Traditionally Thanksgiving is all about family and friends gatherings. People go to great lengths and travel across the country to spend time with loved ones. However, the holiday is also a magical time to travel and explore new places. Over the years we were fortunate to experience the holiday in many wonderful places across the U.S. So, for parents wanting to travel this holiday; here are the best Thanksgiving destinations for families with Autism.
For History Lovers
Plymouth, MA, is essential to the history of our country. So exploring Plimoth Plantation and Rock should be on your bucket list. Visitors can watch a re-enactment of the pilgrims march to their original church site. The annual Thanksgiving Procession with participants dressed as the surviving pilgrims starts at the Mayflower Society House. It continues down North Street, past Plymouth Rock, to the top of Burial Hill.
Later in the day, you can attend the highly popular ‘Story of Thanksgiving’ Dinner. After being greeted by volunteers dressed as pilgrims and Native interpreters the meal includes the classic roast turkey and trimmings. This is a highly sought after event and advance reservations are recommended since seats sell out early in the year.
Colonial Williamsburg is a great place to get your kids interested in US history. Families exploring the Jamestown Settlement can see how the food was cooked over 240 years ago. The Powhatan Indian village features meat roasting over an open fire and stew vegetables in traditional clay pots. While the nearby English fort will have baked goods and puddings.
Visitors at the American Revolution Museum can watch artillery drills and learn how revolutionary soldiers earned their food. The beans, salted meat and stale bread rations were in very short supply so the most qualified soldiers got the largest rations.
Aside from learning history visitors can shop till they drop at the Williamsburg Premium Outlets and Yankee Candle Village or explore the nearby Christmas Town at Busch Gardens featuring Christmas traditions from around the world.
For Theme Parks Fans
Walt Disney World – Orlando, FL
With the weather in Florida usually being warm and sunny, why not head over to Walt Disney World for your Thanksgiving. After all, Walt Disney Parks get even more magical during the Holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) For starters you need to know that ALL four parks are open on Thanksgiving Day but do expect them to be crowded. If you are visiting with anyone on the autism spectrum be sure to ask for the Disability Pass at the entrance of each park to help cut the wait times for the various rides.
Apart from the holiday decorations to check out in each park there are a couple of places to teach your kids about the holiday’s significance like the American Adventure at Epcot and the Hall of Presidents attraction at in Liberty Square.
There are multiple options for diners while visiting the parks on Thanksgiving. From a fancy dinner at the top Disney resort hotels; park venues like Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom or at “under the sea” at the Coral Reef in Epcot, where you can dine near the 8-foot-high aquarium window.
Dollywood Gatlinburg, TN
Gatlinburg, TN is another fun autism-friendly Thanksgiving destination.
Families can explore the great Smokey Mountains, enjoy trolley rides or visit local arts and crafts markets. At the Ober Gatlinburg resort, guests can rent equipment before hitting the nine ski trails and snow tubing lanes The resort also sports an aerial tram, ice skating rink, restaurant, food court, cafe, and lounge. For those interested in early holiday shopping the Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show is a good place to start. And if you are looking for an iconic place to enjoy the holiday dinner The Apple Farmhouse is well known for apple fritters and apple butter, as well as roasted turkey and prime rib of beef au jus. Just call ahead for reservations to minimize the wait.
But the highlight of any Gatlinburg travel is a visit to the local theme park Dollywood that is famous for being autism-friendly. From November 10 to January 5, 2019, the park will showcase four million Christmas lights, parades, and Christmas shows.
For City Slickers
Macy’s Parade New York City, NY
New York City easily qualifies as one of the best spots to experience Thanksgiving. Families can watch the Macy’s Day Parade, as well as the actual blowing up of the floats. If your kids don’t do well with crowds you can watch it from the windows of the nearby hotels on the route. Best ones though pricey are the JW Marriott Essex House New York, the Quinn, and New York Hilton Midtown.
While in NYC you can get a jump start on Christmas shopping during Black Friday or just gaze at the artistically decorated holiday department windows. And top it all with some outdoor ice skating in Bryant Park or the Rockefeller Center.
For Beach Goers
Aulani- Disney’s Hawaiian Resort
While at Aulani, guests can enjoy picturesque beaches, kid-friendly Disney activities as well as the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. The Kaiona Ballroom hosts the ultimate island dining experience featuring holiday and Hawaiian delicacies along with Live music and photo opps with Disney characters.
For families who wish to celebrate in a tropical setting dining at Ama’Ama is the ticket. While those needing a more casual setting can choose the all you can eat dinner buffet at Makahikii.For kids that want to stay away from crowds and noise the best option is the Thanksgiving dinner that is delivered directly to the room, suite or villa.
For Nature Lovers
Keystone Resort- CO
Families visiting the Keystone Resort in Keystone, CO can celebrate the holiday surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Guests can attend a Winter Family Carnival with the face painting, crafts, bounce house, live music, and even hot beverages.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving there’s a Lighting of River Run Celebration that provides visitors with complimentary Admission and Free Cookies & hot chocolate while listening to carolers and holiday music throughout the village.
Have you visited any of these autism-friendly Thanksgiving locations? Do you have any other autism family Thanksgiving locations that you would like to learn about? If so, leave me a comment so I can add your favorite spots to my bucket list too.