Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays of the year, especially when it comes to traveling. In 2017, a record-breaking number of people--more than 50 million--traveled more than 50 miles from their home to celebrate the holiday with friends and family.
Dealing with airport crowds or road traffic can be stressful, but being the host isn't always easy either. If you're welcoming friends and family, there can be a lot of pressure to make sure that they have a good trip and an exciting Thanksgiving weekend.
If you're hosting out-of-town guests for Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C., you'll want to be sure to show them the sites. There is so much to do in the DMV area, so a D.C. Thanksgiving should be memorable for everyone in your group.
Below, we're sharing our top picks for the best Thanksgiving weekend events for families.
1. Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot
An early morning turkey trot run is one of the best ways to kick off a Washington, D.C. Thanksgiving Day. It's always nice to get up and get some physical activity, and a turkey trot is also a great way to give back to the community.
In D.C., the Trot for Hunger begins Thanksgiving morning in Freedom Plaza. Registration fees go toward supporting efforts to end homelessness and hunger in the D.C. area.
The Trot for Hunger features a number of race options so that everyone in the group can participate at the level they are comfortable with. There is a 1-mile fun run for children under 10 years old, a timed 5K race, and an un-timed 5K race. Strollers and pets are allowed as well, making the race open to all.
2. See a Holiday Performance
Kick off the holiday season in D.C. Thanksgiving weekend by attending a family-friendly show at one of the area's many performing arts venues. Attending a live performance is always a special treat, but there is something about seeing a show during the holidays that makes it even more magical. Adults and children alike will be delighted by the outing, making this a great D.C. Thanksgiving weekend activity for visiting family and friends.
The Kennedy Center's calendar always features family-friendly options during the holidays. This year's lineup is no exception, as it includes the beloved story, Anastasia.
Other Thanksgiving weekend options include:
- Holiday family favorite, The Nutcracker is performed across many performing arts venues in the area. The Northern Virginia Ballet's performance takes place on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend at Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. If you have little ones in your crew, The Puppet Co's marionette version may be more your speed.
- Based on the hit Will Ferrell movie, Elf the Musical at Olney Theatre Center is a huge holiday hit with many shows already sold out.
- Based on the highly-acclaimed filmed, Billy Elliot the Musical at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA combines a dynamic score by the legendary Elton John with sensational dance to create a heartwarming and inspirational experience for the whole family.
- Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center is always a fun show to take out of town visitors and is sure to get everyone laughing. Save 50% off tickets.
- Lightwire Theatre: A Very Electric Christmas at Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, MD is a captivating show for all ages featuring electroluminescent artistry done in complete darkness.
- Best-selling author and illustrator Oliver Jeffer's beloved children's book about chasing your dreams comes to vivid life in How to Catch a Star in the Kennedy Center's Family Theater. This is a great option for families with younger children.
3. Get Tickets to the Washington Capitals Weekend Game
This year, one of the best things to do in D.C. is to see the Stanley Cup-winning Washington Capitals in action, and they are playing at home during Thanksgiving weekend. Football may be the traditional Thanksgiving sport, but the Caps are worth making an exception.
Even if you don't have avid sports fans in your group, this is still an activity worth making time for. The arena is in an exciting D.C. neighborhood, so when the group starts to get restless there are plenty of nearby activities.
4. Reston Holiday Parade
Many of the best November events in D.C. happen in the nearby Virginia or Maryland suburbs. The holiday weekend is a great time to get out and explore the entire DMV area, as there will be less cars on the road and fewer crowds on the Metro.
The Reston Holiday Parade happens on the Friday after Thanksgiving at Reston Town Center. It features balloons, performances, dancers, and special guests, and ends with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus. The parade takes place over a half-mile stretch of road, making it doable even for young kids with short attention spans.
When the parade is over, you and your group can grab a bite at one of the many restaurants in Reston Town Center to make the outing complete.
The parade begins at 11 a.m. on Friday, November 23rd.
5. Season's Greenings at the United States Botanic Gardens
During this Washington, D.C. Thanksgiving weekend, it's "all aboard" at the United States Botanic Gardens. Starting on Thanksgiving Day--November 22--and continuing through the end of the year, the annual holiday show, Season's Greenings is on display.
This year's showcase features plant-based recreations of iconic train stations from across the country, including New York City's Grand Central Station and St. Louis's Union Station. Plant-based replicas of well-known Washington, D.C. landmarks will also be on display.
With thousands of blooms, it's easy to spend an entire day exploring the United States Botanic Garden. The themed holiday show makes it even more fun, and the perfect thing to do during your D.C. Thanksgiving weekend.
6. ICE! at Gaylord National Resort
The Washington, D.C. Thanksgiving weather can be unpredictable at best. Sometimes it's as mild as a spring day, and sometimes it's snowing. If you want to be sure to get a festive blast of ice cold air, plan a trip to see ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort.
ICE! is an annual show and one of the most exciting family-friendly holiday events in the D.C. area. The Gaylord National Resort transforms with thousands of pounds of ice, creating a winter wonderland that will put your family in the holiday spirit.
The theme of this year's attraction is "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and fans of that holiday favorite won't be disappointed. Winter coats are available for loan so that guests can explore as long as they want without getting cold.
7. Tour Air Force One!
A full-size 747 replica of the President's airplane recently landed at National Harbor in Maryland! Step aboard for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to feel what it's like to travel around the world representing our country. You will get to see the conference room, kitchen, senior staff room, infirmary, Oval Office in the sky, and even the Presidential sleeping quarters. We can't think of a more uniquely D.C. experience to take your visiting Thanksgiving guests!
Ready to Spend a Fun Thanksgiving Weekend in D.C.?
It's always fun to have visitors in town for the holidays. You get to see friends and family who live far away, and you have an excuse to be a tourist in your own city! You can get out, explore, and do things you might usually take for granted.
Even if you aren't hosting guests, Thanksgiving in D.C. should be a fun time for your family. These activities will give you plenty to do, and plenty of reasons be thankful for where you live.
Looking for more family-friendly fun at unbeatable prices? Check out our Washington, D.C. deals and coupons.