Thanksgiving in DC

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

turkey

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
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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.

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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 Air & Space Museum

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. Carve out 3-4 hours and don't miss the test model of the Hubble Space Telescope, which is currently orbiting in space taking snap-shots of the universe. 

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National Museum of African American History and Culture
Things to do

National Museum of African American History and Culture

This museum has drawn huge crowds ever since its addition to the Mall in 2016, and visits during the summer or on weekends still require free timed admission tickets. Its impressively vast collection is presented with bleeding-edge innovations in exhibit design. The four stories above street level represent only half of the museum; four below-grade floors provide a sprawling, impressive chronological journey of the moments and events that have shaped African American history since the country’s founding. Comfortable shoes are a must for visitors who want to try to experience it all—including Chuck Berry’s cherry red Cadillac. 

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

A perfect mix of old-meets-new museum design, the Museum of Natural History boasts longtime favorites like The Hope Diamond, which has been drawing crowds for over sixty years, and state of the art exhibits like the Hall of Mammals. The newly renovated Hall of Fossils is a must-see, if you can manage to view it off peak times. Dinosaur fossils are posed interacting with each other, even engaged in life-and-death battles, which aids imagining these creatures in living and breathing full motion. 

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Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Despite being split between two buildings and its prime location on the mall, this museum is easy to overlook. The Sackler building in particular seems like a small, one-story room, but step inside and you’ll discover multiple below-grade floors packed with an impressive array of Asian art, and a passageway to the larger and airy Freer gallery. The museum started with Charles Lang Freer’s private collection of art, and its crown jewel is The Peacock Room, a dining room decorated by James McNeill Whistler and stocked with a gorgeous array of porcelain. The room was disassembled and recreated piece by piece in the Freer Gallery in 1923.

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