Thanksgiving — commonly known as the holiday of showing gratitude while feasting over turkey — also marks the beginning of the chilly holiday season in most parts of the United States. So even if you and your family are gearing up for a long weekend getaway, you might not be as excited to travel with the thought of packing extra layers and enduring cold weather.
As the fourth Thursday in November approaches, we’d like to remind you that there are still some cities across the country that radiate sunshine and allow you to bask in the warm weather. From theme parks, to parades, to outdoor adventures, these cities provide enough family-friendly activities for your whole group to enjoy over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The weather in Los Angeles typically stays between the high 60s and low 70s all throughout November, making it one of the most ideal cities to travel to on Thanksgiving. If you’ve already planned a trip to LA before, you know that there are many different things to do in the city for you and your family, including the Disneyland Christmas experience, and showing off your skills in the ice rink in Santa Monica.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend in particular, families can visit the Aquarium of the Pacific to enjoy an Aquarium Thanksgiving lunch, or watch the Hollywood Christmas parade, which takes place on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. For a quieter holiday experience, you can visit one of the city’s stunning botanical gardens — Descanso Gardens — which transforms its grounds into a whimsical and interactive light show in Enchanted: Forest of Light.
While a few restaurants may be closed for the weekend, there are still plenty of excellent dining options in Los Angeles to choose from. Some places to consider are Tavern in Brentwood, Bourbon Steak in Glendale, and Playa Provisions in Playa del Rey. All these restaurants will be serving Thanksgiving special menus, making it an incredibly unique way to celebrate Thanksgiving.
If you’re looking to spend your long weekend hardcore relaxing, head to Hawaii for a laid-back island vibe. Honolulu was once voted the Best City to Celebrate New Year’s Eve because of its warm weather, even during the holiday season. On top of that, there are many kid-friendly activities around Honolulu that’ll keep your family highly engaged. If the kids want to see animals, you can visit the Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Sea Life Park, or Atlantis Adventures. If they want something more physically adventurous, bring them to experience an adrenaline rush in Coral Crater Adventure Park or Kualoa Ranch & Zipline.
If your family plans to spend Thanksgiving weekend in Honolulu, you might want to catch the Waikiki Holiday Parade, a gathering to commemorate Pearl Harbor survivors and veterans. The parade will consist of marching bands, military personnel, and of course, Hawaiian dancers!
The Islandwide Crafts Expo is another special gathering that takes place every year. It hosts Hawaii’s best craft artists and food vendors, making it the largest holiday craft expo in Hawaii, and a great place to shop for gifts and souvenirs. Who knows, maybe you’ll even get to squeeze in some holiday gift shopping at the expo. Keep in mind that Thanksgiving spreads look a little bit different in Hawaii, where a turkey might be seen next to a side of poke and purple potatoes. Get a taste of a Hawaiian Thanksgiving meal in Hoku’s Restaurant or Kai Market.
You can choose to escape to warm weather in Orlando, where temperatures remain in the high 70s and low 80s during Thanksgiving. The city is the home of many great theme parks, which will definitely keep the kids entertained. Your park options include Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Legoland, and Disney World. Before you book your trip, be sure to read our tips and tricks for the ultimate Disney family vacation.
If your family doesn’t feel like spending your vacation in line to get on rides, you can also check out these nine family-friendly things to do in Orlando that don’t involve theme parks. WonderWorks calls itself an “amusement park for the mind” and has different educational exhibits for children to explore. The Crayola Experience will also be open on Thanksgiving, with nine new holiday activities open just for the season.
For a more unorthodox Thanksgiving experience, you can visit the annual Vegan Turkey Festival at the beautiful Mead Botanical Garden. But if you want to stick to tradition, Art Smith’s Homecoming Kitchen, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Edison, and Fogo de Chao are just a few well-recommended restaurants that have Thanksgiving specials on their menu.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit Arizona, November is the perfect time because temperatures are more manageable than in the scorching hot summer months. Enjoy the warm weather driving through the Apache trail, more formally known as State Route 88. This 40-mile drive starts at the Apache Junction, ends at Theodore Roosevelt Dam, and has plenty of things your family can do along the way. The Goldfield Ghost Town, for example, is a display of history and character that will transport you back to the old west. Film and music aficionados will get a kick out of Superstition Mountain, where you can see the Elvis Memorial Chapel, built as a prop for one of Elvis Presely’s big screen films.
On Thanksgiving Day, the whole family can watch the Fountain Hills Thanksgiving Day Parade, known as the only Thanksgiving Day parade in Arizona. The Phoenix Zoo’s annual ZooLights also starts on Thanksgiving weekend, featuring a new Wildlife Lantern Safari. Additionally, Phoenix houses its very own Butterfly Wonderland and Desert Botanical Garden, which are two fantastic options for nature-loving family members.
Last on our list of warm November escapes is Austin, Texas, home to a flourishing live music scene, delicious barbecue, and more family-friendly activities. For some outdoor family bonding, the warm weather means you can still try these top outdoor adventures near Austin throughout the Thanksgiving holiday. If that’s not enough, you can opt to take part in the guided Canyon Tour at the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center, or explore Inner Space Cavern, one of the best preserved caves in Texas. For something more original, try bringing your family on a Yoga Hike that combines an outdoor hike with a relaxing yoga practice.
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One unique Thanksgiving experience in Austin is the annual Chuy’s Children Giving to Children Parade. At the parade, children are asked to donate used toys, which will then be given to other children in need. After the parade, you can enjoy Austin’s food selection in a variety of restaurants celebrating Thanksgiving, including 24 Diner, Cannon and Belle, Mattie’s at Green Pastures, and Second Bar + Kitchen.
If you’re looking to escape the cold this November, keep these places in mind for your Thanksgiving holiday with the family! Plus, if your family enjoys traveling during the holidays, check out our top Christmas vacation ideas or read more about 12 magical Christmas destinations around the world on our blog.