Monday, February 24, 2014

Trip Report: New Year's at Walt Disney World [Day 2] Waldorf Astoria and Magic Kingdom

December 30, 2013 - Pool and Magic Kingdom

Rachel looked at the week's forecast and decided that this was the best day for her pool day. The sun didn't come out until the afternoon, though, so we spent the morning sleeping in and watching Disney Channel.

Also, something to note is that the Waldorf Astoria is kind of like a Vegas hotel in the way that you may be getting a five star resort room for a three star price, but the food is still the five star price. If you're wondering prices, it's like a bowl of cereal for $7 or a cup of coffee for $4 (though the room did have a Nespresso machine with free cartridges that the restocked throughout our stay). It's just obnoxious because I could buy a box of Frosted Flakes for $4 - I find it immoral to charge $7 for a bowl. My point is it's not higher quality food, it's just more expensive. Food at Walt Disney World hotels is much more reasonable.

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The pool was heated and fabulous.

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I was relaxing by the pool when I received a phone call from Florida. I answered because we were in Florida. It turns out that we left our pink duffle bag (full of our dirty clothes and shoes... mostly Rachel's shoes, as she packed first) at the port. How we forgot about it - I don't know! But we didn't even realize it was missing. I'm actually glad that they told us they had it before we realized we didn't. But I went into freakout mode and the lady was trying to FedEx it to me. When she found out we were still on vacation, she wanted to wait to FedEx it, but I didn't have a notepad or anything to write on. I asked her if they could just FedEx it to our resort, but she said that would cost a fortune. Her words, not mine. I'm wondering what a fortune is to her because I can't imagine it possibly costing over $100 to ship a small duffle three hours north, and I've spent much more than that on baggage mistakes. Anyway, she said that she would just call me back in a few days and I hung up the phone.

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They rent surrey bikes. I've always wanted to ride a surrey bike around Disney's Boardwalk.

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That evening, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the New Year's Eve (Eve) Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks. I brought my tripod with the intention of shooting the New Year's Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks from inside the Magic Kingdom.

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Well, we didn't arrive at a good time. The Main Street Electrical Parade had just begun. We wanted to eat at Casey's Corner which is on the left side of Main Street, but with the way that the parade runs, it is impossible to get on the left side of Main Street while it is running. My dad's instinct was to cut through the shops along the right side and wait for the parade to end so that we could cross.

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Crossing the street after the parade proved to be impossible with the way that the Cast Members were controlling the crowds that night. We had to take the backstage exit to the beginning of Main Street and then walk all the way back up Main Street. And then there was a long line for corn dogs and no place to eat.

At 8:30, Magic Kingdom had the Holiday Wishes fireworks show, and I wanted to do a test run with my equipment, so I went ahead of the family. I thought that in this situation, the best location to get fireworks shots was going to be behind a fence or some sort of barrier, and I immediately thought of the bridge from the Castle hub to Main Street. When I got there, all spots were taken except those which were obstructed by a tree. The tree didn't really obstruct the fireworks at all - just the view of the castle.

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I shot Holiday Wishes with my Tamron 17-50mm lens, tripod, and wireless remote.

The New Year's Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks weren't until 11:50, so we had time to use our FP+ for Space Mountain (we missed our FP+ for Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain just because we couldn't get there with the parade and the crowds).

I was getting really antsy because I knew exactly where I wanted to stand on the bridge for the fireworks, and I didn't want anyone taking my place. My family thought I was insane lining up two hours in advance for fireworks, but I really, really wanted that spot, and I would be devastated if I missed out on it. So I sent them to the Confectionary on Main Street to bring back treats (we had been eyeing the cute cupcakes earlier), and I staked out my spot.

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Disney's treats are so stinkin' cute!

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Rachel wanted to kill me. She was so mad that we were sitting there for so long. "You better never do this to me again!" I told her that she was free to go do whatever she wanted and that she could come back before the show started. But she must have not cared that much because she just went back to snapchatting her friends.

For the New Year's Eve celebration (on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31), they have a DJ in front of the castle, and they play that music throughout all lands in the park, rather than the typical land-themed audio. It's really a fun experience. While crowd levels are extremely high, they backed off significantly after Holiday Wishes, and the experience is so different than your typical day or evening in the park that I think it's worth it.

I must say that the cast member were awesome that night. They were dealing with a lot of traffic, but were really happy and friendly. I loved the CM who was across from me on the bridge because she was dancing the entire time. And guests loved it! So many came up and danced with her - she just looked like she was having the best time.

About 20 minutes before the fireworks, they run a projection show on the castle. It's pretty cute and gives you something to watch while you wait, but not nearly as exciting as fireworks. There was a man who staked out a spot behind me and my tripod for over half an hour. It was a good spot, but his family was not in the mood. They watched the castle show and then convinced themselves that nothing was happening after and left before the fireworks (but they needed to... they seemed like they had spent too much time in the park that day).

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I don't regret staking out a fireworks spot for two hours. But will I do it again soon? Absolutely not.

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This time, because Fantasy in the Sky is the biggest, brightest fireworks show, I used an ND filter with my Tokina 11-16mm lens.

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After the New Year's Eve (Eve) Fireworks, we went back to the Waldorf.

The Waldorf does weird things. They do this elaborate turndown service with chocolates, slippers set on a towel in between the beds, and the television set to jazz music. But then they would forget to replace our towels or empty the ice bucket.

NEXT: New Year at Disney World - Day 3 - Hollywood Studios + Epcot NEW YEAR'S EVE