We have much to be thankful for this year, especially since Disneyland theme parks, restaurants and hotels have reopened! If you want to have a Disneyland Thanksgiving in 2021, you'll want to book as early as possible this year, as the days around Thanksgiving can fill up in advance due to the theme park reservation system. (We also recommend hopping by our posts on visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure at this time, as things are slightly different from previous years.) Hop along as we devour all of the details about visiting Disneyland during Thanksgiving!
Disneyland Thanksgiving Crowds and When to Book
Thanksgiving is all about traditions and giving thanks. For many families, giving thanks involves a traditional Disneyland Thanksgiving trip. With the tadpoles out of school and a few days off of work, many families make a pilgrimage to the parks. Many. Families. We don’t need to tell you that it’s a busy time to visit the parks, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the trip! We’re hoppy to offer planning tips that will make it a trip to remember. Use this guide to Disneyland at Thanksgiving to help you manage crowds and make the most of this holiday.
Disneyland Thanksgiving falls during Holidays at the Disneyland Resort. This is always one of our favorite times to visit. Holiday Time means longer park hours, special ride overlays, seasonal entertainment, special foods, holiday merchandise and holiday decorations. But guess what else shows up during this time? Crowds.
The busiest days of the week are likely to be Friday and Saturday right after Thanksgiving. The parks will still be crowded on Thanksgiving Day but perhaps slightly less crowded than the following two days. However, 2021 is no ordinary year. The parks are still operating with limited capacity, which is controlled by a theme park reservation system. That means the parks may sell out sooner, but at the same time, they may be less crowded than in past years but have more consistent crowd levels each day.
It's hard to predict crowds this year, especially since we do not know the capacity limits in November. So no matter what, we say to purchase tickets early (and save with multi-day Disneyland discount tickets without blackout dates from your favorite froggy friends) and make those reservations ASAP. Consult the availability calendar for tickets before you purchase. Guests with 1-day or multi-day tickets may reserve up to 120 days in advance. Magic Key holders (the new annual pass) may reserve up to 90 days in advance. Magic Key holders have a different access calendar, which varies based on the type of pass. If the dates are full, keep checking just in case dates open up due to cancellations.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is often a travel day for people. Normally, we expect crowds to drop slightly on that day, but again, all weekends have been full for reservations during a normally slow fall, so expect Thanksgiving weekend to book up early too. The weekend before Thanksgiving will see a surge in guests. The days right around Thanksgiving and especially just after will be the busiest. Hop over to our Disneyland Crowd Calendar to see more details and crowd projections.
Thanksgiving Food at Disneyland in 2021
Here's where to find a holiday turkey sandwich, holiday treats and even Thanksgiving ice cream flavors! Keep hopping back as the holiday season approaches for updates — visit our full list of Thanksgiving dinner options at Disneyland for even more information!
- Thanksgiving dinner options at Disneyland Resort hotels — Reserve early. Thanksgiving dining reservations can be made for Napa Rose, Storytellers Café (turkey and characters at brunch and dinner) and Goofy's Kitchen (turkey and fixins at both brunch and dinner)!
- Thanksgiving dinner at Catal — Catal is usually open on Thanksgiving day from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. The 2021 menu, dates and details are not out yet. Once the details are released, take a look at the online prix fixe menu and make a reservation.
- Carthay Circle Lounge — In 2020, guests dining al fresco could enjoy a pumpkin ice cream sundae and an apple pie sundae.
- Salt & Straw — The 2020 Thanksgiving flavors of ice cream were Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey, Sweet Potato Casserole with Maple Pecans, Roasted Peach & Sage Cornbread Stuffing and Cranberry Juniper Sorbet (vegan). We can't wait to see if any return for 2021!
- Earl of Sandwich — Holiday Turkey Sandwich (this year-round option has layers of turkey, cornbread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and mayonnaise on freshly baked artisan bread).
