This month, Disneyland revealed Fantasy Faire, a newly renovated area that used to be the Plaza Gardens. We reached out to parents of young girls to get their impressions of the area. Believe it or not, the assignment was not as easy as it sounds. Quite a few parents declined the invitation, not because they had not visited the park recently but, as one mom wrote, “My little girl wants to be the warrior, not the princess.” Another mom wrote in, “If it is anything like the other place, we'll avoid it and go to Ariel's grotto. If I am going to spend an hour waiting for princesses, I am going with a meal.”
Up for the challenge, we persisted asking parents this week: Please share your experiences and reviews of Disneyland’s new Princess Fantasy Faire.
Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland annual passholder since 2010. She and her husband have 2 daughters, ages 2.5 and 8 months. Elizabeth writes:
I took my daughters to the new Fantasy Faire so we could see what the new area. My daughter Katie, who is 3, is very into princesses these days so I thought that she would really enjoy it. Overall, I thought the new Fantasy Faire area was really well done. I think that the look of the buildings blends in really well with the existing Fantasyland buildings. The new setup for the princess meet-and-greet is great. The queue is almost completely shaded and the princesses are in a temperature-controlled room. We were able to see the Tangled show in the new theater, which we really enjoyed.
The Fantasy Faire area is small; smaller than I was expecting. There is stroller parking on the perimeter of the area, which I would recommend because it is crowded and there is not a lot of room for strollers. When we arrived, a showing of Tangled was about to begin. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anywhere for us to sit and Katie didn’t want to stand, so we went right over and got in the queue to see the princesses. We were hoping to see Belle, since Katie was wearing her Belle dress, but we were informed that Ariel, Aurora, and Cinderella were inside. We waited for about 30 minutes, on a Friday, which I didn’t think was too bad. The shade on a warm, sunny day sure helped while waiting. The princesses were all gracious and spent a good deal of time interacting with Katie. They were patient with Josie, who is 13 months old and skeptical of characters right now. There was a Photopass photographer with each princess, but I wish that there was another CM to take a photo with our camera like when we visit with Mickey. I didn’t feel like we had time to give our camera to the Photopass photographer, and I felt little rushed because there were more people coming up behind us.
After we greeted Disney royalty, we headed back to the theater to see the Tangled show. It was 30 minutes before the start of the show, and the line was already really long (back toward Frontier Land). By the time we got into the theater, the benches were mostly full but I sat on the floor near the front with the girls. The show is a retelling of the Tangled story, with 2 story tellers as well as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. It is very entertaining, with comedy and audience participation (reactions) included. I look forward to seeing the Beauty and the Beast show soon, since we didn’t have time to see it that day. The theater is small and while I appreciate the intimate setting, I think it is too small given the large number of people that are coming to see the shows.
I think that Disney has done a great job with the Fantasy Faire and, with two young girls, we will definitely be back.
Brad, 37, lives in Southern California and teaches America's youth. He and his wife, Kim, have three young advocates (ages 2 to 8) of all things Disney, particularly Walt Disney, Disney films past/current, and the Disneyland Resort. Brad writes:
My 5-year old daughter, 8-year-old son, and I arrived at Princess Fantasy Faire at roughly 9:00 on Sunday morning, March 17.
The first thing that caught my eye was the well-staffed stroller parking on the way into the area, probably because of the MousePlanet article and MousePad thread about the banishment of strollers in Fantasy Faire. We saw none of the hand-wringing and finger-wagging of guests to cast members as one or a few predicted in said thread. All the guests went about peacefully and cordially parking outside and walking in; the CMs were pleasant and helpful.
Having visited four times with my daughter in the last couple years, I speak with experience about the previous Princess Fantasy Faire (PFF) located by ToonTown. The most remarkable aspect of the new Royal Hall meet-and-greet setup is the ease of getting in and out and a lack of any significant wait. Thing was, with the old PFF, you had to line up by 8:15 to have a decent spot in line, wait for it to open at 9:00, then soldier through the line ultimately seeing your final of three princesses around 9:30 if lucky.
The old PFF could be one of the most "hurry up and get there and wait" stressful and often hot (oh how we baked in that line once or twice) experiences at the resort. Now at Royal Hall, there's a shaded queue and hardly a line 10 to 12 visitors deep. This shocked me. Perhaps word isn't out. Perhaps it was a fluke day. Even the CM loading the hall mentioned he was surprised at the lack of a line. I have my own theory for the lack of a wait (see the next point) but for whatever reason we waited all of about three minutes to enter the hall. Once there, we visited with Cinderella, then Ariel, and Sleeping Beauty. They were all very nice and engaging and, somewhat comically, all asked the same questions to the kids: "What is your favorite ride?"
I’m not someone who pretends to know the science of crowds and how they operate, but anecdotally I'll say I notice when Radiator Springs Racers opened in Disney California Adventure (and to a lesser degree The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure), they pulled partial crowds away from Toy Story Midway Mania, especially at the day's start. To a degree, no doubt, the Star Tours updated movie had the same effect on Space Mountain, and so on and so on. Point is, the opening of a big draw—like Royal Theatre stage show in this case—has a measurable effect on other popular draws. My theory of why Royal Hall crowds are so sparse is because the Royal Theatre crowds are so large. The Princess meet-and-greet is now second fiddle, perhaps, to the stage show.
As for the stage show at the Royal Theatre, when we checked in at 9:30 for the 9:45 show, there was not a seat to be had either on the benches or the circular carpets in front of the stage. There seemed to be a lot of designated reserved seating. On the outer edges of the theater in the standing-room sections, crowds already amassed. Another thought occurred to me: This place is too small. This probably is by design to create the intimacy of a storytelling session. Neither the kids nor I felt too keen on standing on the fringe so we moved on to attend another day.
