You can enter Fantasyland on foot from Liberty Square or by skyway from Tomorrowland, but the classic introduction is through the Cinderella Castle. To get in an appropriately magical mood--and to provide yourself with a cooling break--turn left immediately after you exit the castle's archway. Here you'll find one of the most charming and most overlooked touches in Fantasyland: Cinderella Fountain, a lovely brass casting of the castle's namesake, who's dressed in her peasant togs and surrounded by her beloved mice and bird friends. Water splashing from the fountain provides a cooling sensation on a hot day--as do the very welcome brass drinking fountains at the statue's base. Don't forget to toss in a coin and make a wish; after all, you're in Fantasyland, where dreams do come true. Straight ahead from the castle you'll find Cinderella's Golden Carrousel. The land's other attractions are arranged around it in a somewhat bulging circle. The new ride, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, is here.
Photographers will want to take advantage of one of the least-traveled byways in the Magic Kingdom. If you're coming to Fantasyland from the southern end of Liberty Square, turn left at the Sleepy Hollow snack shop. Just past the outdoor tables you'll find a shortcut that provides about the best unobstructed ground-level view of Cinderella Castle. It's a great spot for a family photo.
It's a Small World. Visiting Walt Disney World and not stopping for this tribute to terminal cuteness--why, the idea is practically un-American. Disney raided the remains of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair for this boat ride and then appropriated the theme song of international brotherhood and friendship for its own.
This ride strains the patience more than the adrenal glands. Moving somewhat slower than a snail, the barges inch through several brightly colored barnlike rooms, each representing a continent and each crammed with musical moppets, all madly singing the theme song, "It's a Small World After All." It's the revenge of the Audio-Animatrons, you think, as rather simplistic dolls differentiated only by their national costumes--Dutch babies in clogs, Spanish flamenco dancers, German oompah bands, Russian balalaikas, sari-wrapped Indians waving temple bells, Tower of London guards in scarlet Beefeater uniforms, yodelers and goatherds, Japanese kite fliers, and juvenile cancan dancers, to name just a few--parade past, smiling away and wagging their heads in time to the Song. But somehow by the time you reach the end of the ride, you're grinning and wagging, too. You just can't help it--and small children can't wait to ride it again. By the way, there is only one verse to the Song and it repeats incessantly, tattooing itself indelibly into your brain. Now all together: "It's a world of laughter, a world of tears. It's a world of hope and a world of fears . . ." Duration: 11 min. Crowds: Steady, but lines move fast. Strategy: Check out all available queues before you line up--one line is sometimes shorter. Go back later if there's a wait, since crowds ebb and flow here. Audience: All ages. Rating: **
Peter Pan's Flight. Kids of all ages love this truly fantastic indoor ride, inspired by Sir James M. Barrie's story about the boy who wouldn't grow up. Disney animated it in 1953. You board two-person magic sailing ships, with brightly striped sails that catch the wind and soar into the skies above London en route to Never Land. Along the way, you watch as Wendy, Michael, and John are sprinkled with pixie dust while Nana barks below, wave to Princess Tiger Lily, meet the evil Captain Hook, and cheer for the tick-tocking, clock-swallowing crocodile who's breakfasted on Hook's hand and is more than ready for lunch. Despite the absence of high-tech special effects, kids love this ride. Adults will especially enjoy the dreamy views of London by moonlight, a galaxy of twinkling yellow lights punctuated by Big Ben, London Bridge, and a moonlit Thames River. There's so much to see that the ride seems much longer than it is. Duration: 2-1/2 min. Crowds: Always heavy, except in the evening and early morning. Strategy: Go early, during the afternoon parade, or after dark. Audience: All ages. Rating: **
Legend of the Lion King. Featuring an advanced form of puppetry, the elaborate stage show based on Disney's 32nd animated feature gets some extra pizzazz from good special effects and Elton John's lyrical music. Unlike many of the stage shows in the Magic Kingdom, this one does not draw on human talent; here, Simba, Mufasa, Scar, and the rest of the characters are played by "humanimals," Disneyspeak for bigger-than-life-size figures that are manipulated by human "animateers" hidden from the audience's view. The preshow consists of the opening "Circle of Life" overture from the film. Duration: 15 min. Crowds: Rendered insignificant by large theater capacity. Strategy: Save this for mid- or late-afternoon, when you want to sit down and cool off. Audience: All ages. Note that last show is 30 min to 1 hr before park closing; check with show attendant. Rating: **
Fantasyland Character Festival. In the former queue-up area of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, you can collect autographs from and have your picture taken with Pinocchio, Pluto, Goofy, and other popular characters. Duration: Up to you. Strategy: Check your map for appearance times and arrive at least 20 min ahead. Lines tend to be longer in later morning and early afternoon, when toddlers are at their best. Audience: Young children. Rating:*
The fantasy has feet, if not of clay then of solid steel beams, fiberglass, and 500 gallons of paint. Instead of dungeons, there are service tunnels for the Magic Kingdom's less-than-magical quotidian operations. These are the same tunnels that honeycomb the ground under much of the park. And upstairs does not hold, as rumor has it, a casket containing the cryogenically preserved body of Walt Disney but instead mundane broadcast facilities, security rooms, and the like.
