If you aren’t interested in a classic Thanksgiving this year, skip the turkey and use the long weekend as the perfect time for a quick getaway. While there are some popular and traditional places to spend the holiday, like Colonial Williamsburg or Plymouth, Massachusetts, there are also unique places to spend Thanksgiving if you don’t want to stay home.
Taking a Thanksgiving vacation can be a great way to see areas of the United States that are less visited or crowded at other times of the year. You can spend the day exploring some of the more unique areas of the United States and still have a delicious, special Thanksgiving feast in the evening.
Skip the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Black Friday lines and explore some of these unique destinations to spend Turkey Day this year.
1. Key West, Florida
Laidback, beautiful, and funky Key West is one of the most relaxing destinations in the United States. It has been loved by counterculture figures and artists like writer Ernest Hemmingway for generations, and it is a great place to spend a relaxing Thanksgiving getaway.
Beyond the local arts and crafts available all year round, Key West launched its own Thanksgiving tradition, the International Sand Art Competition, which takes place over the holiday weekend each year. Stop by to see some of the incredible sculptures the world’s top artists make while enjoying one of the warmest and sunniest spots in the continental US.
If you want a Thanksgiving dinner, there are plenty of restaurants with traditional fare, but we recommend stopping by Sloppy Joe’s, Hemingway’s favorite watering hole in the area. It features delicious seafood fresh from the ocean and other Key West favorites like conch fritters and soft pretzels. Have a cocktail and enjoy the history while celebrating Thanksgiving.
2. Disneyland or Disneyworld
Disney theme parks in California and Florida are popular destinations all year round. These theme parks are fun for people of all ages and offer everything from rides to fine dining. Unfortunately, they can get extremely crowded at peak times, and the lines for attractions quickly become lengthy.
Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year to visit. The weather is milder than in summer, and fewer people visit the parks. The weekend after Thanksgiving may be as crowded as normal, but Thanksgiving day itself should be a less congested and more enjoyable experience.
If you want a traditional meal, there are still plenty of options. If you book a room at a Disney Resort Hotel, the restaurants, including Story Teller’s Cafe and Goofy’s Kitchen, offer Thanksgiving meals with turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, along with visits from your favorite Disney characters.
3. Sante Fe, New Mexico
Founded in 1607 and located 7,000 ft. above sea level, Sante Fe, New Mexico, is both the oldest and highest state capital. This beautiful, historic history has attracted artists like Georgia O’Keefe, who have been transfixed by the color pallet of the high desert.
Sante Fe features unique adobe architecture and narrow streets for you to wander around, and plenty of artisanal shops to peruse. The city is also full of museums, including the Palace of the Governors, located in a 17th-century building, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, which celebrates the arts of the indigenous peoples of the area.
Try some of Santa Fe’s classic spice-rich Southwestern cuisine for a truly memorable Thanksgiving meal. Try the Coyote Cafe, which offers a fixed price three-course Thanksgiving dinner that mixes traditional and local fare with dishes like tellicherry peppercorn elk tenderloin, sourdough sherry stuffing, and bourbon whipped sweet potatoes.
4. Chicago, Illinois
Called the City of Broad Shoulders and the Windy City, Chicago, our nation’s third largest city, is a great way to experience all the best parts of a big city at Thanksgiving without New York’s crowds.
While not as large as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, the Chicago Thanksgiving parade is a fun, free event for the whole family. It runs from 8 to 11 on Thanksgiving morning. It goes north on State Street through central Chicago, starting at the intersection of State and Ida B. Wells on the South side to State and Randolph on the North side. It features floats, artists, entertainers, and local and national celebrities.
After the parade, check out the Chicago holiday tree in Millennium Park. This tree is lit up for everyone to enjoy, and the park features ice skating and the famous Cloud Gate, aka the Bean, which is a must-have picture if you visit Chicago.
If you want a more active trip to Chicago, sign up for one of the area’s many turkey trot runs. Run either a 5 or 8-kilometer race through central Chicago with the Chicago Turkeytrot, and help support the local Greater Chicago Food Depository. Last year’s race raised enough money to provide 111,545 meals for the needy in the area. Have fun, get a good workout, and help those in need by joining this year’s run.
Chicago is one of the great foodie cities in the country, and you have plenty of options when it comes to a Thanksgiving feast. Celebrate Chicago’s Italian heritage with an Italian Thanksgiving dinner at Mia Francesca, which offers homemade, Italian-influenced Thanksgiving classics like turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes.
Or try the three-course vegetarian or meat-based Thanksgiving feast at Cherry Circle Room. This meal offers something for everyone, with traditional dishes mixed with modern grill-style cuisine featuring dishes like sea bass and duck a la orange.
5. St. Augustine, Florida
The oldest city in the United States, sunny, beautiful St. Augustine, Florida, is a great place to spend your Thanksgiving holiday. The city was founded by Spanish conquistadors 55 years before the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth rock.
It retains its old-world charm, complete with cobblestone streets and preserved and reconstructed Iberian architecture, all under the warm Florida sun.
St. Augustine has many traditions around the holiday season, but one you can’t miss is the Night of Lights. The entire city is illuminated with thousands of tiny lights that add a sparkle to the beautiful historic architecture. Take a voyage on the authentic sailing ship Schooner Freedom to see the city’s beautiful reflection in the water and get some of the best views of the Bridge of Lions and Plaza de la Constitución.
If you want a good Thanksgiving meal, stop by the Gypsy Cab Company Restaurant, which puts a delicious twist on the traditional meal by swapping turkey for juicy, flavorful duck. They also offer freshly caught seafood options like shrimp and traditional sides like green beans and mashed potatoes.
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