Thanksgiving Celebrations throughout America
Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Day Parade terminates at the Philadelpia Museum of Art
Apple Pie for Dessert
Baking demonstration at Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts
Soldier cooks on earthen kitchen at continental army encampment, Virginia.
Houston on Parade Float
Performers at Detroit's America's Thanksgiving Parade anticipate Christmas.

A Thanksgiving recipe for fun: FTF’s A-Z guide to local events marking the settlers’ gratitude, from traditional eats to marathons.

Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday, was first celebrated in 1621 by the pilgrim settlers to show thanks for the bountiful harvest that would see them through the long winter. Throughout the years, we have continued the tradition by enjoying feasts with family and friends, acknowledging our gifts, and connecting with those who sustain us.

Why worry about testing fresh Thanksgiving recipes when there are so many fun activities outside in the leadup to the big day? Here is a glimpse of some celebrations throughout the United States, before, during and after a memorable meal.

Alabama Thanksgiving Events

In an effort to share their rich culture, the Poarch Creek Indians welcome you to their Thanksgiving Intertribal Powwow in Atmore (near Mobile, Alabama) from November 23, 2017.  Festivities include native dance and drum competitions and performances, the crowning of the Poarch Creek Indian Princess, cultural events and school presentations at the 47th annual event this year. For more information, visit the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel.

California Thanksgiving Events

An American Indian celebration of dance, music, arts and food will take place near Palm Springs at the 36th annual Indio Powwow of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians over Thanksgiving weekend (November 24-26). This semi-annual three-day event hosts tribes from throughout the US and Canada who perform in full ceremonial dress. In addition to dancing and singing competitions, guests can sample Native American foods like Indian fry bread, and purchase jewelry, weavings, dream catchers and other craft items.

Illinois Thanksgiving Events

Home to the annual Turkey Trot, Chicago is alive with the spirit of Thanksgiving and charity. About 5,000 runners join this race (in the 40th annual race November 23, 2017, there is a choice of a 5k or 8k course) to help collect food for the less fortunate. In years past, the Turkey Trot has collected 10,000 pounds of food! The Plymouth Rock Ramble is a Kid’s race for two to 12-year-olds ranging from 50 yards to 1/2 mile in length. The Turkey Tailgate Zone offers pre and post-race fun for the entire family.

Massachusetts Thanksgiving Events

Massachusetts is, remember, where it all began, so this state gets two listings. Old Sturbridge Village features a variety of demonstrations, performances, and hands-on activities the first three November weekends, as well as the traditional “Bountiful Buffet in the Bullard Tavern” ($21.95 adults, $11.95 ages 5-12). Other events and an extra special traditional meal take place on Thanksgiving Day. To mark this special fall holiday in New England, Old Sturbridge Village re-creates various activities from an early New England Thanksgiving, including cooking at the hearth and demonstrations of 19th-century table manners. Hear the minister talk about the true meaning of Thanksgiving in the Village’s historic Center Meetinghouse. Learn how preparations were made for this holiday meal, and learn about wedding preparations of the 1830s.

During the weekend before Thanksgiving (November 17-19) Plymouth, Massachusetts hosts its 21st annual celebratory activities. Because so many want to see the site of the First Thanksgiving with their own eyes, it is brought to life by re-enactors dressed as pilgrims, Native Americans, soldiers, patriots and pioneers. Enjoy tours of the waterfront, a good old-fashioned America’s Hometown historic parade, a candlelighting ceremony, a Drum and Bugle Corps Concert, a food festival, a craft village and more.

Michigan Thanksgiving Events

Detroit leads the state with it’s 90th annual America’s Thanksgiving Parade which begins at 8:50am at Woodward Avenue and Kirby. This tradition dating back to 1924 celebrates with a new theme each season and draws hundreds of thousands of spectators and 1,500 volunteers. The family may enjoy a backstage tour of how the 75 parade floats are designed, where the costumes come from, and how it’s all organized; visit their website to arrange a group tour at your convenience. There are also a variety of Turkey Trots: 10K, 5K, 1 mile events to run off that food.

New York Thanksgiving Events

It’s time for turkeys, football and the 93rd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which combines animation, artistry, 2,000 performers and technical know-how. For many, the Giant Balloon Inflation from noon-8pm on the day before Thanksgiving, is the most fun of all. You can enter the restricted areas surrounding the Museum of Natural History on 77th and 81st streets, at Columbus Avenue and 74th Street.

There will be 17 remarkable inflatable balloons (running the gamut from Pokeman’s Pikachu to Hello Kitty and the Elf on the Shelf) marching. You’ll also see Charlie Brown, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and DreamWorks’ Trolls sharing a multi-character balloon. Families love the floats (there’s one of Mount Rushmore this year) and “balloonicals,” which are combination float/balloons. SpongeBob, Big Bird, Barney and many others will also make their yearly appearance, in addition to musical guests, marching bands, celebrities, and Broadway shows. A tradition since 1924 (with no change in sponsorship), the parade kicks off at 9am at Central Park West and 77th Street and heads south to Columbus Circle along Central Park South to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 34th Street and along 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square. By the way, Macy’s was the first department store to feature Christmas window displays (1870s) and they’ll be open the week before Thanksgiving. Macy’s Parade for information.

