Visiting Walt Disney World During Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is fast approaching and those folks visiting Walt Disney World during the holiday will experience some of the highest attended days all year. As a local, I normally steer clear of the parks when they are at their busiest but I’ve certainly had my share of Thanksgiving Dinners in the parks! With that in mind I wanted to share the benefit of my experience with those brave souls that will be heading out to the parks this holiday season.

IMG_3746There will be lines

It’s important to go into the day with the understanding that the crowds will become unavoidable at some point. Though you can avoid most of the pain by following a Touring Plan, there unfortunately isn’t a FASTPASS for the restroom! It may sound unreal, but ladies should plan on up to a 30 minute wait for facilities during the busy afternoon and evening leading up to the fireworks. Another unexpected location for lines can be counter service restaurants. Even during the non-peak times of day, lines can snake outside the building. That might be understandable for a meal, but that is difficult when you might just be looking for a drink for a thirsty child. I recommend on these very crowded days to bring a water bottle and some snacks in a backpack. The last huge holiday we attended in the park was the Fourth of July. We were prepared with everything we needed to stay in the park, so the restroom was the only line we couldn’t avoid. Doing this made our day much more enjoyable!

See backstage!

During the busiest days of the year, most parks will open up backstage areas and cast walkways to help the swelling crowd move throughout the park. While this might not be something the average guest would even notice, it’s pretty exciting for Disney geeks like me! When else can you see behind the scenes at the most magical place on Earth without paying a tour fee?

Don’t settle for a burger

If you will be spending your holiday at Walt Disney World, then why not celebrate with a proper Thanksgiving feast with all the fixins? Several restaurants in the parks and resorts will have special menus for Thanksgiving. For full details you can call 407-WDW-DINE. My most recent Thanksgiving meal was at The Liberty Tree Tavern, and it was excellent! If you are planning to spend a full day in the parks, a sit down lunch can be a great break in the middle of the day, plus you can avoid the lines at counter service locations. Overall, a nice lunch in the middle of the day is certainly something to be thankful for this year!

Move away from Main Street

If you will be watching the fireworks inside the Magic Kingdom, consider watching them from a location other than Main Street. We love the view from inside New Fantasyland and along the river in Liberty Square. These locations offer an excellent view without standing in an elbow to elbow crowd. You might even consider watching from one of the resorts!

IMG_3049Tour resorts

Don’t lose heart if you decide after a few hours that staying in a packed park isn’t for you. Just outside the gates of the Magic Kingdom is the resort monorail which leads to lots of holiday fun! All of the resorts are decorated for Christmas, but they also have their own special features. At the Contemporary Resort you can find a huge Christmas tree made from gingerbread. Traditionally at this location they sell gingerbread cookies and molded chocolate lollipops. At the Grand Floridian a gingerbread house is constructed every year that is so large cast members sell gingerbread shingles from inside the house! Also for sale are pre-made gingerbread houses and molded chocolate figures of Disney characters. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anything special at the Polynesian the past couple years, but the resort is beautifully decorated and always worth stopping by. If nothing else the line for a Dole Whip will be much shorter at their counter service restaurant, Captain Cook’s. If you decide to venture past the monorail loop, be sure to stop by the Epcot Resorts where you can see a life size carousel made entirely of chocolate!

Christmas décor and events

IMG_3587Remember that visiting during Thanksgiving means that you will be able to see all the Christmas décor and entertainment offered in the parks! This doesn’t just include Christmas decorations in the parks, but also the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade, Candlelight Processional, Festival of the Seasons, and the Osborne Family Lights! Of course, if you can visit the week after Thanksgiving, the crowds will be much more reasonable, but if you’ll be in town for the holiday, be sure to take advantage of these seasonal events.

Limited Time Magic?

While most limited time magic events have been forgettable, there is no telling what may be in store for Thanksgiving! I’m personally hoping for the return of a pardoned turkey, but only time will tell!

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

If you aren’t able to make it to Orlando this Thanksgiving weekend, remember you can always tune into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I can’t even remember a year that there wasn’t a Disney balloon featured!

Have you ever been to Walt Disney World for Thanksgiving? What was your best tip to avoid the crowds? Did I miss your favorite Christmas event? Please let us know in the comments below, and – as always – thanks for reading!

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Posted on October 28, 2013

6 Responses to “Visiting Walt Disney World During Thanksgiving”

  • Great post – I presume some of these tips hold true for other mega busy times in the parks too? Its certainly something I will bear in mind when we are at WDW next year for 4th July, I didn’t even consider having to queue for the bathroom! – anyone got any 4th july tips as well?

    • Hi Julie – Gosh I’m sorry! I didn’t see your comment until now. I love July 4th at Disney! For starters the Magic Kingdom fireworks are tested the night before on July 3rd so you can see them twice or choose to switch it up and do 2 different parks. I would also suggest watching them on the river front in Liberty Square rather than Main Street. It gets crazy up there! I hope you have a great time.

  • We were there for Thanksgiving 4 years ago, and aside from the nice gift of swine flu that some guest gave us to bring home, we had a great time. :)

    Re: Thanksgiving dinner–we were worried we wouldn’t be able to find a restaurant that served traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Turns out we didn’t have to worry about that at all–in fact, it was hard to find a Table Service restaurant that did not serve Thanksgiving dinner.

    We spent Thanksgiving day in Epcot, thinking that park would probably handle large crowds best. We had a great day–we were there at rope drop, did the Future World attractions we wanted to hit, had an early Thanksgiving dinner at Le Cellier then spent the rest of the day in World Showcase. I highly recommend it!

  • I went to WDW 2 years ago during Thanksgiving. It was crowded but with fastpasses it wasn’t too bad. The Osbourne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios is a must see! Great place to take Christmas Card pictures.

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