Now that I have a preschooler, we're really big into Pooh Bear and his friends (they're right up there with Elsa and Anna in my daughter's eyes), so I wanted to make sure that we did a meet and greet with them while she was still in her full-on Pooh Bear phase.
If you've ever been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you know that character meet and greets are serious business. Many characters only do meets at certain places in certain parks at particular times, so, if you're hoping to get some pictures with your favorite characters, it's worth it to do some research beforehand. If you, like my daughter, love Pooh Bear, you have two options to meet him: wait in (a very long) line with dozens and dozens of other squirmy preschoolers over in the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom, or you can book a meal at the Crystal Palace.
We've done both multiple times, and I'm here to tell you that the Crystal Palace experience is light years ahead of roasting in the sun while your 3-year-old asks you, "When is it my turn?" for the 15th time in 12 minutes. I don't think that we'd pay for the experience every time we go to the Magic Kingdom since there is that free meet-and-greet option available elsewhere in the park, but it's a great way to get some more personal time with the gang from the Hundred Acre Woods while getting some delicious food at the same time.
Here's what I thought about our character dining breakfast with Pooh and friends at the Crystal Palace!
Reservation ProcessMaking the reservations both times was easy. I went to the Walt Disney World website, did a search for character dining, and located the Crystal Palace. You can then choose a specific time you'd like to make a reservation or, if you're more flexible, you can search for any available time during your preferred meal (Crystal Palace serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
Once you find a time that you want, click on it, and you'll be prompted to enter the names and ages of the people dining with you. Kids 3-11 eat at a reduced price, while kids under 3 eat for free.
Finally, you'll need to enter a credit card to hold your reservation. Your card isn't automatically charged, and you can pay for the meal with any card (or cash) once your meal is complete. The card is held in case you decide to be a no-show; in that case, your card will be charged $10 per person. You can cancel at no charge more than 24 hours in advance.
Character Meet and GreetWe've been to breakfast with Pooh and friends twice now, and I have been happy with the pacing and time of the character meets at both.
There are 4 characters at every meal: Pooh Bear, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger. As far as I know, this is the only place in the entire Walt Disney World property where you can meet Piglet and Eeyore, so this is a must-do if you love either. As I mentioned before, you can meet Pooh Bear and Tigger elsewhere in Magic Kingdom, but the experience here is far more relaxed (not to mention air conditioned!).
If this will be your little one's first experience with meeting fur characters, be prepared: all of the characters (including Piglet) are tall. For a preschooler used to seeing Pooh and friends on the television, this might come as an intimidating surprise. Luckily, the characters walk around waving at guests even when they're not actively greeting, so your little one will have a chance to observe before fully committing to a meet and greet. The characters are also fantastic at interacting as much or as little as you are comfortable: if your child wants a hug, they'll give them a big one, but if your child would rather just wave shyly from the table, they will be happy to blow kisses from a distance.
Seating LocationDuring our first visit, my mom, daughter, and I sat in the room to the right of the main entrance.We were about halfway through the meeting cycle at our table, so we had plenty of time to prepare our cameras before the characters stopped by our table.
During the second visit, my mom, dad, daughter, and I were placed next to the windows to the left of the main entrance. This was near the end of their meeting cycle, so I expected them to rush through us before their break, but they managed to stick around as long as we liked.
|My mom and Britton wait for the characters to stop by our table!|
FoodGiven that it is a buffet, the food here is actually pretty good! Breakfast is definitely the best value at $34 per adult (compared to $50+ for lunch or dinner); that's still way more than you'd pay for anything at IHOP, but it's not bad for Disney prices at an all-you-can-eat buffet. (For comparison, the all-you-can-eat breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table is between $45 and $65 per adult.)
There are traditional breakfast favorites like the famed Mickey waffles, tater tots, bacon, and eggs, and there are some not-so-traditional items like pasta salad. We loved the pastries and omelette station, too.
There's a very wide range of items, so it's likely that everyone in your party will find something to eat among the offerings. Even my mom, who is notoriously choosy about what she eats, loved the selection so much that she asked to come back when we were all there the second time.
What to Know before You Go
- If you want to get the less expensive breakfast, but you're interested in sampling lunch, too, make the last reservation for breakfast (usually around 10:45 a.m.). The kitchen will start to change over the trays from breakfast to lunch around 11 a.m. when the next round of guests start pouring in to eat, and you'll get to try both menus. This isn't exactly encouraged since lunch is more expensive than breakfast, but no one was stopping any of the guests from doing it, either.
- Having a later breakfast is a great cost-saving option if you must eat with the characters. Grab a cereal bar and fruit at your hotel room, then head into the parks for a late breakfast. Having a big buffet brunch will usually fill you up for most of the day, so you could get away with only eating 2 meals in the park that day (your character buffet and a smaller snack/meal later in the afternoon).
- Don't leave before you've seen all of the characters! There is sometimes a lull in the character meet and greets depending on their scheduled breaks, but they will all make the rounds (a full round of each dining area takes upwards of 30 minutes). If you haven't seen one of the characters, just ask one of the servers; they can relay that to the missing characters' handlers, and you will usually be the first in line when the characters come back from break.
- Take part in the Friendship Day Parade. This adorable march happens about every 30 minutes or so and all of the children in the restaurant are invited to participate. Pooh leads the kids around and around the tables while music plays and everyone else claps along. If your child is one of the first in line, Pooh Bear might even hold his or her hand. Britton got to help led the parade the first time we went, and that's all she could talk about for days afterwards.
Final ThoughtsClearly, we enjoyed our time at the Pooh Bear breakfast since we signed up for a return trip to Crystal Palace only a few months later!
By everyday standards, it's a pretty expensive breakfast, but, by Disney standards, the breakfast option is much less expensive that similar character dining experiences. I would recommend it to anyone who had already planned on doing the Pooh Bear meet and greet, but wants a more relaxed environment (and some yummy food as an added bonus).
Twice in a year was more than enough for the adults, but my daughter would go back every time we visited Walt Disney World if we would let her.
Have you done any character dining at Walt Disney World or Disneyland? What did you think?
Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!