Currently, the information on this site should only be used as future travel inspiration. Also, this post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you book or purchase through these links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.Thanksgiving is almost here! Perhaps a trip to one of these best places to spend Thanksgiving will make you extra thankful this year. While it’s time to celebrate how thankful we are for our families, friends, and other blessings in life, we get caught up in the excitement until the reality of holiday dread sets in. Hey, there’s no judging here…it happens to all of us, myself included! Maybe this year it’s time to change it up with one of these best places to spend Thanksgiving in the United States!
Best Places to Spend Thanksgiving
Before we start, if you are worried about missing your grandmother’s pumpkin pie, don’t be! I’ve included highly recommended restaurants that serve traditional Turkey Day dinners for each destination to ensure you don’t miss out on your favorites.
Should you wish to dine in the privacy of your hotel or Airbnb, it is important to note that while all of these places normally do takeout, it would be best to call in advance of the busy holiday to check availability.
No matter your lifestyle or the type of vacation-goer you are, and even despite the anticipated changes due to our present global circumstances, this list will provide the best place to suit you for Thanksgiving Day. Now, let’s get to it, shall we?
New York, New York
New York City is famous for its Thanksgiving celebrations. Started in 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is viewed by more than 3.5 million people. New Yorkers know it’s an annual tradition to watch it either in person or on TV. But is it worth traveling for? Absolutely!
Photo Credit: Robert Fitzpatrick | Depositphotos.com
If you aren’t a lover of crowds, choose to attend the big balloon inflation on Thanksgiving Eve instead. This event occurs outside the American Museum of Natural History and is free!
Choosing this route would free up a lot of extra time to try other things New York has to offer at Thanksgiving. Such attractions include but are not limited to Rockefeller Center to take in the giant Christmas tree (not lit until early December), a holiday lights and movie tour, and even ice skating till you drop!
A recipe for successful parade watching calls for knowing the parade route and dressing warmly along with packing snacks and hot drinks. These will all come in handy considering you need to be at the venue around 6 am to get a prime viewing location.
The best-recommended spots are said to be Central Park West, Central Park South, and Sixth Avenue. You could also choose to stay in one of the hotels along the route with a parade view room. However, book these in advance because they fill up fast! To help get you started, I’ve included a couple of suggestions below.
Plymouth, the place where it all began in the 17th century, is today the ultimate Turkey Day destination. It hosts America’s #1 Thanksgiving parade which happens to be the only historically accurate one. So, if you are feeling patriotic this year, this is where you need to be!
The parade begins at 10:30 am on Nelson Street and makes its way to Cole’s Hill by noon. It features numerous bands, patriotic marching units, and floats bringing to life America’s rich heritage. It usually closes with Santa Claus and lots of confetti for the kids!
After the parade, head to the Waterfront to experience all the events and entertainment waiting for you there. From historical re-enactments, crafts stations, and petting zoos to the local farmers’ market (to pick up ingredients for your Thanksgiving dinner), this place has it all!
Bar Harbor, Maine
Do you feel like getting away from it all this Thanksgiving and just taking some time to yourself to become one with nature? Consider exploring coastal Maine during the off-season.
Bar Harbor is the perfect home base to check out Acadia National Park, the oldest National park East of the Mississippi River. The park holds so much to see with forests, lakes, rocky coastlines, and mountain peaks that are unrivaled.
Maine at Thanksgiving will be chilly so dress warmly and keep an eye on the weather. It’s also worth noting that most hotels and restaurants will be closed during this season so it would be beneficial to make reservations in advance.
Driving the one-way park loop from Bar Harbor along the eastern side of the park to Jordan Pond is a must-do. It offers the most beautiful views. Also, hiking up Cadillac mountain in the morning before 6 AM to catch the sunrise is an experience you do not want to miss!
Las Vegas, Nevada
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to visit Las Vegas to get the most out of its extravagance and traditions. With its casinos decorated in fantastical holiday lights, the famous Strip is a must-visit. Just off the Strip are three outlets to get some Christmas shopping out of the way. With the right planning, you might even be able to catch Black Friday!
It’s always fun to catch a show at one of the iconic theaters. Though the most famous ones are geared more for adults, there are a few for children if you are traveling as a family.
The Bellagio Conservatory during Thanksgiving is also a sight for sore eyes with its delightful arrangement of leaves, pumpkins, and other seasonal plants all bathed in bedazzling lights. After an amazing day, finish off the night with these best views in Las Vegas!
