Is Walt Disney World Busy on Thanksgiving? – Everything You Need to Know

There is something very special about Walt Disney World in Florida. This incredibly popular family theme park resort is a must-visit, at least once during your lifetime.

But what are the best times to go, and is Thanksgiving a good choice?

Surprisingly, Thanksgiving is one of the most popular days of the year to visit Walt Disney World, with all parks often reaching capacity by 11am. The week before and after Thanksgiving are also busy with families looking to combine a trip to Walt Disney World with seeing family for the holidays.

So, with that in mind, should you visit Walt Disney World over Thanksgiving, and if you do, how can you avoid the crowds?

Is Walt Disney World Open On Thanksgiving?

All of Walt Disney World’s theme parks, water parks, hotels & attractions are open as usual on Thanksgiving.

Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Opening Time

While the opening times for each of the Walt Disney World theme parks & attractions do vary and can be extended on the day, they are generally as follows on Thanksgiving;

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 10pm or 11pm, depending on the day of the week.
Parades occur at midday and 3pm, while the evening firework display is at 9pm.

Epcot: 8.30am – 9pm.

Hollywood Studios: 8.30am – 9pm.

Animal Kingdom: 7.30am – 8.30pm.

All of these times are subject to change, so it’s worth checking back on the Walt Disney World calendar regularly in the days and weeks before your trip.

Walt Disney World Thanksgiving Attractions & Decorations

Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World is a relatively low key affair. There is no specific decor, no special parade, no noteworthy attractions to experience or unique food to enjoy.

However, you will find that Walt Disney World is decorated with a holiday-inspired colour scheme that makes visiting the park at this time of year extra special.

The transformation from Halloween / Fall decor to the holidays takes place overnight on October 31st to launch on the day after Halloween on November 1st.

As a result, you’ll be able to enjoy these decorations regardless of when in November (or December) you visit.

And while there is no dedicated Thanksgiving food available, you can still enjoy turkey at the Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom by dining on the ‘Patriot’s Platter’.

However, many people book this restaurant specifically for a Thanksgiving-inspired meal at Magic Kingdom so if you do want turkey on the day, then make sure you book a table as far in advance as your booking window allows; otherwise, you may just be dining on a turkey leg instead.

What’s Walt Disney World Like On Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the calendar year to visit the Walt Disney World Resort.

As a result, you’ll find that the queues to get into the park start earlier, they are longer, and the parks themselves often reach capacity by 11am.

However, visiting the Walt Disney World Resort during a high season such as Thanksgiving is not necessarily a bad thing as being among excited and like-minded families can be a great experience.

The key to enjoying the experience, however, is planning and preparation.

Personally, I wouldn’t advise anyone to visit Walt Disney World over Thanksgiving if they’ve never been before, as prior knowledge will be vital in ensuring that your expectations are measured, and your planning is on point.

It’s also safe to assume that over Thanksgiving, you’re not going to experience all the attractions at Walt Disney World as you would during other quieter times of the year due to the crowds.

During our trip to Walt Disney World at Thanksgiving, we found that wait times for rides were approximately double and, in some cases, triple the average.

Queueing for food and drinks also took significantly longer, and outdoor seating was incredibly limited.

If you’re travelling with children to the parks, make sure they are prepared for the crowds in advance as everything from the car park to the ferry and buses across the resort will be incredibly busy, which can be extremely overwhelming.

Make sure they are aware of what to do if they get lost and to alert you if they need the toilet way in advance – as once again, the queues will be significant.

Personally, we’ve been to Walt Disney World over Thanksgiving as a couple and found it stressful and somewhat frustrating – despite visiting the parks multiple times before and being as prepared as we could.

Now we have a child; we’d probably put off visiting again over that week / ten-day period until they are in their teens.

How To Avoid Crowds At Walt Disney World Over Thanksgiving

While Walt Disney World is always going to be busy on and around Thanksgiving, there are some things you can do to minimise the impact the crowds will have on your trip;

Avoid The Weekend

If people don’t visit Walt Disney World on Thanksgiving, they usually do so on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday that follows.

Unsurprisingly then, if you do want to visit Walt Disney World during Thanksgiving, it’s often better to do so on the Monday to Wednesday before rather than on the days that follow.

Use My Disney Experience

The ‘My Disney Experience’ app is a must-have download if you want to minimise the amount of time you spend waiting in line at the park.

Use the mobile app to book places to eat and times for rides and attractions, and you may find you can jump queues in some cases.

Get used to the app in advance, so you know your way around it when you arrive at Walt Disney World.

Start Early, Really Early!

Videos of the queue to get into the Walt Disney World Resort over Thanksgiving have gone viral in recent years, with cars trailing back for miles.

To avoid being one of those cars, arriving at the resort as early as possible is essential.

Animal Kingdom is the park that opens the earliest at 7.30am, with the most popular park, Magic Kingdom, not opening until 9am. However, that doesn’t stop guests arriving as early as 4am to get in line.

Avoid Park Hopping

Park hopping is usually a fantastic experience. However, on and around Thanksgiving, that sadly isn’t the case.

That’s because once you leave the park, you’ll have to travel to the other, which could take twice or even three times as long as usual.

Then, of course, you’ll have to queue to get into that park, and if the park is at capacity, you could be waiting hours or never get in at all.

By this point, of course, you’ve already left the other park, so there’s no turning back, and instead, you’re just left stranded.

Instead, if you want to go between parks, make sure you assess the crowds in advance to get an idea of your travel time and wait time or wait until the following day.

Decide On Rides In Advance

Decide in advance the must-do rides during your trip to Walt Disney World, and decide the order you should go on them in based on their location within the park and popularity / standard wait times.

Stay On Site

By staying on-site at the Walt Disney World Resort, you’ll benefit from resort transportation and be closer to the action.

While this does come at a price, it can easily save you multiple hours in just one day over the Thanksgiving period.

Be Prepared To Stay Late!

The fireworks display at Magic Kingdom takes place at 9pm and marks the end of the day for most visitors.

However, if you’ve still some energy left, it’s well worth hanging around afterwards as you’ll find that the wait times for even the most popular rides are significantly shorter.

This, combined with the transportation back over to your on-site hotel or the Ticket and Transportation Center being quieter, makes staying late a fantastic experience.

Book For More Than One Day

Over Thanksgiving, it’s near impossible to experience everything from just one of the Walt Disney World parks in one day.

As such, if you want to experience everything, be sure to book for more than one day to allow for extra time queueing and travelling.

Booking Meals Ahead

If you plan to have a table service meal at Walt Disney World during Thanksgiving, you will need to book ahead as there will be no walk-in tables available.

Booking as far in advance as the booking window allows will be key in ensuring that you get the restaurant and time you’d prefer.

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