Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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Skip the stressful Thanksgiving Day planning and instead go on an adventure with the family, where you can pick from destinations that boast either snowy mountain slopes or sun-drenched coastlines. Instead of arguing at the dinner table, make long-lasting memories as you watch big-city parades, celebrate small-town celebrations and dig into turkey and stuffing prepared by a chef. Bring the whole gang together and visit one of these places for a family vacation on Thanksgiving in the United States.
The ultimate Thanksgiving destination whether you’re with family or not, New York City offers endless amounts of fun over the holiday season. You can brave the crowds for the world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or stay in one of the hotels that offer premier views right from your room. Watch the huge balloons and extravagant floats, then visit the Central Park Zoo, Hershey’s Store, M&M Store and soar to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building for a bird’s eye view of the city.
Bundle up and head to Chicago in November, as this city is captivating for all ages. The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade is one of the best Thanksgiving parades and worth getting up early for with its giant balloons, floats, and musical entertainment, while the Lincoln Park Zoo offers an impressive holiday light display. Spend your time visiting world-class museums and digging into deep-dish pizza, then let the kids marvel at the marine life at Shedd Aquarium or T-Rex at the Field Museum. Make sure to snap a souvenir photo next to the Bean at Millennium Park, where you can also enjoy ice skating and caroling.
If your family is into history, Plymouth is the perfect destination for Thanksgiving. It’s here that you can relive the famous Thanksgiving story, as it’s the site of the original colony settled by the Pilgrims who traveled aboard the Mayflower. Visit the historic 17th-century Plimoth Plantation that was once an old New England colonists’ village. Step back in time on the Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the sailing ship, then view Myles Standish’s sword, Bradford’s Bible and other artifacts at the Pilgrim Hall Museum. The town also hosts a celebration with parades, food festivals, live entertainment and a crafters village.
A perfect Colorado destination on Thanksgiving for snow-loving families, Keystone is known for its first-class ski runs. The slopes are less crowded this time of year because most people are staying home or visiting relatives, which makes it a great time to enjoy a little winter wonderland. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert skier, as novice winter sports enthusiasts can still have fun. Explore the city’s array of Thanksgiving events or take the kids ice skating at Keystone Lake.
Families looking for a sunny destination for Thanksgiving can head to St. Augustine, Florida, to explore the oldest city in America. Over the holidays, it’s known for its annual Night of Lights celebration in the historic downtown area, where the city is illuminated with millions of dazzling lights. You can catch a ride on the trolley to admire the dazzling displays while you warm up with a hot chocolate, walk along the cobbled streets lined with quaint cafes or watch cannon firings at the famous reenactments held at the historic Colonial Quarter.
Washington, D.C. is a family-friendly destination throughout the year, but Thanksgiving offers its own unique charms. Take the kids for a spin at the ice skating rink at the National Gallery of Art while surrounded by large-scale sculptures. Explore America’s history on Georgetown’s cobblestone streets lined with old Victorian homes from the 18th and 19th centuries, then dig into the turkey and pumpkin pie at 1789, an old Federal house that was converted into a restaurant or admire the fall foliage in Georgetown or the National Mall.
Who says you can’t visit a tropical destination for Thanksgiving? Hawaii is less crowded in November, making it a great time to visit with the family, where you can enjoy turkey dinner at your oceanfront resort and watch lively holiday parades with local Hawaiian bands. For calm waters and sandy beaches that are best for winter months, head to Waimea on Kauai’s southwestern shore. Let the kids enjoy outdoor adventures such as surf lessons, snorkeling and swimming.
One of the most historic towns in America, Williamsburg is a family-friendly getaway destination with plenty of educational attractions. Walk the streets of Colonial Williamsburg to discover candlelit taverns, old stores and authentic blacksmiths, where you can bump into historical figures such as George Washington and John Smith and watch live interpreters re-enact famous events. Visit the Berkeley Plantation for its iconic Thanksgiving festival, as it claims to be the site of America’s first Thanksgiving in 1619. After a dose of history, enjoy some amusement park action at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
A combination of sunshine, stunning coastline and kid-friendly attractions, San Diego is a beloved destination for families. San Diego’s iconic Hotel del Coronado offers you a chance to go ice skating overlooking the Pacific Ocean, while the popular Mother Goose Parade includes bands, clowns, floats and a Queen’s contest. Nature enthusiasts can explore the natural wonders of San Diego’s ocean tide pool ecosystems, with popular ones in Point Loma and La Jolla, while kids will love a visit to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Natural History Museum and the roller coasters at Belmont Park.
Perfect for families craving some quality beach time for their South Carolina holiday weekend, Myrtle Beach offers more than 60 miles of pristine coastline. Walk along the lively boardwalk and promenade to discover a carnival-like atmosphere with live entertainment, amusement parks, mini-golf and other family-friendly attractions such as the Broadway Grand Prix and Ripley’s Aquarium. Enjoy turkey dinner with ocean views at one of the nearby restaurants.