Ditch the Turkey: 6 Ideas for a Thanksgiving Getaway

Feb 25, 2020

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It’s never too early to start planning holiday travel. This November, if you want to duck out on the responsibilities of turkey basting and potato mashing, we say it’s time to plan a vacation to be thankful for the rest of the year. Here are six ideas for a Thanksgiving getaway to get you started.

1. Williamsburg, Virginia

The most enthusiastic Thanksgiving historians (and Virginians) will be proud to tell you that Colonial Williamsburg had the first Thanksgiving celebration, in 1619, two years prior to its more famous Massachusetts counterpart.

In defense of its claim to the title of the original Thanksgiving, Williamsburg goes above and beyond to make itself a prime destination for those seeking fun Thanksgiving festivities. To double your Thanksgiving celebrations, visit the first Sunday of November for the re-enactment of the first Thanksgiving at the Berkeley Plantation.

For a more traditional, food-heavy and late-November Thanksgiving celebration, you’ll want to hit up the Food & Feasts of Colonial Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. This annual tradition is a fun way for the whole family to learn about food traditions of the Powhatan Indians and the Virginia colonists.

After you’ve worked up an appetite with all that learning, head to any of Colonial Williamsburg’s historic taverns, which are open for a special Thanksgiving dinner. Consider dining at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, once frequented by George Washington.

2. Park City, Utah

If you view Thanksgiving as the gateway to all the wonderful winter holidays ahead, you’ll love experiencing it in Park City.

You can hit the slopes on Opening Day, which typically occurs the week of Thanksgiving. Celebrations at nearby resorts and villages make Opening Day a festive occasion with music, games and food.

Typically, Thanksgiving in Park City brings all-day celebrations, including fabulous meals. The annual Harvest Buffet at the Grand Summit Hotel is just one of many alternatives, where you’ll dine on so many sumptuous options you may forget to save room for pumpkin pie!

And stick around the Saturday after Thanksgiving to experience the Electric Parade through historic Park City. Go wild and decorate your car with Christmas lights and join the fun, or just enjoy the experience from the sidewalks.

3. New Orleans, Louisiana

Beignets and blues may not be the first things that pop into your mind when you think of Thanksgiving, but New Orleans has a lot to offer for those interested in visiting during the holiday. The Fair Grounds Race Course is the hot spot to be on Thanksgiving weekend. Don your best duds (hats strongly encouraged) and listen to the thundering hooves as the Fair Grounds kicks off the thoroughbred racing season.

Keep the festivities going through the weekend with the annual Bayou Classic between Grambling State University and Southern University. Non-college football fans will still appreciate the spectacle of marching bands and floats at the Bayou Classic Parade.

After the parade, take a coffee break at Café du Monde, a New Orleans icon in the French Quarter serving up amazing beignets.

4. San Juan, Puerto Rico

The end of November also ushers out hurricane season, making Thanksgiving a great time to visit the Caribbean. In addition, November is still considered low season, meaning discounts on hotels and flights can make it an affordable time to experience San Juan.

In Puerto Rico, Thanksgiving also brings their official kickoff to the holidays — la Navidad begins right after Thanksgiving Day and provides ample opportunity for Christmas festivities.

Beyond holiday events, you’ll want to stop by the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan, the home of the first pina colada. If you want to stay there, you can book with Hilton points transferred from American Express Membership Rewards.

In late November, average daily temperatures in San Juan are still between 75 and 86 degrees, so you’ll also have an opportunity to soak up some sun on Isla Verde Beach (once voted the #1 best urban beach). Just don’t forget your sunscreen!

5. Istanbul, Turkey

There’s no better place to spend your Turkey Day … than in Turkey. Outside the traditions of eating copious amounts of food and watching football, Thanksgiving is about gratitude. And you’re guaranteed to feel grateful for the incredible views and a sumptuous Thanksgiving buffet at the Bosporus Terrace Restaurant at the Istanbul Hilton.

Later, you can burn off those calories with a walking tour of Istanbul. Don’t forget to stop at the Hagia Sophia, an architectural marvel constructed in the sixth century that now serves as a museum.

Looking for more inspiration beyond the architectural domes of Hagia Sophia? Look no further than the Whirling Dervishes, a Sufi religious ceremony in which dancers spin in a spell-binding ritual. The Galata Mevlevi Museum has ceremonies every Sunday at 5 p.m., though other options more geared toward tourists are available.

6. New York City, New York

No list of Thanksgiving destinations would be complete without New York City. Yes, it may be a crowded and expensive destination this time of year — but there’s a reason Thanksgiving in New York City is a bucket list item for so many people.

If you choose to go to New York, plan early for high-traffic attractions like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which typically attracts 3.5 million attendees in New York City. For extra Thanksgiving spirit, you can go watch the parade setup the night before. On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, you can see the balloons while they’re being inflated near the American Museum of Natural History.

In addition to the spectacular parade, New York City’s holiday events kick into gear at Thanksgiving. The Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree is often in place by early November. While the official lighting isn’t until the week after Thanksgiving, even the tree itself is still an awe-inspiring sight. And don’t forget to check out Christmas Markets in the City, like the one in Bryant Park, where you can enjoy mulled wine or hot chocolate while shopping for unique Christmas gifts.

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