Disneyland is a wonderful, magical place for anyone to visit any time of the year. But still, many have wondered, with Thanksgiving’s emphasis on staying home with a turkey-based feast with the family, how busy could Disneyland possibly be on Thanksgiving?
Unfortunately, because of a few reasons, Disneyland is historically busiest at Thanksgiving. Not only are the kids out of school, but most of Disney’s lower-tier annual passes are credible early in the week, which attracts even more people, making it one of the most crowded days of the year.
With Thanksgiving being so jam-packed with holiday goers heading out in droves, it might lead people to wonder; if November is so busy, what times is it best to visit Disneyland? Well, November is a better time to visit than some people think, just not always when most people believe it, for the reasons we’ll discuss below.
November has always had its hectic times for Disneyland, with the weekends jam-packed and the holidays filled with people. However, in 2019, almost the entire month was in the warning zone for crowds. In 2020, despite Events, Disneyland enjoyed a hugely busy first and last week of November – which means it even had a busy Thanksgiving during the global pandemic.
However, strangely, 2020 was a better description of what Disneyland would call ‘normal’ traffic than 2019 was, as one of the most recommended times to visit Disneyland is mid-week in mid-November. The reason is that the Halloween crowd has died down, and the Thanksgiving crowd has yet to arrive.
For those of you wondering, this logic can be applied all year round when considering whether to visit Disneyland:
- When the school holidays are not on
- Between the calendar holidays
These are the best times to go without a doubt, no matter what month it is. The only real exception to this rule is in the middle of summer. While there are generally not a lot of officially celebrated holidays in the Georgian calendar in June, July and August, you can guarantee the school holidays will mean the visitors will be out in full.
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Thanksgiving Opening Times
So, this is a deceptively complex question because Disneyland has never had particularly tough opening times – it is not one of those places that will have a sign on the door stating firm opening and closing times. Still instead, Disneyland hours vary with the hours of sunshine in the day.
Simply put, they are open for longer in the summer when there’s more sun and open for far less time in winter when there’s a considerable amount less. It’s also simple to expect that it will be open for longer when school is out for any reason, such as holidays like Christmas or summer vacation.
This may sound like nothing but a huge hassle but learn to work it right, and you could easily find yourself going in early – due to this fluctuation of opening times, the ropes can drop, and doors can open up to half an hour earlier!
For the majority of November, Disneyland’s opening hours go as follows:
- Up to 10 or 11 hours per day on Monday through to Friday
- 14 to 16 hours from Saturday and Sunday.
- On Thanksgiving weekend, which is the fourth Thursday through to Sunday, they will keep these weekend hours.
Unfortunately, that’s all that can be said for sure until about six weeks before your visit, as Disneyland has no strict hours and will instead post them on their website a few weeks ahead of the date. These posts will also contain the times of the parades, fireworks and other entertainment, so remember to check for yourself.
Thanksgiving Special Attractions and Decorations
Disneyland has always been well known to change its beautiful decorations throughout the year. Between October’s spooky Halloween theme and December’s red and green candy cane layered Christmas, there is an orange maple leaf and turkey-themed Thanksgiving decorations.
Of course, like any Thanksgiving, the main draw is the food. The menu in many of the places of Disneyland changes to turkey everything, with the staple and favourite being a gigantic smoked turkey leg paired with a corn on the cob.
A more formal dinner is prepared in the main halls for those who book ahead and are also willing to eat its steep cost. But alongside the bill, you’ll be swallowing turkey, pumpkin pie, ribeye steaks, shrimp cocktails, and so many more delicacies.
Finally, Thanksgiving wraps itself up and brings in the Christmas season with a parade adorned with nutcracker themed floats and Micky and co having fun with Santa’s elves. Those are the basic ones, with floats of some of their many, many other movies coming by, which are different every time.
What’s Disneyland Like On Thanksgiving Day?
Busy. There is no getting around that; whilst the middle of November is great for avoiding the crowds, if you’re looking for a magical experience in that last week of November, you will be joining thousands of others.
With everything, so slam packed, the best way to have a magical experience at Disneyland during this time is to arrive with a solid strategy. Book where you are going to eat ahead of time because there will be no walk-ins on Thanksgiving.
Look online to find out precise opening times, so you show up exactly when the doors open (or perhaps, as we’ve discussed before, even earlier than that!) Then, once you have a firm plan for yourself and your family, you can breathe and take in the wonder of the gorgeous decorations and take a whiff of that lovely Thanksgiving food!
How To Avoid Crowds At Disneyland During Thanksgiving
Well, the busiest days of November are Thanksgiving, and with it being such a titan of a holiday, you’re going to encounter some crowds no matter what. But there are a few things you can do to make the trip easier.
- Disneyland’s busiest time during this holiday is usually on the Friday and Saturday just after Thanksgiving, so ironically, if you want a Disneyland Thanksgiving, you might avoid the crowds best by going on the day itself.
- If you can use mobile ordering to reserve your spot in events and restaurants, that can be a great way to skip the lines and handle crowds.
- Show up early. Make plans for an early rise, eat breakfast before you come and arrive at the gates an hour before the park is supposed to open. As we’ve said before, you might not be waiting all that long at all since they let people in early.
- Stay late. This is another way to beat the crowds – after the fireworks, the park often clears out and that leaves many rides with a minimal wait, which can be a fantastic way to beat the crowds.
- Make a plan. Using the early/late plan, decide which rides you’re going to do first or leave last, and do the most popular rides then. Standing around deciding which rides to do first thing in the morning is a great way to miss that golden opportunity you set up for yourself!
Ticket Prices For Disneyland At Thanksgiving
Disneyland offers two kinds of tickets, one where you can visit Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park only, or a ‘Park Hopper’ ticket where you can see both.
These tickets can be for one day through to five-day tickets. It depends on how old you are, with individuals two years old and under not needing a ticket, ages 3 to 9 needing a children’s ticket and over 10’s needing an adult one – and it also depends on the date.
The cost of a ticket is divided into tiers 1 to 6, with the higher tiers being more expensive on those dates. Thanksgiving, of course, will be in one of the most costly tiers with it being such a significant holiday, but with the pandemic, finding exact details for Thanksgiving 2022 will be difficult until closer to the time.
There is an average ticket tier available on Disney’s website, however, so expect on average $255 for an adult and $240 for a child on a two-day ticket for one park ($315 and $300 respectively on a ‘Park Hopper’ ticket), and this goes up to $380 and $360 for a five-day ticket to a single park ($440 and $420 for ‘Park Hopper’).
So, in short, that gives you a rough idea of what you would be spending, but add a few extra dollars because it’s Thanksgiving.