Thanksgiving is a time of celebration in the United States. From exciting parades, homecooked meals, and travel, Thanksgiving bustles with activity all over the nation. Our list of the top five best U.S. cities for Thanksgiving contains some of the most festive places to visit during the holiday season. As an end-of-fall hallmark that transitions America into the winter holiday season, Thanksgiving parties can turn into an epic bash before you know it.
As for the modern Thanksgiving menu, more than two-thirds of Americans think Thanksgiving dinner leftovers taste better than the original meal. In a recent survey of 2,000 respondents who celebrate Thanksgiving, nearly seven in 10 think a next-day Thanksgiving sandwich tastes better than that day’s fresh dinner. Half (49%) agree that the main course makes the best leftovers — more so than the side dishes (23%).
When it comes to traditional Thanksgiving foods, 62 percent believe turkey makes the best leftovers, while 46 percent opt for mashed potatoes and stuffing. While 45 percent think pumpkin pie is the best for leftovers, 38 percent also declare that it shouldn’t be eaten at any other time of year except the holidays.
When you find yourself in a different city visiting relatives, or for those that want to experience American Tradition at its best, our list of the best U.S. cities for Thanksgiving could be a handy resource. Let us know your favorite place to visit during the holiday in the comments below!
The List: Best U.S. Cities for Thanksgiving, Per Travel Experts
1. New York City
From the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to countless famous sites to see, Manhattan offers a one-of-a-kind holiday. Visitors have endless options for things to see and do, so it’s best to plan ahead. Families Love Travel lauds this world-famous destination, “One of the best places to visit during Thanksgiving is New York City! In November, the Big Apple is full of festive activities and attractions that the whole family will enjoy. Take a spin on the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, visit the iconic department store windows display, or see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person!”
“New York City is one of the best places to go for Thanksgiving because it hosts the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade that is broadcast across the nation. Nothing beats seeing it live!… The Thanksgiving Day Parade also officially kicks off the Christmas season in NYC, so you can get into the holiday spirit at the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular and by seeing the department stores’ holiday window decorations that are revealed the following day,” explains blogger Tori Pines Travels.
“It’s always a good time of year to visit New York City, and the Big Apple is especially lively during Thanksgiving Weekend. Not only is Central Park gorgeous during autumn, but there are lots of events taking place during the Thanksgiving Weekend. Perhaps the most notable is the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which takes place on Thanksgiving Thursday from 9:00 am to noon,” adds The Travel.
2. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg is a great destination for families. There are many activities to choose from and a great variety of delicious local fares to sample. Westgate Resorts relates, “Gatlinburg, often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains’ comes alive during the Thanksgiving holiday. The city hosts a variety of seasonal festivities such as the Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show and Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood theme park – all surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the majestic Smokies!”
“Thanksgiving in the Smokies might be ideal if you’re looking for a mountain getaway. Gatlinburg is a beautiful gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and a popular destination for families all year long. You’ll find a wide range of vacation rentals, from cozy cabins to mountain chalets as well as numerous activities and events,” writes Trips to Discover.
“The charming town of Gatlinburg is definitely worth a fall visit (I mean, look at those trees!). You can enjoy less-crowded trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, go snow tubing at Ober Mountain, and enjoy the first of the season’s Christmas events. As a noted Margaritaville stan, I would absolutely stay at the franchise’s Gatlinburg property and maybe start my Thanksgiving feast with a piña colada or two,” shares the team from Cosmopolitan.
3. Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid is the jewel of the Adirondacks. Spending Thanksgiving on the water beneath the mountains could be a wonderful travel experience. Country Living gets excited about the variety of things to do, “Lake Placid isn’t just picturesque, idyllic, and peaceful, it’s also a lot of fun around the holidays. Fish, hike, bike, or camp in the area, or visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum (the Winter Olympics were held here in 1932 and 1980). While snow isn’t a given, it is a possibility here this time of year, so pack your winter coat and gloves!”
“Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life for Thanksgiving Weekend by visiting the Adirondack Mountains in Lake Placid, New York. The village, located near the lake of the same name, is a peaceful getaway spot with mountain views and fresh air. It’s one of the few cities in the United States to have hosted the Olympics, and active travelers can participate in the town’s 5K Turkey Trot event,” according to The Travel.
According to Cosmopolitan, “Home to… loads of snow-friendly activities, from skiing to ice-skating to tubing (honestly, the list goes on). When you’re ready for some R&R, the Whiteface Lodge (a crowd favorite, btw) is truly stocked with all the goods. There’s a heated indoor swimming pool, a movie theater, a bowling alley—oh, and NIGHTLY s’mores! Cozy Thanksgiving achievement = unlocked.”
4. Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The gorgeous natural vistas of Wyoming are amazing. In the transition from fall to winter, the landscape takes on a freshly frosted look. VacationIdea explains, “November is one of the town’s quietest months; the area’s famed ski resorts aren’t open yet, so the crowds that flock here to ski and snowboard haven’t yet arrived. However, all this means is that Thanksgiving weekend visitors have more time to enjoy the fantastic art galleries, boutique shops, and excellent restaurants that line the streets of the postcard-perfect town.”
Oprah Daily adds, “While this town may be best known for its skiing, its close proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks truly makes it ideal for anyone who loves natural beauty. The late fall ‘shoulder season’ is an ideal time to visit: the weather is dry, the National Parks are still open but without the crowds, and you might even get to see the yearly elk bugling.”
All Trails expounds, “If the weather permits, spend some time hiking off those mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie in nearby Grand Teton National Park. And don’t miss Jackson Hole’s Norman Rockwell-type celebration, the Town Square Lighting. It takes place the day after Thanksgiving and features caroling, hot chocolate, cookies, and even a visit from Santa himself!”
5. Chicago, Illinois
Sweet Home Chicago is where you can do some world-class shopping, dine on amazing international fare, and enjoy amazing museums. A Thanksgiving visit would include the spectacular downtown parade and a wealth of Chicago originals to enjoy. Families Love Travel informs with some additional details, “Chicago offers families a mixture of history, culture, and fun holiday activities! From the city’s famed deep-dish pizza to its world-renowned museums, there’s plenty to keep the little ones entertained here. Though the weather in November can be a bit chilly (around 40 or 50 degrees), it won’t be too cold to explore the city.”
“While you’ll have to bundle up and endure some chilly temperatures, Chicago offers all sorts of free holiday activities and attractions that make it a great place to be on Thanksgiving weekend. The festivities begin on Wednesday night when the mayor lights up the official Christmas tree. The next morning, the three-hour-long annual Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off… Friday features the ‘Wreathing of the Lions’ at the Art Institute of Chicago, and over at Millennium Park, visitors can enjoy ice skating and caroling,” writes Trips to Discover.
All Trails adds, “Hundreds of thousands of people turn out for the Windy City’s annual Thanksgiving morning parade, which travels down State Street and features floats, balloons, and bands. Whether you join the crowd in person or watch from your hotel room, the event is guaranteed to get you into the holiday spirit!”
You might also be interested in:
- Families Love Travel
- Tori Pines Travels
- The Travel
- Westgate Resorts
- Trips to Discover
- Country Living
- Oprah Daily
- All Trails
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.