Giving Thanks at the Disneyland Resort

by Jenna Kahl, contributing writer

Any holiday, is a great excuse to plan a Disneyland resort vacation, but after my family's first trip during the Thanksgiving holiday, I am thoroughly convinced that we have found the perfect time to visit and create a new family tradition. There are many perks to Thanksgiving at the parks, but the mix of yummy food and cooler autumn weather, paired with the Christmas holiday décor, really tops the list. What better place to spark the holiday spirit for adults and kids alike than at the Disneyland Resort?

We especially love having our two little ones meet with Santa (who hangs out this year in California Adventure at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail), and removing the obligatory hour-long wait in a stuffy mall back home. Every Santa my family and I have experienced at the Disneyland Resort has been spectacular, and their Santa outfits are certainly on point.

Taking a great Christmas card photo from the usual spot at the Main Street Christmas tree is great, but other locations, like outside of "it's a small world" and the Main Street Fire House, offer a different look. If you want an indoor spot, check out Disney's Grand Californian Resort and Spa for a truly spectacular spot for a photo and some great hot chocolate.

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa's Christmas Tree. Photo by Jenna Kahl

The resort offers many opportunities to buy special ornaments that you can actually use that year to commemorate the season. Maybe it's an attraction your family enjoys, or a character you love, or a simple one with Sleeping Beauty Castle and the year written on it.

When it comes to holiday shopping, ornaments and Disney kitchen accessories, such as towels, mugs and spatulas, are always great to give the hard-to-shop-for relatives and friends and are easier on the wallet. Also, the cast members at the store will wrap up anything that has the potential to break. Getting my shopping done at the Resort means that I leave feeling proactive and ahead of the game, for once.

I actually enjoy cooking Thanksgiving dinner but, after our first trip to the Disney Family Feast at the Disneyland Hotel, my family, especially my two little girls (ages 5 and 2), fell in love with it. The initial cost per person can be a little off-putting at approximately $75 for adults and $22 for kids age 3-9. However, after doing the math of buying groceries, prepping for guests and the cost of my time, the Disneyland feast won hands down! Not only can you feast on traditional Thanksgiving staples but they usually offer a pasta station, an array of seafood options, cheeses, salads, and truly amazing mashed potatoes. Having the kids buffet available removed the extra 30 minutes of negotiation about how many more bites of food they had to take before dessert (which consists of eight tables of paradise covered in chocolate).

The service, in true Disney fashion, is incredible and we take full advantage of the great music and environment and spend three to four hours enjoying the event. In addition to the great food, family atmosphere, and stellar service, there are character meet-and-greet experiences positioned all around the room with members of the Fab 5 and less common friends, such as Meeko, Gepetto and Baloo. Being that I have a 2-year-old "princess in training," I do know that there will not be any Princesses present, so prepare your little fans in advance.

Over the years we have learned a few tricks to make the experience even better.

  • Make reservations early. Disney Dining normally opens reservation spots about two months in advance.
  • Pick a time earlier in the day. The lunch time spots are usually less popular, but it adds a weird chunk of time in the middle of a park day that is hard with little ones, outfit changes, etc.
  • The dress code is all over the place, many people dress up, but others are in park apparel, so we try to dress somewhere in the middle.
  • If you can manage it, I would recommend leaving the stroller parked outside of the venue or not bring it at all. Strollers are not allowed in the dining room and the entrance lobby can get pretty crowded, as well. If you have a little one who is potty training, or a big one who waits until the last second to go, a word of caution: the restrooms are located outside of the dining room up a flight of stairs, so plan accordingly (and make sure to snag a bottle of their complimentary and amazing grapefruit lotion).
  • Be prepared to arrive early for your reservation and then wait. A table will need to open and we usually wait 20-30 minutes before being seated however, they provide drinks, movies for the kids, and a fun area with beanbag chairs, coloring books, and activities.
  • Spend some time pre- or post-meal exploring the great Christmas décor and gingerbread houses in the Disneyland Hotel lobby. They also have a spectacular Santa that meets with families near the line into the Feast during certain points during the day.

Nothing says Holiday Time like an amazing gingerbread house! Photo by Jenna Kahl

So, give thanks for the magic your family can have by spending some time at the Disneyland Resort for the holidays.



  1. By Jimbo996

    For $75, you can buy a pre-made Thanksgiving dinner at any grocery store or moderate restaurant. This was true for at least the last decade or longer. Thanksgiving dinner isn't the back breaking hassle that our Grandparents endured. Certainly, you can still cook your own turkey and sides, but cooking a turkey really is a hassle. You must give yourself enough time if your technique went wrong and that mostly means under cooking the turkey. There's no going back if this happens.

    I'm sure having Thanksgiving dinner is wonderful at Disney. Maybe I'll do it one day.

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