Thanksgiving is the most quintessentially American holiday there is, but its fascination resonates far beyond the 50 States. Everyone loves the idea of gathering friends and family together to give thanks for the good things in life. But you can only understand the true depth and warmth of feeling attached to the holiday once you’ve experienced Thanksgiving in America for yourself. So this Thursday 26th November, stuff yourself to the rafters with turkey and pumpkin pie, dust off that pig-skin for the traditional football game and brush up on the best places to watch a Thanksgiving parade…
Thanksgiving Origins in Plymouth
To understand the story behind Thanksgiving, head to the place where it all began. Plymouth is generally heralded as the birthplace of Thanksgiving – and more than that – of America itself. In 1620, those famous intrepid explorers embarked on the Mayflower in search of the New World before finally alighting upon Plymouth Rock. Unfortunately, their first year was filled with more hardships than they could have imagined. In 1621 the pilgrim survivors prepared a feast to give thanks and celebrate surviving the merciless winter. Thanksgiving was born.
History is Plymouth’s proudest asset. The city brings the books to life as costumed characters from pilgrims to Native Americans parade the streets and harbourfront each year. Expect colourful floats and even more colourful story telling as characters guide you around the historic treasures of the town. The 17th century living museum of Plimoth Plantation offers a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in its celebrated halls. In the evening, the town of Plymouth puts on a free Veterans Memorial Concert. Make sure you step aboard the full scale reproduction of the Mayflower while you are there.
Macy’s Parade in New York City
One of the most iconic institutions of Thanksgiving has to be the annual Macy’s Parade, this year in its 89th run. The riot of colour and noise is simply unforgettable. Cheerleaders, clowns and marching bands herald their gigantic helium balloons through the usually cool and classy Manhattan. The excitement for this feted event is so great that eager revellers camp a spot on the street from 6am. However you manage to squeeze in a peek, you won’t be disappointed. The parade begins at 77th Street & Central Park West and travels south, ending at Macy’s Herald Square. The route takes in Columbus Circle, 6th Avenue and 34th Street along the way.
Once the parade is over, you’ll still find plenty to do in the city that never sleeps. It’s the perfect choice for travellers and visitors who can’t have a family dinner at home. The city is packed with restaurants offering Thanksgiving dinner and endless bars promising good beer and good times. You won’t be alone as celebrators flock to the fun. As Thanksgiving takes place at the end of November, NYC will wow you with all its festive glory, too.
Fabulous Food in the Deep South
We know the real meaning behind Thanksgiving is the heart-warming message of love, sharing and gratitude. But as a close second after that, it’s all about the food. Juicy turkey, crispy stuffing, rich mash, creamy mac ‘n’ cheese. Inexplicable salads that dispense with the niceties of leaves and instead dive straight into jelly and marshmallows… Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the heaps, piles and mountains of food.
The Deep South is passionate about food like nowhere else. When it comes to Thanksgiving, they put their own twist on it with Creole and Cajun influences. Think gumbo starters, grits and biscuits sides, cola-cooked ham and deep fried turkey, with a Mississippi pecan pie for dessert. Head to the culinary centre of New Orleans to experience its unique offering of turducken – an indulgent Cajun three-bird roast of a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. With shrimp-infused stuffing on the side, you know you’re onto a winner. Factor in the friendly and hospitable nature of New Orleans natives and this becomes the perfect home-away-from-home to spend the holiday.
Presidential Pardon in Washington DC
Every year at the White House, a special Thanksgiving ceremony takes places to present a turkey to the President. A “Presidential Pardon” spares the turkey from slaughter, and along with its stunt double, it instead lives out the rest of its life in a petting zoo. While the tradition of presenting a Thanksgiving turkey to the President is an old one, dating back to 1947, pardoning the turkey is a newer one. Presidents of the past tucked into their donated turkey for dinner! A yearly pardon has been a permanent part of the turkey presentation since 1989, and last year Obama pardoned turkeys named Cheese and Mac. Previous turkeys included Stars and Stripes, Pumpkin and Pecan and Flyer and Fryer.
A trip to Washington DC also encourages you to ditch the tradition of slumping comatose in front of the football game after dinner. Instead, get out and discover the incredible range of museums and historical sites Washington DC has to offer, with a self guided walking tour to burn off that second helping of sweet potato.
Bay Cruise in San Francisco
The chilly autumn mornings bring atmospheric wisps of fog in across San Francisco Bay, making the city one of the most romantic to spend Thanksgiving in. One of the best ways to see the beauty of the city is on a Thanksgiving dinner cruise around the harbour. It’s an experience like no other! View San Francisco in a new perspective from the water and see iconic sights like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Cruises offer either a sit-down dinner or a buffet, all promising delicious gourmet food, a bar area and live music.
In the evening, the magic happens in Union Square as the Thanksgiving tree lighting event takes place here each year. A towering Christmas tree donated by Macy’s is lit up with more than 30,000 lights. A free concert and spectacular ice skating rink in the Square afterwards make this the perfect festive Thanksgiving evening.
Thinking of experiencing Thanksgiving Stateside? Give our knowledgeable team a call to start planning your holiday.