Theme Park Princesses

Yesterday, I talked about how much fun it can be to dress up as a princess for a day. Meeting princesses can be just as much fun. In fact, it's my absolute favorite thing to do when I visit the Disney Parks. I have an endless library of photos I've had taken with all of the Disney Princesses. It is the closest thing to being able to hang out with a cartoon character in real life. Disney performers are also not allowed to tell people that they play a character and must instead say that they are "friends" with that character, making the magic of meeting them feel that much more authentic.

I have visited both American Disney parks countless times, and I have also been to Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. I've seen the parks go through many changes over the years, mostly for the better. Princesses have grown exponentially in popularity, so Walt Disney World and Disneyland have been working hard to accommodate for this by building nicer rooms to meet the princesses in and adding more princess-themed attractions to help thin out the crowds. Walt Disney World in Florida made most of these changes five years ago when they completely rebuilt their outdated Fantasyland section with New Fantasyland, opening up more castles and princess attractions than ever before.

I went to visit New Fantasyland in 2013, about a year after its opening, and I was incredibly impressed with all of the new princess offerings. First, they replaced an outdated meet'n'greet location for Ariel with a replica of Prince Eric's castle and ship. Inside the castle facade was Ariel's Undersea Adventure ride, which had just opened at Disneyland a couple of years prior. This ride very quickly became a new favorite for me, since it had all of my favorite things--mermaid princesses, animatronics, music, and state-of-the-art technology. I even went on it ten times in a row at Disneyland once. Right next the Florida version of the ride was a new place to meet Ariel in her mermaid form. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to meet Ariel as a mermaid in California, since Triton's Garden was replaced with Pixie Hollow, a Tinker Bell meet'n'greet location, in 2008. However, Ariel has her own restaurant in Disney's California Adventure called Ariel's Grotto, where she regularly appears in human form.

Florida's New Fantasyland also has a facade of Beast's castle, containing a restaurant called "Be Our Guest," which features three rooms that look just like real-life sets from the movie. The final touch of New Fantasyland magic is Belle's cottage, which is just a perfect from the outside as it is within. Inside it is Maurice's workshop, with tons of hidden surprises, including Belle's favorite book and a painting of her mother. At the end of the cottage walkthrough, a magic mirror opens up a wall to reveal the Beast's library, where Belle comes out to tell a story with the help of guest and amazingly life-like animatronics of Lumiere and the Wardrobe. It looks every bit as magical as it sounds. There's also a statue of Gaston and a Beauty and the Beast themed gift shop that looks like it came straight out of Belle's village.

My absolute favorite Disney Park in the world has to be Tokyo DisneySea in Japan. Since Ariel is my favorite princess, the Little Mermaid section of DisneySea is a dream come true for me. It contains a gorgeous replica of King Triton's castle. Inside it is an underwater wonderland full of coral, seaweed, hidden grottos, ships, and fish lanterns. There's even a store inside the mouth of a whale! Walking through Triton's Castle made me feel like a real mermaid. Even the lighting looks like it would under the sea. It has some of the most gorgeous theme park architecture I have ever seen. There's also a show where Ariel comes out from the floor and swims around the audience on cables. It was truly a surreal experience.

Another great princess attraction at the Disney parks is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. The first Boutique opened in Florida's Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) in 2006. It now has three locations in total, the other two being in Cinderella Castle in Florida and Sleeping Beauty Castle in California. At the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, little girls get full princess makeovers from Fairy Godmothers in Training. There are packages that include hair, makeup, nails, and complete princess costumes. Unfortunately, the experience is somewhat overpriced and not something that older princess fans would get much out of. However, I loved talking to the FGiTs and getting "pixie dusted," which is when they tell you to make a wish and wave their glitter wands over you and you are covered in glitter. Pixie dusting is free, but they only do it at certain locations.

The princesses make tons of appearances in shows and parades at all of the parks as well. A recent favorite of mine is Mickey and the Magical Map at Disneyland, which has a gorgeous sequence in which Pocahontas, Mulan, and Rapunzel harmonize with each other and a surprise finale featuring Tiana. Disneyland also recently opened a Royal Theater next to their meet'n'greet location for the princesses where they perform humorous retellings of Tangled and Beauty and the Beast. In 2008, Walt Disney World used to have a special event called a Pirate and Princess Party, in which the park would be devoted to shows and meet'n'greets featuring all of their pirate and princess characters, including a custom parade and fireworks. Unfortunately, the event did not sell enough tickets to keep going. To this day, it remains a favorite of mine.

Overall, the Disney Parks are an amazing experience for princess fans of all ages. Each park has unique attractions to offer, whether it's an opportunity to meet your favorite princess, see a show, dine, or go on a ride. I've been very satisfied with most of the changes that they have made over the years. If you would like to know more about the experience of being "friends" with a Disney Princess, I recommend checking out Jennifer Oakes' YouTube Channel. She refers to herself as a "Retired Disney Princess" and discusses the experience of being "friends" with Jasmine and Pocahontas in her videos. In 2009, I wrote a book of poetry based largely on my experiences in the Disney Parks entitled Castle, which is available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle. If you have any questions about the Disney Parks, feel free to post them in the comments below, and I will answer them to the best of my knowledge.


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