Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Fantasyland Part 1: Storybook Circus

Of all of the changes that have happened recently at Walt Disney World, one of the most exciting has been the New Fantasyland Expansion in the Magic Kingdom.  On each and every trip to WDW, my husband and I would try so hard to catch a glimpse of what was going on behind the construction walls.  Obviously, we were more than a little anxious to experience all that New Fantasyland would offer.  I even documented the progress on each trip!

As you can see from the pictures, the New Fantasyland expansion had several aspects to it.  The first to open was the Storybook Circus area.  This area replaced Mickey's Toontown Fair (formerly Mickey's Birthday Land).  The existing Dumbo attraction was moved from the center of Fantasyland to the Storybook Circus area, where it was given new decorations and a twin.  This allows twice as many people to ride, and of course, this means much shorter wait times!  Additionally, Dumbo was given an indoor, air-conditioned queue!  Guests are kept "in line" by means of a restaurant-style pager.  There are lots of neat things for kids to interact with, and for the adults, there are benches.

Dumbo Before

Dumbo Re-Imagined!

Storybook Circus also has other fun elements!  The always popular "kiddie" coaster, The Barnstormer, was a staple in Mickey's Toontown.  That ride has also been reimagined into the Barnstormer featuring the Great Goofini!

And what is a circus without treats?  Never fear, there is plenty to eat here!  Head on over to Big Top Souvenirs.  In addition to wonderful, well, souvenirs, you can find an assortment of yummy food!

One of the great things about Mickey's Toontown was the chance to meet characters.  I am happy to say that you can still do this!  I have to admit that in these photos, we look just a bit tired and sweaty (it being the end of a full day of touring in the 90% humidity).  We didn't anticipate photo ops on this particular evening, but hey, there was no line, so we figured, why not?!

Daisy Fortuna, Minnie Magnifique, the Great Goofini, and the Amazing Donaldo
The last major aspect of the Storybook Circus portion of New Fantasyland is the Casey, Jr. Splash and Soak area.  This is an absolutely adorable area!  It was a bit dark and rainy when I took these photos, but you get the idea.  These don't do the area justice at all.  Fair warning: bring dry clothes for your kiddos to change into!  The kids I saw there were absolutely soaked!  Don't worry, though.  There are beach towels for sale nearby.

As you can see, there is much to do here in this newer section of the park.  On the next post, I'll talk about yet another aspect of New Fantasyland! Check back soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dining at Be Our Guest

As promised, here is a full blog all about Be Our Guest Restaurant.  This restaurant has quickly become one of the most coveted reservations for dinner as well as one of the most popular spots for a quick service lunch.  Wondering what all the hype is about?  Read on...

Just underneath The Beast's Castle in New Fantasyland is the entrance into the stunning Be Our Guest Restaurant.  This is a unique location, as it is the only one in the WDW Resort that transitions from a Quick Service location for lunch into a Table Service location for dinner.


Be Our Guest offers a Quick Service experience that is like no other.  The offerings are much different than the typical "burgers & fries", and your food is actually brought to your table after you order.  After you enter the main doors to the restaurant, you see the gorgeous lobby, and then head down a corridor of Suits of Armor.  Pay attention: you may just hear them conversing with one another!

There are electronic boards cycling through the various lunch offerings so you are prepared when you enter the drawing room, where you electronically place your order and pay (with a meal plan or other form of payment).  You are also given a "rose", which in actuality is an RFID device that allows the food to be delivered to your selected table.

Ordering complete, it's time to get a table.  There are three rooms to choose from: The Grand Ballroom, the West Wing, and the Rose Gallery.  Walking into the ballroom is a "take-your-breath-away" type of moment.  You truly feel as if you have entered into the movie.  Although these pictures don't nearly do it justice, they give you an idea of the detail and beauty.

Not into Ballrooms?  Maybe the West Wing is more to your taste...

There are MANY amazing touches here.  One of my favorites is that periodically you will hear a clap of thunder.  At that point, the Prince's portrait briefly flashes to a portrait of the Beast, and a petal falls from the enchanted rose.  

Finally, you may choose to eat in the Rose Gallery, which features a beautiful twirling centerpiece of Belle and the Beast:

Having chosen your table, you can get soft drinks and silverware, then relax at your table.  It won't be long before servers (with the assistance of iPad tracking software) arrive at your table with your order.  I definitely recommend the carved turkey sandwich!  Dessert is almost identical to that served at dinner, and it consists of a variety of luscious cupcakes and cream puffs.  Pics of those to follow during the dinner portion.

You are served on real china for your meal, and the whole experience feels much more upscale than fast food.  It's also delicious.  Of course, this is an in-demand location, so be prepared to wait a bit on the bridge before being permitted inside to place your order.  Sometimes the line looks daunting, but we've never waited more than 15 minutes.  Of course, we tend to avoid the rush and will go a bit later into the lunch service hours.  It is also possible that you will be selected to participate in a Fastpass+ test; it's currently by invitation only.  We were fortunate enough to have been selected for this, and it worked beautifully!  We selected a dining window and placed our food order ahead of time; then we simply had to check in when we arrived.  We could immediately go to our seat, and our stored order was quickly delivered.


The restaurant closes for a couple of hours and then reopens as a Table Service dining location at 4pm. Same beautiful rooms, different experience.  You will be seated at a table, which is set out with a "rose" at each setting.

The food is delicious.  I have tried the salmon, the steak, and the pork.  I truly enjoyed all, but the steak was probably my favorite.  Sadly, I forgot to photograph the salmon, but here is the presentation of the other dishes:

There are several kids' choices on the menu, and the children I witnessed seemed to be enjoying their food - especially the mac and cheese.  The children's offerings are slightly different than the "norm" for dinner, so if you have a picky eater, check to see what the current offerings are.  

Now, it's dessert time.  And it does NOT disappoint.  Your server will wheel over a dessert trolley laden with delicious cupcakes and pastries:

The server will prepare the presentation and serve you table-side.  I have tried several of these on my various visits.  I can honestly say I've never had a bad experience.

Passion Fruit Cream Puff

Strawberry Cupcake

Triple Chocolate Cupcake
Cookie bar topped with "The Grey Stuff"
 My hubby prefers the Strawberry Cupcake. My 2 favorites are the Triple Chocolate Cupcake and the Cookie Bar with the Grey Stuff.   Speaking of the Grey Stuff, it really is delicious.  And sometimes, if you are celebrating, you may get a plate of the Grey Stuff!

After dinner, you are welcome to have a visit with "The Master".  He awaits his guests in a room just off the Grand Ballroom.

And there it is.  Great atmosphere and wonderful food.  I will say that this is definitely a dining experience that is to be savored.