It'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 the Walt Disney World Resort in particular. After all, who wouldn't want to experience Disney World at Thanksgiving? But if you're planning a trip between Nov. 20-24, 2017, you should plan on longer waits for attractions and larger crowds everywhere you go.
Despite the crowds, Disney World at Thanksgiving 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. 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 Disney World at Thanksgiving
1. Pick Your Park Wisely
If you're headed to Disney World at Thanksgiving or at the least week of, you want to pay even closer attention to our Crowd Calendar. By doing so, you can pick the best day. 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
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 Disney World at Thanksgiving. 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
The NEXT most important thing to do is to have a plan when experiencing Disney World at Thanksgiving. Is your goal to go on as many rides as possible or 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.
6. Make sure to utilize Fastpass+
We highly recommend that those of you visiting Disney World at Thanksgiving 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 Toy Story Mania! at Disney's Hollywood Studios 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 meeting 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+ and MyMagic+.
4. Dine before or after regular mealtimes.
Disney World at Thanksgiving 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. Be sure to check out our list of all the restaurants in the Orlando theme parks 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 helpful tips.
5. Review Your Safety Plan
Large crowds and small children can make parents' anxiety levels skyrocket, especially in Disney World at Thanksgiving! 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. Pack Your Patience
It will be crowded - really, really crowded inside Disney World at Thanksgiving. 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 Disney World at Thanksgiving and other busy days. And don’t forget to check out our When to Visit Orlando page inside our Orlando Planning Timeline for more tips. Wherever and however you spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we hope you stay safe and have fun!