The Thanksgiving celebration has been a tradition in the United States for the past 400 years. While everyone’s celebration may look different, the general idea is that you spend time with loved ones, gorge out on food, and recount what you’re thankful for. On this day, families drive cross-country to come together over turkey, apple pie, and football. While a full house may sound like the perfect way to celebrate the season, we fully understand if the noise may feel a little difficult for some. If you are part of the precious few who prefer to spend the holiday in the quiet arms of your significant other, this list of 12 romantic Thanksgiving vacation ideas was made especially for you.
1. Galena, IL
Travel back in time in the heart of America. Galena is a small town in Northwest Illinois that is best known for its well-preserved 19th-century buildings. Over 581-acres of this town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Galena Historic District. Fall might just be the best time to visit because the explosion of colors makes an excellent backdrop for the town’s brick buildings.
Come in time for the annual wine tasting parade, take a trolley or Segway tour through the town’s historic sites, and participate in the Friday fish fry tradition. If you and your significant other are more into the great outdoors, there are a plethora of options from kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and electric bikes too.
2. Plymouth, MA
Plymouth is the ultimate Thanksgiving destination. The Plimoth Patuxet Museums recreated the original 17th-century colony down to the smallest details. You can walk through timber-framed houses with working kitchens, learn to pound corn, and pet heritage breed livestock. There is also a life-size replica of the Mayflower that is charmingly called the Mayflower II.
Think Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the proper Thanksgiving food? Plymouth has you covered. Shop the flavors of fall, book a traditional Thanksgiving for two, and eat to your heart’s content at the Great New England Pumpkin Pie Contest.
3. Leavenworth, WA
If you’ve always wanted to go to Europe but can’t make the trip, Leavenworth is the Christmas village of your dreams. Leavenworth is a quaint, Bavarian-style village in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. It kicks off Thanksgiving weekend with Christkindlmarkt, which is arguably one of the best Christmas markets in the country. During the day, shop for fresh produce at the Community Farmers Market on 330 Evans Street, share a beer at one of the iconic German-inspired breweries and distilleries, or ride horseback into the beautiful unknown.
4. Williamsburg, VA
Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown bore witness to some of the most significant events in American history. This historic triangle was where the first recorded proclamation of Thanksgiving was made. You can walk through Colonial Williamsburg, observe an archaeological dig at Historic Jamestown, and take part in a history lesson at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. For couples who are more interested in a little thrill, Williamsburg is also home to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, which boast some of the wildest and wettest coasters in America.
You can’t go wrong with this destination; The New York Times named Williamsburg as one of the 52 best places to visit in the world in 2019, along with Munich, Panama, and the Setouchi islands in Japan.
5. Bend, OR
Bend makes our list solely for the fact that it has 300 days of sunshine in a year. A clear favorite among adventure-seekers, Bend is world-famous for its multi-use trails. Hike up an extinct volcano, walk into a lava river cave, and experience the beauty of the Cascade Mountain Range, which stretches 700 miles between British Columbia and Northern California. Up for a more contemporary stroll? The well-informed couple also knows that Bend is famous for its Ale Trail. Download the app and drink your way through Central Oregon’s seven territories.
6. Branson, MO
If a romantic Thanksgiving vacation is high on your list of things to do this season, Branson should be on your route. Known as America’s Christmas Tree City, Branson will welcome you with over 1,700 sparkling trees as early as the beginning of November. Branson has a little something for everyone. Hold hands on the Time Traveler, a one-of-a-kind rollercoaster with a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop. Complete your Christmas shopping at the Grand Village Shops, stop by for a cobbler at the award-winning Sugar Leaf Bakery & Cafe, and end the night with a romantic stroll through the Aquarium at the Boardwalk.
7. New York, NY
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is as classic as Thanksgiving can get. Attracting over three million spectators each year (and more than 50 million viewers across the world), the annual pageant is an experience to remember with larger-than-life balloons, floats, cheerleaders, and marching bands. The parade traverses the blocks between 77th and 34th Streets in Midtown. Take advantage of some of the best views by booking a room at any of the hotels along this route.
While you’re in the city, make sure to ride the glass elevator to the top of the newly opened Summit at One Vanderbilt to get the best views of the New York City skyline. Spend an entire day exploring Central Park. Grab a meal (or two) at some of the newest restaurants in Manhattan. New York offers a never-ending list of romantic Thanksgiving ideas for two.
8. Waikiki, HI
If you’re not in the mood to snuggle up for a chilly Thanksgiving, Waikiki offers a particularly sunnier alternative. Located on the southern shore of Honolulu, Waikiki was the original playground for Hawaiian royalty. Today, with its beautiful five-star resorts and excellent beaches, Waikiki is the epicenter of Hawaiian beach life.
