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Your Disney World at Thanksgiving Survival Guide

by Mommy Frog on October 15, 2019 31

Thanksgiving at Disney World - PinterestIt's no surprise, really, with the kids out of school for at least part or all of the week that Thanksgiving is one of the busiest weeks of the year at the Orlando theme parks and Walt Disney World Resort in particular. After all, who wouldn't want to experience Thanksgiving at Disney? But if you're planning a trip between Nov. 22 and Dec. 1, 2019, you should plan on longer waits for attractions and larger crowds everywhere you go.

Despite the crowds, Thanksgiving at Disney World is a decidedly low-key affair as far as the actual holiday is concerned. Don't expect to see window fronts decorated with cornucopias and pilgrims everywhere you turn. All of the parks will be decorated for the holidays — just not the Thanksgiving holiday — and that's fine by us. Those of you visiting during this time will be eased right into the Christmas spirit, and there are already plenty of Disney holiday events already hoppening in the parks. The one exception to this is the Land Pavilion at Epcot, where pumpkins, gourds and scarecrows are usually on display in Living With the Land and the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot. Here are the Frog Family’s best tips for making the notoriously busy Thanksgiving at Disney World an enjoyable one.

Top Tips to Survive Thanksgiving at Disney World

1. Pick Your Park Wisely

Thanksgiving at Disney World - Main Street Confectionery Fall Decorations

If you're headed to Thanksgiving at Disney World, you want to pay even closer attention to our Crowd Calendar, so you can pick the best day to visit. While this week isn't as crowded as the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, it will still be very busy. In fact, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be especially busy. It's entirely possible that some of the parks will reach capacity at some time during these days.

We generally don't recommend park hopping when the parks are this full because of the risk of parks reaching capacity. It also adds an extra amount of time to get in and out. If you are staying on-site, however, you might consider hopping, only so that you can take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours and then hop to a less-busy park.

2. Arrive Early

Thanksgiving at Disney World - Pandora Crowds

The most important thing to do on a busy day at any of the theme parks is to arrive early! This is especially true for experiencing Thanksgiving at Disney World. Whatever park you pick, try to be at the gate at least an hour before the park officially opens. This will ensure you have a few hours of low wait times on rides and fewer crowds.

3. Have a Plan

Thanksgiving at Disney World - Parade Crowds

The next most important thing to do is to have a plan when experiencing Thanksgiving at Disney World. Is your goal to go on as many rides as possible? Do you want to take your time and enjoy the atmosphere? Do you want to get a front-row viewing spot for the shows and parades or take advantage of the shorter lines at the attractions? Maybe the holiday sights and sounds are your top priority?

Don’t wait until you get inside the park to figure out what everyone wants to do. We always put together a short list of priorities by family member. That way, we can best strategize and make sure no one, especially Tad and Lily, are left out. Be sure to check out our Park Plans for Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld before you go. Also, make sure to download our Orlando Planning app to follow our touring plans or customize your own.

4. Make Sure to Use Fastpass+

Thanksgiving at Disney World - Pandora

We highly recommend those of you spending Thanksgiving at Disney World use FastPass+. Make sure you book your FastPass+ reservations as early as you possibly can. For resort guests, this is 60 days in advance. For non-resort guests, this is 30 days in advance. FastPass+ reservations for the most popular attractions, such as Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom and Frozen Ever After at Epcot are likely to be gone even at the 30-day mark. If meeting characters is a priority, hop over to our Disney World character tips to see which characters you should use FastPass+ for. For those of you who are unfamiliar with FastPass+, we explain the ins and outs of it in our Guide to Disney's FastPass.

5. Dine Before or After Regular Mealtimes

Thanksgiving at Disney World - Turkey Leg

Thanksgiving at Disney World brings in extra crowds, which means restaurant queues will also be extra long. You'll save time waiting in line for food if you eat during off-peak times. Eat an early breakfast and have an early lunch at 11 a.m. Alternatively, eat a big breakfast and have a late lunch. Take advantage of mobile ordering. Be sure to check out our list of all the restaurants that will be serving up Thanksgiving dinner, and a few places where you can find a turkey leg. If you want an ADR for a sit-down meal, be sure to keep checking in the days leading up to your visit for cancelations. Check out our ins and outs of Disney's ADR for hopful tips.

6. Review Your Safety Plan

Large crowds and small children can make parents' anxiety levels skyrocket, especially Thanksgiving at Disney World! Have a family meeting beforehand to review your safety strategies like where to meet in case the group gets separated. On Thanksgiving Day, dress everyone in the same bright color and take a picture of your children that morning so you have a recent one with what they’re wearing. Read more on our theme park safety strategies.

7. Plan Some Downtime at Your Resort

Thanksgiving at Disney World - Horse Carriage Ride at Fort Wilderness

Whether it's taking a midday break or getting in some early zzz's, try to find quality time with the family back at the resort (either on Thanksgiving Day or anytime during the busy holiday week). We know it's tempting to crank out long days at the parks, but give yourselves plenty of rest to keep that energy up. Take advantage of the fun amenities at your Disney Resort.

