By Guest Blogger Liliane Opsomer, co-author of "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids"
Officially opening December 6th, Enchanted Forest in New Fantasyland is holding unannounced dress rehearsals now much to the delight and surprise of visitors to the Magic Kingdom.
The attractions are nestled inside lush and beautifully decorated grounds, with gardens, meadows, waterfalls and royal castles along the way. During the day, one can see the great attention given to details, and at night the place looks absolutely magical.
Upon entering Maurice’s cottage in Enchanted Tales with Belle, guests can see the living room area with its mementos of Belle’s childhood, including a portrait of Belle with her mom, marks on the wall measuring her height throughout the years and her bookcase. Next is Maurice’s workshop with his blueprints and tools. On the wall is a magical mirror given to Maurice by the Beast so he can see Belle at all times. A cast member encourages guests to activate the magical mirror, which eventually opens a door into the Beast’s castle, where Madame Wardrobe interacts with guests and assigns kids and adults parts to play in a storytelling activity with Belle.
Next, guests enter Belle’s Library, everyone takes a seat and Lumière calls Belle and surprises her by telling the Tale as Old as Time with plenty of interaction by the actors that Madame Wardrobe fitted out. This is a fabulous photo opportunity of course and lots of fun even if you are not part of the story telling. At the end, all actors receive a gift to "mark" the occasion – a bookmark to remember the visit. Eventually it is time for Belle to join the Beast for dinner and Lumière dismisses all guests.
Belle’s Village is also home to Gaston's Tavern, a quick-service restaurant serving up roasted pork shank, hummus and chips, cinnamon rolls, pastries, fruit cups and more. The most exciting item on the menu, though, is LeFou's Brew, the restaurant's signature drink, made with apple juice and toasted marshmallows. The drink comes in a souvenir mug sure to become a big hit with little tikes. Outside, a grand fountain, for lack of a better word, with bronze figures of Gaston and LeFou comes with a plaque by Gaston and to Gaston.
Bonjour! Village Gifts offers a collection of tableware and other Disney themed merchandise.
In the middle of the Beast’s Castle is Be Our Guest Restaurant. Visitors can get a sneak preview at the beautiful entrance to the castle and the dining room. Once more imagineers have gone all out to pay attention to details. The dining room is certainly the most sumptuous dining venue at any of the parks.
Also open is Ariel's world with the Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid ride inside Prince Eric’s castle. Guests board a giant clamshell that takes them inside scenes from the animated Disney film "The Little Mermaid."
It is a sweet ride, and the lines will be huge in the future. This is not only because it is a new attraction, but because of its queue. Trust me, I walked a long, long walk inside the castle before reaching the boarding area of the clamshells.
The same can be said about Ariel’s Grotto, the new home of the undersea princess, but that is the nature of all character greeting spots. If meeting her is a priority, go ahead, but be prepared for a long wait and loss of precious touring time.
There is no way of knowing for sure whether the new Fantasyland will be open if you are visiting right now. When attractions are in the "soft opening," or “dress rehearsal” phase, that means that they are being tested - they open sporadically, not on any set schedule. However, an official preview phase has been announced to start as follows: Disney Vacation Club members can preview Fantasyland November 4th and 5th, previews for annual pass holders are November 6th through 18th, and starting on November 19th, the general public will get a chance to preview all of the exciting additions to Fantasyland. This will also be the first day that the Be Our Guest Restaurant will be open for reservations.
Related: New Details About Be Our Guest Unveiled
Related: New Fantasyland -- What is Open Now, What is Coming Soon
Liliane Opsomer is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. Find her on Facebook.