We had the Star Wars Character Breakfast scheduled for that morning (click here to start from the beginning if you haven’t read the previous parts of this Walt Disney World Trip Report), but fortunately I had booked one of the later seatings–props to me for actually looking at the park hours calendar before arbitrarily booking at early seating. I’m finally getting the hang of Walt Disney World trip planning 101!
I’ve already covered the Star Wars breakfast in our full review, but suffice to say, we really enjoyed the experience. The food was good, but it was more about the ambiance and quality of interactions that made it worthwhile…or at least close to worthwhile. In terms of value for money, both Star Wars meals required great experiences, as the food alone did not even come close to being “worth it” at either venue. Obviously our thoughts on these Star Wars meals are moot since Star Wars Weekends have concluded and now the meals are over, but I strong suspect they will return next year. If not sooner…Star Wars meals have many guests screaming “PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY, DISNEY.”
We were at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater until right about the end of breakfast, getting our moneys’ worth both in terms of experience and food. When we finally left, I think it was around 11:30 am, at which time Sarah came to the conclusion that she wasn’t feeling well, and needed to head back to our hotel to take a nap. We had switched to the luxurious All Star Music Resort (& Spa?) for the final two nights of our trip, and I didn’t want to mess with getting back there, so I just decided to stay in the park, despite being fairly tired.
However, I quickly realized that the 9+ hours we had spent in Disney’s Hollywood Studios the previous day was more than enough, so I headed to the Magic Kingdom. I said it before, but I really wish there were more to do in Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a regular day.
There were still several ‘must do’ attractions that I hadn’t done, plus the new Festival of Fantasy parade, so I decided to make some FastPass+ reservations. I was shocked to find considerable availability, so I booked some things.
I’ve been fairly critical of the whole MyMagic+ system in this report and how it has failed us on many occasions, so I feel I need to give appropriate praise where praise is due here. The system worked flawlessly after our initial hiccups this trip, but this afternoon in the Magic Kingdom was really the first time I attempted to use it “aggressively.” I was able to make and modify multiple reservations, the system was responsive, and it made things easier.
Since we like a lot of unpopular attractions, I anticipate us being fairly lax with our advance planning and use of the system in the future, but I like the way it works. As I said before, I don’t like how much it cost or the way it has been implemented, but overall, I like (what seems to be) the end result.
I bounced from attraction to attraction, mixing FastPass+ for popular things like Splash Mountain with some of my favorite no-wait shows like Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, and Carousel of Progress. I don’t remember for sure, but I’m assuming I also rode the Peoplemover like 2-3 times, because that just makes sense. After so many rides on that, they all just sort of blend together.
Did you know this Muskrat Moonshine kettle has a Hidden Mickey on it? I know where every circa-2007 Hidden Mickey in Splash Mountain is located. (Talk about bragging rights!) Back when we first started visiting together as adults, we picked up the Hidden Mickeys: Walt Disney World Field Guide, and Splash Mountain was our favorite place to look for them. Just a random fact that you were probably dying to know…
At some point, I made my way to the Festival of Fantasy parade FastPass+ viewing area. I had neglected to watch it every other day of our trip, and this was my last opportunity, so I figured I had better watch it or else get my “Disney blogger” card revoked. It seemed like every other site had comprehensive multi-angle videos and tons of photos posted the day of the first performance of the parade, and here I was at the Magic Kingdom for the first time about a month later, and I hadn’t even bothered to watch it on our first view days at Walt Disney World. I sure hope none of you come to this site for breaking “news”!
Unfortunately, just as I had gotten really comfortable on the hot pavement and worked on my sunburn for about 30 minutes, a notice was played that the Festival of Fantasy parade had been canceled due to inclement weather. Apparently a storm was in the neighborhood, and that fire breathing dragon is afraid of a little rain, or something like that. It’s times like these that I wish the technology on display in StormRider at Tokyo DisneySea were real. C’mon, science, get to work!
So, thanks to the weather and my laziness, I still haven’t seen the Festival of Fantasy parade. I have given up on trying to avoid spoilers (so many people have Tweeted photos that it’s impossible), but I still won’t watch a video of it until after I see it in person. Based on the photos I have seen, here’s my review: the dragon looks awesome. I haven’t paid enough attention to photos of the other floats to really judge them. Really not much of a review at all, right. Even though I’m not much of a parade person, I am looking forward to this. Hopefully it’s on par with the recent Tokyo Disneyland parades, like Happiness is Here.
After the parade was canceled, I decided to drown my sorrows with some macaroni and cheese from Friar’s Nook. I had heard great things about the mac & cheese here, so I figured I’d give it a try. Plus, I wanted to sit out on the balcony at Pinocchio Village Haus, but didn’t want to order any of their flatbreads, so this was the closest option for food.
