Home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and an array of big cities, Tennessee is the ideal place to spend Thanksgiving. During late November, crowds are minimal, and the weather is still mild enough to enjoy the outdoors, including hiking in Cades Cove or enjoying the views from Laurel Falls. Look for vacation rentals in Tennessee near these Thanksgiving destinations.

1. Donate Time to a Rescue Mission in Nashville

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for everything you have. It’s also an excellent time to help others who may not have the same advantages. Take part in the Nashville Rescue Mission’s annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet, and help prepare and serve meals to more than 6,000 homeless people. Afterwards, go on a Thanksgiving hike to burn off some calories. Groups meet at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall Visitor’s Center to explore one of the nearby parks. Guides teach you about the forced removal of Cherokee people and point out spots of interest. Enjoy hot chocolate and cider at the end of each trip.

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2. Attend the Winterfest at Graceland in Memphis

graceland memphis tennessee
Source: Flickr/Kees Wielemaker

Walk the halls where Elvis Presley lived at Graceland in Memphis, and then spend the weekend enjoying all of the festivities. Winterfest Weekend at Graceland includes a tree-lighting ceremony, plenty of arts and crafts, and food vendors lining the streets. Enjoy a turkey dinner with sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and all the trimmings at the Capriccio Grill, and then attend the Song of the Season Concert at the Orpheum Theater.

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3. Chow Down at the Thanksgiving Buffet in Gatlinburg

Source: Pixabay/kaboompics

Every year, the ski resort at Ober Gatlinburg hosts a Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy a buffet of turkey, ham, pies, and a host of other fixings. Afterwards, hit the slopes and go cross-country skiing or enjoy tubing with the kids. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping at the Great Smoky Mountain Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.

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4. Experience the First Thanksgiving in Knoxville

Ramsey House
Source: Flickr/DM

Find out what it was like to attend the first Thanksgiving in the United States at the annual reenactment at the Ramsey House Plantation. You can also stay for the war reenactment, learn how to make wreaths, and take pictures on the beautiful grounds. Spend the night at your vacation rental, and then head to the Knoxville Center Mall for Black Friday deals. Take part in the Ho-Ho-Hoedown in downtown on Friday night, and stay for the lighting of the tree ceremony in Krutch Park.

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5. Enjoy a Thanksgiving Day Hike in Greenfield

Source: Pixabay/happyelli

Celebrate Thanksgiving by joining a guided hike. Head to the Big Cypress Tree State Natural Area and walk with others on the boardwalk. Learn about the history of the area, including tales of Davy Crockett’s travels through Tennessee. The park has a picnic area, so be sure to bring leftovers, and a playground for kids to burn off energy. Afterwards, take a scenic ride along the Cotton Junction Trail that features a variety of craft stores, museums, and overlooks.

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6. Show Your Gratitude at the Grateful Gobbler Walk in Chattanooga

Coolidge Park Carousel
Source: Flickr/DM

Before having your Thanksgiving meal with family, spend the morning raising money for the homeless at the Grateful Gobbler Walk. This 5K event takes place in Coolidge Park, which has a carousel for the kids to ride, and there are prizes and refreshments for participants. If you prefer something a bit more fast-paced, consider the Sports Barn Turkey Trot at the Sports Barn East. Events include a 5-mile run, a 3-mile run, a 1-mile run and a kiddie walk. All proceeds go to the Kidney Foundation. For dinner, make reservations at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Restaurant.

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7. Train for the Indian Lake Loop Marathon in Hendersonville

Hendersonville Tennessee
Source: Flickr/Chip

The Indian Lake Loop Marathon provides an excellent way to be active and stay in shape over the holidays. This noncompetitive 5K event takes place on the streets of Indian Lake. All participants receive some swag and all proceeds go to benefit the Compass Mission to help strengthen Sumner County Schools. Reward yourself by signing up for the annual Cake Wake at Memorial Park, with donations from local bakers to raise funds for the Edison School. You’ll also find other food vendors, bouncy houses, and live entertainment. Stop by Bluegrass Meadows, home of Johnny Cash, to see the place lit up with Christmas lights.

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8. Attend Winterfest in Pigeon Forge

Get in the holiday spirit with a trip to Pigeon Forge for Thanksgiving. Winterfest starts in early November and lasts until the end of the year. Attend Thanksgiving dinner at the Alamo Steakhouse or Mama’s Farmhouse, then make reservations to see one of the shows like the Dixie Stampede or the Black Bear Christmas Spectacular. Attend the nightly parades downtown, or shop for Black Friday Deals at the Three Bears General Store or the Country Barn Gift Shop. Dollywood provides plenty of entertainment options for the weekend, including the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival from November until January 1. View over four million Christmas lights, and attend the shows and the nightly Christmas parade.

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9. Sign up for the BroDash in Murfreesboro

Source: Pixabay/maxxman

Step back in time to the small town of Murfreesboro for a 4-mile walk and run event through historic downtown. The event raises money for various charities in the area. Afterwards, take the family for dinner at the Farmer’s Family Restaurant or the Gondolier, and then learn some history of the region with a stop at the Stones River National Battlefield or the Cannonsburgh Historic Village.

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