- Ballast Point — Pumpkin Down Ale and Pumpkin Down Ale Float
- Marceline's Confectionery and theme park candy shops — Caramel apples, cookies, peppermint marshmallow wands, crispy rice treats and more. These will mostly be geared toward Christmas; however, you might just find a crispy rice treat that's shaped and flavored after a slice of pumpkin or pecan pie! Hop over to our post on holiday treats at Disneyland for more on holiday eating. Note that most treat shops are now on Mobile Order.
- Turkey Leg — Oh, hoppy day! One of our favorite Disneyland on-the-go food items is a giant smoked turkey leg. Pair it with corn on the cob.
Our Top Tips for Visiting Disneyland at Thanksgiving
We can never stress this enough. The early frog gets the fly. The “fly” in this case is short lines. If you are driving, allow at least an hour to park, take shuttles to the park entrance and get through security. Speaking of shuttles, there is no shuttle from the parking structures. It's about a 15- to 20-minute walk. The Toy Story lot has a bus. Hop over to our Disneyland reopening post for some tips and alternate ideas for parking and other important details.
You'll also want to read up on Disneyland virtual queues. But chances are you won't need them as Disneyland is testing both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure with standby lines this November. Be sure to check the Disneyland app, because the parks could implement a virtual queue throughout the day. You have to be inside Disney California Adventure to join the WEB SLINGERS virtual queue and inside Disneyland to join the queue for Rise if the virtual queues open.
Get to Know Genie and Genie+ (not in place by Thanksgiving 2021)
You may have heard that FASTPASS and MaxPass have been retired. A new service is coming to Disneyland sometime this fall (the exact date is TBD). Disney Genie is a free planning tool to help you manage your day. Genie+ is an optional paid service that replaces FASTPASS and MaxPass. (It's going to be more like MaxPass and there will no longer be any free FASTPASS option.) If Genie+ is in place by Thanksgiving, the frogs with Genie+ can start making ride reservations once they have entered the park for the day. Hop over to our Disney Genie post to learn about this Disney Genie planning tool, Genie+ and a pay-per-ride option.
The a la carte, pay-per-ride options will be available for a select number of in-demand rides that are not offered on Genie+ to use the Lightning Lane entrance to skip the standby line. The Lightning Lane is the former FASTPASS Return entrance. But you can only purchase up to two rides per day via this method, whereas Genie+ will have more ride options to skip the lines for a flat fee. Standby lines and virtual queues may also remain in place. We know you have a ton of questions about this because we do too! More details to come, so stay tuned.
Genie+ also comes with the bonus of unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads. That means you can capture some hoppy family memories of your Disneyland Thanksgiving trip with professional photos.
Be a Fam With a Plan
It’s best to enter the parks with a plan. Check out the park entertainment calendar online and note showtimes. You may need to look up some shows and acts by name in the app as not all appear on the main calendar these days. Ask your family what their must-do rides and shows are. Figure out when you want to see the holiday parade or fireworks. Listing your priorities and making a plan can help ensure that your family gets to experience your top attractions. Keep in mind that our Disneyland Resort Park Plans will help year-round. (Yes, even during Disneyland at Thanksgiving!)
We also visit attractions that take us away from the crowds at holiday times. During Thanksgiving week, we enjoy taking an art class at Animation Academy, seeing Mickey's PhilharMagic and spending time at Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island.
Experience the Special Holiday Hoppenings
Enjoying Disneyland at Thanksgiving means carving out a taste of some Christmastime fun. You can visit our post on Holiday Time at Disneyland to get a sense of all the holiday cheer. Disneyland has holiday ride overlays such as Haunted Mansion Holiday and “it’s a small world” Holiday (temporarily closed due to flood). The Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure has a marketplace offering tasty treats inspired by different cultures. My mouth is watering just thinking of those delicious morsels! You can meet Santa and let him know what you want for Christmas. (For Tad, it’s a 360 VR camera.) You'll also find Disney pals decked out in their best holiday outfits.
