Disney Regional announced Philadelphia as new location as a tenant of the Pavilion at Market East project developed by Goldenberg Group on the former location of a Gimbels Department Store. The Chicago location permanently closed on September 4, 2001 due to low attendance as well as other, broader issues. However, the location was generating income just not enough for Disney.
After the failure of DisneyQuest Chicago, the DisneyQuest project was officially brought to an end. Construction that had begun in Philadelphia was scrapped, and a DisneyQuest at Disneyland Resort in California never proceeded past the planning stage. Disney announced another location to be built in downtown Toronto but the project was canceled. After the closure of the Chicago location, Disney Regional Entertainment turned over control of the remaining location to Walt Disney World operations.
On June 30, 2015, Disney officials announced that the Walt Disney World location would close in 2016 as part of the continued redevelopment of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs. A spokesperson for the labor unions that represent Disney employees who work at DisneyQuest stated that displaced workers will be relocated to other positions. The property was set to be redeveloped into a new attraction themed to the NBA after they left their previous location at Universal CityWalk. In November 2016, Disney officials announced that DisneyQuest would remain open for the remainder of the year and into 2017, with no definitive closing date. They further stated that they had no update on the status of the NBA attraction other than it was still planned for the site. On January 30, 2017, the Disney Parks announced that DisneyQuest would close after July 3, 2017 so work on the NBA Experience attraction could begin. DisneyQuest's final day of operation was on July 2, 2017.
All redemption games were removed from the facility in January 2015 as a cautionary measure, in response to a state law that Disney believed made the games illegal under certain circumstances.