The UK-US travel ban lifts in early November – meaning that some of the first holidaymakers to visit the USA in 18 months will be there for Thanksgiving. Here’s where to spend it right.
Every fourth Thursday in November, the USA goes into a frenzy of pumpkin-spiced lattes, extravagant parades and a feast to rival Christmas dinner – usually with a roast turkey centrepiece, served on autumn leaf-decorated crockery.
Thanksgiving is one of America’s most widely celebrated holidays and a time that brings families together. And with the lengthy travel ban between the UK and the US due to lift in early November, and the UK’s traffic light system scrapped, Thanksgiving 2021 will also be the first major American holiday that British travellers have been able to take part in for 18 months.
From charting the holiday’s 400-year-old roots to the best regional foods to gorge on, here are three Thanksgiving hotspots for your first trip stateside in a long time.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
The origins of Thanksgiving are thought to date back to 1621, near what is now Cape Cod – a tourism hotspot an hour’s drive from Boston that’s loved by domestic and international visitors for its quaint fishing villages and sandy coastline. It’s a popular spot to visit year-round – not least in the summer for near-constant sampling of its famous lobster. But the region comes into its own during Thanksgiving. Americans celebrate in Provincetown, the site of the Mayflower landing, and Plymouth, where Thanksgiving was allegedly first celebrated between the pilgrims and the Native American Wampanoag tribe, over a meal of turkey and corn.
Head to the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, which is lit up with over 3,000 festive lights at this time of year. Cheer on (or join in with) the runners on the annual Chatham Turkey Trot 5k fun run, where participants donate to the Lower Cape Outreach Council food bank. You can even book yourself onto the Cape Cod Thanksgiving Dinner Train, which trundles through autumnal coastal towns while you dig into a five-course traditional feast.
Stay: Boom a room at Chatham Gables Inn, a bed and breakfast with fireplaces and an oceanfront setting that’s perfect for walking off Thanksgiving dinner.
New York City, New York
The Big Apple is a go-to Thanksgiving destination thanks to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is the world’s largest and has taken place since 1924. Join the 3.5 million people lining the streets of New York City to witness the huge, quirky floats and uniformed marching bands (or tune in on your hotel TV with alongside some 50 million Americans). People stake out their spot for watching the parade from at least 6am, for a 9am start – by noon it’s all over, and time to make your way towards a turkey dinner (many NYC restaurants are open during Thanksgiving, but book well in advance).
After lunch, process all those carbs on one of the city’s many ice skating rinks. You’ve got the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, a Manhattan winter wonderland and the only free admission rink in NYC; the famous Rockefeller Center rink; and Brooklyn’s alternative offering at Industry City.
Stay: 1 Hotel Central Park provides an in-room Thanksgiving breakfast feast, to be enjoyed while watching the parade go right past the hotel windows.
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Big city parades won’t be every traveller’s cup of tea while Covid-19 is still among us. Get a breath of salty air in South Carolina, a state that’s blessed with 2,876 miles of coastline and beaches suited to families, partiers, divers and those looking for total solitude. Kiawah Beach is a private island, with 10 miles of white-sand beaches, which offers all of the above. It’s also a nature-lover’s dream. Among the pillowy dunes and vibrant-green marshes are native populations of whitetail deer, alligators, bobcats, seabirds and sea turtles.
There’s just one public beach on the island: Beachwalker County Park, which has a picnic area with barbecue grills (fancy a Thanksgiving barbecue?), restrooms and a snack bar. Other beaches are reserved for hotel guests, who can also take part in Thanksgiving meals and special events – toast s’mores while listening to live music, do the annual turkey trot fun run on the beach, or attend a festive film screening.