Visiting the Smokies is perfect if you’re looking for a mountain getaway for your Thanksgiving celebration. Gatlinburg is the beautiful gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and offers a wide range of activities and events.
Take a signature guided trolley tour of Gatlinburg to see all of the beautiful light displays. The city also has a thrilling amusement park, Ober Gatlinburg, that offers snow tubing down the mountain slopes.
If you’re in the mood for something more relaxing you can visit the Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Show. This event allows for taking in the local artistry including pottery, jewelry, quilts, candles, baskets, and much more.
New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s no surprise that the city known for Mardi Gras, Po’ boys and partying, gets Thanksgiving right too! If you are looking for a more modern take on Thanksgiving traditions this year, New Orleans is a great option.
Races are important in the Big Easy, especially at Thanksgiving. Visit the Fair Grounds wearing your best feather hat to make bets on horse races. If instead, you’re in the mood to work up an appetite, you could participate in the annual Turkey Day race held at Tad Gormley Stadium. There’s even a half-mile race for kids so the whole family can get involved!
Other must-try activities are the legendary New Orleans Turducken (chicken stuffed in a duck, stuffed in turkey), shopping in the French Quarter, the lights and rides of Celebration in the Oaks, and watching the Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara’s beautiful climate and seaside location make it perfect for vacations year-round. This means if an understated, relaxing getaway is what you need for Thanksgiving, you have found your destination!
For the vino enthusiasts, a fall season wine tour of the Santa Ynez Valley is definitely a highlighted indulgence. You could choose to bike through the wine country yourself or sign up for a tour. There is a variety to choose from to suit every personality.
The Santa Barbara Zoo usually has some events planned out for Thanksgiving each year, especially for kids. The Pumpkin Smash is a fun classic where animals are given pumpkins to do with as they wish. Watching elephants and gorillas “smash pumpkins” is amusing, to say the least!
Harbor in Channel Islands National Park
Located just a few miles off the coast, Channel Island National Park is a haven for adventurous activities. Additionally, wrap up your day with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner from one of the many hotels in the city for a complete holiday experience.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
This southwestern city has a rich history and a diverse culture which is largely due to Native American influences. Santa Fe is the perfect place to go if you want to mix it up and learn about Thanksgiving through a different lens this year.
Begin your adventure at the Santa Fe Plaza, the center of the Santa Fe Historic District. From there you will find world-renowned museums and historic sites to learn about pre-colonial settlements such as those of the Ancestral Puebloans. You will also find many exhibits where you can explore local Native American art.
Some of the other attractions this city has to offer during Thanksgiving are shopping at Santa Fe Artists Market, holiday skiing with Ski Santa Fe, and the annual Wise Fool – Circus Luminous performance for a visual treat!
Who’s looking for a cozy winter experience for your Thanksgiving vacation? If a love for winter adventure travel describes you, iconic Aspen for Turkey Day is a fantastic choice!
Thanksgiving is the start of the resort and ski season in Colorado so it’s the perfect time to catch the action while avoiding the queues. Also, there are many ski events to attend such as “Thanksjibbing at Snowmass” where you can watch the local freeskiers do their thing.
Aspen is also big on the holiday spirit so Christmas decorations are already up by Thanksgiving. Just imagine sipping a cup of hot chocolate with your loved ones atop a snow-covered mountain while looking down on the twinkling city below!
Small, quaint, and rustic is what describes this Pacific Northwest town in the Evergreen State. Leavenworth is located in the Cascade Mountains and is modeled after a Bavarian village.
Picture snow-covered cottages, grand Christmas decorations, and wine to spread the holiday cheer. If that doesn’t sound like enough, there’s also Christkindlmarkt, the Bavarian-style Christmas market to explore.
It features Bavarian foods, handmade crafts, and the warm hustle and bustle of celebration.
If you need to recharge this Thanksgiving season, the peaceful spirit and charm of Leavenworth is the perfect place to do so!
Ultimately, the best places to spend Thanksgiving are the ones where you can unwind with family and express gratitude for God’s many blessings. I, for one, am ready for just that! 😉
Which one of these locations fits you best for Thanksgiving? Have you been to one of these on the list? What are your best places to spend Thanksgiving? I’m always looking for recommendations!
‘Til next time…