ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Walt Disney World marked the grand opening on Thursday of a new Fantasyland at its Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida, where patrons won’t have to wait very long to see exhibits and alcoholic beverages will be offered for the first time.
Disney World said the opening capped the largest expansion in the park’s 41-year history, doubling the size of Fantasyland and offering two new rides.
“Fantasyland is the most popular land in the most popular theme park in the world,” Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty said. “It makes perfect sense that this is where we would look to expand the guest experience.”
Disney declined to reveal the cost of the expansion, widely reported to be about $425 million, and company officials would not provide specifics on projected increased patronage and revenue.
Beer and wine will be available with dinner inside the park’s new Be Our Guest restaurant. It is the first time alcohol is being served at the Magic Kingdom, but unlike other parks at Disney World, hard liquor will not be sold.
The new Fantasyland, which expanded from 10 acres to 21, takes over space previously devoted to “Mickey’s ToonTown Fair,” which closed in 2011 to make way for the expansion, and the “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” attraction which lasted from 1971 to 1994.
Fantasyland also incorporates an unspecified amount of previously unused space, but Prunty said she was unable to specify how much land had actually been added.
The new rides that feature Disney cartoon characters include one called the “Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid” and another dubbed “The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train,” which remains under construction with an opening expected in 2014.
A duplicate “Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” ride was added to reduce previously long wait times at the iconic attraction popular with families with young children.
The line for Dumbo now includes a playroom for children aged 2-12 where they can burn off energy while awaiting their turn.
“It’s more relaxing than keeping the kids standing in line and trying to keep them entertained,” said Tim Dixon, 41, of Racine, Wisconsin.
Like other visitors, he held a pager that would signal his family when it was time for them to board the Dumbo ride.
The queue for the Little Mermaid ride snakes through a decorated indoor space shielded from the hot Florida sun and ends in an efficient constantly moving, conveyor belt-style boarding system.
Editing by Tom Brown and Philip Barbara