*DIS Contributors review meals, resort stays, and entertainment that they have paid for during their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and offers if they are available to the general public, such as annual passholder discounts, Tables in Wonderland, or DVC membership discounts. They receive no additional compensation for dining experiences or events, so that they may give their honest opinions about price and value.
This is a review of six different character meals done over an eight night, nine day vacation at Walt Disney World during August 2019. For the full seven days we were there, our party of six, including myself, my wife, our six and one year old daughters, and our four year old son, braved a collection of buffets, along with my mother, to see as many characters as we could. These reviews were done with the Disney Dining Plan, and the only out of pocket expenses were tips.
The scores given in these reviews will be in context of each other and not comparing them to other restaurants on property. The scores are out of 10, and anything less than a 5 will signal that there was a negative experience.
So, why so many character meals? First, it's a fantastic way to maximize the value of the Disney Dining Plan. Second, it gets you and the family out of the heat and into some air conditioning. Third, after seeing all the different characters at the meals, you don't need to wait in line to see them in the parks. When you're shepherding around three small kids, these meals are great at keeping them occupied at the table and allow you to relax for a short while before getting back to touring the park.
The Crystal Palace
Location: Magic Kingdom
Characters: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore
Cost: $59.99 per adult, $34.99 per child
Total Cost: $249.95 | Disney Dining Plan Cost per day: $282.43
The Location and Theming
The Crystal Palace is a beautiful location right along the hub near the entrance of Adventureland. There is a waiting area with plenty of seating on the porch outside of the restaurant with a great view of the castle. The reception area to register your reservation is small and tucked around a corner to the left of the front door, so it may be hard to find right away. Typically, this restaurant is easier to book than some of the other restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. We were able to change our times via the My Disney Experience app weeks prior to the trip and had additional options the day of if we wanted to switch.
The restaurant is split into two sections that are identical in decor and have equal access to the buffet, though the section on the left is closer to the bathrooms. There is ample room to maneuver inside the restaurant, giving your kids plenty of space to take pictures with the characters. The buffet is centrally located within the restaurant.
The visuals and theming inside are nice and charming. There isn't anything that takes away from the architecture of the glass and arches. The rugs could use some updating, perhaps.
Score: 7 / 10
This is a buffet style meal, so it's all self serve. Beer and wine are served and are part of the Disney Dining Plan now. Kids get a selection of mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets while adults have a variety of options from ranging from corn bread and salads to shrimp, pork, and chicken dishes, as well as a variety of vegetables, rice, and fruit for vegetarians. Instead of going into the specifics of what was available, since that may change with time, the food ratings will be based on freshness and variety.
Regarding freshness, the food all tasted like it was cooked recently and had not been sitting there for any long length of time. We arrived in the middle of the evening, so this is to be expected. Cooks could be seen refreshing dishes and replacing older ones throughout our stay.
The variety of the different kinds of dishes, along with how appetizing they appeared to be, was good. There was inevitably something there for everyone no matter what your particular tastes may be. The vegetarian in the family was content and happy with the offerings.
Dessert was a collection of different baked goods that you can find showcased at any dessert party that you see advertised, along with an ice cream machine.
Ultimately, as you will find out with the other reviews in this series, if you're looking for a higher quality of food, you won't find it here. There are better buffets and higher quality food at other character meals. The food was average.
Score: 6 / 10
The main reason you spend all the money or book this restaurant is for the character interaction, and the characters at The Crystal Palace are top notch. They take their time at each table, which allows for ample pictures, and they interact with your kids in a myriad of cute and adorable ways. This might be the only location at which guests are able to meet Piglet and Eeyore, and you can meet Winnie the Pooh here without having to wait on line to meet him in Fantasyland.
At some point in the middle of your dinner, the characters will call out for a parade and all of the young ones follow the characters around the restaurant in a big loop as they dance around the dining room.
I can't say enough about the characters in this location. Each one took their time to not only have fun with the 6 and 4 year olds, but also spent time with the 1.5 year old in the high chair.
Score 8 / 10
Rating a restaurant on service is difficult when you're going just once, and it's a buffet (so there isn't any order taking or delivery of food). From a ratings point of view, I'm looking for friendliness and execution of keeping the table clean and bringing drinks for the table. Service for us that night was excellent. The server was attentive, quick, and happy to assist us in any way. There was never a time when someone's drink was empty, and we were never left waiting for our adult beverage drink order. For context, this experience matched our previous experience when we were last there in 2017 .
Score 7 / 10
Value for Your Money
We were on the Disney Dining Plan, and, any time you're doing a character meal, you're really getting your money's worth. For our party, the Disney Dining Plan is $282 a day, which includes the table service credit, quick service credit, and two snacks. The cost of this meal is only $40 shy of matching the per day cost of the dining plan. That is high value for your money.
Personally, if you're not on the dining plan, I find it difficult to justify the cost of this meal unless you're a super fan of the characters at The Crystal Palace. If you're coming to Walt Disney World and have money set aside for a character meal, then there are much better options when it comes to food. Restaurants like Tusker House in Disney's Animal Kingdom and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot have much better food for a similar price point. Also, remember that breakfasts and lunches may be less expensive options if you want to dine at The Crystal Palace.
For context, anything below a 5 would mean that I would have felt cheated for eating at that restaurant.
Score 7 / 10
The overall experience of The Crystal Palace is a fun character meal with better than average food in a key location within the Magic Kingdom. While the price point may be high, the only other character meal in the park is even more expensive. The charming interior and fantastic wait staff create an inviting experience for the whole family to enjoy, especially if you're looking for a beer or glass of wine at the end of a long day.
7 / 10 The Location and Theming
6 / 10 The Food
8 / 10 The Characters
7 / 10 Service
7 / 10 Value for Your Money
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