Arrival Day TP - Crystal Palace or 1900 Park Fare

I am newbie here working on my touring plans in anticipation of being able to book fast passes next week and am stuck on a decision I need to make regarding arrival day. Would love some input to set me in the right direction.

I am traveling with DH (we are in our 40s), my mother (65), and two Kids DS (will be 2 months shy of 5) and DD (will be 2 weeks shy of 2). DS is afraid of Santa Claus, Chuck E Cheese, and other fur characters we have encountered (such as at Sesame Place). DD is much braver and interested in all of the above, although sometimes cautious. (It’ll be a first trip for DH, DS, DD - and I haven’t been in 20 years). We are staying at AoA if that matters to my plan and will have a rented car.

My goal for our arrival day is to focus on “tester attractions” to see what the kids can handle so that I can adjust plans for the rest of the trip if needed - and also to test out if characters are going to be any different for DS. Priority rides this day are Barnstormer, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear, 7DMT and Mickey’s Philharmagic (because I want to know how he does with 3D) - and to catch the parade and fireworks (as long as the kids aren’t melting down).

I have two dining reservation options (we have DDP and I have a 4:25 1900 Park Faire and a 6:05 Crystal Palace booked). I have built two different touring plans around these options. Both plans reach my main goals and see the same number of attractions. We get into MCO around 1pm, I didn’t start the plans until 4 so we wouldn’t feel rushed and can squeak in rest/nap. I figured we can do something extra if we get to the parks earlier.

Chief questions are:

  • Which of the two Character dinners would you recommend? I have been leaning toward Park Fare as I think face characters may be less intimidating to DS, but concerned that dining out of park is inefficient.
  • And any general comments on the plans - or which is better? (I still have a few more days of plans to build)
  • Considering that I am carting around a essentially 2 yo (in diapers) and 5 yo with a stroller - what walking speed would you choose? Right now I have it set to relaxed.
  • Am I getting us to “Happily Ever After” soon enough (or sooner than I need too?) - roughly 8:15/8:20ish on both plans. And where should we watch? (which I realize is possibly an impossible question since it only starts the week before we get there).

Links to plans:
Crystal Palace Option:
1900 Park Fare Option:

Probably worth noting that if we do the Park Fare Option - my plan was to drive to the Grand Floridian and leave the car there while we took Monorail in and out of the park. I assume I can leave the car there? And if we do Crystal Palace plan we would probably do the bus from AoA.

I appreciate your thoughts and input!


Those are both solid plans.
My vote goes to 1900 Park Faire for a couple of reasons. You’ll get to see GF, which is just beautiful. Also, it’s a slightly earlier reservation. With buffets, the earlier the better for us personally.
As you mentioned, the characters are face characters. That probably will be helpful.

I believe they will let you park at GF.

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This is a really interesting dilemma! I agree with everything @disney1974 said.

On the flip side, staying inside the park is a big perk for the Crystal Palace plan. When my kids were that age, I would have chosen Pooh for them, because they loved Pooh Bear. Plus, the extra travel time would have made things too complicated for my family.

You know your family best though! Both plans have merit. Good luck!

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We did 1900 Park Fare last year, and Crystal Palace a number of years ago when my kids were younger. Not much difference in the food. If your kids are afraid of “furry” characters, of course you have to take that into consideration. My kids are teens now, but they were both very timid when they were young. What I will caution you about with Park Fare is that it can be very loud. The stepsisters (who are hilarious and steal the show) yell at everyone. The evil stepmother can be very imposing. This would have bothered my kids when they were younger. They both loved Pooh and were very familiar with all of the characters, so they were fine at the Crystal Palace. If you choose Park Fare, you can ask the CM who escorts the characters around to skip your table for the characters that your kids seem fearful of. They should be fine with Cinderella and the Prince.

I did 1900PF in Nov and was really disappointed. The Step Sisters were a no show and the food was not all that great. I think staying in the park would be a lot easier. Good luck!

