Epic Family Trips During Thanksgiving
BY JEN AMBROSE
Hey there fellow moms! As the holiday season approaches, I know many of us are gearing up for that magical time of the year - Thanksgiving! While it's a season of gratitude and celebration, it can also be a bit overwhelming, especially when it comes to planning family trips during this busy time. I've got some practical ideas and personal experiences to help you make the most of your Thanksgiving family trips, whether you're visiting relatives, exploring new places, or just taking a break with your family!
Just letting you know that this post could have some affiliate links in it. These links may result in a small monetary commission for me, if you decide to make a purchase, after clicking on them. Thanks for your support of Insider Mama!
Family Trips During Thanksgiving - Places to Visit in the United States
This historic town is often associated with the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. Plymouth hosts numerous events and reenactments during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Plimoth Plantation - Plymouth, Massachusetts
For a dose of history and a glimpse into the origins of Thanksgiving, a visit to Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth is a must! Immerse your family in a living history museum that recreates the 17th-century English village where the Pilgrims settled. Engage with costumed role players portraying the Pilgrims and Native Wampanoag people, providing an authentic and educational experience for kids and adults alike. The Thanksgiving feast at Plimoth Plantation is a highlight, offering a traditional menu similar to the one enjoyed by the Pilgrims. Share this unique cultural experience with your family and create lasting memories of gratitude and appreciation.
Spend a lovely Thanksgiving in the Smoky Mountains, where holiday lights brighten the streets and festive festivities fill the air.
Gatlinburg Winter Magic - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg's Winter Magic is a dazzling celebration of the holiday season, featuring spectacular light displays throughout the town. Take a magical journey on the Trolley Ride of Lights, where you and your family can enjoy the twinkling lights that adorn the streets and buildings. The Great Smoky Mountains provide a breathtaking backdrop for your Thanksgiving adventure, making this destination a perfect blend of nature and holiday charm.
Celebrate Thanksgiving with world-class theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, where special holiday events abound.
New York City, New York
NYC is famous for hosting the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a grand event featuring giant floats, marching bands, and performances that attract millions of spectators.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - New York City, New York
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the heart of New York City is an absolute spectacle not to be missed! Imagine towering balloons of beloved characters floating above the streets, marching bands filling the air with festive tunes, and dazzling floats adorned with vibrant decorations. This iconic parade has been captivating families for nearly a century, making it the perfect start to your Thanksgiving celebrations. Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot, and don't forget to bundle up warmly as the city's November breeze can be chilly. Your kids' faces will light up with joy as they witness the parade's grandeur and enchanting performances.
Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum, offers special Thanksgiving-themed programs, allowing visitors to experience a traditional colonial-style Thanksgiving.
The city hosts America's Thanksgiving Parade downtown which is one of the oldest and most prominent Thanksgiving parades in the country.
America's Thanksgiving Parade - Detroit, Michigan
If you're seeking a heartwarming, family-oriented parade, head to Detroit for America's Thanksgiving Parade, one of the oldest and most celebrated in the country. Delight in the festive floats, marching bands, and cultural performances that showcase the diversity and spirit of the city. The parade's theme changes each year, keeping it fresh and exciting for both locals and visitors alike. After the parade, explore Detroit's attractions, like the Detroit Institute of Arts or the Henry Ford Museum, to extend your family's Thanksgiving adventure.
Chicago's Thanksgiving Parade, also known as the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade, is a beloved tradition featuring marching bands, floats, and giant helium balloons.
McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade - Chicago, Illinois
Chicago knows how to celebrate Thanksgiving in style, and the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade is a shining example of the city's festive spirit. The parade features elaborate floats, colorful performances, and enormous helium balloons floating through the city streets. This beloved event brings communities together, creating a joyful atmosphere perfect for families to revel in the holiday cheer. After the parade, explore Chicago's famed attractions, such as Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, or treat your family to a delicious deep-dish pizza from one of the city's iconic pizzerias.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Creole twist, delicious jazz music, and a festive atmosphere in the French Quarter.
The city offers various Thanksgiving events and activities, including historic celebrations and festive markets.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco hosts a range of events during Thanksgiving, including Turkey Trots, festive boat parades, and holiday light displays.
Dallas and Houston, Texas
Enjoy Texas-sized Thanksgiving festivities, including parades, holiday markets, and traditional feasts.
