Is Universal Studios Orlando Busy On Thanksgiving?

Thinking of visiting Universal Studios Orlando over Thanksgiving? Many people travel across state lines to visit family and friends over the holiday period and choose to visit theme parks such as Universal Studios in Orlando during this time. However, that might not always be a good idea.

Thanksgiving is the busiest time to visit Universal Studios Orlando, second only to Christmas and New Year. The park usually reaches capacity at around 11am on Thanksgiving, as a result, wait times for popular rides are often 2 hours or more.

In this post, I’ll be discussing the things you should consider when deciding whether or not to visit Universal Studios Orlando over Thanksgiving, including opening times, associated costs, hotel availability, special events etc.

Is Universal Studios Orlando Open On Thanksgiving?

Whilst perhaps not as busy as, during Christmas, Thanksgiving and the week or so surrounding it is a hugely busy time for Universal Studios Orlando.

You might think it’s the perfect time to go because you have managed to get some vacation from work and the kids are off school, however, unfortunately, a vast majority of others also have had the same idea.

If previous years are anything to go by, Universal Studios Orlando will likely reach capacity at around 11am. At this point, you’ll be turned away from the park and asked to return another day. If capacity is reached and you’re already inside, expect large crowds and long queues on popular rides and at food stalls.

Thanksgiving Opening Times

Universal Studios Orlando opens for extended hours from 9am – 9pm, much like Christmas and weekend times.

As opposed to the standard 10am-6pm, this provides visitors with additional time to visit, queue and experience everything they’d like when at the park.

However, to maximise your visit, I’d still advise you to arrive 30 minutes prior to opening, this guarantees you’ll get into the park prior to it reaching capacity and allows you to visit some of the more popular rides during the quieter periods of the day while others are still queuing to enter.

Thanksgiving Special Attractions and Decorations

Thanksgiving itself isn’t particularly celebrated by the park. There’s no specific extra attractions or decorations put on. However, you can certainly get in a jolly and merry spirit from November 16th.

As it’s on this day that the park transforms for the festive period and sees the introduction of the much favourite Grinchmas park theme and Wizarding World of Harry Potter Christmas decor.

This sees on-site resort hotels such as Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort putting on daily Christmas Tree lighting ceremonies, live music and just generally a place to soak in all the festivities.

Be sure to check out The Classic Monsters Cafe (over at Universal Studios) and Thunder Falls Terrace (found at the Islands of Adventure) as they both serve a full turkey for four feasts for a limited time only during the week of Thanksgiving.

On top of this, the actual day of celebration brings out a three-course turkey munch at Lombard’s Seafood Grille and Confisco Grille.


Although there aren’t many extra attractions, entertainment or decorations for Thanksgiving within the studios, the hotels in and around the theme park more than make-up for this.

Many of the hotels in the vicinity put on special Thanksgiving banquets and feasts which can make for some unforgettable memories.

Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock Hotel, the Royal Pacific and Sapphire Falls resort all have various Thanksgiving meals and not only host turkey banquets throughout their many restaurants. They also provide live music, children’s entertainment, face painters and balloonists – fun for all the family! 

What’s Universal Studios Orlando Like On Thanksgiving Day?

There’s never a bad time to visit the studios as they just offer so much to everyone who steps foot through the gates, but it must be noted that Thanksgiving day and the weekend following it is going to be hugely busy times in this part of the world.

The crowds who attend at this time of the year are only really surpassed by Christmas the rest of the year. 

The crowds mean long lines, big queues and growing frustration over lost time. But if you are attending the studios on Thanksgiving you can totally work around the crowds, manage your time wisely and ultimately make the most out of your visit.

Just like at Christmas time, the festive decorations are about meaning you have loads of additional extras to get your teeth stuck into asides from the normal exhilarating rides. 

Grinchmas and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter provide festive themes for large sections of the park. These commence in November and are a favourite for those attending.

Christmas lights, additional characters floating about and sections full of merriment, these themes are not to be missed, even before Christmas! As we mentioned previously, there is not a great deal of specific Thanksgiving events within the park asides from turkey dinners.

However, the Universal Studios festive parade featuring Macy’s is a must for anyone visiting when it’s on. It hosts all your favourite characters and even Santa makes an appearance at the end.

You could also consider taking some time out to help others and get involved in the Feeding Children Everywhere project which looks to bag food parcels for more than a quarter of a million desperate kids.  

How To Avoid Crowds At Universal Studios Orlando During Thanksgiving

Whilst there’s no way you will be able to escape the crowds and busy streets of the studios in Orlando on Thanksgiving, there are certainly ways in which you can minimise your chance of being caught up in horrendously long queues. For this, you need to be prepared.

You’ll want to head down early doors to the park for its opening. This allows you to get in before the large queues and lines start building up later on in the day.

Whilst you’re at it in the morning you should certainly look to be grabbing your breakfast before coming to the park, whether that be en route or in your hotel. It means you avoid losing valuable morning time looking for grub and can instead focus on all that fun stuff! 

If you are wanting to hop on the more popular rides in the park then you will more than likely need to look at jumping on them quickly, as a single rider or alternatively by purchasing an Express pass.

Whatever it is that you end up doing, you want to make sure that you have sorted out your tickets in advance and have a plan of action for the day.

You don’t want to waste valuable time in the park debating which rides you want to go on, or spent in a queue for a ticket to even get into the place. 

Ticket Prices For Universal Studios Orlando At Thanksgiving

The basic tickets for Thanksgiving are the same as the rest of the standard prices. Where it can become more expensive is when looking at purchasing Express Passes, which are not essential but extremely helpful and certainly something to consider.

For an extra fee, you can acquire one of these passes which allow you to go in shorter lines and avoid as big crowds – which many end up seeing as a well worthy investment.

Annual passes also cover Thanksgiving week which allows regulars to join in on the turkey feasts if they want to. This in itself shows how the park will be busier than usual but nowhere near the levels found during the week of Christmas. 

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