20 Thanksgiving Getaways: Fun Alternatives to Grandma’s

Thanksgiving means turkey and pumpkin pie, family Thanksgiving traditions, and early-bird shopping on Black Friday. But it is also a rare break in the school schedule where traditional schooling families find themselves with five or more days off. So if you want to ditch the annual Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s, or just take advantage of a chance to get away without pulling the kids out of school, here are a few Thanksgiving getaways that you can squeeze into a five day break (or longer if you have it.)

When putting together this list I relied on my own experience and recommendations from others to find destinations, both domestic and international, that met the following criteria:

  • The destination can be explored in five days, including travel time assuming families could depart either the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving and returning by the Sunday night after Thanksgiving. I realize that some schools give a full week off and some families are ok with kids missing 1-2 days of school, so they can certainly take more time to explore or build in some buffer time.
  • The weather at the destination is generally pleasant in November. This doesn’t mean laying out on the beach or wearing shorts, but it isn’t yet too snowy or rainy (no guarantees of course!) I have included some destinations where the weather is colder or possibly snowy, but I’ve noted that as it adds to the charm or the activities at that time of year.
  • Where possible, I tried to include destinations that have special activities or events happening during that time of year.

Thanksgiving Getaways in the United States

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This post was written in partnership with Allianz Travel, my choice for our family’s travel insurance needs. All opinions are my own.

While you can often find cheap flights to Europe, or even Asia, during this time of year, depending on where you are traveling from you may prefer to stay domestic for a Thanksgiving getaway.

To search for cheap flights, I often set up alerts on flights that I am interested in using Hopper. I also subscribe to Dollar Flight Club to take advantage of special flight deals and search on Momondo for those secret sales or mistake fares.

New York City, New York

view from the Empire State Building
View from the Empire State Building

If you want to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, you will need to bundle up and stake out a spot along Central Park West or 6th Avenue. However, my favorite thing to do when we spend Thanksgiving in NYC is to head over to the Museum of Natural History in the afternoon and then watch them inflating the balloons in the late afternoon and evening.

While you are in town, you should plan on catching a Broadway show. Our favorites for younger kids have been the Lion King and Wicked (not a big fan of Alladin but I’d like to see Frozen) and for teens, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Check Showtickets.com for ticket availability and pricing.

If you plan on exploring some of the main tourist attractions and museums, like the Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Natural History, I would recommend grabbing a New York CityPASS to save money on these attractions — and get to skip the line at many!

Jamestown & Williamsburg, Virginia

American Revolution Museum at Jamestown making pie crust
Image credit: Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

Did you know that Virginia also lays claim to the first Thanksgiving? What better way to celebrate the holiday than where Colonists first settled in America and learn a little history at the same time? You can enjoy a Thanksgiving feast the way the original settlers did, at the Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia event at the Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

At Jamestown Settlement, kids can learn how food was gathered, preserved and prepared by Powhatan Indians and English colonists with clay pots and iron kettles. Historical interpreters will bake bread and demonstrate open-hearth cooking of pudding, pies and pottage, based on historical recipes of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

For those looking for a traditional dinner, Williamsburg has plenty of restaurants at Colonial Williamsburg including Williamsburg LodgeChristiana Campbell’s Tavern, where guests can experience historical dining traditions.

While in the area, families can enjoy exploring Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, Busch Gardens, and other attractions in nearby Newport News and Hampton. Hamilton fans will also appreciate the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, which tells the stories of citizens and soldiers during the nation’s founding with comprehensive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history areas.

Clarksville, Tennessee

Light tunnel in Clarksville TN
Photo credit Stephen Schlegel, courtesy of Visit Clarksville

Clarksville is less than an hour from Nashville and is an affordable destination for families to visit in the winter. Thanksgiving week is the kick off of the town’s annual Christmas on the Cumberland festival. The one-mile Cumberland RiverWalk is transformed with one-million lights in captivating displays.

On most weekends you’ll find special activities like hot chocolate and food vendors, live music,  pictures with Santa, etc. Temperatures are also fairly mild and comfortable that time of year. The Downtown Commons park also converts to outdoor ice skating beginning on the Friday after Thanksgiving. 

Clarksville is home to several indoor family entertainment options too. The City Forum is a 120,000 square foot complex with high-speed and family-speed go karting, 10 lanes of bowling, two stories of laser tag, 18 holes of mini golf and an arcade filled with the classics and the newest games. Plus, there’s a playscape area for younger kids. Planet 3 Indoor Air Trampoline Park, D&D Blacklight Minigolf, and Clarksville Climbing are some other fun indoor options.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head sunset
Photo credit: Karen Dawkins

Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is a great family destination at any time of the year, but during Thanksgiving, the heat and humidity has subsided and it is the tail end of hurricane season, making the weather usually delightful.

