Tips for Thanksgiving 2022 at Disney World
If you’re visiting Walt Disney World for Thanksgiving 2022 and are looking for last-minute restaurant ideas, avoiding holiday crowds, etc., we’ve got you covered. Here we answer frequently asked questions, info, and tips for avoiding Thanksgiving week crowds.
For starters, if you just want general info about the month, from weather to crowds to promotions, read our November 2022 at Walt Disney World post instead of this one. It’s more generalized and covers everything happening during November, rather than just specialized info for Thanksgiving and the holiday week, itself.
Second, for those of you who proclaim “TURKEY BEFORE TREE” as a matter of principle, we have some bad news. Like the seasonal section of Target, Walt Disney World basically transitions from Halloween to Christmas without so much as an inflatable turkey to acknowledge Thanksgiving. Although Thanksgiving undoubtedly holds significance for many families, outside of Butterball and the NFL, it isn’t exactly a lucrative holiday for most businesses. Disney included.
Perhaps this is because no one has proposed an epic fireworks show with a turkey flying around Cinderella Castle, Tinker Bell-style (start the Change.org petition now!). On the plus side, Walt Disney World does offer some special menus for Turkey Day, and between a nice family meal and a relaxed day with your loved ones, that’s probably about the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving, anyway.
With that said, let’s take a look at the best dining options, crowds, entertainment, and other things to consider when it comes to Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World…
At present, Walt Disney World’s website does not seem to indicate which or how many restaurants will serve special Thanksgiving menus. Typically, over two dozen different restaurants offered special menus. Here’s a partial list of restaurants that will have special menus or meal options for Thanksgiving 2022…
- Satu’li Canteen
- Tiffins Restaurant
- Tusker House Restaurant
- Intermission Food Court
- World Premier Food Court
- Intermission Food Court
- Trattoria al Forno
- Three Bridges Bar & Grill
- Topolino’s Terrace
- Ale & Compass Restaurant
Expect several other locations to also serve special Thanksgiving menus. We’ll update this accordingly.
Unfortunately, if you don’t already have Advance Dining Reservations for Thanksgiving, you might be out of luck. Walt Disney World restaurants are still not operating at 100% capacity due to staffing shortages, and demand is very high for Thanksgiving. We’ve heard from several readers wondering about the lack of availability, and that’s the simple and straightforward explanation.
It’s always possible that others will cancel ADRs, so keep checking if you’re unable to get anything booked. Walk-Up Waitlist on the day-of is another possibility. Be flexible with your options and diligent in checking!
Whispering Canyon Cafe is one of our top picks for the holidays. Our most recent Whispering Canyon Cafe Review covers new skillets & shenanigans, which make for a fun Thanksgiving feast. Then there’s Wilderness Lodge: Walt Disney World’s Best Place at Christmas. Combine dinner there with a day in Magic Kingdom and you have a recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving!
Aside from that, our top dinner recommendation would be Liberty Tree Tavern (if only they’d bring back the colonial characters!), followed by Trail’s End Restaurant (takeaway is currently available) or California Grill for fine dining. It’s tough to make precise recommendations, but we think those offer the best mix of holiday-appropriate menus and ambiance.
If you want a different spin on Thanksgiving, we recommend Biergarten. While Germany does not celebrate Thanksgiving (for reasons I hope are obvious), Oktoberfest is basically Germany’s take on Thanksgiving, except with everyone–and not just Drunk Uncle–imbibing. Seriously, Biergarten has a wonderful atmosphere that works incredibly well with Thanksgiving, it’s a family-friendly restaurant, and even if you go alone or as a couple, you will find yourself part of large adopted family by the end of the meal.
If you’re trying for a last-minute ADR and none of those are available, our recommended alternatives would be Grand Floridian Cafe or Geyser Point at Wilderness Lodge, albeit usually without special menus.
On the counter service front, Roaring Fork is another nice choice at Wilderness Lodge. Along those lines, we think Sunshine Seasons at Epcot is a good counter service option, as is this little gem…in any park… 😉
For a different, more laid back style of Thanksgiving, consider Olivia’s Cafe. For something really different, consider Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village.
