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Review: Lunch at Crystal Palace in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Welp, boys and girls — it’s time to head into Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and take in lunch at Crystal Palace! This is a beloved character spot for many Disney fans, and a must-do character experience for lots of you.

Me? I hadn’t been to Crystal Palace in foreva…not since an ill-fated late-night visit a couple of years ago when the food was AW-FUL! Yep, it was the end-of-the-night dregs of the buffet and we were pretty much just grossed out. (Have you ever seen a buffet about 15 minutes before a restaurant is about to close? Not pretty.) We ate very little and left as soon as we could. Sad, since we do love dining with Pooh and friends.

But it was time to revisit the 100 Hundred Acre Wood — after all, we’d had lots of great meals here previously — and I made reservations with some friends for lunch.

We have tons of shots to show you, so let’s get started!

Atmosphere

You’ll find Crystal Palace to the left of Main Street USA’s end, just as you approach Cinderella Castle. The beautiful glass building, inspired by ornate conservatories of the late Victorian Age, is a slice of Disney history as well. The restaurant has been around since opening day in 1971.

Entrance to Restaurant

Entrance to Restaurant

And here’s a tip if you’re looking for an extra-special experience during your Disney vacation: try and book Crystal Palace for an early breakfast. You’ll be one of the first guests into the Park when you do this, and visiting a nearly empty Magic Kingdom is an event to remember.

Once you step inside, you’ll see whitewashed walls that carry the bright, light decor throughout. Artwork depicting inspiration for the architecture as well as photos of lush palms cover the walls.

Artwork and Framed Photos

Artwork and Framed Photos

The soaring atrium above is gorgeous — especially on a sunny day!

Crystal Palace Atrium

Crystal Palace Atrium

After you check in, you’ll wait for your table outside on the shaded veranda. But once you step in, pause a moment to take it all in.

Dining Rooms

Dining Rooms

Tons of windows and glass domes allow for plenty of natural light in the two dining areas.

Dining Room from Another Angle

Dining Room from Another Angle

And really — look up. Because the windows are really stunning. I love the beautiful stained glass detail.

Stained Glass Windows

Stained Glass Windows

The decor puts you in mind of a Victorian conservatory, with its outside-but-inside feel. Lush flowers and what reminds me of patio furniture finish the area.

Evening Light

Afternoon Light

Crystal Palace is, of course, a character dining experience, and you’ve stumbled onto a party!

Center Atrium -- Up Close

Center Atrium — Up Close

In fact, visit here, and you’ll take part in a Friendship Day Celebration with Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Banner -- Up Close

It’s Friendship Day!

Just check out these gorgeous flower topiaries of the whole gang!

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Eeyore Topiary

Eeyore Topiary

The sweet little figures appear to be made of dried roses, and foreshadow the characters you’ll meet while you dine.

Piglet Topiary

Piglet Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

And beautiful hanging arrangements of tropical flowers complete the classic conservatory feel.

Fresh Flowers

Fresh Flowers

Seating is standard and fairly comfortable. Heavy, padded chairs share the space with booths, but some tables are situated a bit too closely for our comfort.

Seating for Two

Seating for Two

Seating along windows gives you a glimpse of guests waiting to be seated! But beyond them, you’ll also see a beautiful view of Cinderella Castle as you dine.

Seating

Seating

And look! Real napkins! You may need those when the celebrations begin. ;-)

Seating -- Up Close

Seating — Up Close

Crystal Palace is an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet set up. All-American flavors are the feature here.

Buffet

Buffet

During morning hours, the central area of the buffet plays host to an omelet station. At lunch and dinner, you’ll find Rotisserie Meats, hand carved while you wait.

Both sides of the main buffet are mirror images of one another, so don’t worry about missing anything; if you hit one side, you’ve seen everything.

Close Up of Buffet Area

Close Up of Buffet Area

There are also several dessert offerings. Save room for a sweet ending to your meal!

Dessert Buffet

Dessert Buffet

And you know that meats on the Carving Station are fresh, because you can see them prepared right before your eyes!

Spit Fire at the Carving Station

Spit-Fired Meats Are Prepared Behind the Carving Station

Now that we’ve looked around a bit, let’s meet the company you’ll be keeping.

Characters

As we’ve seen, you won’t find Mickey or Princesses here. But you’ll find a gang of classic characters that fit into the vintage setting perfectly — Winnie the Pooh and some of his friends from Hundred Acre Wood.

Now, Crystal Palace is a pretty busy place, and the four characters are kept active making rounds in the two seating areas. So be prepared with cameras and autograph books! It usually takes about an hour to see everyone.

