Crystal Palace Breakfast: Starting Your Magic Kingdom Day Off Right

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When following a Touring Plan, we recommend arriving at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom 50-70 minutes before park opening. Most of us have probably done this a number of times, maybe even every day per trip. If you’re willing to take a break from commando style touring at the start of your day (heresy, right?), I’d recommend booking breakfast Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for the Crystal Palace. Here’s why:

Get Great Family Photos On An Empty Main Street: PhotoPass photographers are typically out early, so this makes a great time to get great family shots with no one else in the frame. Must get photos: your party running (err, briskly walking) up an empty Main Street, your party around the Partners statue, and your party directly in front of Cinderella Castle. This is a rare opportunity, so get as many shots as you possibly can!

Meet Characters Without Spending Valuable Attraction Time On Meet & Greets: At the Crystal Palace, you can meet Piglet, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger. This is a great opportunity to meet the characters as they come to your table, rather than you having to wait in a long line in the sun later in the day. If you’ll be meeting these characters at some point, anyway, an early morning ADR can definitely save you time touring. The characters, with rare exception, make their rounds fairly quickly here, so you can typically have decent quality time with all characters within 45 minutes. Just don’t get up to head to the buffet when a character is almost to your table, otherwise you’ll have to wait for that character to complete another full loop of the restaurant before you see them again.

Enjoy A Hearty Breakfast At A Magic Kingdom Staple: The Crystal Palace is a Magic Kingdom staple, a 1971 classic that has existed since the park’s opening. Its victorian architecture is gorgeous, and the inside of the restaurant well maintained, with beautiful Pooh topiaries in the entrance-way. Oh yeah, and the food. The food is pretty good for a breakfast buffet. Offering everything from breakfast pizza to those famous Mickey waffles, there’s certainly something here for everyone!

Enter The Park An Hour Before Park Opening: If your family eats quickly, you might just be able to finish breakfast before rope drop, and still make it out to the park as the rest of the commando-tourers begin pouring through the turnstiles. In this case, you have a definite leg-up on the “competition,” as you’ve already had breakfast and met some characters. (While many seasoned vets will eat breakfast in their hotel rooms, it’s very unlikely that they’ll meet characters in their room!)

Tips For Early Advance Dining Reservations: While this post recommends Crystal Palace as it’s my personal favorite choice for early morning ADRs, restaurants in all four park offer pre-park opening ADRs! In the Magic Kingdom there is also the (incredibly overpriced) Cinderella’s Royal Table, featuring Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, and Belle. Epcot dining makes a good alternative to Cinderella’s Royal Table, where Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, featuring assorted princesses, offers early ADRs. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House Restaurant offers early ADRs, and includes the following characters in safari attire: Mickey Mouse, Daisy Duck, Donald Duck, Goofy. Finally, Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios features Leo, June, Handy Manny, and Agent Oso.

The most important tip is to book these reservations at or as close to 180 days out as possible. The earliest time slots go incredibly quickly, and if you wait until 160 days out to book, you’ll likely end up with 8:30 am reservations, at best. Which brings us to the next tip…

Book the absolute earliest ADR, which is 8:05 am at the Magic Kingdom restaurants and 8 am everywhere else. This gives you as much possible time to dine before the park opens officially, and hopefully gives you a fairly strong chance of being out of the restaurant before 9 am.

Crystal Palace: A Buffet With Character

Disney transportation will be available to take you to the park this early, but strongly consider using a rental car or take a taxi. Disney transportation is just too hit-and-miss to trust with something so vital. You laugh now at me calling this “vital,” but just wait until you’re tapping your foot at a bus stop, wondering why 7 Animal Kingdom buses have stopped, despite no one heading to AK, in the same 30 minute span that 0 Magic Kingdom buses have stopped, as your stomach growls and your children begin to tire of the heat and humidity. If you don’t have a rental car, the $20-30 cost of a taxi is negligible when considering the peace of mind and preservation of sanity it will bring.

Finally, show up to the advance dining turnstiles before your ADR, and enter as early as they will let you, but don’t check-in to your restaurant until you’re ready to eat. This is especially true if you want to take some photos of your family in the empty park, because you’ll want to give yourself time to take these photos. Typically, Cast Members won’t let you idle on Main Street for too long, so make sure your camera is set up and ready to go in advance, because you don’t want to fumble with the settings when it’s time to take the photo. Plus, once you’ve checked into the restaurant, that’s it. They can call your name at any time, and typically will skip over your party (costing you your reservation, not just your place in line) if you ran off to grab more photos.

Once you’re done snapping some great early morning photos, check-in to the podium, wait for your name to be called, go inside and consume your tasty rewards!

