Ariel’s Grotto was a popular character dining location in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom that allowed guests to meet Ariel and other Disney princesses while enjoying a seafood-focused meal. The restaurant, which was located in Fantasyland and modeled after Ariel’s undersea home in “The Little Mermaid,” opened in 2012 but closed permanently in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Disney fans are wondering if Ariel’s Grotto will ever reopen at Disney World.
The History of Ariel’s Grotto
Ariel’s Grotto first opened in 2012 after a renovation of the previous Triton’s Royal Seafood restaurant. The reimagined space featured detailed theming to make guests feel like they were dining under the sea with Ariel and her mermaid friends. The restaurant offered breakfast and lunch menus focused on seafood dishes like crab cake eggs benedict, coconut shrimp, seafood pasta, and oak-grilled Caribbean mahi mahi. Guests could also order land-based entrees like roasted chicken and flatbreads.
One of the main highlights of Ariel’s Grotto was the character dining experience. During breakfast and lunch, Ariel would visit each table to greet guests, pose for photos, and sign autographs. Other Disney princesses like Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, and Rapunzel would also make appearances. Getting one-on-one interactions with the princesses made the experience extra magical for families with children. Visiting Ariel’s Grotto became a must-do activity for many guests visiting the Magic Kingdom.
Closure Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
In March 2020, Disney World closed temporarily as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the United States and the rest of the world. This included the closure of all Disney World restaurants, leading Ariel’s Grotto to shut down as well. The theme parks reopened in July 2020 with new health and safety restrictions in place, including cancelled character meet-and-greets to maintain social distancing.
Disney World resumed some character dining experiences in late 2020 and early 2021, but Ariel’s Grotto never reopened. With uncertainty around the future of the pandemic and character interactions, Disney ultimately decided to close Ariel’s Grotto permanently as part of a broader restructuring of theme park operations.
The Future of Ariel’s Grotto
Since its closure in 2020, Disney has not announced any plans to reopen Ariel’s Grotto or introduce a similar Ariel or princess-themed dining experience elsewhere in Disney World. The company has generally scaled back table service dining locations in the parks during the pandemic.
There are a few possible reasons why Ariel’s Grotto may not return in the future:
- Ongoing safety concerns with character dining interactions
- High operating costs of table service restaurants compared to quick service
- Limited indoor dining space in Fantasyland
However, fans should not lose all hope yet. Since Ariel’s Grotto was a very popular dining location, Disney could reconsider bringing it back once the pandemic impacts fully subside. Some potential options include:
- Reopen Ariel’s Grotto in the existing location with updated safety protocols
- Introduce a new Ariel or princess character dining experience elsewhere in Disney World
- Add more seafood menu options to other Magic Kingdom restaurants as a nod to Ariel’s Grotto
Disney has not provided any hints about plans to reopen Ariel’s Grotto. For now, guests who want to dine with Ariel or other princesses will have to visit other character dining locations like Cinderella’s Royal Table. But fans continue to hope that they will be “part of your world” again at Ariel’s Grotto someday soon.
Other Former Disney World Restaurants
Ariel’s Grotto is not the only former Disney World restaurant that guests miss visiting. Here are some other closed down dining options that hold nostalgic value for long-time Disney fans:
|Restaurant||Opening Year||Closing Year||Locations||Cuisine|
|Adventurers Club||1989||2008||Pleasure Island||American|
|Discovery Island Restaurant||1974||1999||Discovery Island||American|
|Pleasure Island food court||1989||2008||Pleasure Island||Various|
|Regal Eagle Smokehouse||2020||2022||Epcot||Barbecue|
While all good things must come to an end, Disney fans will always have fond memories of the restaurants that brought them joy over the years. There is still hope that Disney may find ways to bring back former favorites like Ariel’s Grotto. Only time will tell!
The closure of Ariel’s Grotto left many Disney fans disappointed, as it was a beloved character dining experience in Fantasyland. While the restaurant remains closed for now due to pandemic impacts, there are possibilities it could return someday if health protocols allow. Or Disney may develop a new princess-themed dining option to replace it. For now, Ariel’s fans will have to settle for memories of enjoying crab cakes and meeting their favorite mermaid princess under the sea at this one-of-a-kind restaurant.
Disney has closed many other popular dining locations over the years as well. But the magic of Disney restaurants lives on in the memories of loyal guests. With creativity and some pixie dust, Disney may find ways to reinvent former favorites or develop exciting new concepts. The rosy glow of nostalgia means closed restaurants like Ariel’s Grotto will never be forgotten. The spirit of beloved Disney dining experiences stays alive in the hearts of wistful fans hoping to once again dine in their cherished themed restaurants.