Visiting Disney World during Thanksgiving week can be a great way to bring your family together in a truly magical place. However, there are some things you should know about what it’s like at Disney during Thanksgiving.
The following will give you a rundown of what you can expect during your visit regarding Disney World Thanksgiving crowds, special decorations and events, and, of course, food!
Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Attractions & Decorations
The first thing you should know about Disney World for Thanksgiving is that the resort does not have any special Thanksgiving day parade or events. Instead, if you are planning to take a trip to Disney World at Thanksgiving, you’ll be visiting at a time where the entire resort is pixie-dusted from head to toe in Christmas décor.
If you were looking for a more traditional autumn inspired atmosphere with pumpkins, falling leaves, and other touches of orange and yellow, you would need to visit before Halloween. That’s because immediately following the end of the spooky season, Disney transforms the entire resort into a winter wonderland in just a few days!
What’s Walt Disney World Like on Thanksgiving?
It’s a magical atmosphere of a warm, welcoming Christmas! Each of the four Walt Disney World parks will display a large, themed Christmas tree, have special holiday lighting and shows, and all sorts of seasonal cheer to go along with it.
The weather in Florida will finally be starting to get a little chilly (usually more brisk than bone-chilling cold), so wearing a sweater and enjoying hot cocoa will get you in the holiday spirit! It should not be understated how different the parks feel during this time of the year. Though busy, the parks and entire resort still feel somehow comforting and inviting.
Is Walt Disney World Busy on Thanksgiving?
Disney is open on Thanksgiving Day, and it is very crowded. Disney can get so crowded at Thanksgiving that they actually stop people from coming in due to reaching capacity by noon!
This will definitely be a factor in the years to come, since Disney has been limiting park capacity since reopening during the pandemic. Therefore, you’ll need to obtain a park pass reservation for your family as soon as you can!
Keep in mind that the parks won’t only be busy on Thanksgiving day, but also the entire week before and after the holiday. That’s because families have gathered just before or after the holiday itself and are therefore likely to be visiting the parks during that time.
This of course begs the question of how to save time in the parks, which is covered in the next section!
How do I avoid crowds at Walt Disney World over Thanksgiving?
Your best bet is to plan your days carefully and avoid times during the afternoon when the parks get the most crowded. Larger multigenerational family groups tend to move more slowly than single families.
If you arrive at the park right before it opens, you’ll be one of the first in line for your pick of attractions with little to no wait to start your day! Similarly, later at night (especially after fireworks), many guests will have already headed back to their resort for the night, leaving more space for you to enjoy attractions with less waiting!
Throughout your day, we recommend using the paid Genie+ system to reserve Lightning Lanes for your favorite attractions. It’s worth the time saved during busy days, especially in Magic Kingdom. Lastly, be sure to save indoor shows for the middle part of the day, when the park is busier, because they never have excruciatingly long lines!
Special Events & Timesaving Strategy
Another way to save time during your trip is to attend a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This special ticketed event will cost between $150 and $200 a ticket but will grant you access to the Magic Kingdom park. During party nights, the park will close early (usually 6pm), so pay attention to the park hours when planning which day to visit Magic Kingdom.
A ticket for the event will allow you entry into Magic Kingdom at 4pm, and the party starts at 7pm. Therefore, buying a ticket just for the party will still get you a solid 4pm-12am time in the park (if you’re willing to stay up that late!).
The event includes unlimited access to most attractions in the park, the special Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, a special fireworks show, a special stage show, and free snacks and drinks (cookies, egg nogg, cocoa, etc.) throughout the park. The key timesaver is that tickets are limited for the event, so if you’re able to attend, you can get a lot done in less time than you could during a normal day.
Where to eat at Disney for Thanksgiving?
The single best restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner at Disney World is the Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom. This all-you-can-eat family style diner serves all of the Thanksgiving staples, including mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and, of course, turkey! Though this is not a special Thanksgiving menu, the food will meet your thanksgiving expectations and really hit the spot after a long day in the parks!
Another great Thanksgiving meal option resides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park, at 50’s Prime Time Café. The entire restaurant is themed after the 1950s as if you were visiting your family- so the staff and menu reflect it. You’ll be greeted as a “cousin” and treated to snarky and sarcastic comments from your server, which can be really funny. The menu features more traditional options like pot roast and potatoes, and though not quite a real Thanksgiving Dinner, it may remind you of it.
Moving outside of the parks, other restaurants around Disney property also have some Thanksgiving Dinner options. In the past, the Whispering Canyon Café had a Thanksgiving menu, though it seems like that will not be the case this year. The atmosphere and normal family-feast style dining at Wilderness Lodge may still hit the spot, even without a special Thanksgiving menu.
At Disney Springs, Art Smith’s Homecomin’ features a menu of southern comfort foods, which may be aligned to your Thanksgiving feast desires. Disney Springs Thanksgiving also features a Christmas Tree Trail, where dozens of trees are themed to your favorite Disney movies and attractions.
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