Within the castle's archway, on the left as you face Fantasyland, is the King's Gallery, one of the Magic Kingdom's finest and priciest shops. Here you'll find exquisite hand-painted models of carousel horses, delicate crystal castles, and other symbols of fairy-tale magic, including Cinderella's glass slipper in a variety of colors and sizes
Snow White's Scary Adventures. What was previously an unremittingly scary indoor spook-house ride where the dwarves might as well have been named Anxious and Fearful is now a kinder, gentler experience with six-passenger cars and a miniversion of the movie. There's still the evil queen, the wart on her nose, and her cackle, but joining the cast at long last are the prince and Snow White herself. Though the trip is packed with plenty of scary moments, an honest-to-goodness kiss followed by a happily-ever-after ending might even get you heigh-ho-ing on your way. Duration: 3 min. Crowds: Steady from late morning until evening. Strategy: Go very early, during the afternoon parade, or after dark. Audience: All ages; may be frightening for young children. Rating: **
Cinderella's Golden Carrousel. This is the whirling, musical heart of Fantasyland. This ride encapsulates the Disney experience in 90 prancing horses and then hands it to you on a 60-ft platter. Seventy-two of the dashing steeds date from the original carousel built in 1917 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company; 12 additional mounts were made of fiberglass. All are meticulously painted--at a rate of about 48 hours per horse--and each one is completely different. One steed sports a collar of bright yellow roses, another a quiver of Indian arrows, and yet another, for some completely mysterious reason, a portrait of Eric the Red. They gallop ceaselessly beneath a wooden canopy, gaily striped on the outside and decorated on the inside with 18 panels depicting scenes from Disney's 1950 film Cinderella. As the platter starts to spin, the mirrors sparkle, the fairy lights glitter, and the rich notes of the band organ--no calliope here--play favorite tunes from Disney movies. If you wished upon a star, it couldn't get more magical than this. Duration: 2 min. Crowds: Lines during busy periods. Strategy: Go early, during the afternoon parade, or after dark. Audience: All ages. Rating: **
Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Hands down, this is one of Fantasyland's most popular rides. While the story has one baby elephant with gigantic ears who accidentally downs a bucket of champagne and learns he can fly, the ride has 16 jolly Dumbos flying around a central column, each pachyderm packing a couple of kids and a parent. A joystick controls each of Dumbo's vertical motions, so you can make him ascend or descend at will. Alas, the ears do not flap. Duration: 2 min. Crowds: Perpetual, except in very early morning, and there's no shade--in summer, the wait is truly brutal. Strategy: If accompanying small children, make a beeline here at Rope Drop; otherwise, skip it. Audience: Young children--the modest thrills are just perfect for them. Rating: *
Ariel's Grotto. This starfish-scattered, pink-and-purple-character meet-and-greet locale carries out an "Under the Sea" motif. The area was rechristened in honor of Ariel, the Little Mermaid, who is always here in person. Just across the ropes from the queue area are a group of wonderfully interactive fountains that little kids love splashing around in. Duration: Up to you. Strategy: Check your map for appearance times, and arrive at least 20 min ahead. Audience: Young children. Rating: *
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The famous honey-lover and his exploits in the Hundred Acre Wood are the theme for this newcomer, which replaces Mr. Toad's Wild Ride late this summer. Look for Eeyore and the rest of the gang as well. Duration: About 3 min. Crowds: New attractions always draw crowds. Strategy: Go late in the afternoon, after dark, or early in the day. Audience: All ages.
Mad Tea Party. A staple in carnivals, where it's known as "Tubs o' Fun," this Fantasyland icon is for the vertigo addict looking for a fix. The Disney version is based on the 1951 film Alice in Wonderland, in which the Mad Hatter hosts a tea party for his un-birthday. You hop into oversize, pastel-color teacups and whirl around a giant platter. Add your own spin to the teacup's orbit with the help of the steering wheel in the center. If the centrifugal force hasn't shaken you up too much, check out the soused mouse that pops out of the teapot centerpiece and compare his condition to your own. Duration: 2 min. Crowds: Steady from late morning on, with slow-moving lines. Strategy: Skip this on your first Magic Kingdom visit. Rating: *
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