We’ve been to Walt Disney World many times since my boys were little, and I am glad they finally updated Magic Kingdom with the New Fantasyland. I’m a Disney traditionalist. I love the original characters and warm up slowly — very slowly — to new princesses. I’m still not a Vinylmation fan, and I did not expect to like the New Fantasyland — needed or not. After all, they moved DUMBO! I just couldn’t picture myself liking the new look as I passed through Cinderella Castle into the New Fantasyland without Dumbo being right there. Alas, I worried for nothing. I didn’t miss Dumbo, not one little bit. In fact, I think the Carrousel stands out more magnificantly without the big ears — Dumbo’s big ears, that is — peaking out from behind.
What makes the New Fantasyland special?
Disney imagineers must have had people like me, skeptics???, in mind when they designed the New Fantasyland. It’s simply amazing — as anything Disney should be. Here are a few of our favorites.
- New Fantasyland is artfully constructed. Behind the carrousel, there’s a grand entrance with wide walkways that screams Belle. The cobbled walkways, evergreen trees, and even the buildings look like they were pulled from the pages of Beauty and the Beast. The area boasts two restaurants: Gaston’s Tavern and Be Our Guest. It’s also the new home to Enchanted Tales with Belle, where kids become part of the story. Pass through Belle’s area to be instantly transported to Ariel’s world, Under the Sea. The new queue for Ariel’s Grotto offers shade and fans to keep young mermaids cool (cooler?) as they wait. It’s also home to the new Under the Sea attraction, with a queue as fun as the ride itself… well, almost! What makes it so fascinating, though, is these two areas back up to each other yet you can hardly tell. Just head to Under the Sea and look back to Belle’s area. You will be amazed!
Disney Imagineers said of the New Fantasyland project, “The big goal when we started this project from a landscape standpoint was not only to create a lush, green space, but also to dramatically change the grading of the land… We knew we’d need a lot of depth and texture… to really transport Guests from the Castle Courtyard to the Enchanted Forest.” As to the transformation from Belle’s area to Ariel’s Grotto, Imagineer Becky Bishop said, “How do we leave a forest and hit the beach?” – Disney Files Magazine, Fall 2012, Vol. 21, No. 3
The photo on the left was taken in queue for Under the Sea… no evidence of pine trees directly behind! Pure Disney imagineering magic!
2. The restaurants are great for young families. Gaston’s Tavern serves enormous — and tasty — breakfast treats. We got three cinnamon rolls and had plenty to share among the five of us (including two teen boys). The dining areas are small, so the noise is lower. And the decor is hilarious! Be sure to look around. Be Our Guest, which provides table service dining for dinner (if you can get a reservation, you are quite blessed!). From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. it offers quick service dining for guests. The restaurant has three dining rooms — and most people stop at the first one. For a quieter lunch, head through the main room and dine in the room to the right. We enjoyed enormous portions in a quiet dining room away from the Magic Kingdom madness. The line for lunch starts before the restaurant opens, so plan ahead!
Be Our Guest (in order, clockwise): a delicious cream puff, Ellie posing at the dining room entrance, Princess Ellie and Princess Mom posing by the stained glass window after lunch, adult sandwich with fries (YUM!), kids’ meal with peach-applesauce and sweet potato “fries”
3. The New Storybook Circus Area. Home to the new and improved Dumbo Ride — yes, I’m a believer — the Storybook Circus area is great for the youngest Disney Guests and their families. Preschool attractions include Goofy’s Barnstormer (the tame roller coaster), a water park area, a covered character meet and greet area, and the new Double Dumbo Ride! In years past, we always stood in line to wait for the Dumbo ride. Now, the queue includes an indoor, air conditioned playground. Rather than stand in line, families check in to the play area and receive a pager. When they’ve moved up in line to be next to ride, the pager signals that it’s their turn. Having TWO Dumbo rides, though, means the line is much shorter anyway. There was no wait when we went, but we got a pager and played on the climbing equipment anyway! 🙂
We enjoyed the thoughtful touches Disney Imagineers included in the New Fantasyland. Perhaps designed with kids in mind, the New Fantasyland is great for parents and families too. My teens look forward to visiting next summer when the Seven Dwarfs Mine roller coaster opens! Allow 2-3 hours to fully explore the area. Fast Passes for the Under the Sea attraction are available at Mickey’s Philharmagic…. the queue is nice and all, but not waiting is even better!
Have you been to the New Fantasyland yet? What did you like best?