The Traveling Steve's

Happy New Year 2019!

After spending the week of Christmas in Roanoke, Virginia with family, Steve (DOS) and I flew back to Florida on Allegiant Airlines; no frills but nonstop. It was a quick hour and a half morning flight, which got us back home with plenty of time to unpack and get ready for our next trip later that afternoon!

After landing, we stopped by the house in Orlando briefly to switch suitcases from the cold weather Virginia clothes, to the warm weather Florida clothes, and check on the yard Christmas lights and inflatables as we’ve gone for a week. The inflatables were fine and after gathering our supplies and new suitcases, we were soon on our way to the Disney area for our New Year’s Eve weekend.

We spent the three day New Year’s Eve weekend at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, directly adjacent to Disney Springs in Walt Disney World.

Hyatt Regency (Orlando) Grand Cypress
Outdoor gardens at the Hyatt
Our Suite at the Grand Hyatt at checkin before decorating it- Bedroom
Living Room
and Kitchen area

We’ve made it a tradition the last three years or so to stay at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress for New Year’s Eve, and our friends Ben and Tom joined us once again this year for two nights as well.

While we don’t go to the theme parks over the holidays, (Christmas to New Year’s is the busiest week of the year at Disney World) we enjoyed lounging around the Hyatt’s gorgeous 1,500 acre property. The property literally borders Walt Disney World, yet feels very secluded due to the large expanse of property and gated entryway. By staying at the Hyatt, you actually get the best of both worlds; a much more private and secluded setting, yet close enough to see the fireworks at night, and/or stroll around the nearby Disney Springs area.

  View from our 12th floor room of the Hyatt property and Magic Kingdom way in the distance (top of photo is the Four Seasons and Contemporary Resort).

DOS and I always reserve one of the Terrace View suites at the Grand Cypress for New Year’s, and as the hotel is somewhat of a staggered pyramid-shaped hotel, the terraces provide outstanding views of Orlando (very flat city) as well as the fireworks at nearby Disney. While the specific suite we wanted (which overlooks EPCOT) was not available, we could still see the fireworks from Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, Seaworld, and also had a larger terrace. The terrace is HUGE – it must be some 50 feet long by 20 feet wide!

Our 12 floor terrace before decorating it.

Like our pre-Christmas trips to Jekyll Island, we load up our decorations before heading to the hotel. Once at the hotel, we set up the decorations in the suite, both inside the room and especially outside on the terrace. Here Steve (DOS) quickly sets up the 8 boxes of LED lights covering the outline of the terrace and some of the bushes.

We also hooked up two solar-star machines outdoors and one inside, which blared patterns, Christmas music and colors across the walls of the terrace and indoors. The lights were quite bright at night, and they changed colors either by remote control, manually or to the music.

We also had two smaller French type balconies; one each in the living and bedroom, so we continued the lights down across those. Our friends Ben and Tom were joining us the next night for two nights, and as they were assigned the connecting room next to ours, we continued the light show down across their balcony too after they checked in!

Quite bright at night, you could see the lights to our 12 floor terrace all the way from ground below!

Our 12th floor terrace is lit up on the top of the left tower section.

During our stay at the Hyatt, we even saw a large outdoor wedding processional take place as we watched from our late lunch on Sunday from the Lakeside Restaurant at the Hyatt. We also saw a large wedding last New Year’s Eve; I guess it’s a popular time for weddings!

Outdoor wedding on Hyatt grounds

We had a fun stay at the Hyatt, and while we knew better than going to the theme parks during this time (actually the seasonal annual passes have blackout dates as well, but we still wouldn’t go then), we did venture over to Disney Springs one day for lunch. We also walked around quite a bit there, formerly known as Downtown Disney. The whole Disney Springs area has been wonderfully and extensively remodeled from it’s former Pleasure Island stomping ground. While Disney Springs was busy and lively (this visit we just went during the daytime hours), it was quite manageable, unlike the parks.

New Years Eve weekend at Disney Spings; not too crowded unlike the theme parks.

We formerly did the parks on New Year’s Eve for three years or so in a row, but as EPCOT became so crowded you literally could not walk at times, much less do any attractions, as well as have long waits for food, drink and the restrooms, we swore off doing the theme parks on this busy holiday ever again. Staying at the Hyatt you can view the nightly Disney fireworks in the distance, without the crowds, and Disney Springs is a short distance away. As the crow flies it’s not even half a mile, but as the Hyatt is gated in and has such extensive grounds, it’s a short 2 mile Uber ride to get there, or free via the hotel’s shuttle, or alternatively a 30 -45 minute walk which is pleasant on a nice day.

Back entrance to Disney World via Hotel Plaza near Disney Springs
Mickey welcomes us to Disney Springs!

