Disney’s New Fantasyland Opens

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“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” in the Storybook Circus area of New Fantasyland.
Photo by Walt Disney World/Ali Nasser

On Dec. 5, Disney hosted a preview celebration to showcase its New Fantasyland—the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history—as well as its re-imagined Test Track in Epcot and new bowling alley in Downtown Disney, Splitsville Luxury Lanes.

We were able to take in the magic first-hand, and it really was “magical,” especially for us Florida natives who grew up taking weekend vacations to Disney. We hadn’t been in the Fantasyland area in years, and were impressed with the expansion, which features the fairy tale lands of Ariel and Belle in the Enchanted Forest area, and Dumbo’s circus in the Storybook Circus section.

“It’s so exciting to bring these classic Disney characters to life,” says Chris Beatty, creative director for New Fantasyland. “To be able to recreate Ariel’s world and invite our guests to Prince Eric’s Castle and then under the sea to meet Ariel and her friends is something that’s truly magical.”

New Fantasyland is double the original Fantasyland size, and features Under the Sea—Journey of the Little Mermaid, a ride through the scenes of the film; Enchanted Tales with Belle, where guests don props and costumes to step into the story of “Beauty and the Beast”; Dumbo, the Flying Elephant, dueling Dumbos going opposite ways; The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini, a family roller coaster; and the Be Our Guest Restaurant, inside Beast Castle.

The restaurant, one of our personal favorites in New Fantasyland, is just like the castle in “Beauty and the Beast.” During the day, it’s a French-style quick-service for lunch, with dishes like Croque Monsieur and tuna Nicoise salad. It transforms into fine dining at night, with wine and beer and dishes like whole roasted hen and thyme-scented pork rack chop.

And the expansion isn’t even complete yet. Princess Fairytale Hall—which gives guests the opportunity to meet their favorite princesses like Aurora and Cinderella—will be completed in 2013; and in 2014, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train—a musical roller coaster taking guests into a mine straight out of Snow White—will open in the center of New Fantasyland.

“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,” says Tom Staggs, chairman, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “New Fantasyland is a spectacular addition to the Magic Kingdom that delivers on Walt’s promise. We’re thrilled to take guests beyond the walls of Cinderella’s 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.”

The New Fantasyland expansion isn’t the only thing new at Disney. In Epcot, Test Track has been redesigned in a new collaboration with Chevrolet. The ride’s makeover adds an interactive element with its futuristic pre-show area and design kiosks. As riders wind through the pre-show area, they can see models and sketches of vehicle designs and full models of the Chevrolet Miray roadster concept car and the Chevrolet EN-V. Once they enter the “Chevrolet Design Center,” the riders become automobile designers—creating their own vehicles on touch-screens that they can test on the ride in a “SimCar.”

Over in Downtown Disney, Splitsville Luxury Lanes is also opening this month next to AMC Fork & Screen. The bowling alley has 30 lanes, two sushi bars and an award-winning chef with menu items like grilled mahi mahi and “voodoo” shrimp.

Earlier this year, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opened with four wings, each featuring different characters from Disney and Disney/Pixar films, including “Finding Nemo,” “Cars,” “The Lion King,” and ‘The Little Mermaid.” During the event, we stayed in a “Cars” suite that brought elements of the film to life, with cone-shaped lamps, characters in the artwork around the suite, and a car-wash inspired bathroom.

To see images of the New Fantasyland opening and Disney’s new Art of Animation Resort, see our Eye on the World: New Fantasyland, Disney.

For more information about Disney, visit disneyparks.com. Rates at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort start at $248 per night for family suites and $94 per night in a standard. For more information, call (407) 934-7639.