H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade - Houston, Texas
Houston's Thanksgiving Day Parade, sponsored by H-E-B, is a beloved annual event that draws families from all over the region. With vibrant floats, marching bands, and lively performances, this parade embodies the city's rich cultural diversity. Arrive early and find a spot along the parade route to catch all the action. Afterward, explore Houston's many family-friendly attractions, like the Houston Museum of Natural Science or the Children's Museum of Houston, to extend your holiday festivities.
Honorable Mention - not specifically Thanksgiving-themed, but still amazing places to visit
Winterfest of Lights - Ocean City, Maryland
For a coastal Thanksgiving experience like no other, visit Ocean City during the Winterfest of Lights. This annual event transforms the beach town into a breathtaking winter wonderland, with over one million twinkling lights illuminating the night. A highlight of the Winterfest is a ride through Northside Park aboard the Winterfest Express, a festive tram tour that will leave your family in awe of the dazzling light displays. Enjoy holiday music, sip on hot cocoa, and bask in the magical ambiance of the season. Don't forget your camera to capture the joy on your little one's faces as they marvel at the sparkling lights.
Holiday Lights at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens - Nashville, Tennessee
For a holiday celebration immersed in natural beauty, head to Nashville's Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. During the Thanksgiving season, the gardens transform into a mesmerizing wonderland adorned with more than one million lights. Take a stroll through the illuminated gardens and admire the exquisite light displays that range from dancing lights to unique art installations. The kids will love the s'mores stations and visits with Santa Claus. This enchanting event is a delightful way to kick off the holiday season with your family.
Plan for a Stress-Free Start
I can't stress this enough - planning ahead is key to a successful family trip! Start by deciding on your destination and travel dates well in advance. If you're visiting relatives, communicate early with your host about your plans and any special requirements your family might have.
Involve Your Kids in the Planning Process
Involving your kids in the planning process can turn an ordinary trip into an exciting adventure! Sit down as a family and discuss the potential destinations or activities you could enjoy during your Thanksgiving trip. Allow your kids to voice their preferences and interests. For instance, if your children love the outdoors, consider visiting a national park where you can have fun hiking, exploring nature, and having a picnic amidst the fall foliage.
Embrace the Art of Packing Smartly
To make packing easier, start by making a checklist for each family member. Be sure to include essential items like clothing, toiletries, medications, and any special comfort items your kids can't do without. Don't forget chargers for electronic devices, as well as some snacks to keep hunger at bay during the journey.
Celebrate Thanksgiving in style with this adorable pumpkin-themed shirt that exudes comfort and the Fall spirit. Perfect for expressing your love for autumn and adding a touch of seasonal charm to your holiday attire.
Make Travel Time Fun
Plan some fun road trip games, prepare a playlist of your favorite tunes, or download audiobooks that everyone can enjoy together. If you're taking a plane or train, you might want to pack a surprise game bag with coloring books, puzzles, and small toys for each child.
Prepare for an engaging and mess-free road trip experience with the Erasable Book Doodle Set for Kids! This magic drawing book and reusable set with 12 watercolor pens will keep your little ones entertained for hours. Let their creativity flow as they enjoy a fun car game writing and painting adventure, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination!
Be Mindful of Food Allergies and Dietary Restrictions
As Thanksgiving revolves around food, it's essential to be mindful of any food allergies or dietary restrictions within your family or travel group. When visiting relatives or staying at a hotel, communicate these requirements ahead of time to ensure that suitable meals can be prepared.
Opt for Kid-Friendly Accommodations
When choosing accommodations, prioritize kid-friendly options that offer amenities like playgrounds, swimming pools, or family-friendly activities. These facilities can provide much-needed entertainment for your little ones, allowing them to unwind and burn off some energy after a day of sightseeing.
Be Flexible and Pace Yourself
While having a jam-packed itinerary might seem tempting, it's essential to strike a balance and allow for some downtime during your family trip. Children can get easily overwhelmed by constant activities and unfamiliar surroundings. Be flexible with your plans and pace yourself, ensuring that everyone has a chance to relax and enjoy the experience fully.
Capture the Moments
Thanksgiving family trips are precious moments that create lifelong memories. Don't forget to capture these memories with photographs and videos! Encourage your kids to take photos too, so they feel involved in documenting the journey. These mementos will become cherished keepsakes that you can revisit and relive as a family.
Practice Gratitude and Teach Its Meaning
Thanksgiving, a time of heartfelt gratitude, presents a wonderful occasion to impart to your little ones the profound significance behind this cherished holiday. While embarking on your exciting journey, it's crucial to carve out a moment to delve into the depths of gratitude as a family unit. Allow yourselves the opportunity to reflect on the myriad of blessings that have graced your lives. When it comes to the company you keep, the adventures you've embarked on, or the breathtaking destinations you've explored, instilling a sense of gratitude in your little ones goes a long way in cultivating a sunny perspective on life.