The gift shop had your basic Fantasyland and Princess Fantasy Faire fare—if you've ever been to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique shop and/or old PFF shop by ToonTown and "it’s a small world," you know what I mean. We were glad to see they kept the corridor leading to Frontierland/Rancho del Zocalo and the restrooms there.
Overall, the new Fantasy Faire was a nice spot with an accommodating, easygoing and laid back feel to the Princess meet-and-greet that was absent from the old version. With some planning, we'll set aside time someday to attend the theater show. Now that I know what it entails and what's required to get a spot, I look forward to it.
Julia has had a Disneyland annual pass since 1994. She now shares her love of Disney with her husband and two children, ages 4 and 7. Julia writes:
A brief background on my kids: My son has been going to the park since he was probably around 6 months old. My daughter celebrated her 1-month birthday at Walt Disney World and took several "practice" trips to Disneyland in the weeks leading up to the big trip. My daughter went through a period of major character anxiety but has overcome it and now loves most if not all of the Disney characters. We have a homemade autograph book with a spot for the characters to sign that we made last year, and have almost finished collecting all of the autographs—clearly, time to make a new book!
Prior to going to the park, I showed both of my kids the MousePlanet article with the pictures and the animated Figaro. I tried to up-play the "it's a new area" and downplay "Princess" in the hopes that my son would be more willing to experience the new area. I think both kids saw through this.
My daughter walked down Main Street towards the new area softly singing to herself, "we're going to the new area, we're going to the new area," until we got there. Once there, we veered to the long line for the Princess meet-and-greet. I was happily surprised that the line was "only" 45 minutes. My son took one look at the same sign and announced that maybe we didn't need to see princesses this trip.
They did a good job with line shade and creating a meandering line that made it feel less like a cattle call than the previous venue. While in the line, we could see some of the show going on in the theater, but could not really hear the words or follow the plot.
When it was our turn with the princesses, my daughter didn't seem fazed by their new location. As a parent, I thought that the location was a bit too dark. I was using just my cell phone for pictures and was not sure that they would be very good with just a cell phone flash. Considering this is a brand new venue, I would have thought that the lighting would be a bit brighter to account for the cell phone camera craze.
Looking at the pictures at home, they seemed OK but a better camera with a better flash probably would help considerably. I have not yet looked at the Photopass pictures for comparison, but they have a distinct advantage at this venue. Despite limiting how many families you can see ahead or behind you, I still felt rushed. It may be because we didn't get autographs for two of the princesses or because there were so many cast members present to keep things moving.
We exited the meet-and-greet close enough to the gift shop to see the wonderful merchandise just begging to be purchased. We obliged and took a look inside. I thought it looked very girly but it was my son who found Merida's archery set that he just had to have. I was glad that there was at least something in the store to inspire boys, and wish there was more of it.
From there, we tasted the food offerings at Maurice's Treats. I was tempted to buy the souvenir glass or stein but declined upon asking and being told that they are not dishwasher safe. We just selected the Boysen Apple Freeze in a regular cup. My son thought that it said "poison" apple freeze, which would be more appropriate for a Snow White-themed food cart, and the kids played up that mistake for as many laughs as they could. We also got the chocolate twist. The kids gave each big thumbs up. I didn't have any, so I can't give you an adult perspective. I can say that I'm disappointed that a named food shop does not honor the annual passholder discount. I get that it's just a glorified snack cart, but I still feel that if they are going to give it a name, they should give it the discount.
We tried to see the stage show. At first, we tried to get there 15 minutes before the show time and all the seats were full, as were the standing areas behind the stage. Then we tried to get there 30 minutes before the show. They were not yet letting people into the theater but the line was already stretched into Frontierland and it appeared that there were considerably more people in line than seats so we gave up and went home. Having already waited approximately 45 minutes to see princesses, we had no patience left to wait to see the show.
While wondering elsewhere in the park, we saw the Fairy Godmother on the other side of the castle walls, near the wishing well. That was a popular spot for Disney to park a princess throughout the day and it makes me wonder who they will put there now that the princesses themselves are so close by.
Overall, I like that the princesses are nearer to the entrance of the park than they used to be and that at least for now they are opening with the rest of the park. This may become an early morning stop for us while one parent goes off to Fastpass something. We will probably visit this location more often than we did the prior princess meet-and-greet spot, but I don't think it is something that we will plan a trip around in the future. I also don't see my daughter humming that it's open in the future, but who knows.
While waiting in line, we did see one royal princess from Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) appear to cut to the front of the line. It made me want to consider one of those packages if that was included. I tried to go inside BBB to find out more information but all that did was inspire my daughter to want another princess outfit. I promised her that she could ask for it for her birthday and escaped before she noticed the girls getting their hair and makeup done.
My daughter has this delusion that even though adults know she is not the "real" character when she is wearing her dress-up outfits, that other kids might be mistaken into thinking that she is the real deal. Since it was St. Patrick's Day, I thought it only appropriate for her to wear a Tinker Bell outfit.
When we got home and I asked her what her favorite part of the new area was, she told me it was the little kid in front of her thinking that she was the real Tinker Bell and touching the Tinker Bell picture on her dress. So there you have it—lots of money spent renovating an area of the park to have more appeal to kids and my daughter's favorite part was being mistaken for a non-princess.
It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!
Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!
(Send an email to Adrienne Krock)
Adrienne gathered experience taking children to amusement parks when she worked as a day camp counselor and director. She was an elementary school teacher before she started her favorite job: being mom to her three boys. Adrienne, Matthew, Spencer, and Colin visit Disneyland frequently, usually with Dad, Kevin.