I'd like to think I'm a bit of an expert on Disney (even though I'm probably not or else they would be paying me) because of the now four trips I have taken to Disney, three of which were in the past year. Sum total, I have spent close to $26,000 and counting. Yes, you read that right. $26,000 and counting. I have yet another trip scheduled and I'm still working on paying off my last Disney debt. I have spent at least 6 weeks on Disney property already which amounts to about a month and half out of the year. Fractionally speaking, that's about 1/11th of my whole year or 11.5% of my year at Disney. Some discount credit cards only offer 2% in cash or rewards. Some discounts offer 10% off and it's considered a "good deal". I have spent 11.5% of my year at Disney so far so I think I have a "good deal" of knowledge to share. To start, I've been considering my trip to Disney over Spring Break of 2015 with my kiddos.
We ate at numerous restaurants during our week-long tenure at Disney World and ate out on the Deluxe Dining Plan. At the time, I was unaware of how much things cost and whether I was getting a good deal or not. I have since become aware of my first-time Disney naivete and acquired much more Disney acumen since last Spring. However, my taste buds and preferences as well as that of my children, have not been overhauled or gone through any type of metamorphosis, so I've been sharing our list of the TOP 12 Disney Restaurants but in reverse order. This is our Worst-to-Best List, counting down to number one. Next on the list...
6th place: The Crystal Palace
Do you love Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and/or Piglet? Then this is the restaurant for you! You get to meet each of these soft, furry and lovable characters at The Crystal Palace. It's white, airy, glass-laden and it is always serving plentiful buffets to the two sides of the restaurant. It's enclosed in a dome like structure at the end of Main Street U.S.A. but facing Cinderella's Castle. Our overall family score average for The Crystal Palace is 88%. Individually, I rated The Crystal Palace 92%, my son gave it 94% and the daughter scored it at 80%. The question as to "why" is answered in five bullet points next to and below the pictures of our experience at the restaurant.
- 1. Our reservation was for 8:50 pm. We didn't actually get in until after 9:00 pm and at the same time, the fireworks shows and nighttime extravaganzas were happening right in front of our eyes. In fact, we were reluctant to go in because we thought we would miss the shows over the castle. Fact is, you can sort of see the fireworks shows through the large windowed front of the restaurant. However, with that much glass and the interior illumination, the lights cast a reflection on the glass. There is also a rather substantial glare while sitting on the inside of the restaurant. Therefore, Gustavo, our attentive and observant server, suggested we go back outside on the balcony to view the nighttime shows and simply come back in when we were ready. We asked if we would miss the characters (because Crystal Palace is character dining with Pooh and Friends!) but he said, "No, because they will all come around again." My only other concern was missing the meal but Gustavo informed us that, "It's an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet" and it's constantly being "reloaded with new food" so we would be fine to watch the show only that if we were hungry we might want to get started. Well, we were hungry but we didn't want to miss the show, so out onto the balcony we went.
- When we did come back in to The Crystal Palace, it was already around 9:30 pm and honestly with the kids, that is far too late to be eating dinner. Since this was our first "Stay-at-Disney" experience, there was plenty of "noobish" behavior, plans, lack of plans, reservations, timing, fast-passes for rides that nobody needs a fast pass for and more. Honestly, the list of rookie moves I made on my first trip to Disney with the kiddos is outstanding. Eating at the Crystal Palace at 9:30 pm is my fault. I am that noob Mom that made those plans. I hadn't put in any pre-planning probably because I wasn't aware that I needed to pre-plan. When we finally got to eat, we were famished! Naturally, that is when the characters started arriving.
- Every few minutes we would stand up, stop eating, and attempt to take the many pictures you see posted here. Frankly, it was annoying but completely my fault for making such a late night reservation. We overdid it every single day of our vacation and this day and night were no exception. The thing is though, the characters cannot speak. I didn't know that. Since this was our first character dining experience ever (we had reservations for The Crystal Palace on the first night of our trip) and I didn't get any photos of myself with the characters because a.) the characters don't speak to tell nooby moms like myself that they should get a picture of themselves taken too and b.) the characters can't take pictures because of their furry mitts! After this experience, I will wise up a little bit and start including myself in the photos as well as taking pictures of the receipts because, well, that is interesting to me. I also will take pictures of the food at other restaurants but here you're just going to have to "take my word" (literally) for it.
- The food was very good in my opinion and I especially love having variety in my life. My food life can be very boring especially since I have a milk allergy as well as dairy, gluten, egg and soy intolerances. I have numerous Pinterest boards dedicated exclusively to gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo eating. The wonderful news about Disney, is that there is a special request section under Disney Dining Reservations that enables you to alert the restaurant to your special dining concerns. This is, quite honestly, a "godsend" for me. I have come to love buffets since I can create my own novel and varied plates for consumption. I also learned at The Crystal Palace and beyond at other restaurants, that a Disney Chef of the restaurant will personally come out to your table, discuss your concerns and even give you a tour of the buffet bar telling you precisely what you can and cannot have. It is the most wondrous thing to have the Chef greet you and personally give you a tour of the food. I was most impressed with this "Disney Detail" in particular.
- My son was also a big fan of the buffet food from The Crystal Palace since he gave it the highest score of the night and 94%. My daughter, however, gave it a rather low score of 80% owing mostly to the time of night and not necessarily to the taste. Have you ever gotten to that point where you were hungry, then starving and then suddenly, not hungry anymore? I am fairly certain that is where my daughter ended up eating at 9:40 at night: "not-hungry-anymore land". I don't think that even if the food was 10/10 stars or cooked by a Michelin chef, that my daughter would have given The Crystal Palace a higher score. It was just too late to eat dinner. Again, that's my fault and not Disney's. Lesson learned.
In the final analysis of 14 total table service restaurants visited during the Spring Break 2015 trip, the one-credit Crystal Palace ranks on the higher side of our dining experiences and ought to be considered by you if you love Pooh and Friends, the color white and buffets. At the Crystal Palace, you'll get all three.