Have you ever done an Early Morning ADR? At which restaurant? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Posted on June 3, 2011

34 Responses to “Crystal Palace Breakfast: Starting Your Magic Kingdom Day Off Right”

  • by Robin Worthington on June 3, 2011, at 8:41 am EDT

    We always do a crystal palace breakfast day- although, we’ve had 7:30am ADR’s. We went in Dec of 08 and our ADR was for 7:30. We had to wait with 15 people for them to let us in. We got those deserted main street pictures and it was awesome. We were leaving the restuarant as they were doing the rope drop. We had a good 5-10 minute lead to splash and thunder mountain. We were able to ride both within 5 minutes. It was awesome!

    • Did the park open at 8 am that day? It’s my understanding that the earliest any of these restaurants open is 1 hour before the park opens. Typically, the park opens at 9 am, but there are some 8 am openings during busier seasons. Was that the case?

  • We always make the earliest ADR possible at Crystal Palace on an MK day and Tusker House on an AK day. We love taking pictures in the park when it’s empty and being in the park at rope drop. At AK, we hop on over after breakfast and are usually among the first on Kilimanjaro Safari!

    • Are there PhotoPass Cast Members out at AK prior to park opening? Do they escort you to Tusker House? Either way, some empty park photos would be nice!

  • A 1st-in-the-morning ADR at Hollywood & Vine is a great way to bypass the TSM fastpass stampede. We had an 8 am ADR, were out of the restaurant by 8:45, and were allowed to congregate in an area separate from the main rope drop. When the cast member keeping us at bay dropped his imaginary rope, we were able to walk briskly to join the main crowd right at the head of the pack.

    Another benefit of the early morning ADR was that we were the 1st family of the day at Hollywood & Vine, which, unbeknown to us, provided us with a special welcoming from all of the characters, a special certificate, and Oso (my son’s favorite Disney Jr. character) escorted him to our table. It was a great experience.

    • Never thought of beating the TSM-rush this way. Admittedly, Hollywood & Vine isn’t that appealing with its current characters for me (as a child of the 90s when these characters didn’t exist!), but it still might be worth a shot.

  • by Kevin Mueller on June 3, 2011, at 8:55 am EDT

    Great tip, we just had our 180 days on Tuesday with the Deluxe Dining and booked 4 of the 5 (skipped Hollywood & Vine) breakfasts in the parks all at 8:10 or before. I can’t wait for the pictures that we will get and hopefully getting to a few attractions before anyone else!

  • Thanks so much for the tip! While we are pretty seasoned Disney people, we never thought to get an early breakfast ADR. I just popped over and made reservations for 8:20 at Crystal Palace (not ideal, but still okay) and our trip is only 3 weeks away. Sweet!

  • by Amy from KC on June 3, 2011, at 9:27 am EDT

    I have a family that likes to linger at character meals, easily spending an hour and a half – two hours no matter how much I try to nudge them along. I have always dreamed of getting in to Crystal Palace first thing in the am, getting great Main Street pics, and then being in place for rope drop. Unfortunately, my only hopes of acutally accomplishing this are if I go by myself. I deal with this by scheduling our Crystal Palace ADRs (and last trip Hollywood & Vine)for late lunch, when the park crowds swell. That way, we do rope drop and get a good start on our touring plan. We have a young child, so we still take the afternoon break. We eat lunch, use a fastpass or two, maybe shop a little on the way out of the park, then head back to our resort for a break. We also utilize this strategy for lunch at Epcot. It’s a great way to skip the swelling crowds in the parks. No great deserted park pics, though, there’s the rub! Maybe someday…

    As always, great article and pictures, Tom!

    • Two hours!? With the exception of 5 course and above meals, I am far too impatient to sit at a restaurant at WDW that long. I enjoy slowing things down and soak it in, but that’s just excessive!

      At least you make the best of it!

    • This is exactly us – I am glad we are not alone!

  • by Dawn Streicher on June 3, 2011, at 9:35 am EDT

    Awesome advice! I’d heard the Crystal Palace one and we did that one, but hadn’t thought about DHS! I just made my reservation! Thank you!!!

  • This past Feb, I made an ADR at Tusker House the night before! :) Grant it, it was just my wife and I during the value season. She mused at how fun it would be to eat breakfast with Mickey, so I snuck and made the reservation on my iPhone after she went to sleep. Our ADR was at park opening time, but that didn’t hinder us from seeing and doing everything we wanted, especially with EMH.

    • That’s awesome. I *think* the only really hard to book ones are the two in the MK. That, or you got really lucky and someone canceled right before you looked!

  • CP is one of my absolute favs for Disney dining. I’m not a character fan, but the atmosphere and food make it worth it. Plus, you can’t beat the location!

    I also agree that getting an early morning ADR, before park opening, is fantastic. I had a 8:10 ADR at CP last trip, and was done and waiting for the Tomorrowland “rope drop” before anyone else! And of course the great picture opportunities.

    I’ve never had a problem with Disney transportation — the trick is to give yourself PLENTY of time (at least 45 mins) to get to the park. Also, ask the hotel front desk when the buses start to run and try to be on the first bus. My experience is that the buses are very punctual in the AM, but then get out of sequence or something as the day goes on.

