When I received my invitation to Walt Disney World for the opening of New Fantasyland, I nearly fainted. Cliche, I know, but having Disney sponsor you and then being treated in a royal fashion by your hosts, is my fantasy, and one that came true last week.
New Fantasyland consists of the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus areas. Walt Disney Imagineers brought to life beloved Disney stories and magical places, putting guests in the middle of Disney classics and new favorites – and making memories to last a lifetime. Here’s just a sampling of the new enchanted areas now open in New Fantasyland:
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. Guests riding in clamshells travel with Ariel and her friends through their exciting adventures above and below the waves – all against the musical backdrop of beloved songs from the film. Before the experience, the fun is whimsical and interactive in the queue area under Prince Eric’s Castle. After the attraction and below the seaside cliffs, guests can meet the princess herself in Ariel’s Grotto.
I have a son and therefore was not that familiar with the whole Little Mermaid experience. I figured the best way to learn about it besides the fun ride, was to interview Ariel herself. She was very pleasant!
- Enchanted Tales with Belle. In a faroff French village, an enchanted mirror becomes the gateway to a new kind of storytelling experience. Through props, costumes and other interaction, guests step right into the story of “Beauty and the Beast” – meeting Belle and Lumiere and sharing in a lively re-telling of the “tale as old as time.”
Belle was a sweetheart, very gracious in taking the time to pose with me as I visited her village!
- Be Our Guest Restaurant features a lavish dining experience in the elegant ballroom, delicate Rose Gallery and mysterious “West Wing” of the Beast’s Castle. The magnificent space offers “great food fast” lunch service by day and full-service table dining at night. Both experiences — fittingly for the story of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” — feature French-inspired cuisine.
What a host! My son and I were duly impressed with Beast! This restaurant is huge, gorgeous, and the food and service were great!
- Gaston’s Tavern welcomes guests to a comfy French lodge done in homage to — Gaston himself. The menu of this casual restaurant includes LeFou’s Brew, named for Gaston’s sidekick and a cooling concoction sure to satisfy any thirst.
A great option if the huge Be Our Guest restaurant is busy. But do not tell Gaston he was not your first choice. That man is really a narcissist! Lucky for him he is handsome enough to get away with it!
- Dumbo, the Flying Elephant - a Fantasyland icon - has doubled in size. Two Dumbos – one going clockwise and other counterclockwise – take guests circling above Storybook Circus in ride vehicles they maneuver themselves. The two Dumbos are connected to an indoor “big top” allowing guests to enjoy circus-themed activities while awaiting their ride time with the lovable pachyderm.
I love the way Disney entertains you while you are waiting in line. It is hard enough to maintain a patient attitude when you are waiting for 1/2 an hour to get on a ride. Add a young child to that mix and it can be excruciating. So not only did Disney add a second Dumbo since the ride is so popular, but they also added the Circus big-top to entertain the kids while you wait. You are given a beeper to tell you when your turn to ride is coming up, so you have some time to collect the kiddies, and then you ride!
- Aboard The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini, it’s family-style coaster fun as guests dip and soar daredevil-style above the circus grounds. Ride vehicles follow the twisting, turning coaster “flight” of stuntman Goofy.
I am a big baby so my spouse takes our son on the various roller coasters. When I heard the minimum height requirement for Barnstormer was around 35 inches, I thought, oh, I could do that, if it is for such small children it can’t possibly be too much for me! What a fun kiddie ride! Of course as soon as we got on the ride it took us up a huge, steep incline. OK, maybe not that big, but I knew I had more than I had bargained for. The ride than soars downward and around curves, I held on for dear life and was grateful it wasn’t one of those roller coasters that send you straight down an incline. In other words, it is a great starter roller coaster for the young kids, and even this old scaredy cat had fun!
- Beloved Disney characters as aspiring circus stars are on hand to meet their adoring fans in Pete’s Silly Sideshow. Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Goofy and Donald Duck are decked out in their big top finest to await their big break – and pose for photos with Magic Kingdom guests in the process.
I met Donald elsewhere, he is most gracious wherever you run into him and ask for a picture!
Not listed above is the ride that I was able to go on after almost a 50 year wait. It’s A Small World. I let my son know before we left NY that I was gong on that ride no matter what he would say, I was not going to stand for him telling me it was childish. Luckily he didn;t, he was happy to ride with me again, this was his 3rd time on! I hadn’t been on since the 1964 NY World’s Fair. And I remembered it. And yes, I did get tears in my eyes.
I was last in the Magical Kingdom 35 years ago for literally 3 hours. This trip I was able to spend almost 2 full days exploring the entire park. It was truly magical and I cannot wait to go back.
Disclosure: I attended the New Fantasyland opening as a guest of Disney. All opinions remain 100% honest and my own.