America's 15 Best Small Towns for Thanksgiving

This year, we're thankful for small towns with big holiday charm.

thanksgiving small towns
Paul Costello

If you can't be home for the holiday, consider giving thanks in one of these sweet little hamlets known for great food, stunning foliage, and lots of fun. Between bonfires, horse and carriage rides, and early Christmas festivities, you'll be grateful you bypassed busy cities in favor of these charming small towns for Thanksgiving.

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fredericksburg texas small thanksgiving town
Getty ImagesStephen Saks
Fredericksburg, TX

Don't discount it based on size: There's always in this German town. Get a jump start on the festivities at the in nearby Luckenbach, TX (population 3!). Following the holiday, there's the Lighting of the German Christmas Pyramid and Community Christmas Tree, fall wine tasting at Texas Vineyards & Beyond, outdoor ice skating, a "Surfin' Christmas" Beach Boys tribute, holiday cookie decorating at the LBJ State Park, art and vino painting classes, and a Chef's Table dinner at Das Peach Haus.

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Katterskill Falls Autumn Panorama HDR
Getty Imageslightphoto
Windham, NY

Escape into the Catskill Mountains to catch the last of the fall foliage—and the start of ski season. There are so many great small towns scattered throughout this region that you really can't go wrong, but we'd recommend Windham in Greene County for its proximity to panoramic vistas and waterfalls.

Stay in an A-frame cabin at the trendy new (conveniently located in town) or for a more remote experience, check out nearby or . Hike to the incredible tiered Kaaterskill Falls (pictured), ski at or , and stop and see the sanctuary of native plants at .

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pioneer woman mercantile, pioneer woman, mercantile, the merc, shop, restaurant, guide, travel tips, food, shopping, ree drummond, ladd drummond, marlboro man, family business, pawhuska, oklahoma
Kerri Schreiber
Pawhuska, OK

You've probably used one or two of Pioneer Woman's recipes for holiday meals in the past. Why not trek to her hometown for a truly tasty Thanksgiving? While you're there, check out , stay at (if you can manage to get a reservation), and eat at the just-opened .

Beyond Food Network fame, Pawhuska also offers pretty wildlife (the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and Osage Hills State Park are favorites), as well as some good museums (Osage Tribal Museum and Osage County Historical Museum).

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orange va small town thanksgiving
Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr Creative Commons
Orange, VA

The sweet-sounding name is just the beginning of this town's appeal. With roots in the Civil War, Orange County is rich in history and beauty, making it an ideal fall destination. James Madison's six-mile boasts views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Montpelier house and slave cemetery, and the Madison family cemetery. There are a plethora of art centers and vineyards in the area, and just a ten-minute drive away, offers gardening classes (in November the specialties are Holiday Plants and Wreath Workshops).

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Holliwell Bridge, Winterset, Iowa, USA
Getty ImagesDanita Delimont
Winterset, Iowa

Nevermind the name: There's no better time to come see Winterset's famous Bridges of Madison County than fall, when the surrounding trees are in technicolor. Located just a short drive from Des Moines, the small town's other claim to fame is being the birthplace of John Wayne.

Catch the Festival of Lights the day after Thanksgiving. The kickoff to the holiday season also includes live music, a parade, a gingerbread house contest, caroling, luminaries, hot food and drinks, and Santa Claus. Like many small towns, Winterset hosts Small Business Saturday the weekend after Thanksgiving. Family-friendly activities include a pancake breakfast and horse and carriage rides through the historic courthouse square.

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laurel mississippi thanksgiving home town
Paul Costello
Laurel, MS

What better time to experience the small-town setting of HGTV's Home Town in real life than during the holiday season? Take a stroll downtown, on charming brick streets beneath string lights, stopping at storefronts, including show hosts Erin and Ben Napier's , for (the Saturday after Thanksgiving each year). Stay at or (the Napiers themselves renovated the bakery below), and make sure to check out the couple's favorite .

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cold spring new york fall
Jon Dawson/Flickr Creative Commons
Cold Spring, NY

For the best of both worlds, catch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, then escape to a quiet town upstate. Cold Spring is a quaint, historic village on the Hudson River, just 50 miles from Manhattan. Book a room at the vine-covered , the waterfront , or the impeccably designed in nearby Amenia.

Spend the weekend enveloped in the Hudson Valley's vivid fall foliage (hiking the is a local favorite), and shop for antiques on Main Street. The sculpture park , only a 30-minute drive away, is closed on Thanksgiving Day, but you can still see the exhibits (including our personal favorite, Maya Lin's ) any other time during the weekend.

