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Thanksgiving in DC

Our guide to Thanksgiving in DC will help you find events, restaurants, and Turkey Day-themed films and songs

Admit it: You’re thankful not to be hosting this year’s family feud. Instead, gather the troops for a meal at one of these restaurants open on Thanksgiving, then go for a spin around our favorite ice-skating rinks. Those unable to avoid a tryptophan coma can simply curl up on the couch for a Turkey Day-inspired movie marathon.

When is Thanksgiving 2015?

Thanksgiving is held on the fourth Thursday in November. This year, Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 26, 2015.

Thanksgiving in DC

Restaurants open on Thanksgiving
Restaurants

Restaurants open on Thanksgiving

Get your fill of sweet potato bourbon mash, oyster stuffing and more at these restaurants open on Thanksgiving. Then waddle your way home (and onto the couch) for a heaping handful of Thanksgiving-themed films and Turkey Day tunes. You can always work off the damage later at ice-skating rinks around town.RECOMMENDED: DC Thanksgiving guide

Ice-skating rinks in DC
Things to do

Ice-skating rinks in DC

Whether you’re an aspiring Olympian or a cautious shuffler, we’ve got the ideal indoor or outdoor ice-skating rink for you. Whirl around the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden by fairy light, practice your figure eights in Georgetown and add the rest of the icy experiences to your holiday things-to-do list.

The best Thanksgiving movies
Movies

The best Thanksgiving movies

Save room for these delectable cinematic sides—the most excellent Thanksgiving movies to finish off your feast

Thanksgiving songs
Music

Thanksgiving songs

Nothing says muchas gracias like a song. For Turkey Day, we count down the 20 best Thanksgiving songs.

Sights and attractions

Jefferson Memorial
Attractions

Jefferson Memorial

FDR promoted this 1943 shrine to the founder of his Democratic Party, balancing that to the Republicans’ icon, Lincoln. Roosevelt liked it so much he had trees cleared so he could see it from the Oval Office. John Russell Pope designed an adaptation (sneered at by some as "Jefferson’s muffin") of the Roman Pantheon that the architect Jefferson so admired. It echoes the president’s designs for his home, Monticello, and for his rotunda at the University of Virginia. The Georgia marble walls surrounding Jefferson’s 19ft likeness are inscribed with his enduring words. Alas, the 92-word quote from the Declaration of Independence contains 11 spelling mistakes and other inaccuracies.

White House
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White House

Part showplace, part workplace, probably one of the world’s most-recognized buildings, it’s hard to imagine now that until the 20th century the public could walk in freely, and the grounds remained open until World War II. Today, visitors simply get to peek at a scant eight rooms out of the house’s 132, and with little time to linger (the tour can take as little as 20 minutes). The public tour is self-guided (though highly regimented) and there’s not much in the way of interpretation, but the nation proudly clings to keeping its leader’s residence open to the public. 

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Arlington National Cemetery
Attractions

Arlington National Cemetery

It is the right of anyone killed in action in any branch of military service, or who served for 20 years, to be buried at Arlington, along with their spouse. It’s ironic, then, that the cemetery started almost as an act of Civil War vengeance: in 1861 Union forces seized the estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and in 1864 they began burying soldiers close enough to Arlington House to make sure that Mr. and Mrs. Lee could never take up residence again. However, time has worked its healing magic and transformed Arlington into a place of honor and memory.

Martin Luther King Memorial
Attractions

Martin Luther King Memorial

It’s been a long time coming, but African-Americans have finally found their place on the National Mall. The National Museum of African American History & Culture is set to open in 2015, and the Martin Luther King Memorial was dedicated in late 2011—the result of years of campaigning and fundraising. On the south-west of the Mall, with an official address—1964 Independence Avenue—that references the year of the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the location was chosen to create a symbolic, visual "line of leadership" with the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that King made his legendary "I have a dream" speech in 1963 at the culmination of the March on Washington. 

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National museums

National Museum of the American Indian
Museums

National Museum of the American Indian

Dedicated to America’s colonized and historically abused indigenous people, the National Museum of the American Indian is the most recent addition to the Mall’s museum ring—a status it will lose once the National Museum of African American History Culture opens. The structure was designed by a Native American team; the building is as much a part of the message as the exhibits. The details are extraordinary: dramatic, Kasota limestone-clad undulating walls resemble a wind-carved mesa; the museum’s main entrance plaza plots the star configurations on 28 November 1989, the date that federal legislation was introduced to create the museum. Top exhibit: The wide array of ceremonial garments, from headdresses to bead-adorned moccasins. Carve out: 3 hours. The museum holds over 825,000 items, so you’ll want to take your time. Allot at least three hours—which should include a bite at the Mitsitam Native Foods Café, a stunning collection of dishes inspired by indigenous cuisines.

National Air & Space Museum
Museums

National Air & Space Museum

Air & Space tops visitors’ to-do list, year in, year out. The imposing Tennessee marble modernist block, by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, incorporates three skylit, double-height galleries, which house missiles, aircraft and space stations. In the central Milestones of Flight hall, towering US Pershing-II and Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles stand next to the popular moon rock station, where visitors can stroke a lunar sample acquired on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. The 1903 Wright Flyer—the first piloted craft to maintain controlled, sustained flight (if only for a few seconds)—and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis are both suspended here. Top exhibit: Permanent exhibitions in the museum detail the history of jet aviation, space travel and satellite communications. The one most worthy of your time? A test model of the Hubble Space Telescope, which is currently orbiting in space taking snap-shots of the Universe.Carve out: 3-4 hours. You’ll want to take your time here (plus, crowds can be overwhelming.) We recommend three to four hours, plus a swing by the gift shop for some astronaut ice cream.

Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center
Museums

Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center

The impressive annex to the National Air and Space Museum is home to hordes of space and aviation artifacts, including the restored Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. It’s perhaps more for the adult aviation enthusiast than its counterpart on the National Mall—but kids will still get a kick out of the sheer spectacle of the exhibits on display here. Plus, there’s a flight simulator that kids and the young-at-heart will get a kick out of. Top exhibit: The space shuttle Discovery, which has a hangar just about all to itself. Can you believe that thing has been to outer space and back? Carve out: 2 hours. It’s smaller than the one on the National Mall and there’s not much else to see nearby.

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

The continuing transformation of the National Museum of American History led to the closing of the west wing for renovation in 2012. Now that it’s re-opened, hordes of visitors seem to be making up for lost time. A first-stage renovation (completed 2008) created a central atrium, a grand staircase, ten-foot artifact walls on the first and second floors, as well as a dedicated Star-Spangled Banner gallery. Floors are organized around loose themes, allowing a huge diversity of exhibits to tell American stories in an entertaining and informative manner. Top exhibit: Do we have to pick just one? We’re torn between the dresses of the First Ladies and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. Oh! And there’s Julia Child’s actual kitchen and a Dumbo car from Disneyland’s Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride. Carve out: 3 hours. At least—maybe longer if you’re with wee ones.

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