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The NEW Fantasyland at Walt Disney World - A Review!
The NEW Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom
The NEW Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida is officially open!
As a Florida resident, I have been anticipating this grand opening for years. My husband and I have our Annual Disney Passes, and frequent the Disney Parks at least once a month. Therefore, whenever a new attraction opens it's a really big deal for us.
Disney has been dubbed "The Happiest Place on Earth," and although some would respectfully disagree, for me it provides countless hours of fun, laughs, exercise, and much needed stress-relief. My greatest joy comes from watching families spending time together - and God knows we are a nation deprived of quality family time. So if you're considering Disney World for your next family vacation, or perhaps some grown-up fun with your spouse (as we do!) or adult friends, then come along on this brief tour of The NEW Fantasyland!
Image Credit: All photos on this lens taken myself with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150
Magic Kingdom's Largest-Ever Expansion
The NEW Fantasyland officially opened on December 6, 2012. The project took more than 5 years to develop and construct. When completed in 2014, it will nearly double in size and be the largest-ever expansion for The Magic Kingdom. Take my word for it...well worth the wait!
With Disney, one is never enough - so they held two separate grand opening celebrations. The first one in Belle's Village was on a small-scale for members of the media only. The one that followed was in true grandiose Disney style, in front of Cinderella's Castle for all park guests to watch. Both ceremonies featured special guests Ginnifer Goodwin (actress from ABC"s "Once Upon A Time"), and Jordin Sparks (from "American Idol" fame).
New Fantasyland Ribbon Cutting Ceremony... - with Ginnifer Goodwin and Jordin Sparks
Have You Visited The NEW Fantasyland?
What Are the NEW Additions to Fantasyland?
So, what exactly are the new additions? Well, I counted five of them, and witnessed construction on a few more scheduled to open in 2014. Some of the areas invoke audience participation with the Disney Characters, while others feature cutting-edge animatronics in true Disney style. It's clear to me that their aim was to personalize the experience for children, while at the same time, fascinating fickle adults.
Fantasy reigns in the New fantasyland! The new attractions are all themed to "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid." I was amazed that even the new dining options are authentically themed to the movie. Both new restaurants are quite spectacular! The Disney Imagineers certainly created some elaborate scenery, sure to please even the most discriminate Disney fan.
The NEW additions:
1. "Enchanted Tales with Belle" is a new interactive storytelling section.
2. A grand-scale sit-down restaurant called "Be Our Guest Restaurant" is part of Belle's Village.
3. A smaller-scale counter-service eatery called "Gaston's Tavern" was added.
4. And, of course, my favorite addition was "Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid."
5. "Ariel's Grotto" is a meet-and-greet for autographs and photos with the famous redhead Mermaid.
An Autograph Book is a Necessity at Walt Disney World!
An autograph book is a necessity at the Disney Theme Parks. There are many Character meet-and-greet locations throughout the park!
Enchanted Tales with Belle
"Enchanted Tales with Belle" is a new interactive adventure with a meet-and-greet Character location.
Although mostly for small children, adults are sometimes chosen to participate in the story. Young and old alike are magically transported from Maurice's Cottage to Beast's Library where the fairytale is told. How did we end up there? Through a magical mirror, of course! Along with Belle and Lumiere, park guests played the roles of other Characters from the movie.
This attraction does offer a Fastpass, although we didn't need one, as we went in the afternoon during the "Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade." This was the perfect time of day to visit Fantasyland, while everyone was watching the parade. Because of that, the lines were very minimal. We were able to see the entire NEW Fantasyland within 2 hours.
Photos from Enchanted Tales with BelleClick thumbnail to view full-size
Do You Agree with Disney's Decision to Serve Alcohol in the Magic Kingdom?
Sure, all the other Disney Theme Parks offer it!
Move Over Cinderella...
There's a NEW Castle In Town!
Be Our Guest Restaurant - Inside Beast's Castle
The Flavors of France!
The "Be Our Guest Restaurant" is located inside Beast's Castle, which stands on a hill, high above the village. You have a choice of three different dining rooms, each one with a theme straight from the movie - the West Wing of Beast's Castle, the Rose Gallery in Belle's Library, and the jaw-dropping elegant 2-story Ballroom. The latter was my favorite with gold chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling windows with snow gently falling outside. (Yes, even in Florida! This IS Disney, okay?) In keeping with the Beauty and Beast theme, the cuisine is French-inspired.
For lunch they offer quick counter service where guests order from kiosks via a touch screen computer, then are given a "Rose" to sit at a table of their choice. Sure, this isn't your typical kind of rose - it's a very smart rose that informs the kitchen and wait staff exactly where you are located. I like the fact that the food was served on china plates and real flatware, instead of the usual fast-food paper products. A sampling of menu choices for lunch include French onion soup, steak sandwich, Coq Au Vin (pork roast), and tuna nicoise salad (my personal favorite!).
