Last Minute Travel: The Best Places In The U.S. To Spend Thanksgiving

Last Minute Travel: The Best Places in the U.S. to Spend Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has become synonymous with stress, traffic jams, crazy shopping, and overeating. If you are looking for a way to make these four days off from work exciting again, consider starting a new tradition – spend your time someplace where locals know how to celebrate the holiday and don't be a slave to the oven.

National parks

This year the National Parks System is celebrating a centennial. If you were waiting to avoid the summer crowds, now is the time to go. The weather is cooler, but not too cold; there are tons of kids programs to keep the littles ones entertained, and hotels are offering huge discounts;most of them serve big Thanksgiving meals. You can find cottages in Yosemite for $59 per night. Don't stay home and slave over the oven. Get back to nature and celebrate with an adventure.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The No. 1 destination on the rise in the U.S. is Gatlinburg, according to TripAdvisor. People describe it as beautiful, clean, and very peaceful. Gatlinburg offers access to the Great Smoky Mountains and lots of good places to eat delicious southern food. Don't miss the Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show scheduled for Nov. 22-27. It's the ideal place for unique holiday gifts. If you don't want to cook, go to Kroger and Food City and get a tasty pre-made Thanksgiving dinner for around $40 enough for 4-5 people.

Go on a Disney cruise

Who wouldn't want to celebrate the holiday in the happiest places on Earth? Enjoy a traditional turkey dinner, Disney characters in holiday-themed costumes, live football broadcasts via satellite, live shows and deck parties, and aqua play areas and waterslides without the hordes of people and huge lines, typical for this time of year in the theme parks. Thanksgiving sailings vary in length. Some take you to the Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.

Anywhere in Hawaii

Now is the off-peak season in Hawaii – after the summer and before Christmas. Get better deals and spend the holiday on the island. Tourists usually go to Hawaii for its stunning beaches, bustling nightlife, family adventures, and surfing. Add a delicious dinner that many restaurants and hotels offer. Just imagine you working on your tan while folks at home deal with ice and snow. The beautiful islands are home to many astonishing spots – some of them are even secluded shores you don't know about.

Chicago, Illinois

The Windy City has always been a favorite Thanksgiving destination because of its famous parade, which is one of the largest in the country. It's fun and entertaining with giant balloons, marching bands, dance groups, drum lines and celebrities. The Christmas market, featuring traditional German cuisine, is another favorite spot. Don't miss ice-skating in the famous Millennium Park; it's free on Fridays. The atmosphere will be even more uplifted now after the Cubs' World Series trophy, the first since 1908.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Go back to the beginning and party like a pilgrim in America's Hometown. The Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians held a feast at Plymouth Colony in 1621 that is widely considered the first Thanksgiving. Learn how early colonists lived when visiting Plimoth Plantation, and explore the Mayflower II and the Wampanoag Homesite. Events continue on Saturday and Sunday and include a food festival, crafter's village, live entertainment, an outdoor living history village, farmers market, and a drum corps concert.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia gives it its all to offer a memorable Thanksgiving holiday with a remarkable citywide celebration. Start your vacation with the 97th annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, the oldest parade of its kind in the nation. The 1.4-mile parade down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway features gigantic balloons, celebrity appearances, local performers and festive floats, according to Visit Philly. Don't miss the Macy's Christmas Light Show and the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest.

Las Vegas, Nevada

If you ever wanted to go to Vegas and avoid the crowds, now is your chance. This is the city's low season. This means low prices on everything from airfare to hotels. The Sin City is not at all just about gambling and partying until dawn. It has a lot of attractions typical for theme parks, zip lining, skydiving, hot air balloon rides, and mountain biking. Go whitewater rafting or kayaking in the Colorado River. Don't worry about cooking. You won't be hungry. Restaurants offer special dinners and buffets that will fit any budget.

Go skiing or snowboarding

Kick off the ski season during Thanksgiving. Celebrate like a true adventurer and hit the slopes. Many resorts are going to be open by the last week of November. Most of them offer a typical Thanksgiving dining experience. Keystone Resort in Colorado opens on Nov. 11 and kids ski for free if you stay for at least two nights.

Grapevine, Texas

Go to the "Christmas Capital of Texas" for a fun celebration of the Turkey Holiday, which is when the Christmas season starts here. There are more than 1,400 Christmas events in 40-plus days. The city sparkles with millions of lights, enormous decorations, and animated characters. The famous Light Show Spectacular is during Thanksgiving weekend. This is also when North Pole Express comes to town.

Safari West, California

Go on an exciting safari this holiday and make the experience all about excitement with the family rather than food and overeating.  You don't have to look farther than California. Safari West is a wildlife preserve,  known as the "Sonoma Serengeti." Dine amongst the giraffes and playful lemurs, delight at our swift and sleek cheetahs, you may even run into a few anxious-looking wild guinea fowl. You can also stay overnight – glamping – and sleep in luxury tents imported from Africa and built on high wooden platforms.

Scottsdale, Arizona

Burn off all the calories by making the most of all the outdoor adventure opportunities Scottsdale has to offer. Go on a half-day mountain bike tour through the Sonoran Desert, home to some the Southwest's best mountain-biking trails, or on a kayak ride through the desert's Salt River, a lush oasis surrounded by red cliffs and wondrous wildlife. This is also the place to golf if you just want to spend the holiday on a golf course.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is known for its food and great nightlife scene. You won't make a mistake booking a trip there for Thanksgiving. Don't miss the famous Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade. The city is where po' boys, crawfish and vignettes and the turducken were first made. Of course, deep-fried turkey is also served. The famous Dookey Chase doesn't charge an entry fee and the most expensive item on the menu is $13. New Orleans, a great guys-only destination, has live music in almost every bar (and corner) at night. 

American Samoa

You don't even need a passport to go there. Thanksgiving here is like in Chicago with the added bonus of a tropical climate. This American unincorporated territory of five volcanic islands and two coral atolls is massively underestimated, but is has everything – mountain ridges, bays, villages, and some remote, untouched and naturally beautiful beaches. You will find the National Park of American Samoa, one of the most remote national parks in the U.S., absolutely stunning. Visit the Rose Atoll as well. It is an uninhabited wildlife heaven that has the largest populations of giant clams, nesting seabirds and rare reef fish.

Grandma’s house