Tadd and I just returned home from a wonderful 3-night “staycation” at Walt Disney World. After all of the craziness of the past year, including lots of travel, we really felt like we had earned a few days of fun just for us. More on the staycation later. Just before we arrived for our stay, Disney decided to open up the much-anticipated New Fantasyland expansion for soft openings, which we were able to take advantage of this morning.
If you live in Central Florida, or are a Disney Parks fan, then you likely are already aware of the well-publicized massive expansion that is currently underway in Fantasyland. It has been opened in phases, starting with the Storybook Circus section this past July (in the space that was formerly Mickey’s Toontown Fair). This portion of the expansion contains the new home for twin Dumbo rides, a re-themed Barnstormer mini-coaster, and a Casey Jr. water play area:
The portion of the expansion that is in soft opening now is the much larger section that centers around some of Disney’s most popular fairytale films, namely The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast. As a WDW passholder, I am always excited for new attractions and experiences, so I was thrilled at the chance for a sneak preview of the New Fantasyland. Since it’s an unannounced soft opening, we weren’t sure what we would find open (if anything at all) as we approached the gates, but we figured we would try and see what might happen.
I just love how the new gates match and compliment the architecture of nearby Cinderella Castle.
We were thrilled that they let us in!
Our first action was to just wander around and soak up the atmosphere. We passed the gates of what will eventually be the Be Our Guest Restaurant, which is held in Beast’s castle. It wasn’t open yet, so we just got to see the outside.
Gaston’s Tavern was also closed, but it looks cute.
In the same courtyard is a gift shop…
…and an adorably-themed popcorn cart (you might recall that Maurice was Belle’s father, an eccentric inventor…and apparently he invented this “popping machine”).
I was most excited about getting a chance to ride Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, and it did not disappoint. It’s an omni-mover dark ride style attraction, similar to other classic attractions like Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan’s Flight. Continuously-moving ride vehicles take you through various scenes from the movie. I found it to be adorable and fun. We actually got off our first ride through and immediately got in line again! If you love the soundtrack of The Little Mermaid, you will be singing throughout the ride.
We also got to experience Enchanted Tales with Belle, which is an interactive show that takes place partly in Belle’s father Maurice’s cabin and partly in the Beast’s castle. This is similar to another storytime type show that Belle used to perform on a tiny stage next to the castle, where audience members are chosen to play various parts in the telling of Beauty & the Beast. But this version is full of special effects and little details that made it SO much better than the original version. I don’t want to reveal too many details, because not knowing what was coming up next was part of the greatness of this attraction.
There are still construction crews working on the final phase of the expansion, which will be the Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster. Can’t wait until that is finished, although it will probably be a year or more into the future before it opens.