For most across the United States, Thanksgiving is a day to watch far too much football, eat more calories than you want to know and tune into a parade or two. Thanksgiving ushers in the holiday season and for travelers than can mean one giant headache. By now, you have probably secured your plane ticket to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner but you can still celebrate the holiday, as it was intended. A few special spots in the United States showcase the historical side to Thanksgiving on the actual day and throughout the month of November. If you want to get back to the roots of Thanksgiving, seek out these historical attractions.
137 Warren Ave, Plymouth, MA 02360
When most children in the United States learn about the first Thanksgiving in the country, chances are their history books mention Plymouth, Massachusetts. In 1621, a handful of pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest and were joined by many Native Americans. Two primary sources detail what occurred that year, causing the celebration to be remembered as the First Thanksgiving.
Located three miles south of downtown Plymouth, you can step back into 1621 at the Plimoth Plantation. The Pilgrim village has been carefully recreated to show visitors what life was like around the time of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth. Plimoth Plantation is set up to look like a 1627 English village. For November, the site hosts America’s Thanksgiving Dinner, a classic Thanksgiving feast filled with Pilgrim role players and Native interpreters. The dinners occur throughout the day on Thanksgiving Day and on the day after Thanksgiving.
1 Old Sturbridge Village Rd., Sturbridge, MA 01566
As the years went on, Thanksgiving celebrations changed. For history buffs, a visit to Old Sturbridge Village around Thanksgiving is essential to see how an early 19th century rural village celebrated the holiday. Old Sturbridge Village is a 1830s New England living history museum. The site shows off life during this time with the help of costumed historians and antique buildings.
Located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, the site also pulls out the stops for November with its Bounty: Thanksgiving event. Throughout the month of November, the site invites visitors to experience the traditions of an early 19th century New England Thanksgiving. Visitors can learn about 1830s dining etiquette, watch men of the village compete in a post dinner target shoot, brush up on Native American food traditions and even attend a wedding reenactment. Weddings were frequently held on the Thanksgiving holiday back in the day. On actual Thanksgiving Day, you can even partake in an old school Thanksgiving dinner.
12602 Harrison Landing Rd, Charles City, VA 23030
Located in between Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia, locals contend the first Thanksgiving wasn’t held in Plymouth but rather on the site of the Berkeley Plantation. In 1619, a boat of Englishmen led by Captain Woodlief landed on these grounds and officially gave thanks. The Capitan is believed to have declared the landing a holy day of Thanksgiving. The event occurred one year before the Pilgrims even made it to Plymouth and two years before the official Pilgrim Harvest Feast.
Whether or not you believe this event to be the first Thanksgiving in the U.S., Virginia celebrates accordingly with its Virginia Thanksgiving Festival at the Berkeley Plantation. The 1726 Georgian mansion that acted as the birthplace of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison V and William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States, hosts the event on the first Sunday in November. The celebration honors the historic 1619 landing with tours of the mansion, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and reenactments of the landing of Capitan Woodlief and his men.