(1996 - April 2010)
(December 6, 2012 - present)
History and photos of Ariel's Grotto playground and character meet-and-greet area in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
After the closing of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride on September 5, 1994, the huge lagoon that housed the attraction sat unused in the northern part of Fantasyland. Although the submarines had been removed, the lagoon itself and all of its volcanic rocks remained as scenery in that part of the land.
What if that lagoon could become part of the watery scenery for a small playground along with a character meet-and-greet?
Take the water and volcanic rocks as part of the theming, add in the characters from the 1989 animated hit film The Little Mermaid, and there you go. Ariel's Grotto opened in the fall of 1996. It's a great little addition to a land that's already overflowing with children. It's also a way to introduce The Little Mermaid into the Magic Kingdom, a move that would later be enhanced on a much larger scale in late 2012.
Ariel's Grotto was a small play area that also had a meet-and-greet area for Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid. The "leapfrog" steams of water jumped from rock to rock, and other water features allowed kids to get a little bit wet during those hot and humid Florida summers. In the water stood a statue of King Triton, and jets of water shot out the tip of his trident.
Near the back of Ariel's Grotto was a watery cave where people could meet Princess Ariel. One side of the cave had a waterfall that poured into the old 20,000 Leagues lagoon.
In 2004, the old 20,000 Leagues lagoon was finally removed from Fantasyland. When the lagoon was removed, so was the statue of King Triton along with the waterfall on the side of the cave that housed Princess Ariel.
In April of 2010, the rest of Ariel's Grotto was demolished to make way for the massive expansion that was planned for Fantasyland.
The removal of Ariel's Grotto would only be temporary. Part of the new expansion to Fantasyland included plans for a new dark ride, Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, along with a newer version of Ariel's Grotto.
The new version of Ariel's Grotto officially opened on December 6, 2012. Located in a cave next to Prince Eric's Castle, Magic Kingdom park guests can once again meet with the princess from The Little Mermaid in an undersea home appropriate for Ariel.
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