Review Your Family Safety Plan
With big crowds and little tadpoles, it's smart to craft a family safety plan. Thinking ahead is a smart way to prevent lost children or parents at Disneyland. Pay attention to what everyone is wearing, take a morning photo and make a plan in case you get separated. Yes, everyone has phones, but what if the battery runs out? Bring a portable battery charger so that you are always reachable by other family members. There are phone cases with built-in batteries. We expect the increased phone usage for Disney Genie and mobile orders to take a toll on phone batteries. Having a built-in charger or even a removable charger has been a phone lifesaver.
Family safety and comfort also include checking the weather. Be prepared for Disneyland at Thanksgiving. It may be sunny and warm, or it may be rainy and chilly. Umbrellas are allowed in the parks. If you see rain in the forecast, think ponchos! While you can buy them in the park, you'll save cash by buying them in advance. Rain can be a good thing. YES, I SAID IT. Rain definitely helps with keeping crowds away. Rain can keep crowds to a minimum, at least it did in years before the reservation system was in place. We find that weather can play a big role in crowd control during the Disneyland Thanksgiving break. We have yet to see how the reservations will be affected by weather since you cannot necessarily switch plans and visit the next day if there are no open reservations to switch to.
Practice Good Holiday Cheer and Patience
You’ll have to pack your patience any time you visit Disneyland on a long holiday week. The weekend after Thanksgiving is no different. Expect to move a little slower with more people about. It's a given that waits for rides and food will be long. Plan ahead for food breaks and get in place early for shows and parades. Plan a little extra padding for everything you do. This will help avoid meltdowns — and that's just by us parents!
Make Reservations and Plan Meals
Food lines can get long, especially at mealtimes. Plan ahead by eating meals early or late. Pack some snacks to tide you over for convenient, between-meal nourishment. Disneyland at Thanksgiving is a great time to have dining reservations. We have a whole post about dining at Disneyland at Thanksgiving, which includes tips on where to dine. It takes the stress off of deciding where to eat. You'll also remove the hassle of searching for a table and balancing a full tray of food with the froglets behind you.
Table-service seating allows you to sit down and relax those tired feet and frog legs. That downtime is the key to recharging your energy and putting in a few more hours of quality park time. Reservations for table-service restaurants open up 60 days in advance, but sometimes it's under 60 days. If you can't get a dinner reservation for Disneyland at Thanksgiving, keep checking the app, or at least get yourself a turkey leg!
You can always hop (or better yet, use Mobile Order) into the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café for a Thanks-Mas Sandwich. With oven-roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce on rustic bread, it hits the spot. While the mashed potatoes are missing from this mini Thanksgiving meal in a sandwich, we know you'll love the house-made potato chips instead.
If you have not visited the planet Batuu in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, you may want to make reservations for your must-do experiences over Thanksgiving. Do you want to build a lightsaber, create your very own droid or knock back some drinks in Oga's Cantina? Then you should be aware that reservations open up to 60 days in advance. If you do not get one, try checking again at 7 a.m. the morning of your visit to see if more times are released.
Power Nap at a Nearby Hotel
Another way to save time and hassle is to stay at a Disney Resort hotel or one of the many hotels surrounding the resort. In case you missed it, Undercover Tourist is booking hotel rooms at the Disneyland Resort and at nearby hotels. Many hotels are within hopping distance. You can save money (with discounted rates) and time by walking to the front gates (or taking a shuttle bus to Disneyland from a Disney lot near your hotel). Plus, if you're feeling the need for a post-turkey nap, it’s nice to have a nearby room to retreat to. Once you emerge from your food coma (or football games, according to Leap) you may return for round two of Disneyland at Thanksgiving! If you have no place close enough to nap, we recommend finding a spot in front of the fire in the lobby of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel.
Have you visited Disneyland at Thanksgiving? Have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!