A pack of Disney villains wants to take over the Magic Kingdom, and it’s up to you, as Merlin’s apprentice sorcerer, to stop them by unlocking clues to their whereabouts.
Disney spent more than four years perfecting this brand-new role-playing interactive scavenger hunt, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. And it’s just one of the company’s inventions this year: cool new experiences are rolling out on every front. Huge expansions at Disney World and Disneyland as well as new guided trips make Disney vacations more appealing than ever.
New Disney rides and adventures will naturally charm kids, but some will resonate more deeply with grown-ups, who can better appreciate the sheer genius that goes into melding the latest technology with nostalgia and Walt’s original vision.
A fan of cruising, Walt would surely approve of Disney Cruise Line’s Fantasy, which set sail on its maiden voyage in early 2012. “She was built in Germany at the finest shipyard in the world, Meyer Werft,” says Anita Dunham-Potter of ExpertCruiser.com. “No expense was spared, no corners cut; it’s first class all the way.” Luckily, Art Nouveau-inspired décor and an elegant French restaurant coexist with features like the super-cool AquaDuck waterslide, making Disney vacations on this ship fun for all generations.
Could it be that our love of Disney is as much about his idealism and optimistic take on life as it is about character breakfasts? By pulling our heartstrings and reminding us of happy childhood memories, the company is managing to persuade folks of all ages that we’re never too old for Disney vacations. As Walt said, “Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”
Fantasyland at Walt Disney World
Beyond the turrets of Cinderella’s castle, big changes are under way in the Magic Kingdom. Highlights include an area themed to Beauty and the Beast, an animatronic-populated Little Mermaid ride, and a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train indoor coaster. “The level of detail in the themed settings is just amazing,” says Jill Safro, editor of Birnbaum’s Official Guides to Disney. At Storybook Circus, the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride will get a second carousel and a Big Top waiting area lined with fun, interactive distractions. Double the Dumbo? Entertainment while you wait? Sign us up.
Disney Fantasy (Cruise Line)
Disney operates four cruise ships, and the new 4,000-passenger Fantasy is arguably the fairest of them all, loaded from the keel up with more bells and whistles than you can shake a wand at. Starting March 31, 2012, the Fantasy will offer seven-night alternating eastern and western Caribbean itineraries out of Port Canaveral, FL. Kids will love the top-deck AquaDuck raft ride (“the neatest thing I’ve seen on a ship,” says Anita Dunham-Potter of ExpertCruiser.com) as well as the themed clubhouses. There’s grown-up appeal, too; look out for sophisticated Art Nouveau details and the elegant French restaurant.
New Cruise Ports (Disney Cruise Line)
With four ships now in its fleet, Disney Cruise Line is departing from more ports. As a result, there are more families able to drive instead of fly to meet a ship—saving money in the process. To wit: in Summer 2012, the Disney Magic will sail out of New York, offering eight-night cruises to the Bahamas and five-night sailings up the New England coast. In the fall, the ship will relocate to Galveston, TX, for seven-night western Caribbean itineraries. Meanwhile, the DisneyWonder will continue sailing seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises from L.A.
Disney California Adventure (Disneyland Resort)
Now in the final stages of a $1.1 billion extreme makeover, the new Disney California Adventure evokes the retro glam of a Los Angeles colorized postcard. The park’s centerpiece re-creates the iconic Carthay Circle Theatre, where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, and there will be a Red Car trolley clanging along Buena Vista Street. But the most highly anticipated addition is Cars Land, based on the Pixar film. Three new attractions, including a Radiator Springs Racers ride, will delight Lightning McQueen fans.
Art of Animation Resort (Walt Disney World)
Got more than two kids? Your new favorite Disney hotel is the Art of Animation Resort, a value-category property opening near Hollywood Studios in May 2012 that’s themed around Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. You get oodles of space in suites that accommodate up to six people, with three sleeping areas and two bathrooms. (Standard rooms will be available by the end of 2012.) Outside, it’s decisions, decisions: swim with Nemo, Ariel, or the gang from Cars? Take your pick of three pools, each with its own courtyard and high-detail theming.
Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa (Oahu, Hawaii)
It had us at Aloha. The first Disney-built hotel not connected to an amusement had a soft launch in August 2011 and will be fully open by summer 2012.Aulani is an impeccably manicured paradise of carved woods and batik fabrics, with nary a plastic lei in sight. You won’t want to leave the spectacular volcano-themed pool area, which features a lazy river, a zero-entry pool with a tunnel body slide, hot tubs, and a private, man-made snorkeling lagoon swimming with angel fish, yellow tangs, and butterfly fish.
What’s to come?
There’s pretty much always something in the works for expanding or revitalising one of Disney’s 6 American theme parks. We’ve got the new Avatar Land at Disney’s Animal kingdom