While national parks may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Thanksgiving, it can be a terrific place to celebrate the holiday. Thanksgiving in the national parks is a tradition for many families. Whether it’s a historical reenactment or participating in the #optoutside movement, here’s a list of places around the National Park Service you can enjoy with family and friends.
Grand Canyon National Park
If a luxurious Thanksgiving dinner with a view is what you’re looking for, look no further than the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The El Tovar Hotel, Yavapai Lodge, and the Bright Angel Lodge have special Thanksgiving events–and some of the most famous Thanksgiving dinners in all of the National Park Service.
- Where to Watch the Sunset in Grand Canyon National Park
- 13 Must-See Spots on the Grand Canyon South Rim
- Camping in Grand Canyon National Park: The Mather Campground
- The Best Canyon Hikes in the National Park Service
- Planning Our 12 Day Arizona National Park Road Trip
Death Valley National Park
While it’s not widely publicized, late-November in Death Valley National Park can be one of the best times to visit. Temperatures begin to moderate with average highs in the mid-70’s and the crowds of summer travelers have long gone home. You’ll find the campgrounds mostly full during Thanksgiving weekend with many visitors celebrating Thanksgiving at the Furnace Creek Inn
Cape Cod National Seashore
While the exact location of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth Colony is unknown, we do know some things about the celebration held by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. At the time the Wampanoag people lived throughout New England, farming corn, beans and squash. Today though, much of their historic homeland lies within Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts. Spend your Thanksgiving holiday weekend visiting and learning more about how the Cape Cod landscape shaped the Wampanoag way of life.
North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is one of the least visited parks in the National Park Service. It’s also home to a family-friendly Thanksgiving feast put on by the North Cascades Institute. We love the description of their Family Thanksgiving Getaway Weekend:
For this special Thanksgiving gathering, our talented kitchen staff will create a delicious Thanksgiving feast — using fresh, local and organic ingredients as much as possible — that will blend traditional holiday elements with some fun new regional twists.https://ncascades.org/signup/programs/family-getaway-thanksgiving-weekend-2019
Colonial National Historical Park
When most of us think of Thanksgiving, we think back to the early colonial days. It’s fitting then to spend a portion of the holiday weekend visiting Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Virginia. Visitors can take in re-enactments, see historic Jamestown with traditional holiday decorations, and experience what the early colonial settlers encountered here in America.
Yosemite National Park
If you’re looking for the most luxurious Thanksgiving in the national parks, then look no further than Yosemite. The legendary feast served in the Dining Room of The Ahwahnee Hotel books months in advance, and will likely set you back $150 per person. Each year the Executive Chef plans a five-star menu complete with pumpkin pie. If you missed the chance to dine at Ahwahnee, the Yosemite Valley Lodge and the Wawona Hotel also have Thanksgiving meals.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
A tiny bit of Thanksgiving trivia: Abraham Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a national holiday on October 3, 1863. In the middle of the fiercely dividing Civil War, Lincoln designated the fourth Thursday in November as ‘a day of Thanksgiving and praise.’ Why not honor his idea (and many of Lincoln’s other historic impacts on our nation’s history) with a visit to Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois?
Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
Another bit of Thanksgiving trivia to impress your family around the Thanksgiving table. Did you know that President Harry S. Truman is often wrongfully believed to be the first U.S. president to pardon a turkey? There’s a famous historic photo of President Harry S. Truman outside the White House with two turkeys. Every year it’s distributed in the media, even though the turkeys were not pardoned. They were a gift to Truman from the Poultry and Egg National Board and the National Turkey Federation but were not pardoned.
Spend your Thanksgiving in the national parks visiting Harry S. Truman National Historic Site in Independence Missouri to see the photo up close. Then find out how our current turkey pardon tradition got started in 1989, with President George H. W. Bush.
National Parks of New York City
Will you be taking in the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the streets of New York City this year? Before or after your visit, stop at one of the many National Park units in the city. Salute George Washington outside of Federal Hall, stand in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty or tour the home of Alexander Hamilton as you celebrate the many reasons we can all be thankful for our country.
- Trip Recap: New York City’s National Parks
- 3 Things You Didn’t Know About Hamilton Grange National Memorial
- Visit all the National Parks in New York
- Statue of Liberty National Monument in Pictures
Shenandoah National Park
A visit to Shenandoah National Park in late November is just in time for the fall colors to make their last showing of the year. The Pollack Dining Room of the Skyland Restaurant on the park’s famous Skyline Drive offers one of the most popular Thanksgiving dinners in all of the National Park Service. The meal is served buffet-style with all the traditional Thanksgiving offerings and some local favorites. Reservations are recommended for this popular holiday meal.
Olympic National Park
Of all the offerings for Thanksgiving in the national parks, we think Olympic National Park might top the list. Spend the morning enjoying a hike through the Hall of Mosses. Then stop in at the Lake Crescent Lodge or the Kalaloch Lodge for a Thanksgiving Day buffet feast. And end the holiday with a sunset on one of the park’s famous beaches. What could be better than that?
- Park Chaser’s Best of Olympic National Park
- 14 National Parks with Big Trees
- Camping in Olympic National Park: Heart O’ the Hills Campground
- Hiking Olympic National Park: Sol Duc Falls Trail
- Trip Recap: Olympic National Park