The early bird catches the mouse, and a well-planned day in Magic Kingdom starts as early as possible. In-the-know park-goers arrive 30 minutes early to get a good view of its daily opening ceremony, which is known as “the rope drop” to park regulars. But the real secret to early entry is to make the best of Disney dining reservations and head into the park for breakfast.
Disney Dining Reservations
In truth, I have yet to see the rope drop at Disney World because we have a better way to get into the park early. We reserve a table for breakfast at one of the three Magic Kingdom restaurants and enter the park early. We have tried all three options of early dining in the Magic Kingdom. Each is a very different dining and Disney experience.
Timing Magic Kingdom Breakfast Reservations
The appeal for Disney dining before the park opens is that you get to enter the park early. Magic Kingdom opens most days at 9 a.m. except for Early Magic Hours days when it opens at 8 a.m. But landing a first-in-the-morning dining reservation at a Magic Kingdom restaurant means you’re there before the rope ever drops. Even better, if you finish your meal before the park opens, you are able to get to your first ride without a line and without a Fast Pass.
The far left turnstile usually is where to check in for breakfast reservations. I’ve seen reservations as early as 7:55 a.m. and you can expect park security to give you between 15 and 20 minutes to reach the restaurants.
Reservations later than 8:30 a.m. will offer the early entry benefit, but not the ability to queue at a ride before the park opens. Without both of these benefits, it may not make sense for your day at Magic Kingdom.
Disney Dining Reservation Options for Breakfast
There are three options to book an early breakfast in order of most expensive:
- Cinderella’s Royal Table inside the iconic castle
- The Crystal Palace breakfast buffet at the end of Main Street
- Be Our Guest inside the Beast’s Castle in the newer expansion of Fantasy Land
Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table
Cinderella’s Royal Table is the most coveted reservation inside Magic Kingdom as it’s also a character experience. Your family can have a private photo with Cinderella before heading upstairs where you’re served. All of the Disney princesses come out and interact with each table.
It’s certainly a fun experience to do if your children are in the sweet spot age where they really love princesses (usually from age three until six). It’s probably not worth the money when your children are older than six unless a child really loves the princesses.
My daughter was five and had already passed the princess stage, but she would have been very impressed at age four. If you are unable to get a table for the princess fan in the family, a similar experience is available at Epcot.
The menu offers many indulgent choices to justify the price and surroundings: beef tenderloin, lobster, and shrimp make an appearance with breakfast entrées.
I asked my husband if he would ever want to go back. He thought and nodded, “No, that’s OK. We’ve done it once, but I really did like being called ‘my Lord.'” I think every family should try it once.
The Crystal Palace Breakfast Buffet
The second option for getting into the park before it opens is having an early breakfast reservation at the Crystal Palace. I’m a big fan of the Crystal Palace. Our family finds it consistently has the best food within the Magic Kingdom. It’s a large buffet with many different offerings to satisfy every family’s dietary needs and preferences. I can easily get my family all of the healthy choices needed to last them until the next meal.
The Crystal Palace experience is complete with the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger move from table to table and interact with the guests. Every so often the characters interrupt their rounds to lead the youngest diners in a friendship parade and march around the restaurant.
The only challenge participating in breakfast is that it’s a nicer place to really linger and to get your money’s worth of an all-you-can-eat buffet. For that reason, we prefer using it is our ritual lunch reservation on our Magic Kingdom days. It’s not an experience that you want to rush through, so the earlier the breakfast reservation the better.
Once I have filled my kids with protein, vegetables, and fruits, from the kids’ and adults’ buffet, I can relax that afternoon and let them indulge in Mickey Bars to their hearts’ content.
Be Our Guest for Breakfast
Finally, Be Our Guest. This is the newest option for sit-down morning fare in the Magic Kingdom. Be Our Guest only started testing breakfast in 2015, and it’s difficult to secure advance dining reservation. It’s one that you have to start looking for as early as you would Cinderella’s Royal table. That means book it at the 180-day window before your trip.
Park goers order their breakfast online in advance through My Disney Experience. I was told when we arrived to check in at the gates outside and again once inside to receive a buzzer. We were told to select our table and to get coffee, tea, or juice from the cafeteria-style beverage station.
I had super high expectations for this experience. After all, Belle and Beauty and the Beast have always been my favorite. And I had seen the interior photographs of the recreation the Beast’s castle and the glorious frescoed ceilings of the ballroom.
There were many charming details in the foyer, with a wall of suits of armor and the castle décor referenced in the film. The main dining room is fashioned after the ballroom of the castle, while the forbidden west wing has a replica of the enchanted rose. The final dining room shows a moving Belle and Beast dancing.
We sat at our table and waited while the staff wheeled beautiful glass serving trays with each party’s breakfast order. I’m always meticulous about my family’s diet and even more so when we’re at the Disney parks because the vacation is so physically demanding.
I ordered scrambled egg whites for my husband and me and the traditional scrambled eggs and bacon for my children. The entrees we ordered were within the realm of cafeteria food. If you like more indulgent offerings, the puff pastry looked well prepared.
All entrées come with the family style plate of breakfast pastries.
The restaurant disappointed me in that it didn’t offer croissants, muffins, and Danish pastries. Instead, there were only Danish pastries, so we declined. Too much sugar before lunch is a recipe for a classic Disney meltdown. Here’s my list of Disney World’s healthiest restaurants to keep my kids’ energy up.
Even though it felt longer, we were finished by 8:45 a.m. for our 8:15 a.m. reservation. I’d do it again as my standby breakfast on a Magic Kingdom Day if my goal was a fast and early meal.
My family split up to make a run for the most popular rides we were unable to secure Fast Passes for: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for our eldest and Enchanted Tales with Belle for our youngest. The four of us reconvened for an excellent day of fun by 9:20 a.m.
Let the Best Disney Dining Reservation Rule
If your goal is to start your park day before the rope drops, your breakfast reservation isn’t always your choice. The Disney fates will decide what is available on your given day at Magic Kingdom. I often, at 180 days before our vacation, have two days in mind to visit Magic Kingdom, and let the best breakfast reservation dictate the day we visit.
As a photographer, I find that wandering down Main Street with fewer crowds in its pink-hued early morning lighting makes waking at an earlier hour worthwhile.
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