    • We’ve had…I’ll call them…”minor hiccups” with Disney transportation. Nothing that a taxi ride couldn’t fix. I just felt we shouldn’t have been in a situation that we had to take the taxi in the first place. These were cases when we would have to (or did!) wait for the bus for 45 minutes. Add the actual time of transportation, and it’s the whole ordeal of room-to-park is over an hour via Disney transportation. That’s just too long, in my book.

      Usually, it’s 30-45 minutes, room-to-park. That’s palatable, but once it creeps over an hour, no thanks.

  • Booking a 9:30am keys to the kingdom tour will also get those empty main street photos. Also, you will have at least twenty minutes at your leisure before they let everyone else in at 9am. If your really cheap, just tell them you have a keys tour and enjoy an empty main street for free! (not recommended, of course:)
    love the pictures and articles, Tom

  • @ Paul (or anyone who knows) – how early will they let you in the Park if you have 9:30 reservations for the Tour?

    • Emily,

      we arrived at 8:45 and they let us in with those arriving for breakfast. They don’t ask for your name or reservation, so i imagine you could probably enter as soon as they let the earliest diners in.

  • On our first trip to WDW, my family scored reservations at Cinderella’s Table and Crystal Palace for their first seating. This satisfied my daughter’s need for everything Princess, while my son and husband enjoyed Pooh and friends. We arrived early, and relished the quiet, empty Main Street. We have fabulous photos of my daughter fully attired in her Princess finest, framed by the Cinderella Castle, an empty Main street and the fabulous Disney Christmas decor–absolutely priceless!! To top it off, my daughter was selected as Princess of Day at the Cinderella’s Royal Table, and was heralded in before all the other patrons for an extended meet with Cinderella and presented with a large sticker declaring her new found Royal title. She then (with a cast member) started the procession up the stairs for the first meal of the day. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to our vacation. Better yet, we meet all the Princesses and were able to catch up with the Fairy Godmother, all before any crowds entered the park. The meal was run with such efficiency, we were first on Dumbo, road the Carousel and saw Ariel in her grotto all before my husband and son finished breakfast. Not to worry though even they beat the crowds!

  • Love this post! It’s always a blast to be in any park before the masses. Get some great pictures before you’re all hot and sweaty. Thanks for all you guys do and love your site!

  • Another spot-on tip, Tom! Just this past Thursday I had mentioned how breakfast at Crystal Palace is one of the few must-do table service restaurants on my family’s trips to WDW. Empty park, Pooh & friends, and those puffed French Toast nuggets, what’s not to like? While I agree Cinderella’s Castle is pricey (and definitely not where we eat each trip), I view most of it as the cost of a Princess meet-and-greet (quick tip: the Cinderella photo can be added to a PhotoPass CD).

  • This comes at a great time as I changed our dinner reservations at CP for an 8:20 breakfast on a 9 am opening time. This will be a first time to enter early in any park so the tips will be very helpful. Didn’t think about the Friends statue pic that morning, only castle. How early should we arrive at the park to get those pics and still be able to get in? Thanks for the tips! Very timely!

  • I love this post i was waiting to see if i would see something before we arrive on the 7/15/2011 we have a adr at crystal palace at 8.05amand the park would be opening at 9.00.a.m that morning now that i have read your post I can’t wait now, but one question do they usually change the park hours?.

  • Early CP reservation is a must – our girls love being on Main Street by themselves and the photos we take are so fun. Last month we had a ADR for 8:15 and were standing in Tomorrowland waiting for the rope drop. This was the first time we encountered being stopped in Tomorrowland. It was fun and we loved being among the first riders of Space Mountain!

    • hi i was just wondering did you stay onsite or offsite and what time did they let you enter main street.

  • We did this our last trip. An 8:05 res at CP. We were done and out by 8:50 with time enough to get some great pictures by the castle and partners statue. We were the first one to fantasyland so when rope dropped we hit Pooh and were the first riders of the day. We were able to ride Pooh, Snow White, Dumbo, Peter Pan and Haunted Mansion in less than an hour!! (small world was closed)

  • We have done the 805 ADR at MK many times, it is our favorite! We are headed back to WDW Easter week. I believe this is an 8 am opening with 7 am EMH, for the entire week. We are thinking of planning a “late” breakfast, so we can hit the parks early, then break a bit later for breakfast. Has anyone tried the “last” breakfast time? Is it still enjoyable or is it “rushed”, as they are getting ready for lunch?

  • Hello, we’ve got both 8:10am and 8:45am adr’s to CP when MK opens at 9am. We’ll be heading there this April 2013. I want to cancel one of those times sooner than later to be courteous to others. Will we miss rope drop either way, even with the 8:10 reservation? How long does a typical character breakfast last. I’m not looking to rush through especially since it seems like the only way to meet characters without waiting in long HOT lines.