The New Fantasyland Broadens The Disney Magic
In 2012 one of the last trips we took together as a family was to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. We had never visited the park during the holiday season. I have to say, it was like going for the first time in many ways. As festive and colorful as Disney is all year round, I found that visiting during the holidays is my favorite time to go.
My family and I had been invited to the Magic Kingdom’s opening of New Fantasyland, the largest expansion to date in Disney’s 41-year history. Right beyond the walls of the beloved Cinderella Castle guests can now walk through scenes of their favorite fairy tales.
Renovated and relaunched, guests can ride one of two Dumbo, the Flying Elephant ride. There’s a lot of fun to be had at the new Story Book Circus (where, I might add, my children spent a good portion of their time during our visit to the park). Don’t bypass the Big Top Souvenirs tent. You will find some of your most coveted Disney products, but also some really yummy, hand-made (on the spot) goodies.
In the works are The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train celebrating the classic “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs”. Also in the works is the Princess Fairytale Hall, a magical setting where guests will be able to meet and greet their favorite Disney princesses.
In addition to the new Dumbo ride, the kids really enjoyed the Under The Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride as well as walking through Be Our Guest, which serves French-inspired cuisine for dinner guests. At the time of our visit the space was used mainly as a media meeting point, though park guests were able to tour some areas of the space. We tried to make a reservation to dine there so that we could check it out after the media event was over only to find out that the restaurant was already booked solid well into April (and we tried to do this in early December!). You can, however, still get seating for lunch, which requires no reservation, but does not include sit-down table service.
But, even if you can’t dine there, it certainly is worth a tour through the Armor Hallway, the Beast’s Parlor and the Ballroom (where the more formal dinner is served). Two other dining areas include the forbidden West Wing and the Rose Gallery. The attention to details that help bring the film to life is such a great part of the this location.
My first trip to Disney was when I was 5 years old. It’s been decades since then and I still remember the joy, the incredible excitement of being able to touch, hug, and see the many characters. Nothing compares to that feeling of seeing the story come alive right before your eyes as a kid in Disney. As many times as we go back, and have gone back with our kids, that excitement is still there. It is renewed through the various changes and additions made throughout the years, but also through the excitement of my own children. There’s really nothing like it.
Where We Stayed
Our hosts invited us to stay at their newest resort, The Art of Animation. We had toured the resort a few months earlier but didn’t have the opportunity to stay because it wasn’t finished at the time. It was nice having that experience and the kids really enjoyed getting up close and personal with their favorite Cars characters.
Other movie characters highlighted at the resort are from The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Nemo. The Little Mermaid is the farthest from the main entrance, dining hall, and gift shop of the resort, but it has it’s own pool (as does Cars and Nemo), with Nemo’s pool being the largest and often most crowded as these rooms are closest to the main entrance and hotel amenities.
This is one of Disney’s Value Resorts. If you’ve stayed at different resorts of another price-point, then you will definitely see the difference in some of the details between say a Deluxe Resort and a Value Resort. The Disney experience is there but obviously there are different levels of expectations to be had in some of the details throughout. That’s not to say we didn’t have a good time and the value resorts are a great option for families, especially larger families such as mine. The Art of Animation is my absolute favorite of all of their resorts in the value price range – but if you’ve stayed at The Contemporary or at The Grand Floridian, you will notice the difference. It’s about finding the resort that best fits your need and your budget. You can read more about The Art of Animation resort in my review: Disney’s Newest Resort: Art of Animation.
For more information on the various resort options available to guests (please note the indicated prices may have changed since time of publication, but are available on the Disney website), please visit my write up on Touring the Disney Resorts.
Epcot has revamped and re-opened the popular Test Track ride. Riders take part in the Chevrolet design process and test-drive challenges before ending with the ultimate drive experience. Getting your hands on the Fast Pass tickets for this ride is a challenge, and the wait can be long otherwise, but it’s worth it!
We also ventured outside of the park and into Downtown Disney where we got to enjoy some time in Splitsville, the only two-level bowling location for the brand which also includes 30 lanes and more than 50,000 square feet of entertainment.
We dined at Bongos Cuban Cafe, Gloria Estefan’s Cuban-inspired restaurant, which often hosts a live band and dancing, and serves up some pretty awesome Cuban beer (lemonade for the kids of course).
We also spent quite some time shopping, playing, and touring the various shops in Downtown Disney, a fun place to hang out and dine when you need a little break from the lines and rides, while still immersed in the Disney magic.
We did some of the same things we’ve done in previous visits, and some new things since the kids have grown a few inches since the last time we were here. Because the kids already have a better idea of what to expect, they know what their favorite rides and parks are and like to head to them the minute we check in to the hotel.
We did see new things, and create new memories. Never once did we feel like we had done it all, no matter how many times we had our picture taken with Goofy. There are so many elements to what makes a visit to Disney so special each time we go.
And as we stood there taking in the beautiful light show and firework displays in front of Cinderella’s castle, I knew that this happy feeling would stay in our hearts forever and that, no matter how many times we return, the Disney Magic will never cease to amaze us all.
Thank you to Disney, as well as Disney’s Social Media team and partners, for hosting us and for facilitating us with the access to experience the New Fantasyland and other fun happenings throughout the Magic Kingdom and at the Art of Animation resort.
If planning a trip to Disney with your family, please check out my Tips on How to Make Your Family Disney Experience Extra Fun!
Disclosure: I received some complimentary and discounted access to parks, hotel stays and other amenities for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own.