As one of the longest weekends in the fall school calendar, Thanksgiving break offers a stellar opportunity for families to get away together for four or five days. There are fantastic places where you can enjoy a change of pace and still have turkey and all the trimmings.
Getting away in November can be ideal because of the mild fall weather in many places and the opportunity to enjoy harvest festivals and special Thanksgiving events. Plus, there may be seasonal package deals and off-season savings in some locations.
Consider the Top 10 Thanksgiving Destinations
Renting a home is ideal for a family. You can get a place with enough bedrooms for everyone and have cooking and laundry facilities. Sometimes a vacation rental is cheaper than hotel rooms.
Consider the 10 destinations that are the most sought-after by vacation home renters on HomeAway.com for Thanksgiving weekend. A couple of places on the list include Kissimmee and Davenport in Florida. They both are a short drive from Orlando, home to Disney World and other theme parks and a natural choice for a Thanksgiving getaway with kids.
If you want to avoid the crowds, you can rent a cozy cabin at a place like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It's the number three destination for vacation rental inquiries over Thanksgiving weekend.
Celebrate Thanksgiving in a Big City
With a cornucopia of restaurants, parades, and seasonal activities, big cities can be awesome places to spend Thanksgiving weekend.
On the East Coast, you can take in a Thanksgiving parade in a major city like New York, then do some shopping as the cities prepare for the holiday season. Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C. can be ideal for a family wanting to take in historic sites and museums.
In the Midwest, Chicago is an ideal city for a Thanksgiving getaway. You can see the sights in the Windy City, enjoy a special Thanksgiving meal, and take in Chicago's Thanksgiving day parade.
The cities of the West Coast draw too. Thanksgiving in San Francisco gives families the opportunity to dine in some major restaurants, see the tree lighting and window displays in downtown, and check out popular attractions such as Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown.
Warm your family up with a desert getaway in Phoenix, Arizona. Temperatures hover around the 75-degree mark. Go shopping, visit the Desert Botanical Garden, or relax at a resort with an outdoor pool.
Take a Disney Holiday Vacation
If you're going to spend Thanksgiving at Disney World and want to enjoy a traditional feast with all the fixings, you've got oodles of options. You'll find Thanksgiving spreads at the restaurants of many Disney resorts, inside the theme parks, and also at Downtown Disney. The meals are popular, and early reservations are recommended.
Very Merrytime Cruises take place on most voyages aboard all Disney Cruise Line ships starting in late November. Thanksgiving sailings range in length from three to seven nights with itineraries to the Caribbean and Bahamas, including to Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. During the cruise, you'll enjoy a bounty of traditional favorites, including a delicious dinner, football, and other holiday-inspired touches.
Experience Life as a Pilgrim in Plymouth
Celebrate Thanksgiving where the first historic gathering happened, in Plymouth, about a 45-minute drive south of Boston. Any time of year, you can explore Plymouth Plantation and the Mayflower II, but November is special thanks to an annual extended Thanksgiving celebration that brings history to life. Make sure to book your hotel in advance as they tend to sell out quick.
Kick Off Ski Season
For many snow-loving families, Thanksgiving means the start of the ski season. One mountain that opens by Thanksgiving is Keystone Resort in Colorado, where kids ski free all season long.
Thanksgiving at a ski resort can be ideal as many resorts offer early-season bargains on ski lift tickets. Resorts where kids ski and snowboard free are always popular among families.
Escape to Sunny Florida
If you are ready to escape the chilly weather, take the family to a resort in the sun that celebrates Thanksgiving weekend in style.
Spanning two and a half miles of pristine white-sand beaches framing the Gulf of Mexico, South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island hosts its annual Thanksgiving weekend featuring a traditional holiday buffet with local island fare and special events like a “Turkey Trot” beach walk, and an ocean view “Turkey Bowl” challenge at the resort’s King’s Crown Lawn.
The iconic pink Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in South Florida, offers themed Thanksgiving dinners, an annual holiday tree-lighting event, and the chance to try the resort’s FlowRider surfing simulator. The Boca Raton Resort features both buffet and a la carte Thanksgiving dinner options including stone crabs and jumbo shrimp at the oceanfront Boca Beach Club, and a New Traditions Thanksgiving buffet at the blue, located 27 floors high in the resort’s pink tower.
Nestled on the largest private beach on Key West, Casa Marina plays host to world-renowned sand sculptors on Thanksgiving weekend in the International Sand Art Competition. In addition to the annual Thanksgiving buffet, the weekend features special culinary presentations with a four-course tasting meal.
Spend Thanksgiving at a Rocky Mountain Icon
Give thanks in the Rocky Mountains at Broadmoor, a historic and grand property that delivers for families. The Thanksgiving package starts at $150 per person (double occupancy), per night which is a 25-percent discount on suite plus a discount on tickets to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. The weekend also promises a traditional Thanksgiving buffet and holiday movies in the resort's movie theater, along with dozens of other resort activities.
Keep It Active and Affordable at the YMCA
Active families will find plenty to be thankful for at beautiful Snow Mountain Ranch, just outside Winter Park, Colorado. This affordable YMCA of the Rockies family property always offers a slew of ways to have outdoorsy fun, like hiking, rafting, mountain biking, ziplining, and horseback riding.
Thanksgiving weekend brings an extra layer of special activities for all ages, from movie nights including “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast, and an impressive roster of holiday-themed activities including a Turkey Trot, and a snowshoe hike.
Go on a Thanksgiving Safari
Looking for a Thanksgiving getaway that's exotic yet close to home? Consider heading to Safari West, a wildlife preserve in northern California known as the "Sonoma Serengeti." On Thanksgiving, you can dine on a sumptuous feast, set among the giraffes, playful lemurs, graceful cheetahs, and lumbering rhinos.
Spend the night in luxury tents that have been imported from Africa and built on high wooden platforms with spacious decks. These digs feature plush beds, hot showers, and rustic but elegant trappings such as polished wood floors, gleaming copper sinks, and one-of-a-kind hand-hewn furniture.
Be Active on the North Carolina Coast
A Thanksgiving tradition in coastal North Carolina for more than 30 years, the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla offers a full weekend of family fun in Wilmington Beach. The weekend culminates on Saturday evening with a maritime parade featuring illuminated holiday-themed power yachts, and sailboat floats.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Blockade Runner Beach Resort hosts a gala and Thanksgiving Day feast. Cape Fear Naturalist Captain Joe Abbate offers sunset cruises for the family. On Friday, Santa Claus arrives for the annual tree-lighting ceremony at Wrightsville Beach Town Hall Park.
On Saturday, the Festival in the Park attracts families with bouncy houses, slides, climbing walls, live bluegrass music, an antique auto show, and an estimated 100 booths featuring local arts and crafts vendors. Children can decorate and submit entries in the flotilla boat-coloring contest.
The flotilla gets underway on Saturday at 6 p.m., weaving a four-mile route through Motts Channel, Banks Channel, and the Intracoastal Waterway. Immediately following the flotilla, a 4,000-round fireworks display illuminates the night sky, showering the waterway with sound and color.