Turkey, football, turtlenecks, and post-meal naps: the tradition of Thanksgiving is as strong as ever. While it can be nice to spend your time off at home, or at a relative’s house, it can also be a great opportunity to hit to the road and see how the rest of the country celebrates.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we have, and this year we’re thankful for these 12 great destinations across America!
1. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Get a taste of the great outdoors this Thanksgiving with a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains! America’s most visited National Park surely will not disappoint. In late November, expect to find an abundance of crunchy autumn-colored leaves and a lack of crowds. This makes it a great time for hiking, and with over 150 official trails in the Park, fitness and nature enthusiasts are sure to find something to match their skill level. And after an exhausting trek through the wilderness, be sure to head on over to the local Applewood Farmhouse for a full Thanksgiving spread complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, and delicious apple fritters!
2. Miami Beach, Florida
Winter is coming, and fortunately, November in Miami Beach hardly lives up to the name of ‘winter’. It’s sure to be a non-traditional Thanksgiving, as temperatures rarely go below 70 degrees and snowfall is next to unheard of. So grab your most flattering bathing suit and head to the beach for a trip to remember.
Miami’s restaurant scene really lights up during this season, and foodies are sure to delight as they celebrate at some of the best restaurants in the country. But if Miami Beach is known for its food, that’s nothing compared to the shopping. Beat the crowds on Black Friday as you bargain your way through the boutiques and retail chains lining the boardwalk of Miami Beach.
3. Chicago, Illinois
Though the weather is pretty chilly this time of year, Chicago makes up for it with a vast array of holiday-worthy attractions. From high-end shopping along the Magnificent Mile to the charming Lurie Gardens, there’s something for everyone in Chi-Town. For those who don’t want to endure the crowds of New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Chicago hosts a parade of its own. And though it is a bit smaller, it still includes marching bands, elaborately decorated floats, and (everyone’s favorite) enormous helium balloons. There’s also the Chriskindlmarket, a market that takes place from mid-November through Christmas, where you can find delicious German food, beer, and the perfect holiday gifts for your loved ones!
4. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Maybe it slipped your mind since seventh-grade history class, but Cape Cod was actually the official landing point of the Mayflower in 1620. And should you choose to visit this Thanksgiving, be sure to visit the 255-foot monument that proves it. Every year, on the night before Thanksgiving, there’s a celebration at the monument commemorating the pilgrims’ first landing in the New World. To round out the Thanksgiving experience, hop aboard the 3-hour Thanksgiving Day train ride where they serve a five-course, gourmet meal while you soak in the lazy pleasures of the craggy coastline.
Want to learn more about this destination? Check out Boston Road Trip: Cape Cod.
5. Aspen, Colorado
Though Aspen is spectacular year-round, there’s something about the fresh powdery snow that coats the ground sometime in late November that makes a visit to Aspen even more rewarding. And though most major Colorado resorts kick off their ski season during Thanksgiving, oftentimes the slopes are refreshingly crowd-free. This means more time on the bunny hill, less time waiting in line for the ski lift. And since things are still quiet, many hotels and restaurants offer specials and discounts for those who choose to spend their holiday season in Aspen. What’s cozier than being curled up with a hot toddy in front of a crackling fireplace?
6. Oahu, Hawaii
Sometimes referred to as “The Gathering Place,” Hawaii’s third-largest island is a beautiful contrast between ancient and modern-day culture. In November, when the island is in the off-season, take advantage of discounted airfare and hotels. And if simply lazing in the sweet Hawaiian sun isn’t enough, you can choose from any number of activities that Oahu has to offer. Take a trip to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to visit the sea turtles and tropical fish, pay tribute to America’s fallen soldiers at Pearl Harbor, or explore the numerous art and history museums on the island. Simply put, if you want to spend your Thanksgiving in shorts and an Aloha shirt, book your trip to Oahu and soak up the sun.
Interested in learning more? Check out Fire & Fruit: 5 Neat Things To Try In Hawaii.
7. Santa Barbara, California
Wine lovers, listen up. There’s a town just about 90 miles north of Los Angeles where over 50 different varieties of grapes are grown and fermented into high-quality vintages. This town, known by the name of Santa Barbara, is also touted for its idyllic beaches, charming Spanish architecture, and fair weather year-round. It’s the perfect Thanksgiving destination for those looking to spend their break enjoying great food, wine, and conversation against the backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountains. On turkey day, many of the restaurants and wineries in the region offer up a special Thanksgiving feast. Afterward, be sure to join in the fun at the Santa Barbara Zoo for the annual pumpkin smashing!
8. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
What better place to spend Thanksgiving than at Berkeley Plantation, the site of America’s first Thanksgiving in 1619? Take a step (or twenty) back in time to 18th-century Virginia as you spend your day celebrating the friendship of the pilgrims and the Indians at a traditional dinner on the plantation. The day begins with an array of horse-drawn carriages, followed by magicians and re-enactments along the plantation grounds. Take a break from the excitement and visit any number of vendors who set up their shops teeming with various arts, crafts, and food.
9. Park City, Utah
If lounging in the Hawaiian sun isn’t your thing, maybe getting a little preview of winter is more up your alley. That’s what you’ll get in Park City, Utah, and much more besides!
Sitting more than 7,000 feet above sea level, Park City is one of the most famous small towns in America. Although its permanent residents number less than 10,000, the number of folks visiting at any given time is usually several times that. Not only is Park City the home of the largest ski resort in the United States, it’s also home to America’s largest independent film festival. The Sundance Festival takes place here every January, so that’s also a good time to visit!
But getting back to turkey day… If you’d like to ring in the beginning of the Christmas season with a little taste of winter, some skiing, and maybe a thanksgiving buffet at the St. Regis Deer Valley restaurant — head up to Park City, Utah.
10. Las Vegas, Nevada
Alright, maybe you don’t want to don your buckled hat and observe Thanksgiving like a pilgrim. Instead, maybe you want a throw of the dice and a glass of champagne, and an evening of Celine Dion singing just for you.
But if you’re looking for a quaint, quiet retreat, do I really need to tell you you’ll be disappointed? Even by Vegas standards, Thanksgiving can be a surprisingly busy time, even though you may be able to find some discount rates on your flight and hotel. Whatever you do: avoid the buffet! Book a reservation at one of Vegas’ many top-tier restaurants instead, because you don’t want to spend an hour waiting in line for a turkey leg, now do you?
Looking for a Vegas restaurant recommendation? 6 Great Vegas Restaurants, 2018.
And for some advice on what to do while you’re in town, check out 10 Things To Do On And Off The Las Vegas Strip.
11. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Long a favorite getaway for presidents and celebrities, Martha’s Vineyard is surely one of America’s favorite islands. Just off the coast of Massachusetts, you can easily reach it by ferry — but make sure to book a crossing ahead of time if you want to bring your car across on the boat as well. Altogether, Martha’s Vineyard would make an ideal place to spend Thanksgiving — especially if you are looking for someplace quaint and homey.
You’ll probably be able to scrounge some serious savings since November is the off-season here, and you won’t have to contend with as many fellow tourists as you would in the summer months. But make sure you bundle up! It can get pretty windy and cold out here in the shallows of the Atlantic, and many of the Vineyard’s charms are out of doors. There are many incredible walking/biking trails, Oak Bluffs’ colorful gingerbread cottages, lighthouses, and the Cliffs of Aquinnah — just to name a few.
You’ll find there are plenty of dining options, especially if you want to change it up and have some clam chowder for thanksgiving. Should we not also give thanks for the bounty of the sea?
If you want more details, read Boston Road Trip: Martha’s Vineyard.
12. Asheville, North Carolina
Quite apart from comparatively mild temperatures and a panoply of flaming fall foliage, Asheville, NC is also home to the Biltmore Estate, one of the most impressive legacies of the Vanderbilt family (along with Anderson Cooper). The Biltmore mansion, which is still owned by a branch of the family, is now a tourist attraction, though it remains the largest private house in the United States. You can even have Thanksgiving dinner there if you like.
If you’re over the Gilded Age, you can also go taste-testing at a series of microbreweries, or embark on the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail — which is exactly what it sounds like! Have a coffee on the (heated) roof of the World Coffee Cafe, and take in the city below, walk the historic urban trail, or visit the North Carolina Arboretum just outside of town.
You’ll have plenty to be thankful for in Asheville!
Whether you choose Hawaii or Virginia, you can’t go wrong spending your Thanksgiving with friends and loved ones in an amazing new locale. Gobble gobble!