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galena illinois thanksgiving town
Peter Ptschelinzew/Getty Images
Galena, IL

With its perfectly preserved 19th-century buildings, this Midwestern hamlet looks as if it's frozen in time. Fall brings an explosion of colors to the surrounding rolling hills and valleys, and starting around Thanksgiving, the area comes alive for the holidays. Take a , visit , and . But save enough time for some après-ski at .

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leavenworth washington christmastime
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Leavenworth, WA

Known for its iconic holiday celebrations, this West Coast town kicks off the festivities Thanksgiving weekend with , a Bavarian-style Christmas Markt. There's a lantern parade, entertainment, crafts, and St. Nicholas. Stay in a super-cute , , or , and eat Thanksgiving dinner at one of a few local restaurants that will be serving . You can take a , and treat yourself to a while you're at it. So very thankful, indeed.

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gatlinburg tennessee thanksgiving town
Danita Delimont/Getty Images
Gatlinburg, TN

Situated on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this small Southern destination is a picturesque place to celebrate your favorite fall holiday. Hole up in a cozy , or . Burn off that turkey and stuffing by , , or taking the aerial tramway to for ice skating, skiing, or snow tubing.

The week of Thanksgiving, visit the , hop aboard the , and pick up a few unique handmade gifts at the . Finally, cheers to another year of gratitude at one of the area .

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nubble lighthouse cape neddick york maine thanksgiving town
Betty Wiley/Getty Images
York, ME

Don't miss the annual lighting of the famous Nubble Lighthouse on the Saturday after Thanksgiving—complete with cookies, Christmas music, carolers, and of course, Santa Claus. Stay at ; book any two nights between November 19 and November 29, 2017 and receive 20 percent off the best available rates, $100 resort credit toward either the Thanksgiving buffet or the holiday pix fixe dinner.

Area restaurants serving traditional Thanksgiving dinner include , (New Castle, NH), (Cape Neddick, Maine), and (Ogunquit, ME). On Black Friday, get a jump-start on holiday shopping at , which kicks off its Holi-Deals that day. (Don't worry: With delightful decor and an on-site restaurant serving up delicious lobster bisque, BLTs, and more, it's actually a pleasant place to shop.) You could even take a class at the while you're there!

While you're in town, visit the public library's and the .

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mountain view arkansas thanksgiving town
Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
Mountain View, AR

just ranked a restaurant in this little Arkansas town in its list of the best places to eat Thanksgiving dinner in the country. At the Ozark Folk Center State Park, serves up a bountiful buffet of Southern fare for just $17—drinks included. But that's not the only reason to travel to "The Folk Music Capital of the World," as the town is known. Bordered by the Blue Mountain Range of the Ozark Mountains (which is how it got its name), Mountain View boasts , live folk music, and the incredible Blanchard Springs Caverns, where you can attend the annual "" starting Thanksgiving weekend. The cathedral-like acoustics of the cave results in the most heavenly holiday music.

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plimoth plantation plymouth massachusetts thanksgiving town
Alex Papa/Flickr Creative Commons
Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA

OK, so Plymouth, MA isn't really a small town, but we think Plimoth Plantation, a recreation of the original 17th Century colony, counts as such (and we couldn't very well leave out the most fitting Thanksgiving destination of all, could we?). For a historical holiday, walk around the English Village, the Plimoth Grist Mill, the Wampanoag Homesite, and more. There's even a reproduction of the Pilgrims' ship, called the Mayflower II.

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kiawah island south carolina thanksgiving towns
Bob Krist/Getty Images
Kiawah Island, SC

Located just 21 miles from downtown Charleston, the Sanctuary at in Kiawah Island, SC, knows how to do Thanksgiving. Choose between multiple Thanksgiving buffet offerings throughout the property (including one just for kids!), and don't miss an array of events (Pumpkin Hockey, painting in the park, bonfire and s'mores, and the Turkey Trot to name a few).

There's also live entertainment and exciting outdoor adventures fit for the whole family. The day after Thanksgiving, Kiawah Island Real Estate hosts a Party in the Park for property owners, complete with low-country food stations, games, and last year, a performance by Darius Rucker.

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estes park colorado thanksgiving town
Mark C Stevens/Getty Images
Estes Park, CO

If you're thankful for nature, why not spend Thanksgiving in the heart of Colorado's Rocky Mountains? Stay at the , near both the Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. Dine on the hotel's special Thanksgiving menu, and stretch your legs on a scenic hike. If hiking's not your thing, there's also fishing, rock climbing, biking, horseback-riding, aerial tramway tours, and more.

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