The live oaks draped in Spanish moss give the island its lush feel. Beneath the trees, vacationers can ride along miles of bike trails, kayak through the marshes and waterways or go horseback riding. Of course, there are beaches, golf courses — traditional and putt putt depending on your skill, and the Pinckney Nature Preserve to fill sunny days with fun.

Restaurants on the island specialize in seafood, low country cuisine and barbecue. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a traditional Thanksgiving meal. In fact, Hilton Head celebrates the holiday with a Thanksgiving scavenger hunt, Turkey Trot race, and Caramel Apple Festival. And there is an annual community dinner at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks.

St. Augustine, Florida

Founding day re-enactment
Image courtesy of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau

I know there are many claims to the First Thanksgiving, but St. Augustine, Florida has documented that the first Thanksgiving took place there on September 8, 1565, years before the Pilgrims. Spanish explorer Don Pedro Mendez de Aviles came ashore in 1565 to claim Florida for Spain and established the first St. Augustine settlement along the shores of what is now the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.  

The land was the home of the Native Timucua Indians in the village they called Seloy. One of the first things the Spanish explorers did was serve a meal of celebration and they invited the Timucua Indians to join them. The adjacent Mission Nombre de Dios, celebrates the landing with a recreation of the formal mass of Thanksgiving.  

During Thanksgiving, St. Augustine also shines brightly with the glow of three million tiny white lights during St. Augustine’s “Nights of Lights” celebration. There are many ways to enjoy the city at this time of year, from Old Town Trolley tours, carriage rides, harbor tours, or guided walks.

Orlando, Florida

Hogwarts castle
Hogwarts at Universal Orlando

I know it seems like theme parks would be overcrowded and crazy during the Thanksgiving Weekend. However, we went to Universal Orlando at Thanksgiving a few years ago and we were surprised that it wasn’t nearly as crowded as we expected, especially on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Even if you aren’t into theme parks, there are plenty of other Orlando attractions (both indoor and outdoor) that can make for a fun vacation. The weather is pleasant and you can look for cheap flights from Spirit and Frontier (where kids can fly free!)

Coastal Mississippi

Mississippi schooner
Photo credit: Alex North, courtesy of Coastal Mississippi tourism.

If you are ready to get away from the cold, Coastal Mississippi is a year-round destination with a temperate climate perfect for outdoor activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, boating, and even a shrimping trip that teaches you about shrimp and other marine life.

There is so much to do for families including the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, a hands-on children’s museum; the Ocean Adventures Marine Park, with interactive experiences with dolphins and sea lions; and the Infinity Science Center, where you can learn about space travel.

Mississippi has been recognized as a state where $100 goes the farthest, making it an affordable family travel destination. You can also save with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Attraction Pass, which will save you over 50 percent on attractions.

If you are seeking a resort destination, Margaritaville Resort Biloxi is a family-friendly resort with an indoor 55,000 square foot entertainment complex overlooking Deer Island – complete with lazy river and rock climbing wall.

Chicago, Illinois

Millennium Park ice rink
Image courtesy of Choose Chicago

Why head to the Windy City in November? To get into the holiday mood and to explore this dynamic city without the summer crowds or (hopefully) the winter snow. Chicago really does it up big when it comes to Christmas and it all starts in November, giving plenty to do in Chicago at Christmas.

You can see Christmas trees from around the world at the Museum of Science and Industry, go ice skating on the Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon, have lunch at the famous Walnut Room at Macy’s, catch a parade, and shop at the Chicago Christmas Market.

There is so much else to see in Chicago that I would recommend grabbing a Chicago CityPASS and maximizing your time. Take in the view from the SkyDeck at the Willis Tower, watch the Beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium, and check out the dinosaur bones at the Field Museum.

Greenough, Montana

Paws Up Thanksgiving Feast
Image courtesy of The Resort at Paws Up

If you are looking for a western Thanksgiving with beautiful views under the big skies of Montana, The Paws Up Resort has put together a Thanksgiving Vacation Inclusive Package. The Resort at Paws Up is Montana’s premier luxury ranch resort, set on 37,000 acres in the Blackfoot River Valley.

The Thanksgiving Feast for All Five Senses at The Paws Up Resort includes fireside s’mores, football games, wagon rides and of course, the grand Thanksgiving feast. Extended families can spread out in a luxury home in the Wilderness Estates with three master suites, a loft game room, a cook’s kitchen and a natural timber fireplace. 

Family activities include hayrides, horseback riding, ATV tours, laser tag, touch football, hiking, arts and crafts by the fire, and even a petting zoo. Foodies will enjoy wine tasting and the Turkey day cuisine of Executive Chef Sunny Jin and guest chef and BBQ legend Sam Huff.

