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Best Places In America To Spend Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving is a time when many pack up the car (or board an airplane) and travel to visit friends and family for the holiday weekend. This year, change things up. Instead of packing up the car and heading to grandma and grandpa's, make plans to meet the grandparents for a destination Thanksgiving weekend getaway.There are so many options when planning a Thanksgiving weekend getaway. Many destinations have festivals, events, parades and plenty of holiday-themed activities for both residents and visitors. This is also a time when you can take the kids on a tour of the history of America and the Thanksgiving holiday. The possibilities are endless.

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Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is always an amazing city to visit and explore. Add the excitement of Thanksgiving and Black Friday and you have the perfect place to visit for a Thanksgiving weekend getaway. Chicago is home to many museums, including the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry. It is also home to plenty of downtown shopping and dining venues, perfect for a day of Black Friday shopping.

When visiting over the Thanksgiving weekend, you will be able to see the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade. This parade follows State Street, but the best place to camp out for a spot is near State and Washington. Starting November 21, 2014, the Christkindlmarket Chicago opens up for guests to explore the open-air German holiday market. This market features hand-crafted items, gifts and authentic German cuisine.

Related: Guide for Thanksgiving Weekend Visitors to Chicago

Grapevine, Texas

Often referred to as the "Christmas Capital of Texas," Grapevine is one place in the country where residents and visitors know how to celebrate the holidays. For many, Thanksgiving is the kickoff date for Christmas. It is a time when many start putting up their decorations, start shopping and have elevated moods as the air fills with holiday cheer.

Thanksgiving weekend kicks off the Light Show Spectacular at the Town Square Gazebo and the North Pole Express comes to town. Christmas on Main also begins this weekend, as the many Victorian-style buildings transform into a holiday wonderland.

Keystone, Colorado

For many, Thanksgiving weekend is the start of the ski season and there is no better place to hit the slopes over this holiday weekend than Keystone. This family-friendly destination offers plenty of things for the kids to do and the bonus is that kids ski free all season long.

Kids, both skiing and non-skiing, can enjoy Kidtopia Play Park, which is home to an annual Thanksgiving festival featuring parades, ice skating and snow-tubing. The Family Ski Trail gives families the opportunity to enjoy time together, sip some hot chocolate and watch the Tree Lighting Celebration. The Keystone Resort also offers a unique dining experience, where guests can enjoy an authentic Thanksgiving dinner during an old-fashioned wagon ride.

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New York City, New York

Many of us remember watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at home on television. But what better way to see the larger-than-life balloons than in person. In addition to this popular parade, New York City is also home to many of world-famous events and plenty of shopping and dining opportunities.

There are so many different restaurants that you will be able to choose from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner or be adventurous and try something new. You never know, you might just discover a new holiday dining tradition. Just be prepared for the Black Friday crowds, as deal seekers flock to the city to get the best pre-Christmas deals.

Plymouth, Massachusetts

Go back in time and experience Thanksgiving as a pilgrim. Less than one hour south of Boston, you will find a three-day event held in celebration of the history of Thanksgiving right in the heart of Plymouth. Those visiting Plymouth can experience history up close as they see and learn how early colonists lived when visiting Plimoth Plantation, a 17th Century English Village. In addition to the amazing activities at Plimoth Plantation, you will be able to explore the Mayflower II and the Wampanoag Homesite.

Take the drive north, where you can also see some of the amazing historical sites in Boston. Historical sites to see in Boston include the State House, the U.S.S. Constitution and Faneuil Hall.

Related: Boston's Best: Guide for Thanksgiving Weekend Visitors

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San Francisco, California

In November, the cool weather fills the air in the Bay Area, making San Francisco one of the most picturesque cities to visit over the Thanksgiving weekend. With average temperatures in the low 60s, the Bay if often covered with a light blanket of fog in the morning. This creates a beautiful autumn scene throughout the city. There are very few conventions scheduled during the holidays, which helps make a Thanksgiving weekend getaway to San Francisco less expensive and less crowded.

Sail around the Bay with HornBlower Cruises, which will be offering Thanksgiving dinner and buffet cruises. Or go exploring the city on a guided or self-guided tour.

If staying in San Francisco for Thanksgiving, make plans to head out the day after for the Macy's Annual Tree Lighting event in Union Square. Other events happening in San Francisco for Thanksgiving include the Turkey Trot at AT&T Park, Ice Skating at Union Square and Black Friday shopping.

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida

Spending Thanksgiving weekend at the Walt Disney World Resorts gives you the best of both worlds. You get to experience the magic of Thanksgiving with traditional dinners at many table-service resort restaurants during the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Then almost like magic, the parks and resorts transform into a winter wonderland as many decorations for Christmas are put up over the weekend.

Thanksgiving activities include holiday-themed parades at the parks and activities at the resorts. Plus, you get to shop on Black Friday Disney-style.

Photo Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Washington, DC

Everything about Washington, DC makes a Thanksgiving weekend getaway exciting and educational. Visit our nation's capital and witness the official pardon of this year's turkey at Mount Vernon.

While in Washington, DC, explore the many museums and historical sites. If you are looking for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, visit Old Ebbitt Grill or Georgia Brown's.

Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family, but nowhere does it dictate that this time must be spent together at home in front of the television watching parades and football. Get out of the house, go on vacation and experience the many popular Thanksgiving weekend festivities and traditions in person.

Heather Landon is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at

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