8 Affordable, Family-Friendly U.S. Destinations for Thanksgiving

by  Charu Suri and Rachel Friedman | Updated on Oct 17, 2023
Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg / Photo provided by the CVB

For many families, Thanksgiving is the ultimate holiday. These unique and affordable destinations offer not only the chance to escape, but also to tap into historic and cultural celebrations, while still enjoying the custom of over-indulgence.

1. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

The first documented Thanksgiving in what is now the United States took place on December 4, 1619, at Berkeley Plantation on the banks of the James River in what is now Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, restaurants in the area recreate the first Thanksgiving dinner using local meats and crops, much of it coming from the exact same waterways and gardens that fed the first colonists almost 400 years ago.

Sherman's Tip: Guests who book the Thanksgiving Package at the Kingsmill Resort enjoy free breakfast plus a Thanksgiving buffet. 

2. Chicago, Illinois 

This holiday season, bundle up and head to Chicago, where you can watch the city's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, one of the largest in the country. As part of the fun, you'll have the chance to spot gigantic balloons, marching bands, festive floats, and (so much) more.  

Sherman's Tip: Stay at Arlo Chicago, which is conveniently and centrally located across the street from Millennium Park. 

3. Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville is the quintessential Southern city with an elegant waterfront and fall foliage. Kids will love the world-class Children's Museum of the Upstate, while travelers of all ages can get into the holiday spirit at the Bon Secours Festival of Trees; alternatively, go ice skating right on Main Street. 

Sherman's Tip: Open since September 2022, the Grand Bohemian Lodge is one of the best places to stay in town with its cozy mountain lodge-like vibe and iconic location along the Reedy River.  

4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From Independence Hall to the Liberty Bell to the Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia is filled with American spirit. Don’t miss the city’s Thanksgiving Day parade — it’s the oldest in the nation!

Sherman's Tip: While many city restaurants serve Thanksgiving feasts, the Buck Hotel offers a family-style Thanksgiving dinner that will make your mouth water! 

5. Santa Fe, New Mexico

The whole family will love Santa Fe, with holiday lights on the trees and lampposts around Santa Fe Plaza and lit nightly for visitors to enjoy the festive atmosphere individually. We recommend making a reservation for the Thanksgiving Day lunch or dinner at Anasazi Restaurant. 

Sherman's Tip: Stay at the Santa Fe Sage Inn, which boasts 145 beautiful rooms decorated in southwestern colors and Native American patterns. 

6. Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Colorado

Spend the holiday weekend in Ute Mountain Tribal Park with one of Colorado’s Native American Ute tour guides. They will show you how to interpret pictographs and teach you about the geological land formations and Ancestral Pueblo petroglyphs, artifacts, and dwellings.  

Sherman's Tip: Stay in nearby Mancos, a designated Colorado Creative District for its galleries along historic Main Street. 

7. Portsmouth, New Hampshire

New Hampshire has deep historical ties to Thanksgiving, when a fisherman named David Thomson sent a shipload to a pilgrim village, saving them from starvation. Today, families can visit the Strawbery Banke Museum in downtown Portsmouth and learn the stories of families who lived in the buildings from 1695 to 1955. Children can learn how to make cornhusk dolls, and, on November 24, the museum's ice skating rink opens for the season. 

Sherman's Tip: Stay in the heart of downtown Portsmouth by booking a room at the AC Hotel Portsmouth, which offers prime waterfront views plus contemporary rooms and suites for families of all ages.

8. National Harbor, Maryland

A short drive from both Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington D.C., National Harbor has several hotels and family-friendly attractions, including the Capital Wheel and live musical performances. The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center offers an abundance of on-site drinking, dining, and entertainment offerings and seasonal fun, including over-the-top ice sculptures, tubing, and more.

Money-saving Tip: While there are a handful of local restaurants offering Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to book your table at Bond 45 for a worth-it — and mouthwatering — splurge featuring fan-favorite dishes like roasted butternut squash soup, herb-roasted turkey, and pumpkin pecan bread pudding. 

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