Disney Springs was quite festive without being overwhelmingly crowded, and we had a nice lunch at Splitsville, the humongous indoor bowling alley and food and drink venue. (Another one of Steve’s Disney tips: Splitsville is a great place to dine, and even at night time and on weekends when the rest of the Springs has waits for dining, there is usually no wait here, probably because people wouldn’t think to eat in a bowling alley! And the food and service are terrific!) Splitsville (in the space formerly occupied by Virgin Records) is a gigantic multi-level entertainment complex, and tastefully done as in all things Disney with lots of color and grandeur.

Splitsville Christmas tree – themed with colorful bowling pins!
A Disney hostess escorts us to our second level dining room
Going up in Splitsville!

We had no wait for a table even on New Year’s Eve weekend, and the four of us were seated in the newer section that was just enclosed with floor to ceiling glass windows – perfect for people watching down below.

View of Disney Springs from out window table at Splitsville.

Splitsville is located at the west end section of Disney Springs near the House of Blues and Cirque du Soleil. It is huge, but is designed with many different sections; i.e. dining, bowling, billiards, sports bars etc, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. The new dining section we were seated in was actually fairly quiet as it was away from the bowling area, yet you could still see the big screen TVs if you’re following football. There are also various sections where you can reserve a bowling party birthday or event, with food and drink – it’s really a fun place! And the food is quite good; not your typical bowling alley cafe, but has everything from sushi to pizza to burgers and more, not to mention loads of drinks to choose from. I had the pizza which was huge and delicious, while the others had a more healthy choice of chef salads, which were also huge. I didn’t take any pics of our lunch, but here are a couple pics looking out at some of the different sections at Splitsville.

Anyway, I could ramble on and on, but I will end this section with a small gallery of additional photos of our afternoon stroll around Disney Springs, including the Christmas Tree Trail walk-thru area at the end.

Back at the Hyatt Grand Cypress, we took a few photos, walked around a bit, and relaxed on the 12th floor terrace.

DOS and I had dinner two of the three nights on property at the Key West themed Hemmingway’s Restaurant, while the middle night we Ubered with Ben and Tom to a nearby restaurant we like called Johny’s Hideaway. Here are a couple photos of the lobby at nighttime before we headed out, showing the hug open air lobby that soars some 18 stories, and where the balloons would drop from on New Year’s Eve. Every year I wonder how they manage to get all those balloons up there in that net.

Looking up at the Hyatt ceiling where the balloons will drop from on New Year’s Eve.
Bar area at Johnny’s Hideaway Restaurant
Wine display area at Johnny’s Hideaway

New Year’s Eve was especially festive, and the four of us enjoyed our last night of 2018 at Hemmingway’s inside the Hyatt. We had pre-dinner drinks at the Hemmingway’s Bar first, before being seated for dinner around 8pm.

Like many of the employees at the Hyatt Cypress Creek, the wonderful wait staff at Hemingway’s has been working there since or almost since it opened some 34 years ago! The staff always remember us, and we all truly have a fun night of dining and service together. After our meal and for the dessert course, we opened the ‘Christmas Crackers’ I had brought with us, a British tradition we have adopted where you pull on the ‘cracker’ and out pops a small prize, riddle, and a paper crown. Lots of fun!

Opening our Christmas Crackers (red and green paper tubes)

We even got a special chocolate shaped like a clock, with the “hands of time” just striking midnight – too cute to eat! Anyway it was a really fun dinner; thank you to David and the entire Hemmingway’s staff for such a wonderful night of dining!

After dinner, DOS and I stopped the hotel’s front desk briefly to request a late checkout for the morning, which was New Year’s Day. The party crowd was already forming in the lobby for the midnight countdown; the music was blaring, and the mood very jovial.

Hyatt Regency lobby as seen after dinner as crowd gathers for lobby party countdown to midnight.

Hyatt treats it’s top tier Globalist members very well, and while a 4pm checkout is not guaranteed at resort properties such as this, the ladies at the front desk were happy to oblige the checkout, as well as a selfie with us! They had also checked us in, so they were glad to see us having such a good time, with DOS showing us our room photos with the lights many people had commented on to the desk.

Finally for the big moment of the year when 2018 becomes history and 2019 a reality, Ben, Tom, DOS, and myself had a Champagne toast on our 12th floor room and terrace, shortly before midnight.

We then took a short walk down the hall towards the 12th floor lobby to see the big balloon drop. From here, we waited briefly with a few other guests, (some of whom just came out from their room in their robes!) for the stroke of midnight. Twelve floors below, a huge lobby party was going on, and likewise the crowds there were waiting for the balloons to drop on them.

As the clock counted down in minutes and then mere seconds, the roar of the crowd and music increased until the strike of midnight was heard, when the huge balloon nets dropped their hundreds of balloons some 18 stories on the crowd below. Hugs were made, toasts were had, and cheers of Happy New Year abounded throughout.

It was truly a wonderful New Year’s Eve weekend at the Hyatt, and now as we start the year over, may I wish everyone the Happiest of New Year’s in 2019, and enjoy each and every day! God Bless!

Oh, and did I mention we saw some terrific fireworks!
Blurry pic from the terrace, but overlooking the lights and fireworks of the theme parks and city of Orlando.
Happy New Year 2019!

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