As mentioned above, there is no Thanksgiving-specific entertainment in any of the Walt Disney World parks or resorts. However, Christmas is in full swing by Thanksgiving in Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and many of the resorts by Thanksgiving.
On the day after Thanksgiving, Epcot’s Holidays Around the World festivities start. Consequently, we’re going to deter to our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World for recommendations of seasonal (read: Christmas) entertainment on Thanksgiving.
As a bit of a corollary to that, we recommend potentially slowing down, maybe relaxing in a resort with your family, enjoying some family time. Particularly at the Disney Vacation Club resorts, you can find great, under-utilized community rooms, where you can watch television, play board games, etc. I can’t speak to how ‘crowded’ these rooms get on Thanksgiving, but I often take my laptop down to these rooms on regular Walt Disney World trips, and I’m typically the only one in the room.
Beyond that, if you want a “Distinctly Patriotic” Thanksgiving (it’s an American holiday, so this is the best we’ve got), we recommend doing Hall of Presidents, American Adventure, MuppetVision 3D, Country Bear Jamboree, and DINOSAUR! (What is more patriotic than capturing a dinosaur?!)
There’s a persistent misconception that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Super Bowl are among the least busy days of the year because “everyone stays at home with their family” (or in the case of the Super Bowl, substitute ‘beer’ for ‘family’). This is about as false as false gets.
Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest weeks of the year at Walt Disney World, and although there is arguably a slight decline on Thanksgiving itself, it is still a 9/10 in terms of crowds. We cover crowd level expectations in our When to Visit Walt Disney World post. Thanksgiving Day crowds are particularly bad at Magic Kingdom and Epcot–as those are the park most locals doing a trip with their families will choose–and better at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
With that said, the week after Thanksgiving (starting on Sunday) is one of the least busy weeks of the holiday season, and one of our favorite weeks of the year to visit Walt Disney World. We cover this (along with our other 2 favorite weeks of the year) in our Best and Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World post. The upside of heading to Walt Disney World after Thanksgiving is that you’ll also hit the parks during the peak of the Christmas season, with decorations up at all hotels and Epcot’s entertainment having started.
Not exactly a ton of useful advice, but at least now you know that there is not a whole lot going on at Walt Disney World for Thanksgiving. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you done Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World? Any restaurant recommendations? Any other tips to avoid crowds or experience the best aspects of the holiday in the parks? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!
Tom, any recommendations for where to watch the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament the week of Turkey 2022 at WDW? Is Disney planning anything?
We are staying at SSR, but willing to go anywhere on property or Disney Springs for a good time 🙂
Thanks! LOVE YOUR WORK!!
Very confused by this quote in your article:
“Unfortunately, if you don’t already have Advance Dining Reservations for Thanksgiving, you might be out of luck. “
How does one get dining reservations four months out when it doesn’t let you until 60 days before your trip?
We where thinking the same thing.. well be there the week of Thanksgiving also..
Based on the older comments, it looks like they “recycled” an old article and just retitled it from 2021 to 2022. Hopefully, a bit better staffed this year vs last.
That was going to be my question, as well
We simply picked up Thanksgiving Lunch last year at BCV Marketplace. Quite good and reasonable.
We got a reservation for whispering canyon and in their page and confirmation it says special menu skillet for that day and different pricing and no regular menu food available for lunch or dinner. Never been so we are very excited about it.
Has anyone had ANY luck getting a good ADR for Thanksgiving Day? We have been trying since our 60-day out date with little luck. We did get a 3:00, but not at what I would consider an ideal restaurant for a holiday dinner!
Need to know where to eat with 7 people on turkey dsy
Hi there! My husband and I will be in Disney thanksgiving week this year and we are excited. We are expecting heavy crowds but plan to still enjoy it! We always have the usual turkey lunch each year, so we decided to try something new. We have an ADR for Tiffins, and are so excited! We have been wanting to eat here and getting to experience it on thanksgiving is even better!!