8. Pack Your Patience

It will be crowded — really, really crowded — when spending Thanksgiving at Disney World. Adjust your expectations going in and remember to give thanks for all the fun you're having in the Orlando theme parks!

Here are Leap’s top 10 time-saving tips that are extremely useful for Thanksgiving at Disney World and other busy days. And don’t forget to check out our When to Visit Orlando page for more tips. Wherever and however you spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we hope you stay safe and have fun!

Related: Where to Find Thanksgiving Dinner at Disney World

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments
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Nov 22, 2019 at 7:32 p.m. Free trip to Disney, chaos ensues! Says...

Hello! Your site has been a tremendous help! I just wanted to see if you have any tips for the following situation:

My husband got a gig playing in the Thanksgiving Day parade! We’ve done this before, but this time we will have a new addition (1 year old son) and two grandparents. We are staying in a hotel booked by my husbands agent, and the grandparents got lodging through my FIL’s military benefits.

How should we go about meeting at various parks?

We have a half day Wednesday (evening rehearsal for hubby) so I thought we could do Epcot, MK for Thursday (because that’s where the parade is) and HS for Friday.

Because we didn’t buy our tickets, we had trouble getting access to them and just now booked what fast passes we could — we planning on checking back to look for openings.

Last time we went, we were there for 6:30am-12:30am! I know this isn’t viable with a brand new one year old, and I expect Turkey Day to be nuts.

Any recommendations for enjoying two and a half days with a toddler, gparents who love Disney but not technology or rollercoasters would be greatly appreciated!!

Nov 25, 2019 at 8:03 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

How fun! What an awesome experience for you and the whole fam to have again! As far as a meeting point, we generally suggest meeting inside of the park of the day. The front entrance has a lot of touch points and it can be pretty busy, so we tend to meet just inside of the park. "Guest Relations" is a good place to meet if grandma and grandpa aren't familiar with the parks, as they tend to be just inside of the entrances of each park. Then, you can hop to the second park of the day together. Our first suggestion would be to book everyone's tickets under your My Disney Experience account - link them as friends and family (and walk them through the process while they're next to you if you need to). This will allow you to be the FastPass gatekeeper and book for everyone in your party. Like you already mentioned, keep checking back for cancellations, as they do happen! As far as your little one, go with the flow in terms of his schedule - if he's an early riser, awesome! Take advantage and rope drop to hop on some rides before the biggest crowds are in the parks. Be sure to either bring or rent a stroller so he has someplace to nap or rest. Of course, breaks are always good (especially for tadpoles), but only you know whether a quick nap in the stroller (or your arms) at the parks will suffice, or whether you'll need to hop back to the hotel for a longer break. That could also mean that you get some more happy park time out of him in the afternoon before heading home for the night! If you haven't already, you can request a pack and play from the front desk. And last not not least, bubble wands (which you'll see everywhere) are a great way to entertain him while waiting - for a ride, for a parade, for transportation, etc. Have a wonderful visit!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Oct 16, 2019 at 1:43 p.m. Tracey Says...

We are planning a trip the week before Thanksgiving..(Nov. 17th thru 22nd). How do you think crowds will be this week? Hoping to leave before it gets crazy!

Oct 17, 2019 at 10:51 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Tracey!

Expect the first few days of your trip to be lighter in terms of crowds, with the 20-22 ramping up for the Thanksgiving crowds. You can see a day-by-day breakdown on our Crowd Calendar. Even as it ramps up, things shouldn't be too crazy just yet - 7/10. Have a great time!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 24, 2018 at 5:29 p.m. Emily Says...

Your articles have been so helpful. We are planning our honey moon for thanksgiving and will be doing dining on May 19. I took a look at your crowd calendar but wanted a first hand opinion. Which park is the least crowded on Thanksgiving day? Or which park would you most recommend we spend our time at that day?

Apr 26, 2018 at 9:53 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Emily!

Congrats on the honeymoon, that will be so much fun! Holidays are always super busy at the parks, but Magic Kingdom always tends to bring in the largest crowds. You can check out our Crowd Calendar for details, but we usually recommend Animal Kingdom on holidays, as it tends to be the least crowded (although still busy!)

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Apr 13, 2018 at 9:47 p.m. BW Says...

Are any of the attractions closed during thanksgiving week, such as water rides.

Apr 13, 2018 at 6:01 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi there!

You can check the current list of scheduled refurbishments here, but note that these are subject to change as the year progresses.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Oct 27, 2016 at 5:40 p.m. Jennifer Says...

We are visiting the week after Thanksgiving. Would it be better to visit MK on the Sunday after Thanksgiving or Monday?

