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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 Crowds 2019
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. Guess what else shows up during this time? Crowds.
The busy Thanksgiving week runs Nov. 23-Dec. 1, 2019. The busiest days of the week are likely to be the 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. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is often a travel day for people. Expect crowds to drop slightly on that day. 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. Here are our top tips for enjoying Disneyland at Thanksgiving.
We can never stress this enough. The early frog gets the fly. The “fly” in this case is short lines, easy character meet-and-greets and the greatest range of FASTPASS return times. If you are driving, allow at least an hour to park, take shuttles to the park entrance and get through security.
Utilize FASTPASS and MaxPass
FASTPASS is an essential tool if you're visiting Disneyland at Thanksgiving. Many of the larger and more popular attractions offer return windows. Think of this as making a reservation to ride without waiting in a long physical line. The free Disneyland FASTPASS service allows guests to use their park tickets to obtain a return time. Within your one-hour return window, you will experience the attraction with a much shorter line. You insert your park ticket into the distribution kiosk and it will shoot out a reminder ticket with your return window. When you arrive at the ride, you scan your park ticket to activate your FASTPASS.
We highly recommend getting Disney MaxPass. MaxPass is a paid service that allows you to reserve rides and shows such as Fantasmic! and World of Color in either park from your phone. MaxPass becomes activated on your smartphone after you have entered a park for the day (or have purchased through the app once in the park). It helps you save time and energy because it eliminates the walk to collect a FASTPASS ticket. MaxPass sometimes offers earlier return windows than free FASTPASS. This lets you get more rides in during your visit. MaxPass also comes with the bonus of unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads.
Not all FASTPASSES are distributed equally. Some popular rides run out of FASTPASS windows much faster than others. Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania! and Space Mountain are usually the first rides to run out. Many other attractions have FASTPASS availability late into the night. Generally, the more crowded the park is, the faster the FASTPASS return times are distributed. Disneyland usually has more choices later in the day than Disney California Adventure because it has more rides. If you are park hopping, it's best to start out in Disney California Adventure before hopping over to Disneyland. Knowing this can toadally help you get a jump on using the FASTPASS service to your advantage.
Two of the most popular Disney shows — Fantasmic! and World of Color — utilize the FASTPASS system, but as a bonus they are disconnected to the rest of the FASTPASS system. You can collect a show FASTPASS and immediately collect a ride FASTPASS. Keep in mind that you can usually use your FASTPASS five minutes early and five to 15 minutes after the return window ends. That’s good to know just in case the holiday crowds slow you down!
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 show times. Ask your family what their must-do rides are. Perhaps you want to get a FASTPASS for Fantasmic! or World of Color, in which case, hopping to the FASTPASS kiosks is definitely your first stop of the day before they run out (or reserve though the app with MaxPass). 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 their top attractions. Keep in mind that our Disneyland Resort Park Plans will help year-round. (Yes, even during Disneyland at Thanksgiving!)
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. The Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure has a marketplace offering tasty treats inspired by different cultures. My mouth is watering 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. Be sure to check the entertainment schedule for parades and fireworks, too!
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. Since we started using MaxPass (which takes a toll on phone battery), having a built-in charger has been a phone-lifesaver.
Family safety and comfort also includes 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 in advance. Rain can be a good thing. YES, I SAID IT. Rain definitely helps keep crowds away. In 2016, it rained the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and that kept crowds to a minimum. We find that weather can play a big role in crowd control during Disneyland Thanksgiving break.
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 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 just under 60 days in advance. If you want to eat a proper Thanksgiving meal, the hotel restaurants started taking reservations Wednesday Oct. 2, 2019, at 7:00 a.m. for Thanksgiving day. If you can't get a dinner reservation for Disneyland at Thanksgiving, 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 as of Oct. 21, 2019. If you do not get one, try checking again at 7:00 a.m. the morning of your visit when 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. 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 are 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!
Have you visited Disneyland at Thanksgiving? Have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments below!