Seating and Character Interaction

Seating and Character Interaction

There’s Pooh Bear, all stuffed with fluff!

Winnie the Pooh...

Winnie the Pooh…

And everyone’s favorite extrovert, Tigger!

And Tigger Tooooo!

…And Tigger Tooooo!

Since Tigger’s never met a stranger, you’re guaranteed some pretty awesome shots with this guy. :-)

Tigger

And Tigger…

Tigger, Mugging for the Camera!

Tigger, Mugging for the Camera!

Eeyore could probably be prevailed upon for a hug or two as well. He’s so cuddly!

Eyeore

Eeyore

Eeyore

Eeyore

And then there’s sweet little Piglet! (Well, he’s kind of giant version of the little guy. But you know.)

Piglet

Piglet

Periodically during your meal, characters will lead a fun parade through the restaurant. Encourage little ones to join in the fun! It’s a great photo op.

Piglet -- So Cute!

Piglet Leading the Parade!

And here’s where those napkins may come in handy…there may be twirling involved.

Eats

Disney buffets are extensive affairs with lots of choices! To break it up and make sense of it all, we’ve organized things into groups. Time to take a tour of your food choices!

The traditional American menu features plenty of familiar choices, but you’ll also find some unique items to spice things up a bit.

Breads and Salads

Start with a selection of breads, like Yeast Rolls, Multigrain Rolls, and Cornbread flavored with Jalapeno. (Sorry, no regular cornbread. I was sad to find this out, as I’m not a huge jalepeno cornbread fan.)

Yeast Rolls with Butter

Yeast Rolls with Butter

Multigrain Rolls

Multigrain Rolls

Jalapeño Cornbread

Jalapeño Cornbread

And then you’re off to sample a selection of cold dishes. There are Deli Meats and Cheeses as well as Butter for your bread. For purists, there are plain Apple Slices and Carrots, and you can add a Pickle to your plate, too.

Once you pass those selections you’ll find a large variety of prepared Salads.

Deli Cheese and Meats, Butter, Apples and Carrots, Pickles, and Salads

Cheese, Butter, Apples and Carrots, Pickles, and Moroccan Couscous Salad and Edamame Salad

The day we visited, lots of international flavor was on display. We found Moroccan Couscous Salad, Edamame Salad, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad, Cucumber Salad, Mediterranean Pasta Salad, Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula.

Salads

Morocco Couscous Salad, Edamame Salad, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad, Cucumber Salad, Mediterranean Pasta Salad, Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula

You’ll also find Mixed Fruit.

More Salads

Mixed Fruit and Other Salads

Down a little further, you can choose from Green and Caesar Salads as well.

Lettuce, Caesar Salads, and Other Salads

Lettuce, Caesar Salads, Other Salads, and Salad Toppings

Toppings and Dressings round out the offerings.

Sides and Vegetables

Next we’ll move on to Sides and Veggies!

Like most buffets at Disney, Crystal Palace does have a few signature standout dishes that you should try if possible. At breakfast, it’s the Breakfast Lasagna that garners rave reviews. And at lunch and dinner, be sure to try the Fire Roasted Corn Spoon Bread. It’s similar to dressing/stuffing, with a slightly sweet flavor.

Fire Roasted Corn Spoonbread

Fire Roasted Corn Spoonbread

The Stir Fry Vegetables with Rice Noodles would make a hearty vegetarian option.

Stir Fry Vegetables with Rice Noodles

Stir Fry Vegetables with Rice Noodles

Creamy, fluffy Mashed Potatoes are always a welcome menu item. These are sort of rustic, with a few lumps and peels, proving they’re the real deal. And they don’t skimp on the butter, either!

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

We also spied plain Basmati Rice.

Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice

Healthy Broccoli gets an extra boost of flavor from Roasted Garlic Oil.

Broccoli with Roasted Garlic Oil

Broccoli with Roasted Garlic Oil

And Sauteed Green Beans are bright and slightly crunchy.

Sauteed Green Beans

Sauteed Green Beans

You can eat a full rainbow of colors here with Carrots too!

Sauteed Carrots

Sauteed Carrots

Pooh’s Corner Kids’ Menu Items

Every Disney buffet has a special section for kiddos, and Crystal Palace is no exception. Look no further than Pooh’s Corner for foods that will please the pickiest of palates.

The counter is also lower here — don’t you love that? — so kids can see the selections and help themselves.

