The Best Places To Celebrate Thanksgiving In The US

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, oil on canvas by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1914) | Public Domain/Wikicommons
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, oil on canvas by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1914) | Public Domain/Wikicommons
Thanksgiving Day has been a long-standing tradition since its inception in the 1620s. The ‘First Thanksgiving’ hosted by the Pilgrims as a celebration of their first harvest in the New World has since become a significant national holiday, aimed at bringing people together to give thanks for life’s blessings – whether that means watching football with the family or placating your appetite with carbs and turkey. From NYC to Williamsburg, here are the best places to celebrate Thanksgiving in the US.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

There’s no better destination to experience the authentic spirit of Thanksgiving than where the tradition first began. In Plymouth, less than an hour from Boston, visitors can head to the historic 17th-century Plimoth Plantation, once an old New England colonists’ village. Explore the Mayflower II and Wampanoag Homesite before attending the Thanksgiving dinner, a festive event accompanied by dishes like roast native turkey with giblet gravy and traditional stuffing. In the heart of Plymouth, the town hosts a weekend-long celebration, with a parade on Saturday morning, a food festival, crafter’s village, live entertainment, farmers market, and outdoor ‘living history’ village.

Plimoth Plantation - Plymouth © Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr

New York City, New York

When it comes to parades, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade takes the cake. Everyone remembers sitting in their PJs on Thanksgiving morning, watching this beloved NYC tradition – one that has endured since the 1920s. A world-famous event, the annual pageant takes to the streets with massive balloons, floats, marching bands, and people in costumes. Of course, this lively vision is best seen in person. After catching a peek of the procession, head to Artisanal Bistro – featuring an autumnal five-course pre-fixe – or Bowery Meat Company for some grandiose Thanksgiving fare. And don’t forget: NYC is revered for its rows of stores, so even the most dedicated of Black Friday shoppers can get their fix.

The 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade New York City © Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Williamsburg, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg, filled with candlelit taverns, old stores, authentic blacksmiths, and wig-making shops, is the ultimate immersion into America’s earliest days. Walk the streets of this former Virginia capital (1699 to 1780) while witnessing Colonial reenactments, portraying a life of centuries passed. Berkeley Plantation – claimed to be the site of America’s first Thanksgiving in 1619 – hosts a Thanksgiving festival accompanied by a traditional dinner; several restaurants, especially in Colonial Williamsburg, serve harvest dinners. Visitors can learn how old settlers and Native Americans gathered and prepared food at the Jamestown Settlement, or witness a turkey pardon at The Virginia Living Museum.

Colonial Williamsburg - Palace Snow © Brian Holland/Flickr

Chicago, Illinois

While not as renowned as NYC’s, Chicago hosts a parade of its own: the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade. Giant floats, marching bands, and a vibrant Thanksgiving spirit bring thousands of spectators to watch as the procession makes its way through the streets of downtown. Visitors can also take part in a turkey trot, feast at one of the many top-notch restaurants, or visit the nation’s largest German Christmas market, Christkindlmarket, which opens Thanksgiving week. Ornaments, carolers, festive lights, and cheerful window displays mark the beginning of the holiday season – not to mention, the series of Black Friday sales that flood Chicago’s stores.

Marching Band, Chicago Public Domain/Pixabay

Washington, D.C.

American history is rich in the nation’s capital. The cobblestone streets – many of which are still lit by gas lamps – were once walked on by pre-Revolutionary settlers and soldiers of the Civil War; today, these historic neighborhoods boast rows of old Victorian homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Dig into turkey and pumpkin pie at 1789, an old Federal house that has been converted into a restaurant, before walking the old streets of Georgetown set ablaze by fall foliage. For a glimpse into America’s past, head to the Smithsonian Institution; join the Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger; or see the real turkey pardon at the White House – a tradition since the 1800s.

Georgetown University's main campus is built on a rise above the Potomac River. © Patrickneil/Wikicommons