Enjoy a great Thanksgiving dinner, but try to leave some room for The Annual Post-Thanksgiving “Original Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour” sponsored by Big Onion Walking Tours on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Meet at the corner of Delancey and Essex Streets on the Lower East Side for a tour of the tasty treats available from this melting pot of a neighborhood, including 10 different noshes (snacks) from the Dominican, Jewish, Italian and Chinese communities. Reservations are requested and you may want to pick up a package of Alka Seltzer to carry with you.

Pennsylvania Thanksgiving Events

Philadelphia, the birthplace of America, is also the original home of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now in its 98th year, Philly’s 1.4-mile parade will kick-off at 8:30am at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard and proceed to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It continues to Logan Circle and to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (a great place to watch from), where it concludes at noon. Dr. Seuss characters, Kermit the Frog, Strawberry Shortcake, and other elaborate floats and balloons will entertain the crowds and Santa will be making his first appearance of the Holiday Season. Parade-goers can also participate in the area Boy Scouts Annual Food Drive by bringing cans of food; they usually collect over 2.5 million items each year. See Visit Philadelphia for more information on holiday events.

Texas Thanksgiving Events

The Lone Star state’s November star is Houston, where the 68th Annual H-E-B Holiday Parade will be roaring south on Milam while up to 200 thousand spectators line the route on lawnchairs and blankets. Houston’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1949 with the arrival of Santa at Union Station. Fantastic floats, hot air balloons, marching bands, cheerleaders, and costumed characters will entertain spectators. For more information, visit Houston on Parade.

Vermont Thanksgiving Events

In New England, Thanksgiving honored farming, family and religion and it recalled the feast that the Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors enjoyed following suffering and famine.  The Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont — a working dairy farm and living museum ca. 1890’s –becomes a flurry of activity over the three-day holiday weekend. From November 24-26, visit the farm manager’s family living quarters and learn about the observance of Thankgsgiving, the preparation of the holiday meal, and the emphasis on harvesting crops. Then, watch a cider pressing and a milking demonstration, get a pie-baking lesson, and top it off with a horse-drawn wagon ride. There are plenty of activities for families of all ages. Visit Billings Farm for details.

Virginia Thanksgiving Events

Virginia lays claim to hosting the very first Thanksgiving in the nation’s history, at Berkeley Plantation on December 4, 1619. It was President Lincoln who declared that it should be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Over Thanksgiving weekend (November 23-25), “The Foods and Feasts of Colonial Virginia” will be presented at Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Food will be the focus — how it was gathered, prepared and preserved by the colonists and the Powhatan Indians. For more information on this festival, visit History is Fun or the Virginia Tourism site.

Washington Thanksgiving Events

Finally but not least in our eyes, you can run off all those extra holiday calories by entering the Seattle Marathon held the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend (a Childrens Marathon is held on Saturday). A full Marathon and Half Marathon will have their own courses, each with scenic views of the city and surrounding waterways. Visit Seattle Marathon for more information.

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4 Replies to “All American Thanksgiving Celebrations”

  • Parades, fetes and fairs, eating at restaurants, shopping are an inherent part of the thanksgiving celebration.Football game is closely associated with thanksgiving celebration and i really enjoy it a lot.

  • anonymous

    Plimouth Plantation, site of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Mass, is open through Thanksgiving weekend. You can experience a 1627 Harvest Dinner with the Pilgrims on November 4, 11, 18, 19, 22, 24, and 25.

    Or you can eat with your hands at the Eat Like a Pilgrim feast on November 24th at noon where you’ll learn the 17th-century table manners that came to Plymouth with the English colonists. Wearing giant napkins, you’ll get to eat with your fingers and find out exactly how the colonists ate their porridge.

    There are also multiple meals and activities on Thanksgiving Day. Reservations are required for all: 800-262-9356 ext. 8364, 8365 or 8366.

    Plimouth Plantation is a living history museum with two components: living history museum has two main components – the reconstructed European village occupied by the Pilgrims, and a reconstructed Wampanoag Native American settlement.

    Laura Sutherland
    FTF’s Blogger

  • anonymous

    Yes, have taken our son (now 14) for years, since his stroller days. It’s a thrilling event for toddlers but it can be crowded (and hard for them to see), and cold or wet and windy. I suggest you take public transportation to the Columbus Circle area (59th Street station on West side, next to Central Park) to watch. Go as early as you can (does not have to be “crack of dawn” as the parade begins at 9am at Macy’s on 34th Street, so you are getting the marching bands and floats lined up here, about a mile north). Be prepared to hoist toddlers on your shoulders. This is a broad part of the route so it’s easier to see around the many people who gather there, but it can be overwhelming/scary if you’re way down in a stoller. It’s also a good location because it is close to West 57th Street which has coffeeshops open for hot chocolate if the weather is bad. Check the local papers the day before or morning of to pick your spot, as new crews often set up around here and they can hog all the good viewing spots.
    p.s. The park side of the street (because you can “stand” the kids up on the stone railing) is probably the best spot.

  • anonymous

    Just wondering if the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is too much for toddlers? Has anyone taken their toddlers or preschoolers to the parade?