Pooh's Corner -- Selections for the Kiddos

Pooh’s Corner — Selections for the Kiddos

And if you sneak and get some Macaroni and Cheese — well, we won’t judge.

Pooh's Corner -- Macaroni and Cheese

Pooh’s Corner — Macaroni and Cheese

There’s a selection of kid-pleasing veggies, like Corn and Peas.

Pooh's Corner Veggies --Corn and Peas

Pooh’s Corner Veggies –Corn and Peas

Meatballs with Marinara and Multigrain Pasta are also an option.

Pooh's Corner -- Multigrain Pasta with Meatballs

Pooh’s Corner — Multigrain Pasta with Meatballs

Corn Dog Nuggets come in a Turkey variety.

Pooh's Corner -- Turkey Corn Dog Nuggets -- Up Close

Pooh’s Corner — Turkey Corn Dog Nuggets

I assume this is part of Disney’s measure to provide healthier dining options.

Main Dishes and Meats

Beyond the bounty of side dishes, there are several main dishes to tempt you as well. We found Chipotle Pasta, a cream-based penne dish accented with Veggies.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Chipotle Pasta

Mediterranean Chicken takes its inspiration from the addition of Feta Cheese, Olive Oil, and Tomatoes.

Mediterranean Chicken with Feta and Tomatoes

Mediterranean Chicken with Feta and Tomatoes

For a completely different flavor profile, you’ll find German-inspired Sausages and Braised Red Cabbage.

Mixed Grilled Sausages with Braised Red Cabbage

Mixed Grilled Sausages with Braised Red Cabbage

Paella with Shrimp, Mussels, and Chicken is a hearty dish that’s Spanish-inspired.

Paella with Shrimp, Mussels, and Chicken

Paella with Shrimp, Mussels, and Chicken

In addition to the dishes that feature meat, there are also several standalone options.

For guests who prefer a more straightforward approach, there’s Roasted Chicken.

Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken

And would it be a Disney buffet without a bountiful supply of the World’s Best Chicken Nuggets?? I think not. :-)

Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets

There are condiments to complement your Nuggets — or anything else you find that needs embellishment!

Condiments -- Honey Mustard, Ketchup, and Barbecue Sauce

Condiments — Honey Mustard, Ketchup, and Barbecue Sauce

Fish lovers can choose from a couple of selections. Atlantic Salmon was finished with an Herb Topping during our meal.

Salmon

Salmon

Tilapia was topped with a Creamy Sauce and colorful Vegetables and Olives.

Tilapia

Tilapia

But the highlight of the buffet is always the Carving Station. Meats change up regularly, but we found Beef Strip Loin and Turkey Breast the day we visited.

Carving Station -- Strip Loin

Carving Station — Strip Loin

Strip Loin -- Up Close

Strip Loin — Up Close

Chunky Cranberry Sauce makes for a tangy, colorful touch!

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Nothing says celebration like a meal that reminds me of the holidays!

Carving Station -- Roast Turkey

Carving Station — Roast Turkey

And who can resist Turkey and Cranberry Sauce any day of the year?

Desserts and Sweets

Are you still with me? Good! Because now it’s time to visit the Dessert Spread!

You’ll find a mixture of large desserts interspersed with individually-sized options. There’s always a Fruit Cobbler, and during our visit, Apple was the featured flavor. It’s nothing to write home about, but it serves as a decent stand in for a comfort food favorite, especially when you top it with a little Vanilla Soft Serve.

Apple Cobbler

Apple Cobbler

White Chocolate and Raspberry Bread Pudding is a super sweet take on this crowd pleaser. It’s doesn’t equal my favorite ‘Ohana version of the dessert, but if you enjoy extra rich and sugary desserts, give it a try.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Bread Pudding

White Chocolate and Raspberry Bread Pudding

We also spied Coconut Flan. I’m not a big fan of the flan/panna cotta genre of desserts — milk flavored jello just isn’t my thing — but kudos to Disney for providing something a little off the beaten path here.

Coconut Flan

Coconut Flan

Brownies and Cookies are a good go-to option, and are always fresh.

Brownies

Brownies

Cookies

Cookies

And you know I can’t pass on Key Lime Pie! This version offers no surprises, but that’s not a bad thing, right? And the little portions mean you can try a few other desserts as well…or just go back for more of these!

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

It’s the perfect two bites of sweet and tart. Crystal Palace tops theirs with Meringue. But I don’t hold that against them.

Key Lime Pie -- Up Close

Key Lime Pie — Up Close

Raspberry Tarts were the Sugar-Free Dessert offering the day we visited.

