Childhood dreams come to life with exquisite detail in the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort. I attended the grand opening of New Fantasyland which was opened with magical ceremonies that included a bevy of stars such as Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays Snow White on the hit ABC-TV drama “Once Upon A Time”, pop star Jordin Sparks, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs, beloved Disney characters, daytime fireworks and timeless melodies from classic Disney films.
I have experienced the wonders of Disney many times before. However, I can truly say that New Fantasyland is a spectacular addition to the Magic Kingdom and may have been my most memorable and enjoyable experience to date at Walt Disney World.
I had the pleasure of hearing directly from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs about the project which he describes as taking guests “beyond the walls of Cinderella Castle to discover new worlds featuring iconic Disney characters and stories in ways that are more imaginative, more interactive and more immersive than ever before.”
New Fantasyland features attractions, dining, shopping, character interactions, recreation and more – laid out fairy tale-style amid waterfalls, grottoes, arched bridges, forests and circus big tops. A multiyear expansion project that doubles the size of the existing Fantasyland, the sprawling new area lies just beyond the existing Fantasyland in the shadows of Cinderella’s Castle.
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.
- There are many new enchanted areas. My favorite area was the Enchanted Tales with Belle. My daughter’s one on one experience with Belle and characters from the tale as old as time was simply magical. Set in a faroff French village, an enchanted mirror becomes the gateway to a new kind of storytelling experience. Through props, costumes and other interaction, you can 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.”
- 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. Where you will often find him roaming around. My daughter is still amazed that Beast is bigger than her Dad! 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, you can meet the princess herself in Ariel’s Grotto.
- 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. My whole family loved meeting each character. This personal meet and greet is the most talked about event for my daughter of her Disney stay. She was able to talk with her “friends” that she spends time with everyday watching the Disney Channel and her favorite Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
- 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.
New Fantasyland may seem as though it’s only for the kids but it truly offers something for everyone. Adults will be amazed at the cuisine which was absolutely delicious in every area of New Fantasyland. Tasting amazing culinary treats in each area was a fun part of visiting New Fantasyland and we are not talking about theme park hot dogs and hamburgers here but that is available if you want it. My favorite are dessert cupcakes found at Be Our Guest Restaurant.
There are more attractions at Walt Disney World that will fascinate all ages. One of the most amazing experiences is Test Track presented by Chevrolet. This re-imagined attraction is a new collaboration between Chevrolet Design and the creative team of Walt Disney Imagineering, Test Track Presented by Chevrolet puts guests at the designer’s table for a multisensory experience as they create their own virtual concept vehicle before boarding a “SimCar” to race through a thrilling series of hills, hairpin turns and straightaways. The attraction zooms in on how meticulous vehicle design influences top performance on the open road and lets guests see how their virtual cars would perform. The ride is absolutely thrilling! Both my daughter and my husband were screaming Again! Again! once the ride was complete.
Another great edition to the Walt Disney World experience is Splitsville at Downtown Disney. Spiltsville is the bowling brand’s only two-level location with 30 lanes and more than 50,000 square feet of entertainment space – twice the size of any other Splitsville – featuring billiards, live entertainment, a balcony bar with sweeping views and upscale dining options that cater to the entire family.
While at Walt Disney World we stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. This resort lets you become a part of your favorite animated films. At Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Guests are immersed in the artistry and enchantment of Walt Disney and Disney•Pixar classics through imaginative design and themed rooms, including:
- Finding Nemo Family Suites
- Cars Family Suites
- The Lion King Family Suites
- The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms
I loved the family suites available at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort namely because it features 2 separate bathrooms! It also includes a master bedroom area and three separate sleeping areas within the living space, which includes a generously sized dining or work table that easily transforms into a comfortable bed. The family suites can sleep up to six people.
We stayed in the Pride Lands in new “The Lion King” themed family suites. The new Lion King wing, showcases Simba, Zazu and other familiar faces in public spaces and guestrooms that reflect playful and poignant scenes from the Academy Award-winning animated film.
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