If your Thanksgiving feast includes turkey, cornbread, pumpkin, squash, and beer, you’re eating a pretty similar meal to that enjoyed during the first celebratory meal shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe in 1621. Visitors to Plimoth Plantation, a living-history museum near the original site of the Plymouth Colony, can still enjoy a traditional meal on Thanksgiving each year, as can those who find themselves in several U.S. National Parks — including some with no obvious historical connection to the holiday.
Zion Lodge in Zion National Park, for example, throws a popular Thanksgiving feast each year — a giant buffet starring roasted free-range turkey, ham, and roast beef, winter squash, candied yams, and of course pumpkin pie for dessert. Similarly, the Skyline Lodge in Shenandoah National Park invites guests to indulge in a buffet of turkey, vegetable lasagna, baked haddock, or cider-glazed pork loin. The Furnace Creek resorts in Death Valley National Park also have special Thanksgiving menus, along with the resorts in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and other national parks that attract fall visitors.
As for Black Friday, swap your shopping bags for backpacks and head outdoors: admission to Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park is free on Friday, as is entry to every state park in California, Minnesota, and Oregon. The Thanksgiving sized generosity is inspired in part by REI’s wildly successful #OptOutside campaign, which encourages Americans to head outside rather than to the mall on Black Friday. All REI stores are closed on Friday, but if you live in Arizona you can get a free pass to that state’s parks by dropping by a local store between now and Wednesday.
If you want your Thanksgiving with a more historical flavor, head to Virginia, where Colonial Williamsburg and Colonial National Historic Park (including Jamestown and Yorktown) help celebrate the first permanent English settlement in the New World as well as the decisive battle of the American Revolution — good cause for celebration, indeed!
(Plimouth Plantation photo © Svetland/CC by ND 2.0; Olympic National Park photo © Miguel Vieira/CC by 2.0; wild turkey photo © Olin Gilbert/CC by 2.0)