Photo Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
Book by August 31.
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This week, Walt Disney World officially opened the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom. New Fantasyland is an extension of regular Fantasyland (home of classic Disney rides and many, many strollers). When guests enter the Enchanted Forest, they arrive at Maurice’s Cottage — a cozy stone and shingle structure that houses Enchanted Tales With Belle. Here, a “tale as old as time” is told with the help of an impressively lifelike Lumiere, Belle herself and a few volunteers from the audience.
Just through the grove of shady trees and past the gurgling stream is a bridge that leads to the new Be Our Guest Restaurant, which is set inside Beast’s castle. The castle itself is an imposing structure situated in the nearby mountains – which are a testament to Disney’s Imagineers and their skill with forced perspective! By day, Be Our Guest is a quick-service lunch spot, while by night it transforms into a table-service dinner restaurant. Around the corner is Gaston’s Tavern — just look for the statue of the “Beauty and the Beast” villain. Here you can try a meaty pork shank, a gooey cinnamon roll or sip on some of LaFou’s Brew — a sweet concoction of frozen apple juice and toasted marshmallow topped with mango foam.
The Storybook Circus section of New Fantasyland hosts the Barnstormer roller coaster, the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. There are now 2 of these soaring spinners, and time waiting for your flight into the big blue yonder can now be passed inside an air-conditioned circus tent. Parents are issued a pager that lets them know when it’s time to climb on board.
While these new additions are cause for celebration, the gem of New Fantasyland remains behind construction walls. The Seven Dwarves Mine Train — an innovative new coaster — is scheduled to open sometime next year. Sidle up to the walls and hear the clinking and clanging of the Dwarves hard at work on this new attraction.
- Bill Burke
Bill Burke is an award-winning humor columnist and writer with 20 years experience in the newspaper and magazine industry. He is the author ofMousejunkies (Travelers’ Tales 2009) and Mousejunkies: Second Edition (Travelers’ Tales 2011) –a humorous look at Walt Disney World addiction.
by Troy Petenbrink
Orlando, the home of Mickey Mouse and sunshine, is the No. 1 tourist destination in the US. It attracts over 50 million annual visitors — and it’s gearing up for more. As Orlando approaches its summer season, it is launching many new and exciting upgrades to its amusement park attractions.
At SeaWorld Orlando, Orca has some new friends, with the introduction of TurtleTrek, a mix of uber-technology and naturalistic habitats. On the tech side, visitors can experience a 3-D/360-degree film in a cool dome theater that uses dozens of projectors to immerse the audience in an underwater journey of a sea turtle’s life. Real rescued sea turtles, along with thousands of fish and manatees, can also be seen as are part of 2 new habitats — one saltwater and one freshwater.
Fans of roller coasters might enjoy The Rattlesnake at Forever Florida EcoSafaris’ expanded EcoPark. The roller coaster-style zipline launches from a 65-foot-high platform before whipping around a 1,000-foot course and reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
The orca responsible for his trainer’s death last year is performing at SeaWorld Orlando again. The killer whale Tilikum was back in the pool performing for crowds last week. The whale will also be part of the “One Ocean” show at SeaWorld, which debuts April 22.
You may recall that SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau drowned to death last year after Tilikum bit her ponytail and held her underwater. Now a year later and with mixed emotions, Dawn’s family says their OK with whale’s return to public performances at the theme park.
SeaWorld has plans to dedicate the Dawn Brancheau Educational Complex in honor of the trainer. Despite their goodwill, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has slapped the theme park with a $75,000 fine that is currently in dispute.
SeaWorld has taken steps to improve their trainers’ safety. The theme park no longer allows trainers in the water with orcas. Plans are also underway to build an escape hatch that trainers can activate with the press of a button. A false bottom of the pool would raise the whale and trainer above the surface of the water, ideally separating the trainers from danger.