Play and Dine at Hollywood and Vine

When it’s time to break bread with giant, plush Playhouse Disney characters, it’s time to go Play and Dine at Hollywood and Vine.

That’s right folks, this is your opportunity to make your kids’ favorite TV stars come to life…and eat breakfast, too!

Atmosphere
Hollywood & Vine is located in the beautiful Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Shades of mauve and aluminum chairs are the most descriptive decor, but there are some great photos of old Hollywood, along with some pretty fantastic murals [Read more…]

Crystal Palace: A Great Reason To Get Up Early

Early Morning on Main Street

Early Morning on Main Street

The Early-Morning Advance Dining Reservation (ADR)
One of the well-known tips among Disney enthusiasts is that you should always try to book a dining reservation for breakfast in a theme park before it opens. Why? Because this means you get in before the general masses. You get the golden opportunity to wander through a practically empty Disney park. It’s magic at its finest. (Plus, if you eat quickly enough, you can make it over to the Adventureland rope and be first in line for Splash Mountain…but I didn’t tell you that.)

Empty Tomorrowland

Empty Tomorrowland

One of my favorite restaurants at which to snatch up one of these break-of-dawn reservations is Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom Theme park of Disney World. This is a character breakfast, so you get to share your noms with Pooh and the gang (usually Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet); it’s a buffet, so you pretty much dictate how long your breakfast lasts; and it’s HUGE, so you have a great chance of getting those elusive 8:05 AM time slots.

Nearly Empty Main Street

Nearly Empty Main Street

So with all that going for it, you’ve got to give it a try! And I didn’t even mention that many guests deem Crystal Palace eats to be some of the best buffet food at Disney, scout’s honor.

...And the Castle

...And the Castle

Getting Into the Park for Your Reservation
While it may seem like a red tape nightmare to get into the park an hour early, it’s usually pretty streamlined. Bring your dining reservation confirmation number with you to the park and show up about 20 minutes before your scheduled time. You’ll simply enter through the turnstyles marked for the Breakfast crowd (usually all the way to the right, but this can change); a Cast Member might check off your name and confirmation number, and then you’re free to explore Main Street in all its empty glory. This is why I suggest arriving 20 minutes early; you get to take all of those fascinating photos. Don’t forget to make your reservation for a day without extra magic hours in the morning!

By the way, if you’re staying at a Disney resort and taking the bus to the Magic Kingdom, a “breakfast bus” usually begins running at least 30 minutes before the first reservation in any park. The monorail also starts running far enough in advance as well.

Time for Breakfast!

Time for Breakfast!

Checking In for Your Reservation
The Crystal Palace can be found between Main Street USA and Adventureland — it’s the huge, glass domed building to the left of the walkway. Simply head up the steps (past the throngs of people, most likely — the Magic Kingdom may seem empty, but almost everyone who IS in the park is at the same restaurant) and jump into line to check in for your reservation.

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Once your party is called, you’ll head into the beautiful Crystal Palace restaurant and be greeted by…

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers...

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers...

…some very familiar friends! Not to mention an absolutely stunning, light-filled atrium made entirely of clear and stained glass. For all of Disney’s signature dining restaurants designed by award-winning interior artists, I find Crystal Palace’s atrium to be one of the most gorgeous design aspects on property.

The Beautiful Central Atrium

The Beautiful Central Atrium

A Buffet With Character!
Once you’re seated in one of the two side rooms (these are beautiful, too — paneled with mirrors and filled with plants) you’re free to head up to the buffet.

There are two sides to the buffet, and these are mirror images of one another. The two sides culminate at the customize-your-own-omelet station in the center of the semi-circular buffet.

The Buffet

The Buffet

Hot Items are Identical on Both Sides of the Buffet

Hot Items are Identical on Both Sides of the Buffet

The Buffet

The Buffet

On the far ends of the buffet lines are cold items: yogurts, granola and other toppings, fruit, salmon, breads, etc. In the center you’ll find hot items: breakfast pizzas, breakfast meats, waffles, the famous puffed french toast, breakfast potatoes, and omelets.

