The Absolute Best Places to Spend Thanksgiving in the U.S.

The Absolute Best Places to Spend Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Ganeshkumar Durai /

The Absolute Best Places to Spend Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Ganeshkumar Durai /

In 1777, all 13 colonies took part in the first unified day of Thanksgiving. Since then, the holiday has become synonymous with stresstraffic jams, crazy shopping, and overeating. Take Thanksgiving on the road this year, and start a new, more adventurous tradition – spend the holidays anywhere but at home of Nana’s house.

Phoenix, Arizona


Most people think of Scottsdale if they were looking to Arizona for a vacation. But Phoenix should be on your radar, too. This beautiful city nestled in the stunning Sonoran Desert is multicultural but with a low-key vibe, making it a wonderful choice for a last-minute getaway for people living on the West Coast. You can save money on a hotel by camping and spend your day hiking for free along the Echo Canyon trails. Warm Arizona nights are the perfect backdrop for a stargazing journey. Phoenix and its surrounding area are ideal for a celestial exploration. Also, visit the famous Arizona International Auto Show, which happened to be on Thanksgiving.



Now is the off-peak season in Hawaii – after the summer and before Christmas. Get better deals and spend the holiday on the island. Tourists usually go to Hawaii for its stunning beaches, bustling nightlife, family adventures, and surfing. Add a delicious dinner that many restaurants and hotels offer. Just imagine you working on your tan while folks at home deal with ice and snow. The beautiful islands are home to many astonishing spots – some of them are even secluded shores you don’t know about.

Brunswick Islands, North Carolina


North Carolina, especially Asheville, is a popular Thanksgiving destination. Go a little farther to Brunswick Islands for a different holiday experience. It’s an underrated region of 10 different communities along the North Carolina coast – each with its own unique character. Considering this is not the tourist season, it won’t be a challenge to find good deals. A weekend stay with dinner, a tour, and a wine tasting at a winery is about $300.

Charleston, South Carolina


Opt out for an old-fashioned Thanksgiving vacation this year. Start the big day with the Turkey Day Run to burn off some calories before the feasting ahead. The Turkey Trot includes live music, free beer, and a fun run for kids. Relax and “transport” yourself and your family back in colonial times. Go on a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city and explore some of the historic homes in the area. Kids love the dolphin sightings and pirate quests on the Palmetto Breeze Catamaran. Wander the cobblestone streets, lined with buildings that date back to the 1700s. Visit Sullivan’s Island for beautiful beaches and unique shops.

New York City, New York

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The Thanksgiving Parade in the city is not the oldest but it’s certainly the most famous one in the country. It’s grand, colorful, unique, and huge – more than 3 million people come to see at least part of it live. The fact the NYC is a big city means hotels and restaurants will be competing for your business. (Read deals and awesome packages). Visit iconic attractions like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Top of the Rock which are open during the holidays.

Keystone, Colorado

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For many people the Thanksgiving holiday is the start of the ski season. Where better to celebrate it than at the slopes? Keystone is a great choice. You’ll find wide open runs and lines that are practically non-existent this time of the year. It has a nice family atmosphere, which comes as no surprise because, on top of lots of great skiing, there’s so much to do. From tubing to ice skating and snowbiking to horse drawn sleigh rides, Keystone offers all of the typical extracurricular wintertime activities and more. Indoor and outdoor tennis courts, group exercise classes, and yoga are all available year-round.

Chicago, Illinois

Ganeshkumar Durai /

The Windy City has always been a favorite Thanksgiving destination because of its famous parade, which is one of the largest in the country. It’s fun and entertaining with giant balloons, marching bands, dance groups, drum lines and celebrities. The Christmas market, featuring traditional German cuisine, is another favorite spot. Don’t miss ice-skating in the famous Millennium Park; it’s free on Fridays.

New Orleans, Louisiana


New Orleans is known for its food and great nightlife scene. You won’t make a mistake booking a trip there for Thanksgiving. Don’t miss the famous Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade. The city is where po’ boys, crawfish and vignettes and the turducken (deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, further stuffed into a deboned turkey) were first made. Of course, deep-fried turkey is also served. The famous Dookey Chase doesn’t charge an entry fee and the most expensive item on the menu is $13. New Orleans, a great guys-only destination, has live music in almost every bar (and corner) at night. 

Santa Fe, New Mexico


If Thanksgiving is all about food to you, then visit Santa Fe. It ranked in the Top 5 of the best foodie towns in the country in 2017. The city is known for chefs who create innovative Southwestern fare and is home to a number of award-winning restaurants. You and your family can combine food with adventure and go skiing. Located a few miles from the city center, the Sangre de Cristo Mountain is one of the highest ski areas in the continental U.S. Ski Santa Fe, which opens November 13, has a base elevation of 10,350 feet and is located only 16 miles from the heart of the city.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Philadelphia gives it its all to offer a memorable Thanksgiving holiday with a remarkable citywide celebration. Start your vacation with the annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, the oldest parade of its kind in the nation. The 1.4-mile parade down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway features gigantic balloons, celebrity appearances, local performers and festive floats, according to Visit Philly. Don’t miss the Macy's Christmas Light Show and the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest.

San Francisco, California


Enjoy your meal while cruising around the bay. Many tour operators run most of their fun adventures throughout the day. There are three Hornblower Cruises scheduled for this Thanksgiving in San Francisco. Go on a fun turkey trot. Catch a tree-lighting ceremony or see a show that holiday weekend. Head out on a bike ride around the city and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, a bucket list adventure.

Plymouth, Massachusetts


Go back to the beginning and party like a pilgrim in America's Hometown. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians held a feast at Plymouth Colony in 1621 that is widely considered the first Thanksgiving. Learn how early colonists lived when visiting Plimoth Plantation, and explore the Mayflower II and the Wampanoag Homesite. Events continue on Saturday and Sunday and include a food festival, crafter's village, live entertainment, an outdoor living history village, farmers market, and a drum corps concert.

Williamsburg, Virginia

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Spend one of America’s most beloved holidays behind which there is so much history at one of America’s most famous historic towns. Spend time with costumed characters who act out the details of life in the early years of the country. Williamsburg forms the “Historic Triangle” together with Jamestown and Yorktown. It is not just a reenactment site. It’s a 300-acre historic area that attracts about a million visitors per year. Tour the blacksmith shop, let the kids play Revolutionary Era games, and watch live moments in America’s past. It also makes for a popular RV spot — and there are lots of places to park.

A Disney Cruise

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Who wouldn’t want to celebrate the holiday in the happiest places on Earth? Enjoy a traditional turkey dinner, Disney characters in holiday-themed costumes, live football broadcasts via satellite, live shows and deck parties, and aqua play areas and waterslides without the hordes of people and huge lines, typical for this time of year in the theme parks. Thanksgiving sailings vary in length. Some take you to the Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.

Visit a national park


If you were waiting to avoid the summer crowds, now is the time to go. The weather is cooler, but not too cold; there are tons of kids programs to keep the littles ones entertained, and hotels are offering huge discounts; most of them serve big Thanksgiving meals. You can find cottages in Yosemite for $59 per night. Don’t stay home and slave over the oven. Get back to nature and celebrate with an adventure.