At night, full table service is offered for dinner. Choices include strip steak with pommes frites (french fries to me), salmon on leek fondue (my selection), and ratatouille ( a great Vegan entree). For dessert, a rolling tableside cart is presented with three different gourmet cupcake flavors and three gourmet cream puff flavors. Save room for one...you'll be glad you did! And, you'll walk off the calories before you even leave the park.
Also worth mentioning is the children's menu - not your typical chicken fingers and fries. Choices include Mickey (turkey) meatloaf, seared mahi mahi and whole-grain macaroni with marinara sauce.
You won't find any prices on the sample menus outside, but prices for lunch are generally $14.99 and under, while dinner will range from $15-$35.99. And, within the three dining rooms, it can generously hold 550 guests. It's a bit pricey, but still my hands-down recommendation while in The Magic Kingdom.
For those of you on the Disney Dining Plan, it is included for both lunch and dinner.
I strongly recommend advance reservations (up to 180 days) as the restaurant is new and VERY popular.
Photos from Be Our Guest RestaurantClick thumbnail to view full-size
Full Tour of the Be Our Guest Restaurant - Visit All Three Dining Rooms!
Gaston's Tavern - In Belle's Village
The manliest of places! But, no beer here!
Gaston's Tavern is the perfect place to rest while grabbing a quick bite to eat. However, contrary to what the name would imply, this Tavern is "dry!" Don't be fooled by the bronze statue outside depicting overflowing beer kegs! No beer here!
Tasty Tavern fare includes roasted pork shank, hummus and chips, mixed vegetable cup with dip, mixed fruit cup, and sliced apples with caramel sauce. Dessert includes chocolate croissant (I can never pass this up no matter how full I am), and warm cinnamon rolls (their signature dessert, served warm all day). You can imagine the sweet aroma as we approached the town square!
You must not leave The NEW Fantasyland without trying LeFou's Brew - the Tavern's original drink. It's made with no-sugar added frozen apple juice, toasted marshmallows, and topped with passion fruit-mango foam! You can purchase the beverage only, or with a take-home souvenir stein or goblet. Oh yeah, nothing better on a hot and humid Florida day!
Gaston's Tavern is open for lunch and dinner, and most items are $7.99 or less. It is included in the Disney Dining Plan as a snack credit.
Reservations are not accepted here, as this is a small counter service restaurant.
Photos from Gaston's TavernClick thumbnail to view full-size
Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
Journey of The Little Mermaid was definitely my favorite part of The NEW Fantasyland . The effects were absolutely stunning. A photographer's dream. One note of caution - put your camera on "continuous shoot mode." I regret not having done this. And, once the ride begins, it's too dark to be fiddling with your camera settings.
This ride-through musical adventure relives the tale of how one lucky little mermaid found true love...and legs! We entered Prince Eric's Castle through an underground cavern and boarded a clam shell (yes, a clam shell, as evidenced by my photos) to descend below the waves. Once we took the plunge, we floated through famous scenes from the animated classic movie. Disney has done it again! Creating special effects that really made us feel as if we were under water. Of course, as you can see from my photos, the climax was the fairytale wedding finale between Ariel and Prince Eric.
And yes, our undersea journey included Sebastian, Flounder, Scuttle, King Triton and Ursula the sea witch!
A Fastpass is available for this ride, and I recommend using it to avoid long wait times.
Meet-and-greet your favorite mermaid!
Ariel's Grotto is a dream-come-true for any little mermaid wannabe. After completing your undersea Journey of The Little Mermaid , you must venture into this famous cave, where you will find Ariel in person. Autographs and photos are freely given to guests of any age!
Fastpass is not available for this seaside grotto, but the wait time is prominently displayed outside the grotto.
Photos from Journey of The Little MermaidClick thumbnail to view full-size
For Your Favorite "Little Mermaid" Fan!
Your child will be amazed with this 2-in-1 doll. Watch as Ariel transforms from a mermaid into a Disney Princess! Simply fold down the gown to reveal the second (mermaid) outfit.
Generously sized at 2-feet high! Soft and cuddly pillow!
Wow...over 3 feet tall! Just peel and stick on your little princesses wall!
Time and Money-Saving Tips!
Nothing says "fantasy" better than The NEW Fantasyland! Disney has done an awesome job of re-creating some of the most popular scenes from two of their most spectacular movies - Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid.
As with the pre-existing Fantasyland, this is definitely the most juvenile section of The Magic Kingdom Park. Understand that it is geared for younger children, therefore, doesn't have the thrill rides and "fear-factor" attractions that many are looking for.
A FEW TIPS:
1. Take advantage of the Fastpass system - it will save you the long waits in line.
2. View this NEW section while the parades are in progress - the lines are MUCH shorter.
3. It's become quite popular for children to dress up in their favorite Princess/Disney Character costume while attending the parks. It would be wise to purchase your Disney products/costumes BEFORE coming to The Magic Kingdom - it will save you TONS of money!
4. Make lunch or dinner reservations in advance - the most popular restaurants are perpetually booked.
5. If you are celebrating a special occasion (birthday, wedding, anniversary, honeymoon, graduation, etc.), tell the Disney Cast Members (everywhere you go), as there are "freebies" throughout the park just waiting for you!