Taking that mac & cheese to that balcony is probably the best decision I made that day. The mac & cheese was awesome with a great texture, thick cheese, and almost a homemade flavor. Obviously, the view from up on the balcony of Cinderella Castle was awesome. Put together, plus being out of the rain was super-awesome. I highly recommend giving it a try!
Most of the rest of my early afternoon was filled with doing attractions and other things that don’t really bear mentioning. The bad thing about having written countless Walt Disney World trip reports is that the repetitive things like visits to favorite attractions don’t make for good topics of interest. I mean, how many times can I tell you how awesome Carousel of Progress is? The answer is “a lot,” but at some point you’d probably get sick of reading. I need to find a way to interject more mystery and intrigue into these reports.
In mid-afternoon, Sarah met back up with me, and we stopped at Cosmic Ray’s so she could get some odd veggie sandwich. I didn’t look too appetizing, but she thought it was okay.
While she ate this thing, I took pictures of Sonny Eclipse. I still love Sonny Eclipse and Cosmic Ray’s (I still wish Plectu’s Fantastic Galactic Revue would’ve come to fruition at Disneyland for a full show of aliens like this), but this trip made me seriously rethink our Magic Kingdom Counter Service Rankings. A subsequent trip to Be Our Guest for lunch confirmed that it should be the runaway #1 pick. Guess I need to update that post…
Sarah hadn’t done many attractions, so we decided to use one of our “bonus” FastPass+ that we had received earlier for our troubles on Splash Mountain. She also hadn’t done much ‘Gramin, so we slowly meandered that way taking photos as we went.
Despite it being one of my favorite lenses, I find myself rarely using the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR in the parks, so I decided to shoot with it for a while. I really like this photo of the White Ibis.
What I really like about telephoto lenses like this is how you can isolate a subject that otherwise may not be that attention-grabbing, and draw the eye to it via the photo. I mean, how many of you have even noticed this “The Swamp Boys” concert poster?
I also like ‘stacking’ the subject with an interesting out-of-focus background, which I think I did fairly well with each of the three shots above.
I even used this lens inside the dark ride portions of Splash Mountain. Tough lens to use on attractions, but you can get better detail than with most lenses.
Next, it was time to use our FastPass+ on Peter Pan’s Flight. Although I’ve had the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens for a year now, I’m pretty sure this was my first time using it on Peter Pan’s Flight.
Peter Pan’s Flight has always been my “white whale” of dark ride photography. This time, I went in with spear (or in this case, lens) drawn, shouting, “from Hell’s heart I stab at thee!”
I walked away with 6 keepers, which I believe is more than all of my keepers from previous rides combined. Thus, I give up the spear.
We continued to do other attractions, before our college friend Nick joined us and we headed to Cheshire Cafe for some of those new(ish?) cake cup things they have. These came highly recommended to us by someone who shall remain nameless to preserve their good reputation.
These cake cups were right up there with some of the worst snacks we have ever had at Walt Disney World. Honestly, they defied explanation, as they were simultaneously dry yet laden with frosting. As an added bonus to this contradictory dichotomy, they tasted like they were approximately 16 days old. I would not at all be surprised if these creatures were mashed up cupcakes that didn’t sell at other locations. If someone recommends these things to you, never trust them again. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, and perhaps ours were an anomaly, but they were seriously bad.
On the plus side, the presentation was nice, so if you’re primarily concerned with cool photos that will get you a ton of Likes on Instagram, we highly recommend these things. If you actually prefer to eat food you’ve purchased, stay away.
The sunset was approaching, so I left Sarah and Nick to chat at a table while I wandered around New Fantasyland trying to capture some pre-sunset good light.
I was still a bit early, so I basically wandered around the land for 20 minutes snapping photos before the light really started to do anything remotely interesting. For all of the criticism of New Fantasyland’s substance, it really is a beautiful, immersive land. Its a nice contrast to the otherwise barren, attraction-heavy Fantasyland, and gives Magic Kingdom balance.
It seems like whenever I make a conscious effort to take photos during sunset, the sky is dull, and whenever we book dinner during sunset, the sky basically lights on fire with a ton of amazing colors. Next trip, I think I’m going to book a bunch of ADRs during sunset and then bail on them to “trick” mother nature. I’m sure that will be effective…in wasting $10.
I wandered all over New Fantasyland before finally decided to head back to the waterfall near Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe that overlooks Cinderella Castle. I waited and waited here, and finally determined that the sunset had passed, and was a dud.
About 10 minutes later as I was wandering Tomorrowland for some blue hour photos, I saw crazy color in the sky and raced towards Cinderella Castle. One of the first rules about sunset photography is that you always stick around until well after the sun actually sets, as the sky may light up even after the sun was below the horizon. I had broken this rule, but fortunately was able to salvage the late-blooming sunset color scene.
