Savvy Traveler: A magical land for young and old adds improvements to a magical experience

Television and the movies have suddenly discovered the world of fantasy, but with a rather macabre twist. Nothing is as it seems in the world of make-believe and dangers lurk behind every bush.

It is a very dark take on what should be fun for young and old.

One of the great destinations that still believe fantasy should be fun is the central Florida location of Walt Disney World. Since its inception on Oct. 1, 1971, this fabled land has brought make believe to life for millions of children…and those who would like to be children.

Situated on some 27,000 acres outside of Orlando, WDW has kept its finger on the pulse of its guests, providing entertainment and escapism, and staying several steps ahead of trends.

We were fortunate to have visited WDW not long after it opened and then return for its 15th anniversary celebration. We’ve been back several times and each visit has brought the same wonder, excitement and entertainment as the first. We visited with our children before they became old enough to visit with their own children and experience the same delight as we did with them.

Now Walt Disney World has embarked on an expansion program designed to enhance the experience for all who pass the magical entry on the way into a land that exists not only in dreams, but in reality in Florida.

Fantasyland is adding new attractions and experiences, but at the same time not forsaking the beloved favorites. Completion is scheduled for summer of 2014 with Fantasyland almost doubled in size to accommodate added guests without crowding. There will be more efficient and interactive attractions.

The new Fantasyland was unveiled last year. Some of the improvements will include:

•Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid set in Ariel’s underwater world. Families seated in giant clamshells will travel through her underwater world entertained by the film’s classic songs.

•Enchanted Tales with Belle –-You enter Belle and Maurice’s enchanted cottage where magic furniture comes to life. Guests meet Belle and use costumes and props to become a part of the story.

•Princess Fairytale Hall — Late this year, it is anticipated this attraction will begin welcoming little ones to meet their favorite princesses with themed chambers for each character.

•Storybook Circus — This attraction started opening in phases beginning last spring and unveiled its star attraction—Dumbo. There are now two Dumbo rides complete with an interactive Big Top where kids can play while waiting in line. You won’t lose your place on line because parents are given pagers to inform them when their turn is up.

•Celebrate the Magic Castle Projection Show — A nighttime spectacular that combines music, dazzling imagery and special effects to tell the tales of Disney stories old and new.

•Limited Time Magic — 2013 kicked off 52 weeks of magical experiences that will suddenly appear and then disappear when the next surprise arrives. Independence Day week will present one of WDW’s incomparable fireworks show on July 4; Long Lost Friends Week will feature some of the lesser-known Disney characters who will be available for meet-and-greets; Pirate Week will have pirate bands, meet-and-greets and an “Unleash the Villains” event on Friday the 13th.

•Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom — A new role-playing adventure challenges guests to discover and defeat Disney’s villains as they are about to attack the Magic Kingdom. The guests, armed with magical cards, will follow symbols to find the villains in their hideouts, and then use magic keys and spell cards to stop them in their tracks.

With the introduction of these new events, activities and attractions Walt Disney World is not overlooking its sister attraction, EpcotCenter. Nor are adults and families being ignored as new dining options are being introduced as well. Next, we’ll look at new innovations at Epcot, Animal Kingdom Park, Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, dining options and some of the fabulous resorts.

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