For my thoughts on the re-opening of Walt Disney World, see this.

By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Ariel’s Grotto

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

In the animated feature The Little Mermaid (1989), Ariel had her own private underwater rock cavern filled with her vast trove of treasures that she had retrieved from the human world. It is where she sings the iconic song, Part of Your World.

That special location was duplicated at several Disney theme parks.

At Disneyland, it was located where the Alpine Gardens in front of Tomorrowland formerly resided. Opened in 1996, it was a meet-and-greet location decorated with starfish, coral, a bronze statue of Ariel and waterfalls.

It was especially notable for a huge King Triton fountain where water spurted from his trident and led to the grotto area where Ariel sat inside a large clamshell. It closed in 2008 to make way for Pixie Hollow.

Tokyo DisneySea had a meet-and-greet attraction called Ariel’s Greeting Grotto that opened April 15, 2005 and closed January 2020, but was reopened later that year as Mermaid Lagoon Theater for socially distanced encounters with Ariel as a mermaid.

At Disney California Adventure, Ariel’s Grotto opened February 2001 as an “under the sea” themed restaurant that gave guests an opportunity to dine with Ariel and other Disney Princesses in “Ariel’s Disney Princess Celebration”. The restaurant was located on Paradise Pier, and featured an upscale menu. On January 8th, 2018, Ariel’s Grotto closed to make way for the Lamplight Lounge.

(c) Disney

For Walt Disney World guests, Ariel’s Grotto meant the meet-and-greet area at the far end of the lagoon area that formerly housed the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage attraction. A large King Triton spouting statue marked the location until April 2010.

There was also a children’s play area nearby with a spongy flooring because originally there were squirting fountains but those were turned off the last few years of its existence.

Ariel’s Grotto was later incorporated into an area beside the Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction. In a cave next to Prince Eric’s Castle surrounded by waterfalls and large rock formations, Ariel greets guests on a padded bench decorated with appropriate nautical details like a variety of shells.

This is the only place at Magic Kingdom or any other Walt Disney World parks to meet Ariel as a mermaid.

Meets ended in March 2020. Some are returning in modified fashion in November 2021, but so far it is not clear that Ariel’s Grotto will be one of them.

The official Walt Disney World website declares: “Venture into a seaside grotto, where you’ll find Ariel among her treasures. She has gadgets and gizmos aplenty, and she’s always happy to make new friends—especially human ones. She wants to be where the people are, so stop by and make her dream come true!”

At Prince Eric Village Market, a food and beverage location, directly across from Ariel’s Grotto, starting in 2018, a Mermaid Donut was introduced. The sugary treat is covered in purple icing with sprinkles and decorated with white chocolate shells and a sand dollar. A mermaid’s green tail is captured mid-splash in the center of the donut.

Prince Eric’s Village Market also sells other Little Mermaid inspired food offerings including Dinglehopper Noodles and Dream Big, Little Mermaid Oyster Cake that are only available at that location.

Thanks, Jim! For more from Jim on The Little Mermaid in the Disney parks, see this, and I have a review of Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid here.

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.


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