On our first trip to Magic Kingdom in 2008, we missed many of the park’s iconic rides because of the lines. With a baby, preschooler and 7 year-old in tow, we didn’t have the patience to wait (although my daughter did manage to convince me to stand in line with her for nearly an hour so she could take a photo with the Little Mermaid).
What a difference four years makes.
With older kids and a little more patience, we embarked upon a journey to Disney World to attend the Grand Opening of New Fantasyland (a multiyear expansion project that doubled the size of the existing Fantasyland). This time, we got the full Disney experience and witnessed the magic that we missed before.
Our first stop in Fantasyland was the new Dumbo ride. Don’t worry, Disney purists, they didn’t change the ride, they just doubled the fun by adding a second flying elephant. I like how Disney incorporates stories into their attractions. While we waited to ride Dumbo, the kids enjoyed circus-themed activities inside the Big Top that connects the two Dumbos. I received a pager that beeped when it was our turn to ride. Once we boarded, the ride didn’t disappoint. Even my 11-year-old daughter was giggling with delight as we soared into the air, and my equally hard to please 5-year-old gave it a thumbs up.
As we walked through the streets of Storybook Circus, we encountered clowns, circus performers, and got to sample some tasty circus fare (my favorite was the chocolate covered pineapples). While we were walking, I noticed several people looking towards the sky. I looked up and saw a dragon flying overhead. It looked so real that my 5-year-old son started crying because he was afraid that the dragon would eat him. I assured him that it was only an animatronics dragon, but he wanted to leave the area just to be sure.
Before we left, my daughter and I and rode the Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini, a family-style rollercoaster that was thrilling, but not too scary. Although my daughter liked the coaster, she eagerly anticipated her chance to conquer Space Mountain, a ride that was more her speed.
After sipping a few slushes, we moseyed over to the Enchanted Forest and rode Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. It seemed like a tame ride that would make my son forget about the scary dragon. Despite the great tunes (I was about to break a sweat dancing to “Under the Sea”) and incredible special effects that made you believe you were underwater, my 5-year old did not enjoy the ride. Two appearances by the evil sea witch Ursula made this fun re-creation of “The Little Mermaid” movie nearly unbearable for him (Note: I tried to get my daughter to take a picture with the Little Mermaid in Ariel’s Grotto, but she refused because she’s “not into princesses anymore.”)
We spent the rest of our time in New Fantasyland eating in The Beast’s castle (the intricate details of the castle and the food are amazing), taking pictures with Gaston (“It’s nice to meet me isn’t it?” he greeted my older son), riding a carousel, surviving a storm with Winnie the Pooh. And that was all before venturing to the rest of the Magic of Kingdom.
It’s funny how whenever you mention that you’re going to Disney, everyone wants to tell you his or her favorite Disney ride. For my 5-year-old’s teacher, it was Peter Pan’s Flight. Actually most of my wife’s friends cited this ride as their personal favorite – and judging by the long line, they weren’t the only fans.
After his reaction to Ursula, I was concerned about how my son would react to this ride. Thankfully I decided to push the envelope and drag him onboard. The ride was dark – and there was even a little thunder – but that didn’t detract from the wonder of soaring over Never Land in a flying pirate galleon. Both of my sons listed this as one of their favorite rides from all four of the parks we visited.
Needless to say, we didn’t see everything at Disney World, but given the spell the Magic Kingdom and New Fantasyland cast on my family, it won’t be long before we’re back again.
Join the conversation: What is your favorite Disney attraction?
Disclosure: Walt Disney World paid for my travel and accomodations. All opinions are my own.