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Universal Studios Thanksgiving 2022: Is It Open and How Crowded?

If you are thinking of spending Thanksgiving at Universal Studios in Orlando, you won’t be alone! The Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. is one of the busiest times of the year for Florida’s theme parks.

After living in Orlando for more than a decade, I can tell you firsthand that Thanksgiving is a busy week at the theme parks! We could always tell when all of the crowds were arriving and then they all disappear at the same time. If you are going to be part of those Thanksgiving crowds, or are trying to avoid the busy season, read this helpful Guide for Visiting Universal Studios on Thanksgiving.

Is Universal Studios Open on Thanksgiving?

Yes, Universal Orlando Resort is open for Thanksgiving.

The Orlando theme parks do not close for any day of the year, except for severe weather such as hurricane threats.

Universal Studios Theme Park Globe Sign

What Hours Is Universal Open for Thanksgiving?

Universal Orlando Resort has three theme parks that are open on Thanksgiving. Expect extended opening times during the holiday to accommodate larger crowds.

Universal Orlando has not yet released their official opening hours for Thanksgiving 2022. Check their Theme Park Hours calendar to see dates that have been released.

How Crowded is Universal on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving Day is one of the most crowded days of the year in Universal Studios. Expect crowds that are similar to Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Major holidays are the busiest times at Universal Studios. Even Labor Day at Universal Studios is crowded. The theme parks often reach capacity by mid morning, which means they cannot allow anyone else to enter the parks until someone leaves.

Once you are inside a theme park, you can stay all day until closing, even if the parks reach capacity levels. However, if maximum capacity levels have been reached, expect very long lines for attractions, food and shopping.

While wait times are often 1-2 hours for the most popular attractions at Universal theme parks normally, you might encounter wait times of 2-4 hours for one attraction on the holiday.

We suggest bringing your own snacks into Universal Studios on days like this so that you can eat while waiting in line and not waste time ordering foods. Here are some great snack ideas for theme parks.

Thanksgiving Week Crowds at Universal Studios: What to Expect

Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday in the month of November in America) is not the only day that is busy at Universal Studios. The entire Thanksgiving week will have unusually high crowds and longer wait times.

Many people try to visit Orlando theme parks during school holidays. Some schools have the entire week of Thanksgiving off, which means there will be more visitors than normal. Orlando and Florida residents that have family coming to see them for the holidays will be looking for something fun to do, too, and will likely visit the theme parks or Universal CityWalk.

Expect more crowds than normal starting the weekend before Thanksgiving until the Monday or Tuesday after Thanksgiving. While many people will leave on the Sunday after Thanksgiving to get back home to go to school or work, those with flexible travel plans try to avoid Thanksgiving weekend travel. So there will still be a decent amount of people in the parks on Monday and Tuesday after the holiday.

How to Guarantee Getting into Universal Studios on Thanksgiving

The only way to guarantee to get into Universal Studios on Thanksgiving Day or during Thanksgiving Week is to get to the theme parks very early. Do not arrive at opening time. You must arrive at least 30-45 minutes before official opening opening to get parked, get in line, and potentially be allowed early entry.

This is when staying at an official Universal Orlando Resort hotel can pay off. You will be given early entry as a hotel guest, which helps you beat the crowds and get inside the park.

Be advised that hotel shuttles and shuttle boats from Universal Studios hotels will be very busy as everyone is trying to get in early. Expect longer than normal lines.

You can also expect more traffic driving into parking at Universal Studios.

While there is no guarantee that a theme park will definitely reach maximum capacity, it happens almost every year at all Orlando area theme parks. It is best to plan your day accordingly.

Does Universal Cost More on Thanksgiving?

Universal Studios has not introduced dynamic pricing, where the prices increase as demand increases. Therefore, the base ticket price to enter Universal Orlando theme parks is the same as it is every day of the year.

However, the cost for Express Pass at Universal does increase with the expected crowds. You do not need to purchase an Express Pass to enter the theme park. However, if you are worried about standing in long lines, an Express Pass will allow you to skip the line.

With the theme parks being so busy, you can understand how everyone will want to use this benefit. Therefore, the cost of Express Pass is more expensive during Thanksgiving week.

Express Passes often increase in price as it gets closer to the date of your visit. It is smart to buy an Express Pass as soon as you know for sure when you are visiting Universal Studios. In late June 2022, the cost of an Express Pass on Thanksgiving Day 2022 is currently $159 each person.

Thanksgiving Dinner at Universal Studios

Traditional Thanksgiving Dinners are served throughout Universal Orlando Resort. You will find that the best lunches and dinners are held at Universal hotels.

Don’t be worried if you don’t like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Most restaurants have their normal menus available, or at least a variety of items other than turkey.

This is a list of 2021 Thanksgiving dining options. Use it as a guide until Thanksgiving 2022 details are released.

Loews Portofino Bay Resort

For reservations at these restaurants, use OpenTable {recommended because wait times for call centers can be long}; call 407-503-DINE (3463); visit the restaurant in person or call the concierge at your Universal Hotel.

