In the pantheon of character meals at Walt Disney World, there’s only one where you can dine with big, fluffy friends straight out of the Hundred Acre Wood — and in a classic Magic Kingdom location: Crystal Palace!
Truth be told, we’ve had a bit of a roller coaster relationship with Crystal Palace over the years. Some visits have been good (like this lunch four years ago and like breakfast here back when you could get into the nearly-empty park!), and one was particularly awful (dinner at the end of the night = icky buffet remnants…I didn’t even do a post about it).
But the opportunity to dine with Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and Tigger is pretty much a Disney World rite of passage and something that every Disney fan should do at least once. And dining in the Crystal Palace — a gorgeous building that’s been a mainstay since Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 — is a lovely experience.
But what about the food — arguably the most important aspect of any restaurant? It’s standard, but acceptable on most visits, with breakfast having, perhaps, the most interesting options with Pooh’s Breakfast Lasagna and Puffed French Toast being crowd favorites. And so I returned recently, for lunch this time, to see how things are going.
Crystal Palace is unmistakable in the landscape of Magic Kingdom. This ornate building shouts Victorian Era, with multiple layers of design details. The iconic two-level dome is made of glass and lets in dramatic bright light on a sunny day and creates an open feeling in the dining room no matter the weather outside.
Inside, stained glass windows add pops of color to the mostly-white decor, and guests are always greeted by this banner welcoming them to the perpetual “Friendship Day Celebrashun”!
The characters here aren’t just the animated, fluffy kind. Guests are also treated to these character topiaries, which are cheerful and colorful (and seasonally dressed when applicable).
Brass light fixtures and elaborate floral displays add tons of charm in the dining room, where large windows line the walls, letting in even more light.
Tables are set simply, with cloth napkins and silverware. Chairs emphasize the garden feel with wrought iron.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about the plastic straw situation here: they’ll provide them if you ask, or you can pack in your own (super cute pink!) reusable straws.
Of course, the decor and atmosphere are only part of why guests come to Crystal Palace. Bring on the characters!
The characters at Crystal Palace are special friends — direct from the Hundred Acre Wood! Winnie the Pooh is here with his beautiful golden fur and his customary red shirt.
He’s true to every Pooh Bear stuffy you’ve ever seen, and aside from being able to move, you might think it’s just a big stuffed bear. 🙂
Okay, now, it’s not a Hundred Acre party unless Tigger the wonderful thing is there! And he is, indeed, a fun and energetic party animal!
He’s so fun that, in fact, it can be hard to catch him standing still!
But he’s so much fun, you can’t help but smile.
Piglet is here, being coy and sweet. He’s fabulous in several shades of pink.
So cute. And by the way, don’t be afraid to ask the characters to pose solo if you’re not into posing or if you’d like a picture for your album or autograph book! They’re happy to oblige!
Last up here is Eeyore, that somber little donkey. He (and all the characters) move through the dining room throughout the meal, and even lead special Friendship Day Celebrashun parades! So even if you’ve met them already, you’ll still get to see them meandering and join in the fun.
Eeyore has a cute expression and plays his part well.
Here he’s saying it’s all right — go get some lunch. 😉
Crystal Palace serves up a large buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And for those adults looking for a glass of something grown up to drink, Crystal Palace offers a small menu of beer, wine, cocktails, and cider.
The buffet is anchored by this large domed central station where diners find the carving station. The buffet extends to the left and right of center, with the same offerings on each side.
The buffet includes loads of options in addition to the meats on the carving station, including salads galore, side dishes, and plenty of desserts.
There’s even a section called Pooh’s Corner, which is the children’s buffet.
Included here are picky eater favorites like Mac and Cheese and Chicken Nuggets, along with Steamed Corn and Peas and Chicken Drums.
If you’re looking to carb-load, don’t miss the bread station with Kaiser, Spitzweck, Sesame, and Sunflower Rolls, Garlic Parker House Rolls, and Whipped Butter.
Salads include the basics — Caesar Salad and Crisp Mixed Greens with Dressing — and a slew of others.
Cold salads continue with Roasted Beet Salad, Mixed Fruit Salad, and Roasted Potato Salad. Also on this station are simple baby Carrots and Apple Slices and some Peel-n-Eat Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce.
Other creative salad options include Edamame Salad, Mediterranean Pasta Salad, Moroccan Couscous Salad, Greek-style Tomato Salad, and Cucumber and Red Onion Salads.
With so many fresh and creative salads, it’s actually pretty easy to eat healthfully at Crystal Palace, which is not to say you have to — just that you can. 😉
Diners can also have a bowl of soup. On my visit it was Tomato-Basil. At the soup station are condiments like Ketchup and BBQ Sauce.
The centerpiece of the restaurant is the domed carving station, and the day I visited, there were two meats on the buffet: Roasted Striploin of Beef and Roast Peach BBQ Glazed Pork.
