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5 Top Spots to Spend Thanksgiving

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To take best advantage of the Thanksgiving weekend, visit a city where you can enjoy mouth-watering feasts, holiday markets and fun, festive parades. From the classic Macy’s spectacle in NYC to Plymouth Rock’s historic setting, TPG Contributor Lane Nieset takes us to five spots worthy of quality holiday time.

Macy's Parade
Catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person in NYC. Photo courtesy of NYC & Company/Alex Lopez.

1. New York, New York

The entire country tunes in to watch New York City’s annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which has been featuring over-the-top floats and splashy performances for the past 90 years. Though the parade is the weekend’s main attraction, don’t miss out on NYC’s Black Friday shopping or the holiday markets that will open this month in Union Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central and Columbus Circle.

Getting there: Delta flies into both of New York City’s main airports, LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), the latter of which is also a hub for American Airlines and JetBlue.

Where to stay: The 58-floor W New York Downtown is set in the Financial District near Wall Street, close to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge, with rooms showing off views over One World Trade Center (see our review here); rates at this SPG Category 6 hotel start at $306 per night or 20,000 Starpoints per night. If you want to be in the heart of Times Square, check out the 44-story Hilton Times Square, set right on 42nd Street near the Broadway theaters and Rockefeller Center. Rates for this Category 9 property start at $329 or 80,000 HHonors Points per night.

McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade
Head Downtown Chicago and join the crowds for the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade. Photo courtesy of the event’s Facebook page.

2. Chicago, Illinois

A few days before Thanksgiving, Chicago kicks into holiday mode with the annual tree-lighting ceremony on November 24 and the opening of the Nuremberg-inspired Christkindlmarket downtown, featuring traditional German street food, hand-crafted ornaments and live entertainment. On Thanksgiving Day, catch the 81st annual McDonald’s parade from a post at State and Adams street. After all that Black Friday shopping the next day, take a break and head to “the Bean” in Millennium Park to join in the caroling at Cloud Gate.

Getting there: American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue and United fly into Chicago O’Hare International (ORD), while Chicago Midway International (MDW) is mainly served by Delta and Southwest.

Where to stay: The luxurious 316-room Langham Chicago, part of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program available to holders of the Amex Platinum, is located in a landmark tower near the Loop and Magnificent Mile, with views over the Chicago River. Rates start at $280 per night, and perks of the Amex program include daily breakfast for two, room upgrades on arrival and a $100 property credit. The 520-room Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel is set in the Loop and Chicago Theater District with rooms showing off skyline and river views; rates at this Category 8 hotel start at $169 or 40,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. For more hotel options in the city, see reviews of the Virgin Hotels Chicago and Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Detroit Parade
Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade has been taking place for the past 88 years. Photo courtesy of The Parade Co on Facebook.

3. Detroit, Michigan

Since 1924, Detroit has been home to one of the largest Thanksgiving parades in the country, taking place this year at 9am along Woodward Avenue with over 75 floats, balloons and bands. At 12:30pm that afternoon, football fans can indulge in a classic holiday pastime by watching the Detroit Lions play the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field. Over the weekend, take the kids to the Detroit Zoo for the Wild Lights holiday display, as more than 5 million LED lights illuminate the zoo’s trees and animal sculptures.

Getting there: Air Canada, American, Alaska Airlines, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Southwest, Spirit and United fly into Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport (DTW).

Where to stay: Set inside the David Whitney Building, the downtown Aloft Detroit is a quick People Mover ride from Ford Field and Joe Louis Arena; rates at the SPG Category 4 hotel start at $197 or 10,000 Starpoints per night. Also downtown, the Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Riverfront is near many of the city’s sporting venues, as well, and just five minutes away from the RiverWalk; rates start at $162 or 30,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night.

Walt Disney World
Disney World kicks off its Christmas festivities this month, but expect to find Thanksgiving feasts in the parks and resorts. Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World News/Kent Phillips.

4. Orlando, Florida

The Magic Kingdom is already prepping for Christmas (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom kicks off November 8), but restaurants at the parks and resorts are in full Thanksgiving swing — you’ll find holiday spreads at spots like Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, which smokes turkeys over open fire-pits. On Thanksgiving Day, the park puts on its own version of Main Street’s Thanksgiving parade, with Disney characters donning pilgrim costumes; the following night, Epcot starts its seasonal Candlelight Processional Christmas shows. Once you’ve feasted, spend Friday in typical holiday fashion, with a marathon shopping session at The Florida Mall, The Mall at Millenia and the Premium Outlets.

Getting there: Air Canada, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Virgin America and more fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Where to stay: Inside the Walt Disney Resort near Epcot, Sheraton’s Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel is right on the shore of Crescent Lake and has its own white-sand beach with pool and waterslide, and family-size rooms sleeping up to five; rates at this SPG Category 4 hotel start at $193 per night or 10,000 Starpoints. For more on this hotel and its next-door neighbor, the Swan, see our post Comparing Starwood’s Swan and Dolphin Disney World Resorts.

The only AAA five-diamond hotel in Central Florida, the newish Four Seasons Resort Orlando is also located within the Walt Disney World Resort and features a complimentary kids’ camp, adults-only pool, Tom Fazio-designed golf course and free luxury coach transport to the theme parks. The hotel also offers its own character breakfast for the kids, with Goofy & His Pals making an appearance Thursdays and Saturdays at Ravello restaurant. Rates start at $649 per night, and while the hotel isn’t part of a points program, it’s listing on Amex FHR offers cardholders of the Amex Platinum perks like $100 spa credits and daily breakfast for two. For more suggestions of places to stay, see Destination of the Week: Orlando

America's Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration on Facebook
Start Thanksgiving a weekend early in the holiday’s birthplace with parades and historic tours. Photo courtesy of America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration on Facebook.

5. Plymouth, Massachusetts

The city where Thanksgiving got its start over 350 years ago keeps tradition alive with a full weekend devoted to the holiday’s festivities. The action starts early, taking place the weekend before Thanksgiving from November 20-22, with the historic Saturday parade working its way through America’s history from the pilgrims to modern times — all in chronological order. The rest of the weekend is filled with festivities from the New England Food Festival to memorial concerts, “pilgrim”-led city tours and a historical village on the waterfront.

Getting there: The closest airport is Boston Logan (BOS), and more than 40 airlines offer direct flights, including Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit.

Where to stay: Poised across the bay, the 175-room Radisson Hotel Plymouth Harbor has a great location for travelers to set out and explore the city’s attractions — like the Mayflower II and the Plimoth Plantation museum. Rates at the Radisson start at $159 or 38,000 Club Carlson Gold Points per night. Just outside of Plymouth in Wareham (near Cape Cod), TownePlace Suite Wareham Buzzards Bay offers up more of a neighborhood feel with apartment-style studios featuring living rooms and kitchens; rates at the Marriott Rewards Category 6 hotel start at $139 per night or 30,000 points per night.

Be sure to see 12 Ways To Survive Thanksgiving Travel and When to Book Your Thanksgiving Travel — and let us know your favorite spots to spend the holiday!

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