For most families, Thanksgiving has become a routine — cooking the same foods, seeing the same people, and watching the same parades and football games on the television. Fortunately, your experience can go from bland to brilliant by spending it in a new city. If you’re ready to make this holiday one to remember, here are the best Thanksgiving celebrations in the U.S.
1. New York City
New York City knows how to how to celebrate a holiday, and their Thanksgiving festivities are literally larger than life. The Big Apple’s beloved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade features over 60 building-size balloons, along with a long list of floats and live performances. The annual event begins at 9 a.m., but you need to show up early to grab a good spot roadside. If you arrive in town the day before, you can even see the balloons come to life around Central Park West.
After the parade wraps up, head out for a Thanksgiving meal. If you want to eat with a view, try the three-course meal at Manhatta. The high-end restaurant rests 60 floors above the ground, offering a breathtaking look at the cityscape. For a more laid-back atmosphere, try Hearth in East Village or Freemans on the Lower East Side.
Want an after-dinner adventure? Head to the Empire State Building or the Central Park Zoo for some holiday photo-ops — both stay open on Thanksgiving. Or, head to Central Park’s Wollman Rink for ice skating. Thanksgiving break is also the perfect time to get in the holiday spirit by catching The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Not to be outdone by their pizza rival to the east, Chicago also puts on an epic Thanksgiving Day Parade. Dating back to 1934, the event is held annually in Downtown, starting at 8 a.m. and lasting to around 11 a.m. As with NYC, you can expect festive balloons, floats, marching bands, dance acts, and horses. Before you dive into dinner, give back by tackling the Turkey Trot. Proceeds from the 8K race go to support the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
When it comes to a Thanksgiving Day feast, the Windy City doesn’t disappoint. The Chicago Yacht Club offers a family-friendly buffet earlier in the day, featuring turkey, macaroni and cheese, and other regional favorites. For dinner, grab a four-course meal at Cherry Circle Room, or enjoy takeaway at the hotel from Parson’s Chicken and Fish. If you need some pre-holiday stress release, there’s also a bar crawl on Wednesday night. Tickets to the Turkey Crawl, as it’s known, include admission, drink specials, and a dinner buffet.
3. Washington, D.C.
Thanksgiving is a quintessential Americana holiday, so it’s only natural that the nation’s capital hosts some of the best Thanksgiving celebrations in the U.S. While Washington, D.C., doesn’t host a city-wide parade, you can catch one in the Reston Town Center on Friday morning. The city’s beloved Smithsonian museums are also open all day, and admission is free.
For a truly brag-worthy Thanksgiving dining experience, head to George Washington’s estate. Mount Vernon offers Thanksgiving Day and Eve buffets with an assortment of salads, sides, entrees, and desserts. If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, there’s an all-you-can-eat holiday menu at Hill Country Barbeque.
4. Williamsburg, Virginia
As the official site of the first Thanksgiving, Williamsburg, VA, goes above and beyond with their holiday celebrations. The Berkeley Plantation hosts the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival in early November, but you can still tour the house, garden, and grounds during the holiday week. The Foods and Feasts of Colonial Virginia celebration kicks off on Thanksgiving Day at the Jamestown Settlement, offering a look at the past. For dinner, enjoy a special holiday feast at the historic Chowning’s, The King’s Arms, and the Shields taverns.
5. Plymouth, Massachusetts
While it didn’t get to host the first feast, the meal that inspired Thanksgiving as we know it today actually happened at Plymouth, MA — two years after Williamsburg. In modern times, the town is committed to providing an authentic experience to guests. Visit Plimoth Plantation to explore the 17th-century village, step aboard the Mayflower replica, and take a trip to the Wampanoag Homesite. When you’re hungry, head to the Plimoth Plantation for a homestyle buffet. Additionally, if you arrive the weekend before, catch the historically accurate Thanksgiving parade on Saturday.
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