Each of the four Disney Parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) hosts a character meal at one of their table service restaurants. The Magic Kingdom, being the largest park, has several options. The Crystal Palace, serving Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, is the OG. It has been on Main Street USA since Magic Kingdom’s opening day in 1971. The restaurant changed format to a character meal in 1996, which was good news for fans of the 100 Acre Wood.
For character dining newbies: you must have park admission if you plan to eat a meal in the parks. Park Hopper tickets will allow you to bounce around as you please, but if you have a base ticket, your reservation must be for the park you’ve spent the day in. So if you’re wanting to dine with Cinderella and her princess pals, you must have admission to the Magic Kingdom.
No park tickets? No problem. There are some great character meals at many of the Disney Resorts as well.
Disney pros use breakfast character meals in the parks to get access to the park before it opens, giving them a little extra time with rides once they’ve finished their meal. They hit up a character meal at lunch to get out of the heat and the most crowded time of the day. Dinner character dining can get you the perfect view for fireworks, or even a super exclusive character meet. Character meals are a great way to meet multiple characters at once without waiting in line or using a FastPass.
A few quick tips:
- These meals are in demand so it is highly recommend that you take advantage of the 180 reservation day window and make your reservations as soon as possible.
- Characters are subject to change. While it’s pretty certain you will get the character whose name is in the meal description (Ie Cinderella’s Royal Table) the rotating secondary characters may alternate.
- You can meet characters at breakfast, lunch, and dinner at character meals in the Disney parks.
- The prices of meals will vary by time of the year (peak vs regular vs value season) and by day of the week (weekends tend to be a little pricier than weekdays) and also just cuz Disney’s gonna do Disney. The prices listed are an estimate based on recent menus. These prices do not included gratuity, though an automatic gratuity of 18% will be added for a table of 6 or more.
- Times for the meals may vary depending on opening and closing times for the parks. Be sure to look into park hours before you make your reservation.
The Crystal Palace
- Main Street USA
- Buffet/Family Style American Cuisine
- Breakfast-Adult $35-$40, Child $23-25, Lunch and Dinner-Adult: $52-$60, Child: $31-$35
- 1 Table Service Credit on the Disney Dining Plan
- Characters: Winnie the Pooh, and rotation of pals that could include Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.
Enjoy all you care to eat in a gorgeous setting full of natural light and tropical palms on the iconic Main Street USA. Everyone’s favorite silly old bear will be on hand for photos, autographs, and a woozle free good time.
My Take: I love a good character meal in the parks. Time to cool off, wind down, recharge a little bit, while still enjoying that Disney atmosphere. I especially love a good character meal that is a little more low key. I’m an anxious person by nature and some of the high stakes character meals get a little hairy for me. I literally almost cried once when I thought I missed my Glass Slipper meeting Cinderella because I was getting the Frying Pan another hot dog. I don’t know if it’s the perpetual celebration of Friendship Day (or as the banner in the atrium puts it, “celebrashun”) or the fact that these are fur characters, but the Crystal Palace meal feels a little more laid back that some other character meals.
With fur characters, their costumes include a headpiece, so they cannot talk. But they can bounce and trounce and have fun fun fun fun fun. If you have a teen who is self conscious talking to face characters but a little who desperately wants to do a character, the Crystal Palace might be a good compromise. Pooh and pals are affectionate and playful, but the fact they’re not speaking or looking directly into your eyes can take some of the pressure off. This is a character meal that will also have the kids participate in a parade around the restaurant, for those that like a bit of interactive experience.
The food here is buffet, which is nice if you’ve got some picky eaters. There’s something for everyone. Breakfast is your standard pastries, meats, eggs, omelet station, that kind of thing. Lunch and dinner are big on carved meats, vegetables, with seasonal desserts. It’s hard to get an exact reading on the menu, since Disney leaves it vague on purpose, in order to make changes when the need arises. In the past, Crystal Palace has excelled at desserts, with some great themed options (“Hunny” Mousse Pots, Rabbit’s Garden Chocolate Pudding) and unique takes on standard desserts(chocolate chip bread pudding, anyone?)
If you’re looking to book a character meal at lunch or breakfast while at the Magic Kingdom, the Crystal Palace is a great alternative to the pricier and harder to get Cinderella’s Royal Table. While it is still recommend to book closer to 180 out, this one has a lot more seating availability than CRT. The Crystal Palace makes a great experience for littles… and their grown ups who want to remember the days when all it took to make you happy was one million chicken nuggets from the buffet and to tell your dreams to a gloomy donkey, a shy pig, a bouncy tiger, and the best bear in the world.
Is Crystal Palace one of your favorites? What do you love most about it? Bonus points if you remember it before it was a character meal! Tell me in the comments!
Kristen B. is wife to the best Prince around, mama to the spunkiest little princesses, and lover of all things Disney. She started her savings journey five years ago and is now dedicated to making her family’s wishes come true one coupon at a time. She is so excited to take her love of saving to the next level and share her journey with you! Click here to catch up on Kristen’s Savings and join in on your own savings adventure!