Top Things to Do at Disney World on Thanksgiving 2018

Learn About Special Parades, Patriotic Attractions, and Dining Options

Disney's Boardwalk Inn
Testa Images / Getty Images

If you're heading to Disney World for Thanksgiving, you'll find plenty to do to celebrate the holiday in the theme parks and resorts. The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom are all open on Thanksgiving Day, so pick your favorite park and join in the turkey-day fun.

All of the parks will be decorated for the holidays—just not the Thanksgiving holiday. Those of you visiting during this time will be eased right into the Christmas spirit. The one exception to this is the Land Pavilion at Epcot, where pumpkins, gourds, and scarecrows are usually on display in Living With the Land and the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot.

Another thing you will see on Thanksgiving Day: crowds. Thanksgiving Day is definitely a day for you to take advantage of Fastpass+, single rider lines, and the rider switch program to make the most of your holiday visit.

  • 01 of 11

    Experience the American Adventure at Epcot

    Spaceship Earth Epcot
    Spaceship Earth, the iconic landmark in Epcot at Disney World and one of its original attractions. Gene Duncan / Walt Disney World News

    Epcot presents the American Adventure show, a memorable 30-minute journey through the history of America. This program, packed with innovative audio-animatronics, visual effects, and patriotic songs, is stunning any time of year, but Thanksgiving is the ideal time to be reminded of the country's humble beginnings—don't miss the pilgrim vignette at the beginning of the presentation.

    The American Adventure Pavillion theater seats 1,035 guests and everyone gets a great view of the show from any seat.

  • 02 of 11

    Watch a Parade

    Picture of Mickey's Air Ship in Festival of Fantasy Parade with Cinderella's Castle in the background.
    It is easy for young ones to wander off during the excitement of Disney's parades. © The Walt Disney Company

    Every year, if you visit the Magic Kingdom on Thanksgiving Day, you are in for a treat—the Thanksgiving Parade of Bands. This mass marching band performance includes award-winning bands from around the country. Plus, you’ll see Mickey, Minnie, and the gang dressed in pilgrim regalia. You can choose between this special parade or the Festival of Fantasy Parade.

    Find a place to sit at least 10 minutes before the parade starts to be sure you can see everything.

  • 03 of 11

    Feast on Thanksgiving Dinner

    Disney Thanksgiving
    Courtesy of Walt Disney World News

    Just because you are on vacation doesn't mean you need to miss out on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings. All of the restaurants in the Disney resorts and parks are open on the big day. Enjoy Thanksgiving "under the sea" at the Coral Reef in Epcot, where you can dine near the 8-foot-high aquarium window. Or have your meal in the Colonial-themed American restaurant, the Liberty Tree Tavern, or Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom. Be sure to make reservations well in advance so you don't miss out.

    All Disney World theme park restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving Day, but only some offer a special turkey day menu. You don't have to be a guest at a Disney World resort to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

    Although Disney World rarely announces exactly which restaurants are serving Thanksgiving meals, the usuals include Le Cellier Steakhouse, Sunshine Seasons, Akershus, Biergarten, and Rose & Crown in Epcot; Satu’li Canteen or...MORE Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom; or the Hollywood Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios.

    Epcot’s Coral Reef Restaurant and Le Cellier Steakhouse will both serve holiday meals at lunch and dinner, offering a unique twist to family traditions by providing a picture-perfect view of the park’s saltwater-dwelling creatures or a taste Canadian fine dining, respectively.

    Most all of the deluxe-level Disney resorts will be offering some type of Thanksgiving fare. 

  • 04 of 11

    Grab Turkey on the Go

    Turkey legs
    Harris Graber / Getty Images

    If you can't get a restaurant reservation (or don't want one), you can still grab a smoked turkey leg at the Frontierland Turkey Leg Cart in the Magic Kingdom and bypass the Thanksgiving meal entirely. You'll still enjoy a satisfying meal and be ready to hop aboard your favorite attractions with less of a wait. Time your rides at typical dinner times to avoid the longest lines.

    If you go to the park early in the day, you can avoid the worst of the Thanksgiving Day crowds and have your big traditional Thanksgiving meal later.

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  • 05 of 11

    Attractions at Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom

    If you are feeling patriotic for Thanksgiving and will be in the Magic Kingdom, then check out the updated Hall of Presidents attraction at in Liberty Square. While there, stay for a showing of "The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History," to whet your historical appetite.

  • 06 of 11

    Epcot International Festival of the Holidays

    Join in a spirited celebration of joyful traditions during Epcot International Festival of the Holidays—returning to Epcot November 18 through December 30, 2018. 

    Discover a festival that features the holiday traditions of the 11 world showcase nations. Delight in stirring live musical productions; savor seasonal food and beverage specialties at the expanded holiday kitchens, and take a festive global tour as costumed performers bring time-honored traditions to life throughout the world showcase.

  • 07 of 11

    Check Out the Festive Decorations

    Decorations for Christmas start going up in Disney World usually the first week in November. The parks will not be completely dressed for Thanksgiving, but they'll be nearly complete. It’s an excellent time to get into the Christmas spirit without having to deal with the Christmas crowds. Plus, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party begins mid-November (although will not be going on Thanksgiving). But, you may get a chance to see the party if you are there for the rest of the week.

  • 08 of 11

    Start Your Christmas Shopping

    Give your loved ones the gift of Disney magic. Shop for authentic Disney Parks merchandise—including toys, apparel and more. It is the perfect time to get collectible pins, designer Magicbands, and customized Mickey Mouse ears. You can't go wrong with gifts from Disney World especially those that are customized with names or made on the premises. Another benefit of staying at a Disney resort is if you buy a ton of stuff, you can have your purchased items delivered to your room and won't have to lug it around all day.

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  • 09 of 11

    Check Out the Resorts

    Several resorts go all out with their decorations and then some. Resorts like Disney's Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, Boardwalk Inn, and the Beach and Yacht Club all have spectacular, life-sized gingerbread displays. The Beach Club usually has a full-size chocolate carrousel with hidden Mickey's all around it. The Yacht Club resort has a railroad village covering one entire corner of the lobby. The Contemporary has special goodies for sale. The Christmas trees at the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom lodges are massive.

    For a frame of reference, the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian requires 1,050 pounds of honey, 700 pounds of chocolate, 600 pounds of confectioner’s sugar, 35 pounds of spices, 800 pounds of flour, 140 pints of egg whites and 180 pounds of apricot glaze.

  • 10 of 11

    Go on the Jingle Cruise at Magic Kingdom

    For the past few years, the Jungle Cruise ride at the Magic Kingdom is decked out for Christmas with the tongue-in-cheek decor and silly jokes by your cruise operator as you board. There is plenty of yuletide cheer throughout. You can cruise through the jungle aboard the Jingle Cruise starting in early November 2018.

  • 11 of 11

    See First Day of Candlelight Processional

    Hear the stirring story of Christmas—as told by a celebrity narrator, and accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and massed choir at Epcot. This dazzling presentation returns November 22 through December 30, 2018, premiering on Thanksgiving.