Thanksgiving Day Buffet in Trattoria del Porto

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 11am – 9pm
  • Price: $75 adult; $25 child (ages 3 – 9); (tax and gratuity not included)
  • Entertainment: Kids will love the face painters, and there is also live music

Thanksgiving Menu in Mama Della’s Ristorante

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 5:30pm – 10pm
  • Price: $65 adult; $20 child (ages 3 – 9); (tax and gratuity not included)
  • Entertainment: Enjoy the music of strolling musicians and opera singers while dining

Hard Rock Hotel

For reservations at these restaurants, use OpenTable {recommended because wait times for call centers can be long}; call 407-503-DINE (3463); visit the restaurant in person or call the concierge at your Universal Hotel.

Thanksgiving Day Breakfast Buffet in Avalon Ballroom

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 7am – 11am
  • Price: $27 adult; $16 child (ages 3 – 9); (tax and gratuity not included)

Thanksgiving Day Buffet in The Kitchen

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 11am – 9pm
  • Price: $75 adult; $29 child (ages 3 – 9); (tax and gratuity not included)

Royal Pacific Resort

For reservations at these restaurants, use OpenTable {recommended because wait times for call centers can be long}; call 407-503-DINE (3463); visit the restaurant in person or call the concierge at your Universal Hotel.

Thanksgiving Day Breakfast Buffet in Jake’s American Bar

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 7am – 11am
  • Price: $25 adult; $15 child (ages 3 – 9)
    (tax and gratuity not included). Add all-you-care-to-enjoy mimosa and Bloody Mary cocktails for just $15 more for adults.

Thanksgiving Day Buffet in Islands Dining Room

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 11am – 9pm
  • Price: $62 adult; $30 child (ages 3 – 9)
    (tax and gratuity not included). Add all-you-care-to-enjoy mimosa and Bloody Mary cocktails for just $15 more for adults.

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort

For reservations at these restaurants, use OpenTable {recommended option, because you can wait a while to talk to someone on the phone}; call 407-503-DINE (3463); visit the restaurant in person or call the concierge at your Universal Hotel.

Thanksgiving Day Breakfast Buffet in Amatista Cookhouse

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 7am – 11am
  • Price: $25 adult; $15 child (ages 3 – 9)
    (tax and gratuity not included). Add all-you-care-to-enjoy mimosa and Cubanita cocktails for just $15 more for adults.

Thanksgiving Day Buffet in Amatista Cookhouse

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 11am – 9pm
  • Price: $62 adult; $30 child (ages 3 – 9)
    (tax and gratuity not included). Add all-you-care-to-enjoy mimosa and Cubanita cocktails for just $15 more for adults.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Thanksgiving Day Meal Special in Bayliner Diner

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: Noon – 11pm
  • Price: $19.99 adult; $10.99 child (ages 3 – 9) (tax not included); Dessert is extra $3.50 for pie.
Universal Cabana Bay hotel Bayliner restaurant cafe interior
The huge interior of the Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort Bayliner Diner

Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites

Thanksgiving Day Meal Special at Dockside’s Pier 8 Market

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 2pm – 10pm
  • Price: $15 adult; $9 child (ages 3 – 9) (tax not included)

Universal’s Aventura Hotel

Thanksgiving Day Meal Special in Urban Pantry

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: Noon – 10pm
  • Price: $19.99 adult; $10.99 child (ages 3 – 9) (tax and gratuity not included)
universal's Aventura Hotel sushi bar
Aventura’s Urban Pantry food hall

Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites

Thanksgiving Day Meal Special at Beach Break Café

  • Date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
  • Time: 2pm – 10pm
  • Price: $15 adult; $9 child (ages 3 – 9) (tax not included)

Are the Theme Parks Decorated for Thanksgiving?

No, Universal Studios isn’t decorated for Thanksgiving holidays with turkeys or harvest decorations. However, you can expect Christmas decorations to be up during Thanksgiving week.

Orlando theme parks (especially Walt Disney World) are known for going straight from Halloween decorations until November 1 and then immediately putting up Christmas decorations soon afterwards. However, Universal Studios still has Halloween Horror Nights through the first week of November, so they won’t start decorating the theme parks until after those nights are done.

Do not expect a Thanksgiving-themed parade or shows or other decorations on the holiday. Thanksgiving is often overlooked in America as being a jumpstart on decorating for Christmas and a major shopping holiday weekend, with Black Friday being the day after Thanksgiving and when almost all stores have their biggest sales of the year.

What is the Weather Like During Thanksgiving?

The end of November has much nicer weather in Orlando. Temperatures start to cool off a little, but it is still warm enough to wear shorts and go swimming in the hotel pool. Or enjoy being on Universal Studio’s water rides.

Expect temperatures from 75-80 degrees during the day. Temperatures do cool off at night to about 60 degrees.

Of course, this is average temperatures. I have experienced a Thanksgiving in Orlando where the temperatures were in the low 90s.

Harry Potter World on Thanksgiving: What Are the Crowds Like?

The crowds in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be larger than normal on Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving week. Just like the rest of the theme parks and the Universal Orlando Resort, expect longer lines for everything and more people.