At this point, it was more or less time for our dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table. We had gone back and forth on eating here for a while, but it was always a non-issue because we never even had a chance to make ADRs, so our debates were always theoretical. With Be Our Guest Restaurant now being the top draw, it seems Cinderella’s Royal Table ADRs are now easier to score, as I stumbled upon one about a month or so in advance of our trip.
We ultimately decided to book it, cringing at the cost and the idea of paying for a photo package we didn’t really want. Still, we booked it because it was something new to try, and I really wanted to photograph and see the inside of the restaurant, which I’ve always thought was really cool. I can still remember looking in the Walt Disney World book I had as a kid and seeing the star-filter enhanced photo of King Stefan’s Banquet Hall (check it out on page 26 if you have that classic book), and thinking how awesome it would be to eat inside the Castle.
In a way, this meal was finally fulfilling that childhood dream, I guess? Despite that, I was not really looking forward to the meal, as I fully expected a loud restaurant full of wild kids, phoned-in cuisine, and awkward character interactions.
We were very fortunate in that only one of those things occurred. The food was surprisingly good and there were no annoying children. It was only the character interactions that were awkward!
Prior to this, I can’t think of the last time we met face characters, and that’s probably for good reason: I find meeting face characters to be an uncomfortable experience as an adult. I don’t really know why, because I’m perfectly willing to have fun with the costumed characters, but the face characters are a different story. I think part of the fact that they have you hold your arm out a certain way (so you don’t touch them), which from the get-go is almost an implicit assumption on their part that you are creepy.
In reality, I know this is an across-the-board policy meant to address potentially creepy behavior before it can happen, and isn’t directed at any one individual person, but it still doesn’t exactly set the tone for a fun interaction. I completely understand why this policy is in place, and if I were in their shoes I certainly wouldn’t want random strangers touching me, so I’m not complaining about it. I’m just pointing out that–for me at least–it leads to a fairly awkward encounter.
After being uncomfortable when the first couple of princesses came around, I finally decided to just cut my losses and elect not to get photos with the remaining ones. This is something I’ve never done at a character meal, as I’ve always wanted to get my “money’s worth,” but I figured I didn’t really need my money’s worth of awkwardness. Plus, the real reason I was there was to see the interior of the restaurant, so the better bet was getting my money’s worth of that.
I’ll have a full review of the food and the ambiance later, but suffice to say, I’m very happy we did this meal, despite the high cost and the character interactions. The restaurant is gorgeous, our service was great, and seeing the fireworks from inside Cinderella Castle was an excellent experience. Wishes lit up the inside of Cinderella Castle gorgeously. Just compare the lighting of the above photo versus the below one. You don’t see much of the fireworks, but it’s still pretty unique and cool if you’ve seen Wishes plenty of times.
Due to the price and it being a character meal, I suspect we won’t do it again for quite a while, but I’m pleased we did it this time. I think it would be great if Disney would do one meal per day without characters at cool venues like this, Crystal Palace, and Akershus, but I understand the demand for character dining.
It was almost closing time when we got done with dinner, so we made our last attraction of the night Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The next photo is a spoiler, so scroll past it if you don’t want to see the inside of the attraction.
Since it’s still new, I didn’t make much of an effort to photograph the interior of the attraction during our rides on it. I like to soak up the experience before focusing on photos. Overall, though, it seems like ‘moderate’ in terms of difficulty. Just remember not to use flash, or you’ll ruin the illusion!
After that, it was on to take some late night photos of the park. I was pretty well burned out of Magic Kingdom photography at this point. We always seem to end the night at the Magic Kingdom (because it’s ordinarily open the latest), but I wish we would’ve spent more time at Epcot.
I love this little corridor in Fantasyland.
Looking up at Cinderella Castle…
Minnie gazing at Roy Disney in ‘Sharing the Magic.’
Sarah walkin’ right down the middle of Main Street, USA!
Then it was back to All Star Music for some more late night shooting.
After this trip, Music is my new favorite of the All Star Resorts. Sports now has a superior food court, and I previously gave it the edge because of that in our Walt Disney World Value Resort Rankings, but I much prefer wandering the grounds at All Star Music. I still prefer Pop Century and Art of Animation, but if only taking the All Stars into account, Music is #1.
The next installment is the last one of this report. One final half-day in Animal Kingdom!
Click here to return to our Walt Disney World 2014 Memorial Day Trip Report Index in order to navigate to other installments. If you’re new to our trip reports, make sure to check out our past Walt Disney World and Disneyland Trip Reports.
For actual Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice beyond these quick and random tips, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
Have you tried the Cake Cups? Do you like Cinderella’s Royal Table? What about meeting face characters? Share your comments on any of these things—or anything else from the trip report—in the comments!