Tom happy thanksgiving! I was curious and checked wait times on the app and it didn’t seem horrible but what struck me is the lack of attractions at so many Disney world parks. Magic kingdom is the only park with a good number of attractions. I realize world showcase and AK are attractions unto themselves but I think the parks need at least 3 major additional attractions except for MK.
“epic fireworks show with a turkey flying around Cinderella Castle, Tinker Bell-style” – please God, yes. They should do that. It would be epic. Truly epic.
Does anyone know if they maintain the standard menu at Le Cellier and just add thanksgiving offerings? I was really looking forward to the food on the Le Cellier menu but once I booked the confirmation indicated “Le Cellier Thanksgiving Dinner”, which isn’t what I want! I’m just not clear if they serve both options or totally nix the standard menu. TIA!
3 years ago we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and stayed 10 days. (We are usually 6-7 day travelers). So, we were able to slow down a bit and did a few things that I believe made our trip particularly memorable. On thanksgiving day we were able to eat at the Liberty Tavern Inn, full family style traditional Thanksgiving feast, complete with waiters in full colonial regalia. It was very special. Because of planning we hit a few of the rides with no wait due to having fast passes and just took in the sights, we even road the riverboat which we never take time for.
The other (non Disney) thing we did was go to Discovery Cove at Sea World on the crazy day after Thanksgiving and as they limit the number of tickets they sell to the park it truly felt like we had it to ourselves.
It was a wonderful, surprisingly stress free Thanksgiving day and weekend.
Cynthia, my husband and I did Discovery Cove in the middle of our Disney honeymoon and I will never forget it. I’ve wanted to go since I was a little girl and it was so magical. Glad you had a great trip with your hubby! 🙂
Spent last thanksgiving at WDW and had a grand time. While crowded it was still manageable and we did a decent amount and even scored some last minute fastpasses(Space Mountain, Peter Pan). Spent TG day at Magic Kingdom and took an early dinner at the coffee shop (“GF Café”) at the Grand Floridian…which is where we could find a reservation. While the food was okay(Home Town Buffet/Cafeteria quality), the portions were skimpy especially for the price. Think we might have been better off just going to one of the big resort food courts, which we may try next time. Park was open really late and did a ton in the last 3 hours, including 30 minute wait for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at park closing, so all in all we were very happy with our trip, crowds were down from TG on Black Friday and the following Saturday(We were at DHS on Fri & DAK on Saturday). Went to EPCOT on wed. before TG and it was packed. Looking forward to a return trip, love TG at the World!
I am just in awe at the thought of how glorious and majestic a giant flying turkey in a fireworks show would be.
Think of how much better it would be if the majestic, giant flying turkey was shooting fireworks out of some part of its body . . .
Now that’s a dessert party I’d gladly pay the upcharge for!
Tip: if you call the Disney dining reservations line, they can tell you what will be on the menus for the thanksgiving meals. With specifics. I called exactly at the 180 mark, and asked for the menu listings at the places I was interested in – it took awhile to get through the full menus but it was totally worth it.
We will dine on a special African inspired Thanksgiving meal at Jiko this year. WOOOOOO!!!
Now you need to do a Disneyland version! We went in 2014 and it was so hard to find info on “Disney Thanksgiving,” however, I was able to track down a list of restaurants that offered a Thanksgiving special, and booked one for our family at Carnation Cafe.
Disneyland is one that people could make reservations a few weeks ahead of Thanksgiving and get into a variety of restaurants, but a lot of people get suckered into thinking that the extremely expensive Disneyland Hotel Thanksgiving feast is the only option at DL for Thanksgiving, which is certainly not true.
We are visiting from Thanksgiving through the following week. Last year we were lucky to get a dinner reservation at Beast’s Castle for Thanksgiving dinner. The atmosphere/food combination was a great memory for our little family. This year we grabbed a linner (or dunch depending on your preference) reservation at Cinderella’s Castle. A little on the pricey side, but I’m hoping it matches the meal from last year. Looking forward to Thanksgiving at Disney and quickly switching to Christmas mode (although I’m sure I’ll be in
Christmas mode as soon as I see the Main Street decorations)!