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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Thanksgiving at WDW

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday and Happy Thanksgiving!

Since Turkey Day is only a few days away, I thought this would be an appropriate time to write about some tips I picked up during my trip to WDW last Thanksgiving.

Spending any holiday at the parks is a special experience, and Thanksgiving is no different. In fact, a Thanksgiving trip to Walt Disney World really means celebrating two holidays at once. On one hand, you can experience a unique and different Thanksgiving dinner at most of the restaurants across Walt Disney World. On the other hand, most of the Christmas/Holiday decorations are up and many of the holiday events are underway (or will start just after Thanksgiving).

So I have two main tips: one deals with dining while the other deals with the crowds (oh yes, there are crowds).

First the crowds. Thanksgiving is in the top 5 for most crowded times at Walt Disney World. That being said, you can still enjoy the parks with a bit of planning. I've said this time and time again, and Thanksgiving is a perfect reason for it: Get there early! Determine which park you want to visit and get there at least 30 minutes before rope drop. You'll see relatively low crowds for about the first 90 minutes to two hours. After that, the crowd levels ramp up dramatically, so be sure to get in those attractions you most want to experience and grab a FastPass (while they're still available) for something you want to do later in the day.

Ok, enough about crowds. Now for the food!

Each year, most of the restaurants at Walt Disney World offer a special Thanksgiving menu only on Thanksgiving Day. Most of these special menus include some of the classic Thanksgiving dishes (turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc.), though sometimes with a little twist. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to go to a restaurant that you and/or your family might not normally dine at.

For instance, if your family is not all that fond of seafood, you might not normally try to dine at the Coral Reef Restaurant. At Thanksgiving, however, the Coral Reef offers a special Thanksgiving turkey dinner. This would be a perfect opportunity to dine at Coral Reef and experience the aquarium atmosphere.

It's important to remember that Thanksgiving is a peak time of year, so if you are planning on Thanksgiving dinner/lunch at a WDW restaurant, you'll need to make that ADR (advanced dining reservation) as early as possible -- 180 days out from your trip. This is another reason an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner really comes in handy. They can make those ADRs for you so you don't have to keep track of when the booking window opens. One more note - since you're dining during the holiday season, don't be surprised to see a holiday surcharge, especially at buffet restaurants. This isn't just for Thanksgiving, it's for pretty much any busy holiday period.

Also, keep in mind that since restaurants are offering a Thanksgiving-based menu, the normal menu will be limited.

One Thanksgiving (or post Thanksgiving) tradition that isn't at Walt Disney World is Black Friday. You might find a few stores open early at Downtown Disney, but for the most part, the Friday after Thanksgiving is a regular day (at least that was the case last year). Before trekking to the World of Disney at Downtown Disney at 4 a.m. thinking you're going to get some great bargains, I highly suggest calling ahead or checking with the concierge at your resort.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to visit Walt Disney World and experience two holidays at once -- that is once you get there! Whether you fly or drive, Thanksgiving travel is a mess, so be careful and patient!

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