Santa Monica, California

Shangri-La Santa Monica sunset
Photo credit: Hotel Shangri-La Santa Monica

With sandy beaches, clean outdoor spaces, and temperatures reaching a high of 67 degrees in November, Santa Monica is an ideal family destination for a Thanksgiving break. There are an abundance of activities for families for a Thanksgiving holiday break, including the famous Santa Monica Beach and Pier.

Families with young children will enjoy exploring the Cayton Children’s Museum, splashing around at the Annenberg Community Beach House or Tongva Park, or exploring the Heal the Bay Aquarium. Third Street Promenade features street musicians, dinosaur fountains, shopping, and the Downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Older children will enjoy bike riding along the beachfront path and strolling through the art and architecture at the Getty Center. Nearby, thrills await at Disneyland and California Adventure, or Warner Bros. Studio.

With a coveted location near the Santa Monica Pier, just 30 minutes from the LAX airport, Hotel Shangri-La is one of the best-situated hotels for exploring this playground on the Pacific Ocean. It is also a gateway for exploring Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Los Angeles.

The Hotel Shangri-La is a 1939 landmark, whose Art Deco design oozes style. Many of the 70 rooms boast spectacular views of the Pacific and the Santa Monica Beach and Pier. The hotel also hosts a special Thanksgiving dinner. If you book direct on www.shangrila-hotel.com, you can receive breakfast buffet on us and earn exclusive rewards including 15% cash rewards on your entire stay (based on availability, offer subject to change.)

International Thanksgiving Getaways

Canadian Rockies

Spirit Island on Maligne Lake
Spirit Island on Maligne Lake

We just spent an amazing 10 days in the Canadian Rockies this summer, but either Jasper or Banff would make a lovely Thanksgiving destination if you like the cold weather. In the winter you can enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, dogsledding, tubing and tobogganing, ice skating, and more. Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park and Maligne Canyon in Jasper both have ice walks.

You can also cozy up by the fire, enjoy a family sleigh ride, or an elegant afternoon tea at one of the Fairmont hotels. And the good news? Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving a month earlier so it won’t be peak holiday prices. Plus with the favorable U.S. exchange rate, it is even more affordable.

Given the weather, it makes sense just to stay in Banff, Lake Louise, or Jasper and avoid driving the Icefields Parkway unless your rental car is well-equipped with snow tires. You can also fly into Calgary and take a shuttle to Banff and then organized tours from there to avoid driving in wintery conditions.

Quebec City, Quebec

10 Things to do in Quebec CIty with Kids, a photo essay exploring Old Quebec City.
Le Chateau Frontenac

Quebec City is a great city for kids because it is so walkable and charming in the Old City. It may be too early for the Ice Hotel, but there are still museums, shops, and waterfalls to explore, all while practicing your French.

Keep in mind that Quebec City can get very cold so be prepared and dress in layers! But just like the Canadian Rockies, you won’t be competing with Canadians on holiday and the prices are to your advantage if you are coming from the United States.

Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler, British Columbia is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, especially in the winter! Combine that with the advantages of Canadian destinations and you have a great Thanksgiving weekend getaway destination, particularly for West Coast families.

It is still early in the ski season, but families can enjoy a plentitude of activities including winter zip lining, a peak-to-peak gondola, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, tubing, dog sledding, treetop adventure courses, and even bungee jumping. And that is just the tip of the iceberg! You will have no problem filling your entire Thanksgiving long weekend.


Horseshoe Beach from above by drone
Horseshoe Beach in Bermuda

Bermuda may not offer tropical climates in November, but you can enjoy its beautiful pink sand beaches even when it isn’t sun bathing weather. Plus its location off the coast of North Carolina means you can find short, direct flights from Boston, New York, Washington DC, and Atlanta.

If you stay at a beach resort, you can book excursions to see the historic parts of the island, enjoy the aquarium, some of the many caves, or take a guided bike tour. Even though non-residents can’t rent cars, you can rent small little electric vehicles if you need to get around.

London, England

Kensington Palace London Pass

Five to seven days is a perfect length of time to spend in London. From palaces to museums to all sorts of Harry Potter experiences, themed afternoon teas, and giant toy stores, there is something for everyone.

Late November is a great time to visit London because U.K. schools aren’t on break and hotels will be more affordable. Also, all of London’s holiday festivities are just kicking in, like Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. You get all the advantages of London at Christmas without the crowds.

Paris, France

Sacre Couer in Paris

Paris in November is quite lively, with new art exhibits on display and theater performances in the evening. While the days are shorter and it is a little cool, the temperatures are warmer than NYC and there is plenty to do inside.