There’s also “Hunny” Soy Glazed Verlasso Salmon and Beer Battered Pollock for those who prefer to add some fish to their meal.
To accompany the meats and fish (or just because they’re tasty on their own!), there are several sides available to round out the meal. There are also two other meat options. Steamed Rice with Vegetables and Herbs waits alongside Banger Sausage with Collard Greens, Oak-Grilled Rotisserie Chicken, and “Hunny”-Glazed Carrots.
The variety of food on the buffet is super apparent at this station: Jambalaya with Andouille Sausage and Shrimp, Parmesan Pierogi, “Rabbit”touille, and Vegan Pesto Pasta. Talk about a world tour on a plate! And FYI – this was also my hands-down FAVORITE section — nearly everything here was delicious, especially the vegan pesto pasta! Yummmm.
Finally, some classics are available, like Homestyle Mashed Potatoes, Cauliflower and Broccoli, and Green Beans with Onion. Fire-roasted Corn Spoon Bread is a fun addition, too!
A meal with this many possible components has to conclude with lots of sweet desserts — and Crystal Palace has plenty to offer! I loved that most of them were themed to the characters! Peaches n Cream Panna Cotta, S’mores Tarts, “Hunny” Mousse Tarts, Gloomy Blueberry Mousse Dome Cakes, Pink and Red Velvet Cupcakes, Rabbit’s Garden Chocolate Pudding, and Chocolate Chip Cookies offer something for just about everyone.
The Peaches n Cream Panna Cotta is sugar-free.
The S’mores Tart is toasty and full of chocolate with a graham cracker tart shell.
Rabbit’s Garden Chocolate Pudding is cleverly covered in crushed chocolate cookies to look like a plot of land.
The Pink and Red Velvet Cupcakes are a simple option maybe suitable for some picky eaters, and we love the Piglet-inspired colors!
But honestly, the cuteness award goes to the “Hunny” Mousse Pots!
Chocolate tart shells are filled with a honey-flavored mousse. Some are even topped with a sugar honey bee, which just makes sweet, sweet sense. 😉
The Gloomy Blueberry Mousse Dome Cake is a pretty ode to Eeyore and his ever-gloomy mood.
Crystal Palace wins some points for these next dessert options, which are delicious. Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding and Fresh Baked Brownies packed with Caramel and Toffee Pieces!
These brownies with caramel and toffee threw me for a loop. My first one was so delicious that I literally went and got three more to do a little photo shoot with. But those three weren’t nearly as delicious as the first. Just goes to show that it’s the luck of the draw at buffets like this, and even if your best friend Janet loved it…well, you might just be getting the second pan of brownies on your visit.
And if you’re in the mood for something chilly, you’ll find a soft serve ice cream machine with vanilla, chocolate, and twist.
The dessert spread is irresistible, truly. Each of the individual desserts is small — maybe three or four bites if you’re careful — so trying a bunch is doable… unless you filled up at the buffet before. (On second thought, it might be worth it to start with dessert first. Just thinkin’ out loud!)
And because that soft serve machine is self-serve, you can get a little creative. (Here’s that photo shoot I mentioned!)
Even better? Do a little bread pudding and a little brownie with a lot of vanilla soft serve. 😉 (This was the first brownie and the super good one…why were they so different? Who can say.)
This buffet at Crystal Palace is really extensive, and because of that, this is a good spot to come with a group of diverse eaters. Those who want to spread their culinary wings can find a few interesting bites, and those who prefer the old standards can find those, too! And rest assured adults are free to eat from Pooh’s Corner if they prefer the simpler children’s fare.
Nosh or Not?
Head to the 100 Acre Wood if:
- You want to enjoy a character meal at the Magic Kingdom but Cinderella’s Royal Table isn’t your style (or price tag).
- Your crew has some picky and adventurous eaters — and you aim to please them all.
- Winnie the Pooh and his pals are your favorites!
Head elsewhere if:
- A buffet is really too much food for your crew, and you prefer not to waste money or food.
- Table service isn’t your speed; you’re a quick service kind of guest.
- Winnie the Pooh and his pals are not must-meet characters (or you’ve got a little one who doesn’t do big masked characters).
Crystal Palace is good, I’ll just say it. As with most Disney buffets, the food isn’t world class, but it is decent. And with so many options, it’s a safe bet for your traveling group. Plus if you’re in the mood for a character meal with familiar figures from your childhood, these four might just fit the bill.
Note that due to the size of this restaurant, seeing all four characters might take some time. I was there for about an hour and just barely saw all of them. So be prepared for a slow-moving meal from time to time if seeing all four characters is a must for you.
Not sure if Crystal Palace is meant for you? Check out this DFB YouTube video where we compare and contrast Crystal Palace and nearby Chef Mickey’s!
Have you tried Crystal Palace? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!