By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Thanksgiving 2013 at Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute


Hoop Dee Doo RevueUpdate October 23: New extended operating hours and 8a openings.

Thanksgiving week at Walt Disney World is busy–particularly Wednesday through Saturday.

While not as crowded as some other holiday weeks–Easter and Christmas, for example–it can be very challenging, and the material below gives some hints on how to deal with it.


Park schedules indicate that this site’s Autumn-Winter-Spring Itinerary works for Thanksgiving Week,  but you will need to arrive at MK and AK an hour earlier than it indicates.

Moreover, a couple of other things are worth noting.

First, this itinerary has you largely off on Thanksgiving itself, and with the only formal meal a morning brunch. Your meals otherwise are in your hotel food court.

If you are looking for something both more formal but fun in your Thanksgiving dinner (not necessarily in menu, but in ambiance and waiters and such), then consider

  • Reserving the Liberty Tree Tavern at the Magic Kingdom Thursday, or
  • Changing your Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort from lunch Tuesday to dinner Thursday, or
  • Moving your Hoop Dee Doo Revue reservations from Tuesday evening to Thursday evening

The first option means both another table service meal and another day of park tickets; the other two don’t cost any more, as they are just moving items already in the Autumn-Winter-Spring Itinerary to another day, and are at resort hotels, not parks.

Note that to get a sit-down meal on Thanksgiving it’s critical that you make your dining reservations well in advance. See this for more.


Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Epcot is open thirty minutes later, and a special Christmas version of Illuminations is shown nightly at 9.30p rather than 9p. Adjust your Friday itinerary for this change in times.

The Candlelight Processional also begins the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Moreover, Disney has changed the operating hours of the parks to accommodate the crowds.

This includes 8a openings all week at the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. Disney may also add additional Extra Magic Hours and more 8a openings.

These changes mean that some of your days need to start one or even two hours earlier than the itinerary suggests.

You can get updated park operating hours when you arrive at Walt Disney World. If you want to know what’s up before then, check the park calendars a day or so before you depart for Florida, and then while you are there as well.

Click the links for park calendars

And Disney veterans–please feel free to add more suggestions for Thanksgiving dinner at Walt Disney World to the comment box below!



1 Sherry { 06.01.14 at 8:59 pm }

How crowded is Disney World on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Thanksgiving?

2 Dave { 06.02.14 at 7:10 am }

Sherry, it’s very crowded then.

3 Nakeyia { 06.28.14 at 6:10 am }

Hi Dave, we will be at Disney World the week of Thanksgiving 2014. I know it will be crowded, but we usually go every year around mid to late July and I was wondering if the crowd levels will be similar to that time of the year or worse. (Hopefully not worse) It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have to schedule our vacation around things like “school” & “jobs” then we could just go whenever (I wish! ) 😉 Also have you heard any rumors of Disney extending park hours this Thanksgiving week like they did last year? Thank you for your help, & I love reading your posts! 🙂

4 Dave { 06.29.14 at 8:45 am }

Hi Nakeyia and thanks!! Thanksgiving week crowds are comparable to July crowds, so you should be fine. And yes, I do expect some 8a openings like last year:

5 Larissa { 08.27.14 at 9:21 am }

Hi Dave,
We will be at Disney World this November for Veterns Day week. Because of my sons school schedule we won’t be able to book a bounce back offer for the same time period. Which of these weeks would you recommend for our next trip? Week of Thanksgiving, Week before Christmas or January 5 till 13? Thanks for all of your help and I really liked the new book.

6 Dave { 08.28.14 at 8:09 am }

Hi Larissa, thanks for your kind words about the book. Your January option is the best choice!

7 Lovett { 11.23.14 at 9:46 am }

Hi, yesterday we went to Studio we had a great time even with weather. Today we are doing down town disney. Monday we need an idea for a park plus Wednesday and Thursday we want to be at the park on thanksgiving day for sure. So we aren’t sure which parks to do next, any ideas? This is our first time here we have been to California and our favorite thing is fireworks

8 Dave { 11.24.14 at 11:56 am }

Hi Lovett, I get behind because of a funeral, so sorry to not be much help today. The only park I can recommend on Thanksgiving is AK. Weds, MK and Epcot are the best of a bad lot of choices…

9 Lovett { 11.23.14 at 9:47 am }

On Saturday we are going on disney cruise too, can’t wait for that

10 Dave { 11.24.14 at 11:56 am }

Cool, Lovett!!

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