You know you had a much needed and very successful vacation to Walt Disney World when you can’t stop singing the lyrics to “Under The Sea” or “Be Our Guest”. Another sure sign of a fantastic vacation is that the minute you get back home you are planning another visit back there ASAP. Yes, that is what my most recent visit to the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World has done to me. I owe this opportunity to Project You Magazine, as I was asked to cover the Grand Opening Celebration of the New Fantasyland.
I have gotten to know and love Belle and Ariel in recent years. This past week, I was in their very own villages and grottos, something I never imagined possible. That is, if you don’t believe that dreams come true. When in Walt Disney World, dreams do come true. Even as a primetimeparent, I felt the magic in every event and attraction.
New Fantasyland is the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom Park, now making this twice as magical. The Magic Kingdom castles triple and this is a lovely site. Across the skyline, the Cinderella Castle is now joined by the Beast’s Castle and Prince Eric’s Castle beyond that. “Walt Disney once promised that Disneyland, and by extension all of our parks, would never be complete as long as there is imagination left in the world,” said Tom Staggs, Chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
At the New Fantasyland Grand Opening Celebration
As part of this very special Press Event, other incredible surprises included a dragon flying over Belle’s Village and Gennifer Goodwin and Jordin Sparks live at the New Fantastyland Grand Opening Celebration!
Prince Eric’s Castle
Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, this was one of our favorites, we went on it twice. We rode in clamshells as the story of “The Little Mermaid” and Ariel’s adventure was portrayed against a musical backdrop of songs from the film. This ride also has incredible technological enhancements. We looked up and saw Ariel swimming in the ocean. Just like the ride promises, we were ‘under the sea’.
Across the stone gargoyle bridge from Ariel’s new home, the story of “Beauty and the Beast” is brought to life. There lies the Beast’s Castle, where Be Our Guest Restaurant takes the story and puts it right in your very own hands. There are three dining rooms: the stately Ballroom, the forbidden, dramatic West Wing and the delicate Rose Gallery. While we did not taste the food, we did wait to take a picture with the Beast in the Armor Hallway, where six suits of armor stand along the wall. These metal figures are actually whispering to each other, listen closely when you are there.
The food at the Be Our Guest Restaurant was designed by a team of Disney chefs to develop French-inspired dishes. There is a quick-service menu for lunch and more elegant table service for dinner. Definitely make reservations, and to do so call (407) WDW-DINE or book online at www.disneyworld.com/dine. Also check out the Disney Dining Plan here.
Just outside the village, another Disney princess awaits in Maurice’s cottage. Even as an adult, I am in awe of Belle’s beauty and grace. It is also interesting to know what she was like before she became a Disney princess! Now, an all-new attraction, Enchanted Tales with Belle, gave me a look inside Belle’s world. I just love how stacks of books and sketches – reflecting Belle’s passion for reading and her father’s for inventing- are displayed all over the cottage.
In true Disney ‘imagnineering’, Maurice’s workshop transports guests further into the story of Beauty and the Beast. An Enchanted Mirror is lit up and transformed into a doorway that leads to the Beast’s Castle. Inside the Beast’s Castle, a very animated and life size Madame Wardrobe engages in conversation with guests. Yes, the show is now on us. A Disney cast member selects people and distributes props so that they become part of the storytelling experience by playing the characters from “Beauty and the Beast”. My very own 4 year old son was selected to play the Beast! My son with Belle in his role as the Beast in Enchanted Tales with Belle.
Another magic door opens and we walked into the Beast’s library and were greeted by an animated Lumiere. Lumiere narrates the story as the selected participants play out the story with Belle. This interactive storytelling adventure – the “tale as old as time” concluded with Belle dashing off to see the Beast. We were certainly enchanted!
Outside of the Beast’s Castle, there is plenty of shopping at Bonjour!Village Gifts. In the same area, Ariel’s Grotto is tucked into the seaside cliffs. Yes, Ariel is there perched atop her seashell pedestal, a photo opportunity for sure!
