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7 Best Places to go for Thanksgiving Weekend

SmarterTravel

Looking to get away during the long Thanksgiving weekend? While travel options were extremely limited during the height of the pandemic last year, more of the world has opened in 2021. Whether you’d like to skip cooking all together or just take the family somewhere warm for the holiday, check out these exciting places where flights are trending on the cheaper end of the spectrum or where special activities are planned for the holiday weekend.

St. Petersburg, Florida

Aerial view of St. Petersburg, Florida
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Enjoy Florida sunshine and sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico for Thanksgiving. The Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup brings in several talented artists to Treasure Island for a sand sculpting exhibition and music festival that you won’t want to miss. The fun starts the weekend before Thanksgiving, Nov. 18 – 21, but there will be an encore event over the holiday Nov. 26 – 28.

Cheap flights are plentiful thanks to several budget airlines flying into nearby Tampa (TPA) airport. Southwest also flies nonstop to Tampa from many cities so be sure to compare. And you may even find cheaper flights directly into St. Pete-Clearwater Airport (PIE) on Allegiant.

Where to Stay: The Bilmar Beach Resort is right on the water and is great for families with games and pool tables at the Waves Fun Zone.

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Plymouth, Massachusetts

Mayflower replica in Plymouth, Massachusetts
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Celebrate the 400th Thanksgiving where it all began. Plymouth will hold its annual parade portraying the pilgrim story the weekend before Thanksgiving, on Saturday, Nov. 20th. There will also be waterfront activities, food trucks, beer/wine tents, and concerts. And if you stay through Thanksgiving weekend, you’ll have time to explore more of America’s hometown such as a full-scale replica of the Mayflower II, Pilgrim Hall Museum, or the Plimoth Plantation, which replicates the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony.

Look for flights to nearby airports in Boston (BOS) or Providence (PVD) to make your way to Plymouth Rock, which is approximately a one-hour drive from either airport.

Where to Stay: Comfortable rooms, free breakfast, and a pool await your arrival at the newly renovated Holiday Inn Express Plymouth.

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Asheville, North Carolina

Aerial view of Asheville, North Carolina with a backdrop of the Blueridge Mountains
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Immerse yourself in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a trip to Asheville, North Carolina this Thanksgiving. After a day driving along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, you can take in Asheville’s excellent art and craft brewery scene. Plus, Asheville is the perfect city to get started on your holiday shopping with hundreds of local boutiques. There’s even a self-guided arts and crafts driving tour Nov. 26-27, where you can visit galleries and buy directly from the artists. Maps can be picked up at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center.

Flying into Asheville (AVL) used to be quite limited (and expensive) but options have expanded in recent years and Allegiant has helped bring prices down to this growing city. You’ll now find nonstop Allegiant flights from 14 U.S. cities this November in addition to the usual flights from major hubs on American, Delta, and United. 

Where to Stay: The Biltmore is a luxurious property, which has special packages for Thanksgiving weekend. Get breakfast delivered to your room daily, a special Thanksgiving dinner, and admission to Van Gogh Alive, which is an exhibit celebrating the artist located in Biltmore’s event center.

Galway, Ireland

Main street of Galway, Ireland
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Looking to get out of the country for Thanksgiving? Flying to Ireland from the Northeast takes roughly the same amount of time as it does to fly to L.A. and you may find ticket prices to be similar in price over the holiday as well. Galway sits on the West Coast of Ireland and is a beautiful city to explore. There are plenty of great day trips nearby such as the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara National Park. Ireland is open to vaccinated travelers without quarantine and plans to lift most local COVID restrictions on Oct. 22nd, 2021.

You can fly directly from many U.S. gateways into Dublin (DUB), which has regular bus connections to Galway. Aer Lingus, Delta, and United all have competitive pricing. If you’re connecting in the U.K. or elsewhere in Europe, have a look at flights into Shannon (SNN), which is a closer drive to Galway.

Where to Stay: The House Hotel is centrally located so you’ll be within walking distance of the vibrant Irish life. The rooms are decorated to make you feel as if you’re at home and the restaurant on site serves up a tasty selection of food and cocktails.

Aruba

Oranjestad, Aruba
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The Caribbean is calling your name for an island escape this Thanksgiving. November temperatures in Aruba hover in the high 80s so there will be no shortage of beach days and discovering sea life under the crystal-clear water. And since the Dutch island caters to many U.S. tourists, you’ll still be able to find a Thanksgiving feast at many local restaurants and hotels.

Since Spirit is only offering Saturday service to Aruba (AUA), you may want to adjust travel dates to see if traveling on a Saturday brings the price down, regardless of your preferred airline. Otherwise, JetBlue is a good option for budget travelers if you can make the connections work from your departure city.

Where to Stay: Spacious rooms, apartment-like suites, a swim up bar, and a white sand beach out your door await you at the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort.

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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Rainbow at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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For those who wish to visit the west this Thanksgiving, Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most eye-opening sites to see. The crowds of summer subside and the temperatures are perfect for hiking. Facilities on the North Rim close after October 15th, but Highway 67 remains open as long as there isn’t a big snowstorm before November 30th, so you may be able to enjoy this part of the park in complete solitude. Otherwise, the South Rim is open year-round.

If you’re flying into the area, you’ll likely find the cheapest flights into Las Vegas (LAS), which is a 4.5-hour drive from the visitor’s center. The closest commercial airport is Flagstaff (FLG) but there are limited flight options available. Flying into Phoenix (PHX) is another option for cheaper flights, which is about a 3hr 45min drive.

Where to Stay: If you don’t feel like camping, the Yavapai Lodge is one of the closest places to stay to the Grand Canyon. Rooms are basic, but clean, comfortable, and come with a mini fridge. And the property has both universal and Tesla electric car chargers in the parking lot.

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
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Trade turkey for tacos and fly to the Riviera Nayarit to spend Thanksgiving weekend in Mexico. World-class resorts are plentiful in this region that covers nearly 200 miles of coastline north of Puerto Vallarta, including popular destinations such as Sayulita and Bucerias. And if you choose to stay in Puerto Vallarta, you may even find a traditional turkey dinner at one of the many restaurants along the Malecon.

Flights to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) from the West Coast are competitive with all major airlines flying nonstop from hubs in the west. Spirit increases to daily service from Los Angeles around Thanksgiving and Frontier has thrice weekly service from Denver, but connections are not always ideal so take note of the total travel time if you notice a cheaper price on one of those carriers. You’ll likely be better off flying Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, or United. 

Where to Stay: Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is perfectly located in Marina Vallarta to enjoy the beach along Banderas Bay as well as an easy day trip to either the Malecon in the center of town or north along the Riviera Nayarit.

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