Arrive in time for the Waikiki Holiday Parade, which commemorates the survivors and veterans of Pearl Harbor. Take the trail up to Diamond Head Crater (and don’t forget to visit the underground tunnels and military bunkers along the way). Learn to surf! Then take a photo with the statue of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing and the man who introduced the sport to the rest of the world. Walk the Waikiki Historic Trail, visit the Honolulu Zoo or Waikiki Aquarium, and finally unwind along the main strip of Kalakaua Avenue, where you will find world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment activities.
9. New Orleans, LA
New Orleans is famous for its vibrant music scene, Creole cuisine, and the celebration of all celebrations, Mardi Gras. Stroll through the French Quarter and try some of the best po’boys, crawfish, and beignets that the Big Easy has to offer. Explore the bayous of the Mississippi River Delta on an airboat. Join a swamp tour and look for alligators. Spend an afternoon with the ghost of voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, in one of the many unique cemeteries that dot the city.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten that you’re here for Thanksgiving. Celebrate the holiday with a turducken, a turkey stuffed with duck and chicken, or deep-fried turkey, which is commonly served here too. On Thanksgiving morning, you can choose to dress up and bet on racehorses at the Fair Grounds or take part in the Annual Turkey Day Race in the City Park. As usual, we highly recommend ending the night with a hand grenade (or two) from one of the many bars along Bourbon Street.
10. Santa Fe, NM
Cross the border into New Mexico and learn about Native American culture from the city’s world-renowned museums and art galleries. Start your romantic Thanksgiving vacation at Santa Fe Plaza, where Christmas lights come alive daily at 5:30 PM. Book a romantic Thanksgiving dinner for two at Santacafe, Sassella, or Geronimo. Take a spa day in Ojo Sante Fe Resort or Ten Thousand Waves, which were named by Conde Nast as two of the top spa resorts in the United States. Visit the Winter Indian Market, a two-day affair that gathers over 200 Native American artists, performances, and experts under one roof. SITE Santa Fe is an architectural masterpiece that should not be missed, and the Santa Fe Botanical Garden is the perfect setting for a little Shakespeare.
11. Tucson, AZ
Sitting just a little north of the US-Mexico border, Tucson is heavily influenced by the desert region on which it stands. Get a taste of the local wildlife in the Arizona-Sonora desert museum and watch desert animals in their natural habitats. Hike (or ride a tram) through Sabino Canyon. Cross the Saguaro National Park off of your United States National Parks list. Get spiritual at San Xavier del Bac, a well-preserved Spanish town from the days of the Spanish Catholic missions.
For a more intimate and upscale vacation, we highly recommend the uber-luxe Miraval Arizona, which has been awarded multiple times over as the best spa and resort destination in the US. Choose from over 200 curated spa services and 600 wellness workshops on sound healing, Ayurveda, yoga, sustainable eating, and golf. Book a celestial farm dinner for two under the star-filled southwestern sky.
12. Sun Valley, ID
Sun Valley is home to Sun Valley Resort, the #1 ski resort in North America for the second year in a row. Sun Valley Resort covers 380-acres of beautiful terrain across the Bald and Dollar Mountains. The ski slopes traditionally open on Thanksgiving Day with a party at River Run Lodge. Holiday-goers can ski, snowshoe, and take sleigh rides up and down the resort’s many trails; ice skate with Olympic and world-class skaters; and sip on traditional hot cocoa by the fireside at Konditorei, an Austrian-inspired cafe.
Stay long enough and you might bump into the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, and Demi Moore, all of whom own property in the greater Sun Valley area.
Remember the reason for the season
Wherever and however you choose to spend this season, remember to keep the spirit of the holiday alive. Thanksgiving has always been and will always be a celebration of gratitude. While the past year has been difficult in different ways for everyone, Thanksgiving is a reminder that there are always things that we can be thankful for.
When the season is over, consider integrating gratitude into your daily life. Tuck a thank-you note in your partner’s jacket pocket, leave breakfast cookies on the kitchen counter, or pop out a bottle of wine to celebrate a random Wednesday. Studies have consistently shown that practicing gratitude makes people happier and improves sleep. The Greater Good Science Center, a science-backed initiative by UC Berkeley, recommends starting a gratitude journal to “count your blessings and enjoy better health and happiness”. Take the spirit of Thanksgiving into the rest of the year by spending fifteen minutes a day being as specific as possible about what you are most thankful for. We guarantee that every season will feel a little fuller, no matter where you are.
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