I just loved visiting Belle’s Village, built around a bronze stature of Gaston in a hero’s pose with sidekick LeFou. More of the story is brought to life at Gaston’s Tavern. Here you can taste LeFou’s Brew, a no-sugar-added frozen apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow, topped with all-natural passion fruit-mango foam. If you have certain food allergies, ask the Disney cast member if you can check the labels of these items. During our visit, we found them extremely helpful with our special dietary needs.
Esti takes a picture with Gaston in front of Gaston’s Tavern in Belle’s Village
Not far off from the New Fantasyland is big under the Big Top in the Storybook Circus section. Again, Disney imagineers have provided something for all of the senses! There are peanut shells embedded into the concrete; the smell of caramel corn, and circus train tracks that lead everywhere! Remember Dumbo, the Flying Elephant? Now inside Storybook Circus, it has double in size with two Dumbos – one going clockwise, the other counterclockwise. Something very nice about the location of this iconic ride is that it is now underneath an air-conditioned “big top” area. This is great to beat the heat and a way for kids to immerse themselves in interactive experiences while awaiting their turn on the ride. Everybody receives a circus ticket pager that notifies them when it is their turn for the ride. For those that are on a tighter schedule, the FASTPASS option is also available.
You can also catch a ride on The Barnstomer featuring the Great Goofini. This is a family-friendly coaster that dips and turns around the circus grounds. In another tent inside Storybook Circus, Pete’s Silly Slideshow showcases some well-known Disney characters as they await their chance to, hopefully, join the circus.
Something we love to do is take a train ride around the Magic Kingdom. There is a train station conveniently located inside Storybook Circus. This passenger train is powered by an antique steam engine, something kids will really enjoy seeing.
It was really magical to see and experience the New Fantasyland and the other new attractions at the other parks. See what’s in store for the future of the Magic Kingdom:
Located in the Castle Courtyard in the center of Fantasyland, Princess Fairytale Hall, which will be the new home for Disney princesses to await their loyal subjects. That’s not all, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will take guests on a rollicking, musical ride into the mine “where a million diamonds shine.” Joining the ride will be music from the classic Disney film and animated figures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. All of this set to open in 2012.
Outside of the Magic Kingdom, I was also able to explore some of the other new experiences at some of the other Walt Disney World Them Parks. At Epcot, I designed my own car and took it to the track at the newly re-imagined Test Track presented by Chevrolet. After I exited the ride, I was pleasantly surprised (and in awe) to hear live the song Good Life by OneRepublic. Yes, live! I think I had somebody pinch me, this was amazing!
I also had the opportunity to go over to Disney Hollywood Studios Theme Park and check out the debut of the Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow. This was really incredible, as state-of-the-art technology took us onto the sea and into the world of Pirates of the Caribbean. I also was able to visit Downtown Disney and “rock and roll” at the upscale bowling, dining and entertainment experience at Splitsville Luxury Lanes. My 4 year old son just loved bowling and used a cool training tool to help him get the ball down the lane.
Last, but not least, our accommodations while visiting Walt Disney World was at the new Art of Animation Resort. It was love at first site. Giant sketchbooks filled with favorite classic Disney and Disney Pixar films came to life as each storyline was revealed throughout the Art of Animation Hall lobby. These include Ariel, Lightning McQueen, Nemo and Simba. We stayed in “The Lion King” suite. Inside our room, the storytelling was all around us. Zazu took center stage on the headboards while Pumbaa and Timon decorated the shower curtain. We really loved the Murphy Bed, which is a table by day and comfy bed by night. My son wanted to take this home with us!
Now you see a table
Now a bed
The Art of Animation Hall lobby
The Art of Animation Resort also has a beautiful “Big Blue” pool which is in the center of the resort.
This pool even has speakers underneath the water, where the voices of Dory and Nemo swim along with the guests. Learn more about this resort and all that it has to offer here http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/art-of-animation-resort/.
When you are planning your next family vacation, you know you can count on Disney to create memories that will last a lifetime. I know that this trip left me wanting to come back with my entire family again and again. Disney truly can accommodate people from young to old, there is definitely enough fun to go around forever and ever.
Disclaimer: This was not a paid post. I was invited by Project You to cover this event at Walt Disney World. The accommodations, park entrances, and ticket passes were provided for me and my family. The airfare and extra days at the hotel for my family were not covered by Disney. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.