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7 of the Biggest Thanksgiving Celebrations in the US

Turkey with all the trimmings is just the beginning—ring in Thanksgiving with these parades, festivals, and celebrations.

People celebrate Thanksgiving
Hi, I'm Claire!

Claire Bullen is an award-winning food, drinks, and travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and London. She is the author of The Beer Lover's Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, and the editor at GoodBeerHunting.com. Her writing has also appeared in Time Out New York, The Daily Meal, Pellicle Magazine, and beyond.

Thanksgiving is about togetherness, feasting, loved ones, and gratitude—and as these annual festivities go to show, it’s also about larger-than-life celebration. From iconic annual events like the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City to tryptophan-thwarting turkey trots, historical reenactments, Black Friday shopping sprees, and Thanksgiving Day Football, there are plenty of ways to mark the holiday and usher in the festive season. Here are seven of the biggest Thanksgiving celebrations, all across the country.

1. Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City, New York

A Thanksgiving float at the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
New York City's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an icon of the season.Foto: a katz / Shutterstock

One of the country's most impressive Thanksgiving Day celebrations.

Established roughly a century ago, New York City’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the biggest and most jubilant celebration of its kind in the country. While watching the festivities on TV is a tradition for families across the US, nothing beats getting up close and personal with the floats, supersized balloons, marching bands, and performances in the heart of Manhattan. Arrive as early as 5 or 6am to score the best viewing spot along the route—and the next day, keep the celebration going with a tour of the newly unveiled holiday window displays on Fifth Avenue.

2. America’s Hometown Thanksgiving, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Exterior of the Plimouth Grist Mill.
Combine your Plymouth Thanksgiving celebrations with a visit to the Plimouth Grist Mill.Foto: quiggyt4 / Shutterstock

Why not celebrate Thanksgiving in the place where it all began?

Perfect for history lovers, the annual America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration—held in Plymouth, Massachusetts—takes the Thanksgiving festivities back 400-odd years to the country’s earliest origins. This weekend event comprises a wide-ranging schedule, including a boisterous parade, a “Portal to the Past” historian-led reenactment village, a Native American pavilion, and a waterfront festival held right by the iconic Plymouth Rock. To learn more about what early American life was like, you can also book a combination pass to the Plimoth Plantation (a living history museum), the Plimoth Grist Mill, and even a recreation of the Mayflower.

3. Turkey Trot, Detroit, Michigan

People stretch during the Turkey Trot festivities.
Work up a sweat at Detroit's Turkey Trot festivities.Foto: Dusan Petkovic / Shutterstock

Work up a proper sweat (rather than a meat sweat) this Thanksgiving.

Much of the joy of Thanksgiving comes from the perfectly bronzed turkey; the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie; the cornbread and mac and cheese. To counterbalance that cornucopia, you can hotfoot it to Detroit’s Turkey Trot. A popular annual tradition since the early 1980s, and one of the biggest such events in the country, the fun-filled run is held on Thanksgiving morning. Depending on your endurance, pick between the Michigan Mashed Potato Mile, the 5K Stuffing Strut, or the 10K Strategic Staffing Solutions Turkey Trot—or sign up for a combo run. Either way, you’re sure to work up an appetite.

4. Black Friday at the Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota

Exterior of the Mall of America in Bloomington.
Snap up some bargains at the Mall of America this Thanksgiving.Foto: Jeff Bukowski / Shutterstock

Celebrate the season with a shopping spree in Minnesota.

If you’re itching to go on a shopping spree, hunt out bargains, or get a head start on your Christmas shopping, there are few better places to be than the Mall of America—also known as America’s Largest Mall. Across its 4,870,000 square feet (452,000 square meters) of retail and entertainment space, the Twin Cities’ Mall of America will have extended opening hours on Black Friday weekend. Plus, there’ll be a number of special deals and giveaways in honor of the festive season’s start and the TCF Rotunda will host the mall’s Holiday Music Festival series to create a seasonal soundtrack to your shopping.

5. 6abc Dunkin' Parade, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Mickey and Minnie at the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Mickey and Minnie ride in a carriage during the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.Foto: George Sheldon / Shutterstock

Get some history in alongside your Thanksgiving celebrations.

New York’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may be the flagship event, but Philadelphia’s own Thanksgiving Day Parade is actually the oldest in the country—it’s been going since 1920. To get in the thick of the action (and to see balloons, floats, marching bands, tap dancers, and all the other performers who make the parade such a spectacle) snag a viewing spot along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. And given that you’re already in one of the nation’s first capitals, don’t leave without a dose of history—City of Brotherly Love style—by taking a walking tour of the Old City neighborhood to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Betsy Ross House, and other historic highlights.

6. Thanksgiving Day Football, Dallas, Texas

Dallas Cowboy fans during Thanksgiving Day Football.
Catch a Dallas Cowboys game to celebrate Thanksgiving.Foto: fitzcrittle / Shutterstock

There's nothing like a spot of football for Thanksgiving.

Football has been a key component of Turkey Day since as far back as 1934. These days, the Dallas Cowboys—“America’s Team”—play host to the Thanksgiving Day Game each year. If you’re lucky enough to grab tickets, you can take in the action live at AT&T Stadium. And if not, you can still hit the Thanksgiving tailgate scene beforehand, take part in the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot (the largest turkey trot in the country), and finish with a sightseeing tour to see more city highlights.

7. Universal’s Holiday Parade, Orlando, Florida

Exterior of Universal Orlando Resort.
Make a beeline for Universal Orlando Resort's Holiday Parade.Foto: Samar El Atrash / Shutterstock

Combine all the fun of a theme park with all the pomp of Thanksgiving festivities.

If you want to avoid bundling up against the New York chill to see the Thanksgiving Day Parade, enjoy a more tropical alternative at Universal Orlando Resort. During the theme park’s annual Holiday Parade, held each evening from mid-November to early January, you can get up close and personal with genuine parade balloons without the Manhattan crowds. Entry to the spectacle is included with your park admission—book tickets in advance to guarantee your spot.

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