Embrace the Unexpected
As much as we plan, unexpected things can happen during family trips. Maybe the weather doesn't cooperate, or your child falls sick. Instead of getting disheartened, try to embrace these moments and turn them into valuable life lessons.
Engage in Meaningful Traditions
Thanksgiving is a time for family traditions, and family trips offer the perfect opportunity to create new ones or carry forward old ones. Whether it's a special Thanksgiving recipe that you cook together, a specific game you play every year, or a heartfelt gratitude circle before the Thanksgiving feast, engaging in meaningful traditions can deepen your family's bond and add extra significance to your trip.
Teach Your Children About the Local Culture
If you're visiting a new destination, take the chance to introduce your children to the local culture and history. Research the place beforehand and plan visits to local museums, historical sites, or cultural events. Engaging with the local community can be a fascinating learning experience for your kids, broadening their horizons and promoting cultural understanding.
Allocate Personal Space and Time
While family togetherness is lovely, it's essential to recognize that everyone needs their personal space and downtime. Whether you're sharing a hotel room or staying at a relative's house, designate some alone time for each family member to recharge. Taking a short walk alone, reading a book, or having quiet time with headphones can be refreshing and contribute to a more harmonious trip.
Prepare for Meltdowns and Challenges
Family trips aren't always smooth sailing, and there might be moments when emotions run high, or challenges arise. Be prepared for the occasional meltdown, especially with younger kids who might feel overwhelmed by all the excitement. Pack a small bag with comforting items like a favorite stuffed animal or blanket to help soothe your child during such moments. And remember, it's okay to take a breather when needed, for both you and your little ones.
Encourage Acts of Giving Back
Thanksgiving is a time for thankfulness and community service. While on your family trip, consider engaging in acts of kindness together. This could be volunteering at a local food bank, donating toys or books to a children's shelter, or simply expressing gratitude to the service staff who make your trip enjoyable. By instilling a sense of empathy and generosity in your children, you're nurturing compassionate and caring individuals.
Prioritize Safety and Health
It's absolutely a top priority to have a well-stocked first-aid kit at your fingertips. Don't forget to include all the essentials and any medications that may be required. Oh, and don't forget to update everyone's vaccines before traveling abroad. Be cautious with outdoor activities, follow safety guidelines, and always keep an eye on your kids, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.
Opt for Meaningful Souvenirs
Souvenirs can be wonderful reminders of your family trip, but instead of collecting generic trinkets, opt for meaningful souvenirs that hold a special significance to your family. It could be a pressed leaf from a memorable hike, a handwritten note from each family member describing their favorite part of the trip, or even a group photo to frame and hang up in your home. These thoughtful keepsakes will carry the essence of your Thanksgiving journey for years to come.
Stay Connected with Loved Ones Back Home
Amidst the excitement of the trip, don't forget to stay connected with loved ones back home. Share pictures and updates with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who couldn't join the trip. You can also consider video calls during Thanksgiving dinner to include them in the festivities and make them feel a part of the celebration, even from afar.
Capture the Beauty of Gratitude Journaling
Encourage gratitude journaling during your family trip, where everyone writes down what they are thankful for each day. It can be a heartwarming activity during travel downtime or at the end of the day. Not only will it help your kids express their feelings and thoughts, but it will also serve as a wonderful keepsake that you can revisit together in the future, reminiscing about the special moments of your Thanksgiving trip.
Extend the Spirit of Thanksgiving Beyond the Trip
As your family trip comes to an end and you head back home, keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive throughout the year. Continue practicing gratitude as a family, embrace the joy of togetherness, and plan occasional weekend getaways or day trips to maintain those precious connections. Remember, the memories and experiences you create during your Thanksgiving family trip can continue to inspire and nurture your family's bond long after the holiday season has passed.
As you embark on your Thanksgiving family trip, may these additional ideas enrich and elevate your experience, creating unforgettable moments of togetherness and joy. Embrace the opportunities for learning, bonding, and giving back, cherishing every step of the journey, for family trips during Thanksgiving are about weaving a tapestry of cherished memories with your loved ones. Happy travels and a heartwarming Thanksgiving to all you wonderful moms out there! Whether you're visiting relatives or exploring new destinations, remember to savor the journey as much as the destination. Happy Thanksgiving, fellow moms, and safe travels!