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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to start planning your holiday vacation With so many places and things to do in the United States, it can be difficult to narrow down your Thanksgiving vacation ideas – especially if you have young children or extended family that you’re traveling with. To help you pick the perfect Thanksgiving vacation idea, we put together this list of 28 ideas, from history-packed adventure to laid-back relaxation on the beach, so that no matter your personality type or interests, there’s something here for you to enjoy on this coming Thanksgiving!
- Historic Destinations
- Football Games
- Active Thanksgiving Vacation Ideas
- Relaxing Thanksgiving Vacation Ideas
- Foodie-Focused Thanksgiving Ideas
There’s something about visiting the best of the United States’ historic areas to remind you of all we have to be thankful for. Because Thanksgiving has some origins in the first Americans, it only makes sense to visit those with the family. But not all historic destinations on our list have pilgrim beginnings. Some have a history in traditional parades, while others are historical Native American stories.
New York City
New York City is possibly everyone’s number on e choice for where to visit for Thanksgiving. The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been kicking off the holiday season for over 100 years. It is certainly on my bucket list to visit during that time! The parade route is 2.5 miles long from Central Park to Herald Square. Set up along the route early to watch the Other enjoyable highlights including ice skating in Rockefeller Center. If you can, stay for the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center that happens shortly after Thanksgiving weekend. It’s the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. Holiday highlights include Radio City Music Hall, Majestic holiday windows on 5th Ave., and an overall festive feeling about the city.
Philadelphia is an notable city that is filled with history and culture. After watching the oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade, head out to the streets of Philadelphia to take in more history. Visit the Liberty Bell, IndependenceHall, The Ben Franklin Museum (a personal favorite), Betsy Ross home, and the American Revolutionary Museum. Take a tour of the historic buildings, enjoy some of their famous cheesesteaks, or head to one of their many museums to learn more about America’s heritage.
Where to Stay: The AKA Rittenhouse Square
Parker House Rolls are a popular side dish for Thanksgiving menus, so why not visit the original home? Parker House Hotel, now an Omni Parker House, originated the roll in 1874. Be sure to take a walking tour after Thanksgiving dinner to learn more about the founding fathers. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Boston. And if you don’t want a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, try some traditional New England dishes such as clam chowder and baked beans at Legal Seafood on Long Wharf or Boston Chowda Company in the North End.
Where to stay: The Omni Parker House
America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been running in Detroit as long as the Macy’s parade. Detroit has seen quite a renaissance of late and visitors to Woodward Avenue will not be disappointed seeing this parade. In fact, the 2022 theme of the parade is “Our Great City! Detroit!!” It kicks off on Thanksgiving day on November 24th, on the corner of Woodward and Kirby Street.
Where to stay: MGM Grand Detroit
Want to know what the first Thanksgiving dinner looked like? Dig into the old cooking techniques at the Jamestown Settlement Museum at Yorktown. Discover how the native Powhatan Indians cooked through demonstrations.
Get a Historic Triangle ticket that offers unlimited admission to Jamestown Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield, and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
Where to Stay: Kingsmill Resort
Experience one of America’s most beautiful New England coastal towns. Plymouth is a great destination for anyone looking to get away from it all, with a picturesque town center and beaches just steps away. Plymouth Rock is just across the street from Plymouth Bay.
Plymouth’s thanksgiving celebration is still going strong with so many events to attend and restaurants to visit. Visit Thanksgiving Day in America’s Hometown to see Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plimoth Patuxet Museums, Plymouth Rock, National Monument to the Forefathers and more.
Check all the events here at See Plymouth.
Plymouth’s close proximity to Boston means you can visit both locations in one vacation.
Where to stay: Hotel 1620 Plymouth Harbor
St. Augustine, Florida
Want to spend your Thanksgiving vacation in Florida, but still get some history? St. Augustine is your place. As the oldest city in the US, there is history on every corner. A Thanksgiving reenactment meal takes place in September, during founders day, but you can take in a meal at one of these culinary delights.
This city is a perfect destination for those who enjoy history and want to experience it firsthand. St. Augustine was founded by the Spaniards. This unique city has preserved many of its historical landmarks and attractions, including Castillo de San Marcos fort, which was built by Spanish forces as protection from encroaching British military forces. The fort is still standing today and offers visitors a chance to explore its 16th-century architecture.
Plus, if you’re in town during Thanksgiving, you’ll experience the Night of Lights. The town lights up with a million lights starting November 20th.
Stay in any of the Bed and Breakfasts in St. Augustine to be close to the historic city center.
Savannah, Georgia has a lot to offer visitors during the Thanksgiving holiday. In addition to its historic squares, cobblestone streets, and Victorian homes, it has a variety of restaurants and plenty of family-friendly attractions. Favorites include Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room and the Prohibition Museum, complete with a speakeasy!
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a great city to spend thanksgiving. The small town has lots of attractions, which will make the whole family happy. For instance, head over to the Appalachian Mountain Club for a hike and see some beautiful fall foliage. Or visit Fort Sumter National Monument, explore with your kids and learn about America’s Civil War.
