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Thanksgiving is a time to spend with friends and family, to enjoy delicious food, and to kickstart the holiday season with festive activities. While many of us stay home for Thanksgiving or head over to a nearby relative’s place, other people want to take advantage of a couple of extra days off work and school to travel somewhere new.
Arizona is a great place to travel in late-November because it’s often mild and sunny, but still full of holiday charm. Here are our top picks for Thanksgiving getaway destinations in Arizona!
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There’s always something fun to do in Sedona, no matter what season it is. To make you feel better about all that Thanksgiving food, you can participate in the annual turkey trot 5K race at Posse Grounds Park in Sedona. The racecourse is an out-and-back with a loop on Soldier Pass Road. And if you stay in town through the first few days of December, you can watch the Sedona tree lighting and Santa’s visit at Tlaquepaque North, have breakfast with Santa, and catch a performance of The Nutcracker at the Sedona Performing Arts Center. Not only do lots of local businesses stay open over Thanksgiving, but this is a popular tourist time with lots of events and meals planned at the resorts. If you’re looking for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, consider the L’Auberge de Sedona, Golden Goose American Grill, Creekside Sedona, or the Kimpton Amara Resort in town.
National parks often see a surge of visitors over the Thanksgiving holiday because more people are traveling during this time. If you live around Tucson and are having guests come in from out of town, there’s nothing more impressive than taking them on a trip to Saguaro National Park. This is a very biologically diverse park with lots of desert animals and plants, including the famous Saguaro cactus, of course. Ranger-led programs are offered year-around here, but the busiest season doesn’t kick off until January. For more of an indoor/outdoor experience, head to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is nearby. For your Thanksgiving meal, there’s a great buffet happening at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort. To give back to those in need, consider volunteering with the Salvation Army to help serve meals on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s easy to find things to do or to entertain your visiting guests when you’re in Phoenix. Bars and clubs hold Thanksgiving Eve parties to ring in the holiday. There’s also a local Phoenix Turkey Trot that features a costume contest. Dress up as a turkey or in something else totally creative to win an award! There are adult 5K and 10K races, as well as one-mile dashes for kids under 12 and a tot trot for little ones ages six and under. For something entirely different, you can check out the Arizona International Auto Show at the Phoenix Convention Center. Top Thanksgiving restaurants in the area include Compass Arizona Grill, Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort, and the Royal Palms Resort & Spa.
Another great road trip destination for your Thanksgiving trip to Arizona is the Apache Trail through the Superstition Mountains. Located near Apache Junction, this is a classic scenic drive that doesn’t even require you to get out of the car. Just be forewarned that not all of the road is paved and that it soon shifts to dirt, hills, and valleys. Tortilla Flat is a popular place to see along the way, as this used to be a station for mules to be switched out between carrying construction loads. Other stops to make are the Goldfield Ghost Town, Lost Dutchman State Park, and Canyon Lake. The drive is about 40 miles one-way or as a loop route through Globe for about 120 miles round-trip.
Prescott was the first capital of Arizona and is packed with a fascinating history and a festive spirit. Starting on Thanksgiving, there will be exhibits at the ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery and then an art walk the next day. Prescott was officially designated “Arizona’s Christmas City” in 1989 by a former governor, so lots of festivities kick off on the Saturday after Thanksgiving here. This includes the holiday light parade, which you definitely don’t want to miss. The Hassayampa Inn typically serves a wonderful Thanksgiving buffet, while other Thanksgiving options for meals include Bistro St. Michael, Murphy’s, and the Gurley Street Grill.
Lake Havasu City is always a popular Arizona vacation destination, and Thanksgiving is no exception. The annual Festival of Lights event kicks off the day after Thanksgiving in Lake Havasu City, and this is an event that will get you in a festive mood. Take a boat on a cruise through the Bridgewater Channel to see the hundreds of thousands of lights aglow, and stick around to visit Santa on Friday and Saturday. The city stays lit until late evening each night. Favorite local restaurants to dine at here for Thanksgiving include Shugrue’s Restaurant and Bar, Cha Bones, and the Red Onion.
The Grand Canyon is also a popular Thanksgiving destination, and the South Rim is open year-around. Please note that the North Rim shuts down around October 15. Make your reservations early though because accommodations over Thanksgiving book up quickly here. It’s also usually a little chilly at the Grand Canyon in late-November, so dress in layers.
Williams is often considered the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, and this is also a fun place to celebrate Thanksgiving close to the park. Definitely take a ride on the Polar Express train with Santa while you’re here. The Grand Depot Café is a popular place to get your Thanksgiving Day meal, and the tree lighting and parade of lights take place on Thanksgiving weekend too.