Nov 3, 2016 at 1:09 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jennifer,

It's really a toss up with the crowd levels and park hours. I would pick the one that works best with your schedule.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Mar 23, 2016 at 1:04 p.m. Jared Says...

We are thinking of going to Florida/Disney during the week of thanksgiving. We are only planning on 2-3 days in the actual amusement parks. Would it make sense to pick the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday leading up to thanksgiving? Is it still crazy packed?

Mar 28, 2016 at 9:41 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jared,

Those days are better, but it will still be crowded!

Keep hopping!


Sep 17, 2015 at 10:10 p.m. Jennifer Says...


Our kids have always wanted to see Disney at Christmas time. We are thinking of going Thanksgiving week as that is the only time we can get away. Will the parks be decorated for Christmas? Will characters be dressed in Christmas outfits? There isn't a Christmas party scheduled the days we will be there, will there be any Christmas themed parades or shows? Thanks so much. We hate to spend all the money for the trip and miss out on Christmas events, decorations, music etc.

Sep 23, 2015 at 11:34 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jennifer,

The parks will be decorated, and some of the characters will be in Christmas attire. Don't miss The Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and you can take part in Epcot Holidays Around the World and the Candlelight Processional the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Keep hopping!


Nov 19, 2014 at 7:32 p.m. Dan Says...

I am planning a vacation for my family the first week of December, 11/30 - 12/6. How are the crowds then??

Nov 20, 2014 at 9:50 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Dan,

Should be a good week. Here is the Crowd Calendar.


Nov 16, 2014 at 7:43 p.m. chelle belle Says...

I've visited WDW Thanksgiving the past 5 years and the crowds were just fine for my family of 6 (2 adults 4 children 15,7,6.3) Yet I've never thought about a special turkey day dinner - we're at Disney enjoy the memories :) Arriving on the 22nd and leave on the 30th #teameeyore #teamolaf

Oct 29, 2013 at 12:44 p.m. Disney World, Universal & SeaWorld Planning for November Says...

[...] … or at least a turkey leg at the resort. If you’re visiting the week of Thanksgiving, here is our survival guide (including where to eat). There are a ton of other events going on this month, and we [...]

Nov 22, 2012 at 2 a.m. katherin3 Says...

Having just left Magic Kingdom I will reiterate it is crowded. Long lines and lots of people. The upside is you can take food and drink and we were prepared. The kids enjoyed it but we are all exhausted.

Nov 26, 2012 at 4:13 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Katherine,

Thanks for sharing!

-- Leap

Nov 16, 2012 at noon Disney & Parks News: Test Track Gets Closer to Launch; Will Universal Get More Simpsons? Says...

[...] [...]

Nov 16, 2012 at 6:16 a.m. best apps for health and wellness, iphone ipad health apps » Disney World Dining Says...

[...] Best Disney World RestaurantsThe “DFB Guide to the Walt Disney World Holidays 2012″ Grand Launch and Discount!News! Temporary Closure in 2013 for Disney World’s California GrillDisney Dining PlanDisney Gift Guide: Cookie Season is Here!Thanksgiving Planning for Disney World, SeaWorld & Universal [...]

Nov 15, 2012 at 2:46 p.m. Where to Meet Santa at Disney, Universal and SeaWorld Orlando Says...

[...] Related: Thanksgiving Survival Guide for Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando [...]

Nov 14, 2012 at 10:14 p.m. Amy Kennedy Says...

I just want to thank you for all of the helpful advice you share. We are having a family trip to WDW next week and I am so excited. For several in the family, it will be their first trip. Your information and advice have already been invaluable and we haven't even left our home state. Again, THANK YOU!!

Nov 15, 2012 at 1:49 p.m. FrogBlog Says...


You're welcome. We love being a resource Have a great trip!!

-- Leap

Nov 9, 2012 at 7:31 a.m. Disney & Parks News: Star Wars Miniland Opens, Festival of the Masters Heads to Downtown Disney Says...

[...] The pastry chefs at Disney’s Hollywood Studios have created what Mommy Frog is calling “the most scrumpt-a-licious cupcakes ever” and they’re themed for the holidays. Yep, even Thanksgiving. [...]

Nov 6, 2012 at 9:27 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi everyone!

Please share if you have any tips for surviving Thanksgiving week at Disney World, SeaWorld or Universal!

-- Mommy Frog

Nov 6, 2012 at 3:45 p.m. When to Visit Says...

[...] Thanksgiving [...]

Nov 1, 2012 at 12:47 p.m. Planning for Walt Disney World in November Says...

[...] more information on this in the coming weeks or you can get a look at last year’s information here now. There are a ton of other events going on this month, and we list a number of them [...]

Sep 20, 2017 at 9:42 p.m. Mariana Quiroz Says...


Which would be the best days And parks? Thanks!!

Sep 21, 2017 at 8:44 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Mariana,

Looking at our Crowd Calendar, we're forecasting heavy crowds during each day during your visit. Friday the 17 is listed as average, so definitely visit a park that day.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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