The colorful city also has plenty of restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving Day. So find one that suits your taste buds and enjoy a delicious meal while watching football or playing board games with your loved ones!
Where to stay: Charleston is another location that’s great for a big family. Many home rentals are available in the historic district.
This historic small town, 85% of which is a national historic district, is the perfect place for a family vacation over Thanksgiving. Galena is a short drive from many midwest cities, including Chicago, Milwaukee, and Des Moines, making it a reasonable place to spend the long weekend.
The Galena State Park is one of the best places to hike, bike, and explore on foot. This park offers hiking trails that range from easy to moderate difficulty and scenic river views. The Stone Mill Village is a great spot to grab a cup of coffee or some lunch before heading off to explore downtown Galena. When you’re hungry after all your exploring, head back down Main Street for dinner at Starved Rock Brewery.
Where to stay: The Galena Inn is a former Victorian Mansion and a 10-minute walk to the historic district. Stay here on your own, or invite the whole family to rent rooms as they have a lovely common area as well.
Taos, New Mexico
Taos is a picturesque town that is home to many pueblo villages. One of the top things to do there is take a tour of one of these villages, learn about their history and Native American culture, and then spend some time shopping at local artisans’ markets. Taos also has plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, fly fishing, skiing or snowboarding on nearby mountain peaks, or just playing around in nature. It definitely ties in with our active vacations below.
Taos would be one of the fun trips for Thanksgiving because the temperatures would be warmer (but not too warm) than those temps you may have in the colder parts of the US.
Where to stay: The El Monte Sagrado Resort and Spa has a lovely mix of nature and location.
If you’re in Detroit for the parade, stay for the annual football game. The Detroit Lions have always played on Thanksgiving Day since the late 70s.
The Dallas Cowboys also hold this tradition. Even if you’re not a big football fan, there’s something about seeing a game in person. The energy and team spirit are contagious. Plus, who says Thanksgiving dinner needs to be a turkey? Stadium hot dogs and beers sound like a good alternative to me. (Soft drinks and hot chocolate for the kids of course.)
This year the Minnesota Vikings will also have a game at home.
Active Thanksgiving Vacation Ideas
Looking for Thanksgiving vacation ideas with the kids that get them out into nature and burning off all those Thanksgiving calories? Perhaps an active destination is for you.
Kick off the ski season in Park City, Utah. Park City is a family-friendly destination with plenty of activities and amenities. In fact, Park City has been honored as one of America’s best ski towns for families by National Geographic. In order to ensure that your holiday is hassle-free, it’s a good idea to book accommodation and skiing lessons early.
The Montage Deer Valley is a popular ski-in and ski-out resort. With 6 restaurants on-site, and indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, this will be a hit with the family.
Want to horseback riding over your Thanksgiving vacation? Head to Wyoming.
One of the things that Wyoming is most known for is its mountains and there are plenty of hiking trails and skiing slopes to choose from. Jackson Hole is a popular destination because it offers visitors a variety of activities and scenery, including some of America’s most spectacular natural beauty.
There are over thirty ski resorts within a few hours’ drive from Jackson Hole.
however, seek out a dude ranch vacation here if you can. While many operate only in the summer, a hand full are year round. Brooks Lake Lodge is open year round, just outside of the Teton Mountains.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Families looking to enjoy a break from their routine might consider a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The national park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina and is home to over 1,200 species of flora and fauna. There are more than 800 miles of trails which will provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures. This is a great location for hiking, fishing, or just sitting around campfires with loved ones.
Speaking of campfires, this would be a great fall camping destination. Rent an RV from RV Share if you don’t have your own and set up camp at Greenbrier Campground in Gatlinburg for a full-service camping experience.
Truly any of the National Parks would make a perfect choice this time of year. Crowds are also always lower.
Near peak and peak colors are still around in late November, if you’re looking for beautiful fall foliage in Galveston. Galveston and Galveston Island have a little of everything, active, history, and relaxing beaches. Nestled along the Texas Gulf Coast, it’s easy to explore by land or water. The city has been a popular tourist destination since its earliest days when European settlers arrived.
A variety of attractions await you here, including historical sites like Historic Downtown Strand District, golf courses, and Moody Gardens. Or go serving, kayaking, or fishing for a different kind of Thanksgiving adventure. For those who want to escape the crowds at home but don’t want too far from their loved ones, this would be a good place to spend Thanksgiving with your family.
The Casa Del Mar beachfront Suites will give you easy access to the ocean, and the Hotel Galvez has the best Sunday Texas Brunch.
Another gorgeous ski town, consider Lake Tahoe for your Thanksgiving vacation ideas. It’s a popular ski destination, but you won’t be disappointed with the charming towns that dot the Lake Tahoe shoreline. I’d personally recommend North Lake Taho as it’s a little less congested. On clear days, enjoy views of 14,000ft peaks from Mt Rose ski area—you’ll be sure to take tons of pictures!