Cereals

Cereals

In the middle of the room you’ll find muffins, cereals, and Pooh’s famous breakfast lasagne.

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagne

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagne

Baked Items

Baked Items

The food is fairly similar to most of the other Disney breakfast buffets, which is actually quite good. Here are a few more close-up foods of some of our favorites. That Mickey Waffle might look familiar to some of you! It’s my avatar on Twitter!

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza

Mickey Waffles

Mickey Waffles

Puffed French Toast

Puffed French Toast

Pooh and Friends
Once you have your food, it might be time for the first Character Parade! Hopefully you haven’t forgotten that some of your favorite friends are here, and they can’t wait to have a great time with you (and/or your kids…they’re good to go either way).

Piglet Leading the Parade!

Piglet Leading the Parade!

While Character teams (Pooh and Piglet, and Tigger and Eeyore) take turns visiting tables on either side of the restaurant, some sort of Character Parade or Celebration occurs when it’s time for the teams to switch restaurant sides. This is when you should encourage your little ones to go find a character and follow along. Cast Members will be there to help move the parades forward.

There’s usually much singing and music; napkin “twirling” is a common activity during these functions. All in all, it’s a good time!

Eeyore Being Shy During the Parade

Eeyore Being Shy During the Parade

And then it’s back to signing autographs, taking photos, and making people smile for the characters (and back to eating for you!).

Tigger Signing Autographs...Sort Of...

Tigger Signing Autographs...Sort Of...

And then, if you’re lucky, you pay the bill when the park is just about to open. I couldn’t resist posting this photo of a family following Alice (in Wonderland) as she hurried to “unlock” Fantasyland and her TeaCups ride right at opening time!

Alice is Very, Very Late in Opening the TeaCups Ride!

Alice is Very, Very Late in Opening the TeaCups Ride!

So you can see why Crystal Palace is one of my favorites for breakfast, but don’t forget that you can dine here for lunch and dinner as well! Both of those meals are buffets as well, and offer great food (in my opinion).

Enjoy!

Tusker House Breakfast (or…Duck a l’Harambe)

I hadn’t had Tusker House breakfast in years. I had great memories of going to the little counter-service eatery right after the park opened, getting my breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, shredded potatoes, and a biscuit, and sitting out at one of the tables, lazily watching commando dads and exhausted kids taking “monster steps” toward the Kilimanjaro Safari queue line. Sigh. Those were lovely mornings.

The Duck of the Hour

The Duck of the Hour

No sooner had I developed a routine, however, when Disney pulled the rug out from under me and established Tusker House as a table-service buffet rather than my beloved counter-service stop. They moved the Duck Breakfast there, too–no longer dubbing it “Donald’s Breakfast-o-saurus,” as was it’s name when hosted by Dino-land’s Restaurant-o-saurus, but “Donald’s Safari Breakfast,” implying its new home next to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.

Tusker House Buffet Area

Tusker House Buffet Area

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love ducks as much as the next guy. And I love having breakfast with ducks…and mice, and dogs, and chipmunks, too. But I was a little perturbed that my slow, lazy, relaxing Tusker House breakfast was about to be turned into a typical loud, crazy, take-a-buzzer-and-hope-to-get-a-seat-within-an-hour character buffet meal.

Oatmeal and Mealie Pap

Oatmeal and Mealie Pap

Luckily, my first experience at Donald’s Safari Breakfast was a good one. We were seated after only about a 10 minute wait, and despite the hoarde of cheerleaders occupying an entire section of the restaurant, we were waited on quickly and efficiently and were doted upon by the characters twice during our hour in the restaurant.

Beef Bobotie, Veggie Quiche, Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole

Beef Bobotie, Veggie Quiche, Coconut Sweet Potato Casserole

The “complimentary” Jungle Juice was also a considerably successful attempt to brighten my experience (I LOVE that stuff!).

Jungle Juice

Jungle Juice

Tusker House is serving some fun, ethnic breakfast items along with the standards, and the massive size of the restaurant keeps the crowds from being unbearable. I think I’ll consider it a must-do character breakfast from here on out–alongside our favorite Crystal Palace!

Go! Enjoy! And say Hello to the duck for me!