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I would go to 1900 Park Fare. I have not yet been to Crystal palace.
The food is good enough. Try the strawberry soup - it’s amazing.
GF is beautiful. And, ride the monorail! Riding the monorail is a main attraction for my DD6 :wink:
The step sisters and stepmother are hysterical. I was in stitches!

My kids were also hesitant about the fur characters when they were 2-4. Now they are 15, 12, 7, and 6 so we are good to go. We did CP a few years ago (2 trips in a row actually) b/c we love Pooh and Eeyore especially. The food was good enough. You can’t beat a character meal in park. I found it exhausting to schlep the littles from resort to park to resort back to park, but that’s me and i have 4 of them.
At the character greets, I would hold my kids and walk up to the characters, let my child hi-five if they were brave enough and be in the picture holding the kid and I’d be between kid and character. By the 2nd character meal, the kids were more used to the giant characters (they are really huge if you are a little kid). Also, perhaps you could show your almost 5 yo some youtube videos of kids meeting the characters at Crystal Palace so he kind of knows what to expect and get him an autograph book to fill up–my kids were more willing to meet and greet with the goal of autogaphs.

My DS4 is most excited about the monorail over anything else! I can relate!

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Thanks everyone for the thoughts! Lots of good things for me to consider. Appreciate the input.

We took my children to Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s and my daughter at the time was (and still is) afraid of Santa and all characters furry. She was petrified. I decided for this upcoming trip to forget these types of character encounters and let her appreciate them from afar (aka parades). I would vote for 1900 Park Fare. There’s always the next trip and IMO it really is an expensive gamble at the expense of you and the rest of the adults being disappointed in a character experience.

I think I am going to be the odd one out here. If you arrive at MCO at 1pm and you are getting a car, you will need to get bags and the car and that will easily take you an hour. By the time you drive to AOA and check in, if EVERYTHING goes just right it is 3 or 330. There really isn’t time for a short nap before your head to a 4 something meal. I would vote for the later time just to add some padding in case something happens. Like a slight flight delay, or needing to wait a few extra minutes for a car. The other planning concern I would have is not getting enough rest the first day for the kids. If you are planning to rope drop day 2, I would not stay in the park until closing. I am making the assumption that you are departing home early to the airport. They are going to be excited to see the hotel and all the things that go with Disney. The youngest is going to be sitting in the car, then on a plane, then in a stroller, then in the car, then in the stroller. It may be smart to let her blow off a little steam where she can play and explore (the dumbo que may be ideal for this purpose) before asking her to sit for dinner.

We haven’t done Park Fare because DS just isn’t into the characters there. We’ve done Crystal Palace a bunch, though always for breakfast. Their breakfast is slamming. DS loves it there because he gets to parade around the room with the characters

I read all the reviews and choose PF over CP, we did lots of character meals and PF was our least favourite. With your age kids and it being your first day, I would go with CP and avoid leaving MK.


These are some very good points - thank you. My plan for the Happily Ever after was to bag it if everyone was not having it and go Sunday instead. We are doing Hollywood Studios on Saturday so considering if rope drop will need to happen (my son doesn’t want to do the jedi training which I can’t comprehend considering he loves SW) - although I am finding there is more to do there than I thought! Or rather more shows so the activities are lengthier. More stuff to think about.

If I were you, I would try to book a breakfast reservation prior to park opening at HS anyway and take him to sign up for the Jedi training before breakfast for one of the later morning shows and just tell him if he doesn’t want to do it he can skip it. I would bet if you let him see the show, he’ll want to do it. DS on our first trip to HS last April made us watch that show like 4 times. This time he was committed. The slots go super quick. This past trip when we got to the Jedi Training at 10:30 for my son’s 11am show, there were people inquiring about signing up their kids.

“Sorry, it’s full for the entire day up until park closing.”

“Is there a wait list we can get on?”

“The waitlist is also full”

queue really sad kiddos

Yeah - I am a little worried about that. . . if I did get a pre opening ADR how early do I need to make it for this to work? Earliest I can find right now is 8:10am.