Stay in a lakefront townhome, like this one that sleeps 8. Guaranteed to keep you warm on chilly nights.
Rapid City, South Dakota
I wasn’t sure if I was going to put Rapid city in my thanksgiving vacation ideas, but the town has a lot to offer. The small charming town would be lovely to walk through this time of year. Plus, you can’t go wrong hiking the Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills. We enjoyed our vacation during the summer, so Thanksgiving would not disappoint.
Families looking for a little warmth and fun this Thanksgiving can consider spending some time in Rapid City. Plan an extended stay at one of the area’s luxury hotels, such as The Lodge at Black Hills or Mount Rushmore Plaza Resort, and enjoy all that the town has to offer. Start by exploring the natural wonders of Jewel Cave National Monument before riding horseback on a trail with Custer State Park Adventures. Be sure to drive through Custer State Park too to see the herd of buffalo.
Relaxing Thanksgiving Vacation Ideas
Do you run around all school year? Maybe Thanksgiving is the perfect time to take a relaxing vacation and enjoy some downtime with the family.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Late November is a great option for visiting the Gulf Shores of Alabama. Beautiful beaches, OWA Adventure park nearby, and did I mention beautiful beaches? Especially during this time of year, Gulf Shores does not have many crowds, so in some places, like the Beach Club Spectrum Resort, you’ll practically have the beach to yourself. Plus, you have a full kitchen and living room area to spread out and make your own Thanksgiving meal if you’d like.
Freeport, Maine is a wonderful way to have a relaxing Thanksgiving vacation. This small town and the Haraseeket Inn is completely charming. Trust me, you’ll never want to leave. Plus, the Broken Arrow Tavern dining will be sure to. give you a traditional Maine Thanksgiving feast. The Thanksgiving Grand Buffet is sure to have lobster stew, clam chowder, scallops, and maybe even some pumpkin pie.
You can read my review of Freeport, Maine here.
Thanksgiving vacation ideas for families don’t have to be complicated. If you’re looking for a relaxing, low-key trip this holiday season, consider checking out Sedona Arizona.
The town is surrounded by beautiful red rock formations and natural hot springs. You can go hiking or horseback riding, or just relax with your family at one of the many hotels around town. Many of them offer spa treatments and other luxuries that will make you feel like royalty during your stay.
Foodie-Focused Thanksgiving Ideas
Let’s face it, Thanksgiving is all about food. But it doesn’t have to be turkey and cranberry sauce. These foodie favorites will offer a traditional thanksgiving meal true to their own area.
Cajun Thanksgiving is on the menu in Lafayette. This is one of the few places where you’ll still get peak fall foliage as well. From walking around historical sites to tasting the best seafood around, this city offers great things for everyone. Come enjoy Southern hospitality and culture when visiting Lafayette. One of their popular dishes include fried oysters and shrimp which come with fries, slaw, and tartar sauce.
New Orleans is a perfect destination to celebrate this festive time of year. The city offers plenty of family-friendly attractions. Make sure to schedule some free time to stroll through the French Quarter to soak up all the sights and sounds of America’s most exciting city. Yes, you can do the French Quarter with the kids. Grab a beignet, come chicory coffee, and take in music on every corner.
There are also countless food options here, from traditional southern dishes to international cuisine. If you can’t find something on your list of favorites then there’s a good chance it doesn’t exist!
Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans
Portland is a foodie’s dream. Dozens of restaurants in this city specialize in all sorts of cuisines, from Thai to Ethiopian. One Portland favorite is Pok Pok, which does traditional Thai food with a modern twist. Though it’s famous for its noodle soup, you can also order dishes like chicken wings tossed in fish sauce or pork neck curry with rice noodles and kaffir lime leaves.
If you’re looking for something other than Asian cuisine, consider trying Voodoo Doughnut. If you’re not familiar with their doughnuts yet, think deep-fried dough coated in glazed icing and decorated with cream cheese frosting or candy sprinkles.
The most popular food during a Memphis Thanksgiving is barbeque! The perfect thing to eat on this holiday is slaw, potato salad, and bbq sauce. For dessert, you can enjoy pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie. If you would like to see something a little more exciting then head over to Beale Street where you can see live music at any time of day! It doesn’t matter what type of music you’re looking for because it will be playing. And if you still have an appetite after all that turkey dinner, be sure to stop by Paula Deen’s Southern Kitchen Restaurant on Friday morning between 10:00 am and noon for her traditional buffet brunch.
Newport, Rhode Island
The historic Newport mansions are a must-see, and many of them have been turned into museums. The Breakers, Marble House, and Rosecliff are some of the most famous. Go to Fort Adams State Park to explore Fort Wetherill and wander through Echo Hill Children’s Farmstead. The nearby Newport Country Club is a great place to enjoy a round of golf on a scenic course.
Visit or Stay Castle Hill Inn for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. The three-course dinner is served all day.