If you’re road tripping during Thanksgiving weekend (note: always the fourth Thursday in November), you might like to get into the spirit and celebrate. In the absence of a family gathering, many visitors are stumped for where to go - but there are a few Thanksgiving hotspots around the States where you can experience a little of the magic of this holiday.
While many shops and most businesses are closed on Thanksgiving Day, a lot of restaurants are open, so those with no kitchen to use can find a feast, especially in the urban areas. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday and most retail outlets have huge sales - a large portion of Americans spend the day doing their holiday shopping, another tradition in which travellers could partake should they wish.
Whether it’s a modern New York experience at the Macy’s parade or historical discoveries in Massachusetts, all travellers in the US of A can get in on the Thanksgiving spirit.
New York: Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
The centerpiece of Thanksgiving in New York City is the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Open to the public, it’s the perfect way to take part in this iconic holiday without having your own traditions and family event to attend.
The parade proceeds from Macy’s the Museum of Natural History and heads south along Central Park West, turns left at Columbus Circle to skirt the bottom of the park, takes a right onto 6th Avenue and from there carries on into the heart of Manhattan to finish up outside Macy’s on W 34th Street. The best viewpoints are along Central Park West, the mall at Columbus Circle, and the 21-block stretch of 6th Ave that the parade follows. Arrive early at any spot to guarantee your place! The parade features floats, enormous novelty balloons, well-known performers and acts including broadway shows, marching bands and more.
Whether you pick up a JFK Airport car rental or make your way to the city from elsewhere as part of your fabulous fall road trip, it’s a great spot for an urban Thanksgiving celebration.
Turkey and time with family are the two primary Thanksgiving traditions, but another All-American pastime on the holiday is to watch football. The NFL (National Football League) puts on three matches each Thanksgiving, in various cities around the US: In 2016, it’s Detroit, Dallas and Indianapolis.
If you aren’t tied down to family obligations, it’s the perfect opportunity to divert your road trip to the closest Thanksgiving NFL match and be there for a treasured tradition in the flesh. Of course, you’ll need to book tickets well in advance, but it’s worth the planning to experience the atmosphere at one of these hallowed games. If you miss out, you could try a spot of tailgating pre-game, another hallowed USA tradition.
Not well-versed in the game of American Football? That’s ok - attending a game is more about the hype (and the hot dogs) than what’s going on on the field!
New Orleans: Feasting and festivities
If you find yourself in the far south when Thanksgiving rolls around, head to New Orleans, Louisiana. This place is laidback and celebratory year-round, and also known for great food - a vibe which ramps up in late November! You can grab a rental car at New Orleans Airport, or include the city in a stately Southern tour.
Travel guides assure that there are plenty of great restaurants open in New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day, to cater to travellers and those without gatherings to attend. Do a little asking around to find one that serves the classic dishes - and you should certainly ask if “Turducken” (a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey) is on the menu, as this unique dish originated in the city and they do it well. Many places will do a special Thanksgiving spread - favourites include Red Fish Grill, Compere Lapin and Kingfish.
The Bayou Classic is a four-day Thanksgiving event in New Orleans, centered around a college football game between Grambling State University Tigers and the Southern University Jaguars. The Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade is part of this, and a great way to capture the spirit. It runs between the French Market and Mercedes Benz Superdrome, starting at 3:30pm.
Disneyland or Disney World
There’s nowhere better to get in a festive spirit than the Disney parks! This is a versatile option too, as there is one on each coast (Disneyland in Anaheim, Los Angeles, California and Disney World in Orlando, Florida) and it’s perfect for anyone travelling with kids. While Christmas is the focus even in late November, the parks do celebrate Turkey Day - and also, as always, just provide a fun family day out.
Both parks have plenty of visitors to share in the Thanksgiving spirit, and several of the restaurants offer menus with traditional Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and more. Very popular options for a Thanksgiving feast include the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney World, or the Fall Harvest Buffet in the Grand Ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel. Book in advance!
Plymouth, Massachusetts: Commemorate the First Thanksgiving
If you’re in New England around the end of November, there’s a clear choice for where to spend the holiday: Plymouth, Massachusetts. Then you can really say you’re going back to the hometown for the holidays - it is known as America’s Hometown, site of the first colony established by the passengers of the Mayflower. It was also the site of the first Thanksgiving Feast - so you can imagine, it’s something that’s well celebrated in the town! A car rental from Boston Airport or any other New England hub will get you off to a good start.
Public festivities begin the Friday before Thanksgiving in Plymouth, and run for the weekend prior to the big day - these include tours of the historic waterfront, concerts, a parade through the main street, a food festival and a Sunday morning market, along with plenty more waterfront activities. It’s a great glimpse into the country’s European colonial heritage!
On the day itself, enjoy a very traditional meal at a Plymouth restaurant - take it up a notch by dining somewhere with a bit of history like the Plimoth Plantation which offers a ticketed buffet. There is also the Pilgrim Hall Museum and the Plymouth Rock National Monument where you can pay a visit on Thanksgiving Day and learn more about the very beginnings of the holiday.
Wherever in the USA you plan to be as November draws to an end, you can find a bit of Thanksgiving for your very own. A USA car rental is a fantastic way to see this big country and all of its traditions!