Sugar-Free Raspberry Tarts

Sugar-Free Raspberry Tarts

The Turtle Cheesecake Squares were impossible to resist!

Turtle Cheesecake

Turtle Cheesecake

Cheesecake meets Chocolate and Caramel? Sign me up!

Turtle Cheesecake -- Up Close

Turtle Cheesecake — Up Close

And hooray for never ending Soft Serve Ice Cream!

Soft Serve Ice Cream

Soft Serve Ice Cream

Choose from Vanilla, Chocolate, or swirl the two together!

Soft Serve Flavor Options -- Chocolate, Vanilla, or Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl

Soft Serve Flavor Options — Chocolate, Vanilla, or Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl

And of course, there are a variety of Sprinkles to dress things up a bit!

Ice Cream Sprinkles

Ice Cream Sprinkles

For me, the real brilliance of the soft serve offering is that you can add it all of the other desserts for the win!

Overall

Crystal Palace — what is there to say? You must. You must at least once.

And there are many reasons for that. To begin, there’s history. As much as I love new stuff, there’s that sense of nostalgia from dining in a spot that opened with Magic Kingdom. You remember gazing at this beautiful restaurant during every visit to the Park, just like I do. Eating here is as much a part of the Disney experience as donning Mickey Ears.

But add to that good food with varied offerings and interesting character interactions, and you have the makings of a beautiful tradition. Even though I had a bad food experience here on my last visit (now I know not to go to a buffet during the last 30 minutes that the restaurant is open), this lunch excursion has brought the restaurant back up in my opinion.

To be sure, it’s an expensive meal. And there are more interesting buffets at Disney. But there is a magic about Crystal Palace that is unrivaled. The combination of location, decor, and menu come together in a way that prevents it from feeling overrated. And don’t forget — if you’re here during Wishes and can grab a window table with a view of the castle, you’ve got an awesome vantage point!

If you haven’t dined at Crystal Palace, give it a try. And if you’re on the fence about an Advance Dining Reservation, well…I think you should go for it.

Is Crystal Palace one of your favorite Disney dining destinations? Leave a comment and tell us what you think!

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21 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    It always throws me off to see good reviews for Crystal Palace. I’ve never had a good experience and there better character dining places.

  2. jsutme says:

    We head here every trip. Outside of MNSSHP or MVMCP the only place to meet Eeyore.

  3. mealtrip says:

    Great review, buffets are sooooooo hard to cover with all of those food photos!!! While it may be slightly off topic, I noticed they’ve started tossing Jalapeños into the cornbread over at Boatwright’s as well. While I suppose it makes more culinary sense over there, I’m still not a fan. I like Jalapeños… just not in cornbread. Now I’m worried about Whispering Canyon Cafe’s cornbread (which I love). I hope they don’t catch Jalapeño cornbread fever which seems to be spreading. I hope it’s not a massive property wide switch to a new mix or something. Has anyone else had any cornbread anywhere recently???

    Totally agree on the timing though… my last visit was within 30 minutes of closing and most of my “environment” was watching them semi-sanitize all the high chairs and stack them all in the corner, noisily, while the smell of high chair cleaner and spent coffee grounds wafted through the air. I won’t even get into the food that night. Lunch… is when I’d go, if I were to go again.

  4. Dan B says:

    We ate breakfast at Crystal Palace back in December when we were there. It was very good as far as breakfast buffets go. The food was good, fresh, well stocked. The servers were great. And the characters took their time at our table. We did get a reservation before park opening and were able to get some great pictures before we got to the restaurant.

  5. Brenda says:

    We have not been for anything other than breakfast. Breakfast is awesome here! We go every trip. But now I think I would like to try lunch!

  6. Jenny says:

    Thank you for the great review. I love this place and now that my kids are grown I tend t do it less and less. Every now and then I do pop in, it tends to be for breakfast. It is a wonderful thing to be walking down Main Street with almost no one in sight.
    :)

  7. kit says:

    buffets are so hit and miss quality wise but this looks very decent. May have to try it! I love flan and my mouth is watering at those desserts!!! All of my favorite things.

  8. Patty says:

    We usually go to the Crystal Palace every trip for the buffet breakfast. Always have a good experience. Good selection of food and seeing the characters up close is GREAT…they do spend time at your table and pose for pictures. Its a fun place! Might try the lunch on the next trip…

  9. kim says:

    We eat here every trip. Over the years we have learned to schedule a late lunch, that way they are swapping out some of the lunch choices with dinner, so you get more to pick from- and it’s cheaper!

