8 Cool Things You Can Actually Do on Thanksgiving Day


Something to be thankful for! The Washington, DC attractions that are open on Thanksgiving Day

If you like to stay active during the holidays, Thanksgiving can be a bit of a bummer. Many traditions involve sitting around, watching TV, and eating. Thankfully (see what we did there?), a Washington, DC Thanksgiving has plenty of options for those wanting to shake up their traditions. With so many iconic attractions open all year long (including Thanksgiving Day), avoid the “I’m bored” blues by exploring all there is to see and do in the District.

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Let your family experience a colonial holiday at Mount Vernon or sample an indigenous Thanksgiving dish at the National Museum of the Native Indian. If the crowds normally keep you away from the National Mall, take advantage of low attendance days to catch a peek of DC’s hottest exhibits. And for those looking for thrills and adventure, check out the snow tubing at Gaylord’s National Harbor or take a spin on Busch Garden’s epic roller coaster, Verbolten. Discovering how many cool attractions are actually open on Nov. 24 is something DMV residents should be thankful for.

Related: 9 Restaurants Serving Thanksgiving Dinner (Plus To-Go Options!)

Sneak in to DC’s Most Popular Exhibits

You’ll want to avoid the National Mall the day after Thanksgiving, when crowds are at an all time high. But, surprisingly, the Smithsonian museums are relatively quiet on Turkey Day, making it the ideal time to check out the most popular exhibits.

Make a bee-line for the newly renovated Air & Space with exciting new exhibits like the interactive “Walking on Other Worlds” where you can explore seven planets in seven minutes (don’t forget to hop on a flight simulator while you’re there), the Earthquake Simulator or the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History, take a stroll through The First Ladies’ Dresses at the National Museum of American History and share your own story and voice in the Reflection Booths at the National Museum of African American History.

Online: si.edu

Celebrate Native American Heritage 

Thanksgiving gatherings have been an Indigenous tradition for thousands of years. Pay tribute to the dishes and foods the Natives brought to the first Pilgrim Thanksgiving by dining at Mitsitma Cafe in the National Museum of the Native Indian. Voted best cafe in the District, this award-winning menu features native foods hailing from the Western Hemisphere. Explore classic dishes from The Plains, MesoAmerica, the Northern Woodlands and more.

Independence Ave. SW & 4th St. SW
National Mall
Online: mitsitamcafe.com

Spend the Day with Furry Friends

You can always rely on your furry friends! In addition to keeping the gates open on Thanksgiving, the National Zoo is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except Christmas). Admission is always free, but you do need timed tickets to enter. Check out our ultimate guide to the National Zoo here.

3001 Connecticut Ave. NW
Woodley Park
Online: nationalzoo.si.edu

Get a Historic Perspective 

We celebrate Thanksgiving as a country because George Washington declared it a national celebration in 1789! While the tradition did not immediately catch on with succeeding presidents, it was reinstated as a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Learn more about our first President’s contribution to turkey day as well as how it was celebrated during his time at Mount Vernon, the President’s home.

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy.
Mt Vernon, VA
Online: mountvernon.org

Related: 12 Independent Toy Stores in DC to Shop for Holiday Gifts

Be Thankful for DC’s Skyline

While the Washington Monument is technically taller, the Old Post Office may have the most impressive view in town since DC’s key icons, including the Washington Monument (also open on Thanksgiving) ,are all visible from this viewpoint. From an observation tower 270 ft. above the city, guests can also view the famous landmarks of Pennsylvania Ave. including the White House and the Capitol, and beyond. Tours operate from  9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The tower is free to visit and does not require advanced tickets, but get there early before the line becomes a holiday bore.

12th St. & Pennsylvania Ave.
Online: nps.gov/thingstodo/old-post-office-tower

Get Cultural at the Kennedy Center 

KC’s doors are open daily (including on Thanksgiving day) from noon-12 a.m. Explore the legacy of President Kennedy on the top floor of the Kennedy Center at  the newly opened Art & Ideals, a digitally-enhanced, immersive exhibit. Be sure to get your portraits sketched by the A1 exhibit; it’s a highlight for kids and adults alike! Also on exhibit is a pho If you’re looking for a theatrical experience, the only show running on Nov. 24 is Shear Madness, an interactive, improve based detective show that is best geared towards kids 13 & up (but all ages are welcome).

2700 F St. NW
Foggy Bottom
Online: kennedy-center.org


Take the Kids for a Spin 

Just three hours from downtown DC (yes, you can do it in a day!), Busch Garden’s Christmas Town offers something for everyone. Over 20 rides are open and operating, including three roller coasters, a Christmas train, bumper cars, tea cups, a spiraling drop tower and more. Fill your day with live entertainment featuring Celtic dancers, a stage performance of Scrooge, an ice-skating show and five more live acts.

And what would Christmas Town be without Santa? You can visit with the big man himself and get those Christmas lists in early! Christmas Town glows with over 10 million lights from 2-9 p.m. on Nov. 24

1 Busch Gardens Blvd.
Williamsburg, VA
Online: buschgardens.com

Related: 45+ Free Things to Do in the DMV All November Long

Head to the Harbor for Holiday Fun

When you want to check off your entire holiday bucket list in one fell swoop, head to next-door neighbor National Harbor. Gaylord National Harbor is home to the most holiday fun that can be found under one roof (or at least on a single property). Skate your way across the ice, slip and slide in ice bumper cars, soar down Snow Flow Mountain on an inner tube and check out ICE! featuring A Christmas Story. And if that’s not enough, there’s more! You can take your picture with Santa, listen to story time with Mrs. Clause, take a gingerbread decorating class and blast real snow snowballs at the Snow Factory.

Insider Tip: Go to the waterfront to check out the new 60-foot tree that dazzles with a synchronized light show every 30 minutes starting at sunset.

201 Waterfront St.
National Harbor, MD
Online: marriott.com













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