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!
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.
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.
The soaring atrium above is gorgeous — especially on a sunny day!
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.
Tons of windows and glass domes allow for plenty of natural light in the two dining areas.
And really — look up. Because the windows are really stunning. I love the beautiful stained glass detail.
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.
Crystal Palace is, of course, a character dining experience, and you’ve stumbled onto a party!
In fact, visit here, and you’ll take part in a Friendship Day Celebration with Winnie the Pooh and his friends.
Just check out these gorgeous flower topiaries of the whole gang!
The sweet little figures appear to be made of dried roses, and foreshadow the characters you’ll meet while you dine.
And beautiful hanging arrangements of tropical flowers complete the classic conservatory feel.
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 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.
And look! Real napkins! You may need those when the celebrations begin.
Crystal Palace is an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet set up. All-American flavors are the feature here.
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.
There are also several dessert offerings. Save room for a sweet ending to your meal!
And you know that meats on the Carving Station are fresh, because you can see them prepared right before your eyes!
Now that we’ve looked around a bit, let’s meet the company you’ll be keeping.
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.
There’s Pooh Bear, all stuffed with fluff!
And everyone’s favorite extrovert, Tigger!
Since Tigger’s never met a stranger, you’re guaranteed some pretty awesome shots with this guy.
Eeyore could probably be prevailed upon for a hug or two as well. He’s so cuddly!
And then there’s sweet little Piglet! (Well, he’s kind of giant version of the little guy. But you know.)
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.
And here’s where those napkins may come in handy…there may be twirling involved.
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.)
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.
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.
You’ll also find Mixed Fruit.
Down a little further, you can choose from Green and Caesar Salads as well.
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.
The Stir Fry Vegetables with Rice Noodles would make a hearty vegetarian option.
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!
We also spied plain Basmati Rice.
Healthy Broccoli gets an extra boost of flavor from Roasted Garlic Oil.
And Sauteed Green Beans are bright and slightly crunchy.
You can eat a full rainbow of colors here with Carrots too!
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.
And if you sneak and get some Macaroni and Cheese — well, we won’t judge.
There’s a selection of kid-pleasing veggies, like Corn and Peas.
Meatballs with Marinara and Multigrain Pasta are also an option.
Corn Dog Nuggets come in a Turkey variety.
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 Chicken takes its inspiration from the addition of Feta Cheese, Olive Oil, and Tomatoes.
For a completely different flavor profile, you’ll find German-inspired Sausages and Braised Red Cabbage.
Paella with Shrimp, Mussels, and Chicken is a hearty dish that’s Spanish-inspired.
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.
And would it be a Disney buffet without a bountiful supply of the World’s Best Chicken Nuggets?? I think not.
There are condiments to complement your Nuggets — or anything else you find that needs embellishment!
Fish lovers can choose from a couple of selections. Atlantic Salmon was finished with an Herb Topping during our meal.
Tilapia was topped with a Creamy Sauce and colorful Vegetables and Olives.
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.
Chunky Cranberry Sauce makes for a tangy, colorful touch!
Nothing says celebration like a meal that reminds me of the holidays!
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.
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.
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.
Brownies and Cookies are a good go-to option, and are always fresh.
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!
It’s the perfect two bites of sweet and tart. Crystal Palace tops theirs with Meringue. But I don’t hold that against them.
Raspberry Tarts were the Sugar-Free Dessert offering the day we visited.
The Turtle Cheesecake Squares were impossible to resist!
Cheesecake meets Chocolate and Caramel? Sign me up!
And hooray for never ending Soft Serve Ice Cream!
Choose from Vanilla, Chocolate, or swirl the two together!
And of course, there are a variety of Sprinkles to dress things up a bit!
For me, the real brilliance of the soft serve offering is that you can add it all of the other desserts for the win!
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!