  10. Diane says:

    I have never had a bad meal here. It’s very convenient. The atmosphere is lovely. The food has always been good and Eyeore never complains when I give him a hug. What more do you want? OK, maybe some cornbread WITHOUT jalapenos. I too hope Whispering Canyon Cafe doesn’t jump on that bandwagon! Their cornbread is outrageous!

  11. Jessica says:

    Great review! I love chrystal palace food! My friend and i did lunch and it was awesome so my next trip my mom and i are doing breakfast so i am looking forward to it! Also on a side note about the late night bad experience anyone reading this review heed my warning, since i am a waitress and know how employees think, NEVER go to a restaurant a half an hour before close. You not only get bad meal for your buck (most of the time) but not happy workers either. Think about it they have worked all day and then when hopes of going home are just around the corner they are dashed by a family coming in right before close. The caring level of getting a decent meal out is extremely low, their only priority is to get u fed and close. Sorry to say. I am a big believer in customer service but do yourselfs and you pocket book a favor and if the place is about to close just get a quick meal and call it a night. Your wallet and stomach will thank u later

  12. Jackie Simmons says:

    We have eaten at the Crystal Palace twice on visits to DW. Both times were really good. The last time it was my daughter’s birthday and the treatment was extra special. To comment about the jalapeños, I’m a South Texas girl so I’m happy to see a little flavor added to the cornbread. It’s something commonly done here. Concerning someone who said they have eaten at Crystal Palace before and have never had a good experience, I would wonder why you would return if your previous experiences were bad. Some people just like different things, some people are never pleased by anything and complain a lot.

  13. Essie says:

    I love the CP! It is my tradition to have my breakfast there every trip on my last day. Their breakfast buffet is always the best, especially the ‘kid’s’ puffy, crispy, French Toast. It’s a gorgeous restaurant and a lovely spot to eat; it makes your last day a little happier.

  14. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I have not eaten here since, no kidding, 1978. I was 5 so my memory is shaky but I think back then it didn’t take reservations and we met Marry Poppins.

  15. Julianne says:

    Thank you so much for posting such a thorough review! I have never eaten at the Crystal Palace and have always wondered about what the buffet consists of. I’m such a foodie and I get frustrated sometimes with the lunch selections at Magic Kingdom (and it’s why I favor Epcot for all of the food!). I will definitely be trying out the Crystal Palace now! Thanks again!

  16. Michelle says:

    My family and I love Crystal Palace! We try to make it for breakfast on every trip. And, whenever possible we book an advance dining reservation for before the park opens (love it on our first morning) to be allowed to be some of the first couple people down Main Street. There’s something completely magical about walking down a practically empty Main Street first thing in the morning on your first day. There’s no better way to start a trip in my opinion. Thank you for sharing! And after your review, I may have to try making a lunch reservation one of these days. :)

  17. Dona says:

    I have never eaten here but plan to take my dh there next year when we go for his birthday. I plan to get an early morning reservation to be able to get into the MK early. I can’t wait.

  18. Bonnie says:

    We love the Crystal Palace breakfast. We just enjoyed it again a couple of weeks ago. One of our favorite breakfasts on property and a must-do every trip. Now I’m curious about lunch too. We did go there 6 years ago for dinner and we really enjoyed it, but we’ve been enjoying breakfast on every trip ever since. Maybe we will book a very late breakfast for our next trip instead of before park opening…then maybe we will also get to sample some lunch foods!

  19. Avaitor says:

    I honestly haven’t done Crystal Palace since I was a lot younger, but I have great memories of the place. Buffets usually aren’t the smartest place to dine at while going to theme parks, but it’s the perfect experience for big fans of Pooh bear, as well as anyone who just wants some quick, good American cuisine.

    Actually, I think trying the early breakfast option sounds like a great idea for a future MK visit! I need to keep this in mind!

  20. Luis says:

    Reviews of the Crystal Palace are scarce and often outdated. This review makes me wish I had eaten there on our trip last month. I will definitely file this one away for the next trip. Thank you!

  21. laurs says:

    Just had the good fortune of eating breakfast here last week! We got there before the park opened and it was fabulous. I think that from now on we’ll try to include a breakfast here whenever we go. The building is fabulous and the food is outstanding. I especially liked their smoked salmon and puffed french toast. The only bummer was that we dined for about an hour and met all of the characters (and piglet twice) except for Tigger. Tigger skipped a few tables including ours and never came back. Oh well!

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