New York is a big part of what makes America unique, and the whole state is dotted with vacation destinations you and your family have to see at least once. Whether you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday upstate, in the City, or somewhere on the Island with friends and family in your New York vacation rental, there’s almost certainly something special planned nearby for Turkey Day that you, your kids, and all the friends you can squeeze into the car for a road trip will love.
1. New York City
The first stop on any tour of New York State has to be New York City itself. This giant city defines the word “metropolis,” and its millions of residents always have someplace to go for great food, great fun, and family-friendly adventures. When you visit the City for Thanksgiving, you can start your tour at the American Natural History Museum on the Wednesday before the holiday to see the great floats inflated for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Arrive around 3 p.m. to land a good viewing spot. On the day itself, you and the kids can hit the ice at Bryant Park, where admission is free, and the only expense is renting a pair of ice skates, plus hot cocoa for the kids. Wrap up your stay with a calorie-burning 5k race through Prospect Park. This is a great way to get out and meet some locals, while preemptively paying for all that pumpkin pie you plan to eat after the evening’s feast.
The City of Buffalo may be chilly, but it won’t be left out in the cold for Thanksgiving fun and festivities. If you can tear yourself away from the downstate events that drew you to New York for the holiday, you and your family can enjoy the official world’s largest disco at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving. Many of the communities around the Buffalo area, such as Lackawanna, have reasonably priced vacation rentals within driving distance of Niagara Falls, making this spot as welcoming to newlyweds as it is to veteran married couples and retired sightseers.
As the capital city, Albany can’t afford to be outdone by the other towns in its state. This historic city of just under 100,000 people has all the grandeur of its bigger neighbors, but still keeps the small-town feeling you’re looking for on family holidays like Thanksgiving. Start your Thursday by joining the city’s annual Turkey Trot 5k, which began in 1916 with only six runners entered, but which now draws crowds of thousands and sponsors side events, such as a 1k-race for the kids and live street performances.
Cooperstown is a slice of Middle America transplanted to the Eastern Seaboard, and its welcoming atmosphere is never warmer than when the November snow is on the ground around Thanksgiving. Aside from hitting up all the year-round local attractions, such as the Baseball Hall of Fame and ancient Native American burial mounds and education centers around the area, you and the kids can enjoy fun and educational events targeted toward Thanksgiving visitors. Perhaps the best of these takes place on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, when the Farmers’ Museum invites guests, fresh from their 21st-century Turkey Day to come see how the holiday was celebrated in 1845, decades before Thanksgiving became a national holiday and when observance was irregular, local, and very homespun.
If the other cities in the Empire State passively offer fun attractions for you and your family on Thanksgiving, the city of Syracuse practically grabs you out of your vacation rental and carries you on a tour through the many events the town puts on from Thursday to Sunday of the holiday. Start the morning by heading out to Schiller Park for a 1.3-mile fun run. This turkey trot aims for a moderate, child-and-senior-friendly pace, and wraps up just in time for a zero-effort dinner at the Inns of Aurora, which lays out a lavish Thanksgiving spread of all the traditional dishes, including a pecan pie that will move you to poetry. If you’re in a fit state the next day at noon, try to make it to Genesee Street for the World’s Smallest Christmas Parade, set off by a live performance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, because it’s never too early for Christmas in Syracuse.
Speaking of early Christmas, the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday following Thanksgiving are practically slathered with tinsel in the small upstate burg of Ellicottville. Here, almost as soon as the Sun rises on Black Friday, Christmas carolers can be found roaming the streets in gangs, sometimes wielding live reindeer at passers-by. On Saturday, you and the children (or just you, if you want) can drop by the Village Center for breakfast with Santa, horse and wagon rides, and plenty of kids’ games and fun. Meet up with Santa again in the afternoon for a fire truck ride around town with a dozen kids who are having the time of their lives.
If you’re spending the holiday downstate, specifically near the north shore of Long Island, your Thanksgiving Thursday is likely to be a quiet affair with your family at your vacation rental in Riverhead. The next day, however, as the stores and malls of nearby NY City flood with bargain hunters, you and the kids can take it easy with a holiday open house at the Hallockville Museum Farm. This event features locally made arts and crafts,l as well as plenty of unique gifts and souvenirs you can pick up for the friends and family who couldn’t make the trip this year. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, your whole family can ride the town’s Polar Express trolley to a local “North Pole” to meet Santa, who is said to be busy gearing up for his big day in December. Kids can ask for exorbitant Christmas presents when they meet the elf himself, followed by a recorded narration of national treasure Liam Neeson reading the Polar Express on the ride back in.
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