Walt Disney World has doubled the fun with the recent addition of their New Fantasyland. This new area of Walt Disney World's much beloved Fantasyland is the largest expansion in the Magic Kingdom's history, tripling the number of castles and offering exciting opportunities for immersive storytelling and lots of one-on-one character interactions. The attention to detail and technological innovations behind the magic in this area are extraordinary.
Here are ten reasons your family will love Disney's New Fantasyland:
1. The Beast's Castle. Make sure to watch Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" before visiting the New Fantasyland - you'll be amazed at how much detail Disney's imagineers have captured in bringing the Beast's massive castle to life. Guests can order lunch in the Beast's Parlor or enjoy a sit-down table service dinner in the elegant Ballroom while watching "snow" fall outside the castle's 18-foot-tall arched windows. Tables are also available in the dark and foreboding West Wing, where the glass bell jar holding the enchanted rose slowly drops petals and a slashed portrait of the prince hangs over the fireplace. The Rose Gallery, featuring intricate tapestries and a huge music box centerpiece of Belle and the Beast, is another lovely dining spot.
2. Be Our Guest Restaurant Cuisine. The Be Our Guest restaurant is an integral part of the Beast's Castle. Make no mistake - the cuisine is just as memorable as the surroundings here. Walt Disney World Executive Chef Lenny DeGeorge and his team, including Disney Chef Ronald Muller - a native of Alsace, France, have developed an authentic French-inspired menu. Memorable lunch options include Croque Monsieur, vegetable quiche and braised pork coq au vin style. Dinners are more elegant, offering delectable entrees in keeping with a circa 1400's French castle feast. Favorites include the pork rack chop and a pan-seared salmon with leek fondue. Select wines and beers are served at dinner to match the upscale French cuisine. Quick service seating is available at lunch, but reservations are required for dinner. Make your plans as far in advance as possible, as evening dining times are in very high demand.
3. Enchanted Tales With Belle. Quickly proving to be one of the most popular attractions in Disney's New Fantasyland, this new attraction creates a highly immersive experience for families. Look for the winding pathway that leads to the entrance to Maurice's Cottage. Again, survey your surroundings once inside - the attention to detail here is superb. After stepping through the Enchanted Mirror (very cool!) guests are magically transported to the Beast's castle and encouraged by Madame Wardrobe to put on a performance for Belle, playing the roles of beloved "Beauty and the Beast" characters including Maurice, Chip the teacup, Mrs. Potts the teapot, and even the Beast himself. After being escorted to the Beast's library, they have the opportunity to interact with Lumiere and Belle, telling the "tale as old as time" before the experience ends.
4. Gaston's Tavern & LeFou's Brew. There's been a lot of buzz about the alcoholic drinks being served at Be Our Guest, but LeFou's Brew at Gaston's Tavern is worthy of acclaim as well. This frozen non-alcoholic, no-sugar-added drink is made from apple juice blended with just a bit of toasted marshmallow. It's topped with a frothy all-natural passion fruit-mango foam and served in a goblet. The pork shanks and cinnamon rolls here are tasty as well. Make sure to chat with Gaston himself if you see him standing outside his tavern - he's totally in character and hilarious.
5. Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid. Take a seat in a clamshell and journey below the waves to see Ariel and all her friends from "The Little Mermaid." This indoor ride is set to the musical score from the film and utilizes cool technological innovations to bring Ariel and her world to life. Guests standing in line for the ride will have fun passing the time with Scuttle's Scavenger Hunt, helping the bird-brained seagull find the right "whosits and whatsits" scattered throughout the waiting area.
6. Prince Eric's Castle. This stately new castle, the third in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, can be found atop the grotto entrance to Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid. This castle isn't the kind that's available for touring, but it's a lovely sight.
7. Ariel's Grotto. One-on-one interactions with Disney characters are one of the highlights of any visit to Walt Disney World. At Ariel's Grotto in the New Fantasyland, guests can meet Ariel individually in her under the sea home, chat and get autographs, and have their pictures taken with the most popular mermaid on the planet.
8. Dumbo, the Flying Elephant - Times Two. My children (and just about everyone else's) always loved "the Dumbo ride." The attraction's popularity tended to result in long lines and lots of pleading for multiple do-overs. Parents everywhere will be thrilled to know that the New Fantasyland now contains two side-by-side Dumbo attractions - and it's now a FASTPASS ride. In addition, guests receive a circus ticket pager that holds their place in line, allowing them to play games and enjoy interactive experiences in an air-conditioned circus-themed waiting area while awaiting their turn to "fly."
9. Storybook Circus. In addition to Dumbo, The Flying Elephant, Storybook Circus within Disney's New Fantasyland includes the family-oriented Barnstormer coaster with a Great Goofini theme and Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station water play area, as well as Pete's Silly Sideshow - a great place to meet characters like Minnie Magnifique (circus star Minnie Mouse), The Great Goofini (stunt pilot Goofy), Daisy Fortuna (fortune teller Daisy Duck) and The Astounding Donaldo (snake charmer Donald Duck). The Fantasyland Train Station is here as well.
10. Fire-Breathing Flying Dragon. This mythical creature appeared in the night skies over the Magic Kingdom at the grand opening of the New Fantasyland. The crowd stood in awe as the dragon swooped over castles, roaring and spitting fire from its mouth. Although it appeared this might be a one-time event, that's apparently not the case. The word from Disney is, "You never know where or when a dragon might appear again!" So, watch for it.
Parts of Disney's New Fantasyland are still being built, with more attractions coming in the next few years. Take a peek at the construction of Princess Fairytale Hall located in the center of Fantasyland and the upcoming centerpiece of New Fantasyland, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, coming in 2014. This family-style coaster promises to be an incredible ride, taking guests on a musical journey into a mine "where a million diamonds shine."
While you're visiting the New Fantasyland, make sure to visit the other new attractions at Walt Disney World. Consider staying at Disney's value-oriented Art of Animation Resort, go bowling at Splitsville in Downtown Disney, and check out the newly re-imagined Test Track Presented by Chevrolet at Epcot. This latest version of the Test Track ride is fantastic and much better than earlier iterations. Each guest has the opportunity to design their own concept car, race their "SimCar" through a series of performance tests, and then star in an advertisement with their personally designed new vehicle. Don't miss this outstanding experience. The post-ride features at this attraction are awesome as well.