"One of the things we were keen to avoid was we didn't want this to be a teen water park. We wanted to cater to families," Adrian Jones, Legoland's general manager, said the day the water park opened. "Yes, we kept some of the big slides, but most of the elements - Duplo Splash Safari, Build-a-Raft Lazy River - are for families."
Unlike Central Florida's other theme parks, which have off-site water parks with separate admission, Legoland's water park is on the same property. Entry is a $12 add-on to the basic park fee; guests can't enter the water park without buying admission to the main park.
Also new at Legoland this spring: Warner Brothers Game Zone, where kids can play new Lego video games, including Harry Potter, Sesame Street and a new Batman game; and the Fresh From Florida Greenhouse Tour, where guests learn how Florida produce is grown, harvested and prepared.
Magic Kingdom opened the first phase of its Fantasyland expansion this spring, bringing back older attractions that have been rethemed or newly detailed in the Storybook Circus section: the first of two Dumbo the Flying Elephant rides - this one is the first Dumbo to run clockwise, the other to open in July, will turn counter-clockwise, as is traditional; The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacre Farm, a gentle family coaster, re-themed as The Barnstormer featuring the Great Goofini ; and the Fantasyland Train Station, a stop for the Walt Disney World Railroad, as well as the spot where Dumbo and the rest of the circus comes to town.
The detail on these old favorites is terrific, from the mom-and-baby elephant tracks etched into the asphalt, to the stunt posters of the Great Goofini, to the Carolwood Park sign at the train station, which pays homage to the railroad set that Walt Disney built in his backyard, which in turn was named after the street he lived on.
Coming next to Fantasyland: the Casey Jr. water play area and the second Dumbo, both scheduled to open in July.
Most exciting to Fantasyland fans, however, are two attractions opening late this year: Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, and Enchanted Tales with Belle of Beauty and the Beast. They are set in castles with landscaping intricately designed down to the last shard of rock, whether it is sculpted to echo the foreboding character of the Beast or the warm and happy nature of the Seven Dwarfs (except Grumpy, of course). They are surrounded by forest, for, as Imagineer Chris Beatty says, "If you think back about all our stories, the princess always finds herself in the forest, she has her adventure and eventually makes her way back to the castle."
Journey of the Little Mermaid, which opened at California Adventure Park at Disneyland last year, is a sweet ride built around one of Disney's iconic princesses, Ariel. Mechanically, the cars and track layout are set up much like the Haunted Mansion, with clamshell-shaped cars that move relatively slowly through the grottoes of Prince Eric Castle. The scenes features scores of animatronic characters and are set to the popular music of the movie.
The castles is one of two being built in this expansion - neither of which, we're assured, will be as big as Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom's alpha castle.
Nearby is Beast Castle, which will house one of Disney World's largest restaurants, Be Our Guest, also opening in late 2012. Its three dining rooms will be the ballroom where Belle and the Beast danced, the West Wing where the enchanted rose is kept (and which will have a holographic rose losing its petals), and a room that celebrates the other characters from the movie. Gaston's Tavern - "a manly space," Beatty called it - which will sell snacks and beverages (although not alcoholic ones), will also open this year.
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