USA's Top 10 Thanksgiving Events

Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner
Mmm... A Traditional Turkey with All the Trimmings1  
The origins of American Thanksgiving date back to the early 17th century, when the pilgrims of Plymouth celebrated a successful harvest through feasting and religious observance. While many of those traditions have remained over the centuries, including the ubiquitous trimmed-turkey dinner and family gatherings, Thanksgiving in the United States has evolved to embrace many new and imaginative customs such as discount shopping, spirited football games and large-scale urban marathons. Numerous festivities occur across the country but a few distinct celebrations stand out for providing world-class experiences that are unique, inspirational and entertaining for participants young and old.

MACY'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE IN MANHATTAN

A definite must-do for visitors, the impressive Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was established in 1924, making it the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in America. In its formative years, animals on loan from the Central Park Zoo were paraded down the city streets, later to be replaced by a colorful cast of helium-filled balloons that distinguished it from other street pageants of its time. On the day before the parade, spectators can witness the inflation of the monolithic balloons on the grounds surrounding the American Museum of Natural History. The parade, which attracts millions of visitors to the streets of Manhattan on Thanksgiving morning, also features classic performances by award-winning marching bands, popular recording artists and precision-dance troupe, the Radio City Rockettes.

CELEBRATING SPORTING TRADITION AT THE THANKSGIVING CLASSIC

Hosted by the National Football Association, this series of football matches has been a holiday tradition since 1920 and features scheduled games sure to please any football fan. The first two of three annual games are hosted by the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan and by the Dallas Cowboys at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Tailgate parties, celebrity guest performers and energetic cheerleading routines create a thrilling and memorable sporting atmosphere. A third game airs as part of the NFL Network's regular Thursday night football lineup, rounding out a fantastic day of competition and camaraderie.

  Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Manhattan, NY
  Early Morning Preparation for the Macy's Parade2
DANCING THE NIGHT AWAY AT THE WORLD'S LARGEST DISCO

While seemingly untraditional, the World's Largest Disco has become one of the most popular and well-attended Thanksgiving festivities in Buffalo, New York. The event received its record-breaking title in 1979 when a crowd of 13,000 descended upon the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center to take in performances by disco stars The Trammps and Gloria Gaynor. Regulations have lowered ticket numbers to a more manageable 7,000, but the party is as dynamic as ever. In tribute to a bygone yet colorful period of history, visitors to this disco-themed dance are immersed in a time warp of sorts, where attendees wear 1970's attire and groove to the sounds of musicians from that era. The event has also featured guest appearances from beloved 1970's icons such as cast members from The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. The wildly popular event, a charity benefit for a local children's cancer camp, occurs on the Saturday following Thanksgiving and is known to sell out within minutes of the announcement of ticket sales.

AMERICA'S HOMETOWN THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION

The birthplace of Thanksgiving, Plymouth, Massachusetts is a destination filled with history and tradition, best exemplified during the annual America's Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration, which occurs on the third weekend of November. Historical reenactments, patriotic concerts, a traditional food festival and a grand parade comprise just a sample of the festivities offered. Visitors can explore military encampments, peruse hand-made souvenirs at the crafter's pavilion or sample traditional delicacies at the on-site harvest market.

MCDONALD'S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE IN CHICAGO

Downtown Chicago comes alive with the sites and sounds of the season during this long-standing Thanksgiving tradition. The second-oldest parade in the United States, the McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been bringing smiles to the faces of visitors since 1934. A vibrant cast of thousands, including Ronald McDonald and his friends, entertain crowds, who eagerly anticipate the arrival of its most important guest star, Santa Claus. Over 400,000 spectators line State Street for an early morning start to the day's festivities.

America's Thanksgiving Parade, Detroit, MI
Thankful Big Heads in America's Thanksgiving Parade3  
BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING AT THE MALL OF AMERICA

One of the busiest days of the year in terms of consumer traffic, Black Friday occurs the day after Thanksgiving and offers die-hard deal seekers door-buster bargains, irresistible sales promotions and a solid head-start on holiday shopping. Where better to secure deals on anything from electronics to jewelry to clothing than the colossal Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, where major anchor stores like Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Nordstrom await bargain hunters. Not for the easily intimidated, the mega-mall features over 500 shops and a wide variety of amenities and services sure to satisfy the most zealous of shoppers.

REFLECTING AT THANKS-GIVING SQUARE

The fundamentals of giving thanks are revealed at Thanks-Giving Square, a spiritual center in Dallas, Texas that features an array of inspiring interior and exterior spaces, symbolic architecture and cultural programs encouraging reflection, meditation and prayerful thanks. Its Hall of Thanksgiving displays numerous exhibits on American and world traditions, including the first Thanksgiving proclamation, written by Samuel Adams in 1777. The center serves as a space for sharing and unity and promotes the notion of giving as a universal virtue across cultures. Thanksgiving traditions are interpreted during guided tours and the annual Week of Thanksgiving, which features cultural demonstrations, concerts and multi-faith celebrations.

HIGH-ADRENALINE RACING ACTION AT THE TURKEY NIGHT GRAND PRIX

Motor-sport enthusiasts of all ages converge at the annual Turkey Night Grand Prix, held on Thanksgiving evening at the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale near Baldwin Park in Greater Los Angeles. The races pit top midget-car competitors in a series of qualifying rounds before capping off the night with an exciting 98-lap event. The cars, in contrast to those used in the NASCAR circuit, are distinguished by their small-scale sizes, 300-400 horsepower engines and high power-to-weight ratios, resulting in an exhilarating race experience for spectators.

  America's Thanksgiving Parade, Detroit, MI
  Giant Balloons Marching in Detroit's Thanksgiving Parade4
DETROIT'S FIFTH THIRD TURKEY TROT

An array of marathons take place nationwide on Thanksgiving Day but the annual Fifth Third Turkey Trot in Detroit is a standout for its comprehensive road race offerings and innovative costume contest for competitors. The sporting spectacle entices Thanksgiving appetites with food-inspired race titles like the 5K Stuffing Strut, 10K Turkey Trot and the Mashed Potato Mile, a fun-run suitable for children and seniors. Past races have featured thousands of costumed runners and teams, including vibrantly-adorned "running floats." The event is followed by the awe-inspiring America's Thanksgiving Parade, which winds its way through the downtown core, spreading holiday joy to the crowds.

TRADITIONAL DINING AT HUBER'S CAFÉ IN PORTLAND

Portland, Oregon's oldest restaurant, Huber's Café serves classic American fare and is known for its traditional three-course turkey dinner, available to diners year round. House specialties include an extensive selection of turkey dishes and traditional desserts guaranteed to satisfy any Thanksgiving craving. An experience at the eatery is not complete without sampling their trademark Spanish coffee, which is prepared table-side with great panache. The historic landmark has been a tenant of the Oregon Pioneer Building since 1910 and features impressive gothic arches and a vaulted stained-glass ceiling, providing an inspiring, alternative Thanksgiving dining environment.


If you enjoyed this feature, take a look at these WorldWeb.com articles:
USA's Top 10 Independence Day Celebrations
USA's Top 10 Easter Celebrations



PHOTOS COURTESY OF:
  1. Traditional Thanksgiving Roast Turkey; USA
  2. Early Morning Preparation for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade; Manhattan, NY, USA
  3. Bill Bowen; c/o Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau; Big Heads in the America's Thanksgiving Parade; Detroit, MI, USA
  4. The Parade Company; c/o Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau; Giant Balloons in the America's Thanksgiving Parade; Detroit, MI, USA
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