With direct flights from many U.S. cities, it is perfect time to enjoy the City of Light when hotel room prices aren’t as outrageous and the streets aren’t swarmed with tourists. And if you get chilly, just pop into Angelina’s for a hot chocolate and explore some of the off-the-beaten path museums.

Dublin & Northern Ireland

Temple Bar in Dublin
Temple Bar

Ireland is a short hop from the U.S. east coast and you can usually find affordable flights into Dublin or Shannon. It is easy to do three days in Dublin and then add in a couple of days for a lovely castle or estate stay, such as at the Mount Juliet Estate near Waterford.

Alternatively, you could spend two days in Dublin and then cross over to Northern Ireland (especially great for Game of Thrones fans) and visit Belfast and the beautiful Causeway Coast.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam canal
Image courtesy of Lisa Grabelle.

Three to five days is the perfect amount of time for exploring Amsterdam and surrounding towns. Temperatures are usually in the 40s, with a chance of rain, so dress appropriately, but you won’t run into the same crowds at this time of year. Given the over tourism that is impacting the city, visiting during low season is much prefer, even if the weather isn’t ideal.

There is plenty to do in and around Amsterdam with teens, but younger kids will also enjoy feasting on pancakes during a canal cruise and exploring the NEMO Science Museum.


Barcelona gothic quarter
Barcelona gothic quarter

You can find direct flights to Barcelona from around the U.S., making possible to visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. Temperatures are usually pleasant, with highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s, with very little rain. Since Barcelona is another city facing over tourism, visiting in the off-season is ideal to avoid the crowds.

Kids will love explore the Gaudi wonders in Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia. Mornings can be spent exploring the Gothic Quarter and afternoons eating seafood by the beach. You can also take some time to explore the Costa Brava nearby.

Insure your Trip with Allianz

While you are booking your Thanksgiving getaway, don’t forget the travel insurance! I have used Allianz Travel as my preferred provider for the last three years and every time I have had to make a claim, the process is simple, seamless, and fast.

We have an annual plan for our family so that I know that all of our travel are covered, but for big trips I also buy a separate policy with higher levels of medical and trip cancellation coverage. I love that Allianz has moved to coverage plans that include pre-existing conditions, and that some plans will even automatically deposit your benefit into your account when notified about a trip delay, so you don’t need to stress about finding a hotel, buying meals, etc.

Allianz offers a number of different plans, so you should read the differences and choose carefully based on your family’s needs, but these are just a few of the reasons why you should consider travel insurance:

Trip cancellation — many trips, especially vacation packages, cruises, safaris, and custom trips require an upfront deposit and have strict cancellation and refund policies. The only way to protect yourself against the unexpected is with travel insurance.

Just make sure that you keep a couple of things in mind. First, if you want “cancel for any reason” insurance, make sure you purchase insurance within three weeks of your first deposit. Second, keep in mind that if you do need to cancel for illness or some other covered reason, you will need to submit documentation. It helps to call Allianz to find out exactly what is needed to make sure you apply for the right kind of claim and that your claim is processed quickly.

Trip interruption or delay — if your trip is delayed more than a certain number of hours due to weather, flight cancellation, or other reason, travel insurance can help cover your expenses such as hotel costs, food, transportation, etc.

International Healthcare — when traveling overseas, you will want to look for a plan that includes international medical benefits. Keep in mind that if you are engaging in adventure activities (either domestically or abroad), you will likely require additional insurance. Talk to your Allianz representative to find that plan that is best for you depending on where you are going, what you will be doing, and how much coverage you need.

Delayed, Lost or Stolen Luggage —  travel insurance can reimburse you for the purchase of essential items if your luggage is delayed for 24 hours or more. And if it is lost entirely, the baggage loss and damage benefits will reimburse you for the cash value for the repair or replacement of lost items. Just keep in mind that different policies have different levels of coverage so if you have expensive bags and clothes, you may want to look for a plan with high benefits.

TravelSmart app and Travel Hotline — with Allianz you have access to a 24-hour hotline if you need help rescheduling your travel, reaching airlines, or managing your trip. The TravelSmart app also helps travelers with quick access to emergency numbers, a medical translator, location-based access to pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, police, etc. The TravelSmart app is available for everyone, but Allianz customers can also track claims online and contact Allianz customer service through the mobile app.

Keep in mind that plans vary and not all plans include all of these benefits. When purchasing travel insurance, you will need to figure out your needs and work with Allianz to find the best plan with the benefits you are looking for.

Check Allianz plans and get more information about travel insurance.


If you are looking for more winter trip ideas, check out these posts:



20 Thanksgiving getaways for families (both international and domestic).
20 ideas for Thanksgiving trips for families

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Publish Date: September 30, 2019

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