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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

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. Must-see: 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.

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3 out of 5 stars
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National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art

Comprised of two separate buildings connected by a trippy underground moving walkway, the National Gallery of Art is a world-class museum with artwork from around the globe that spans decades. The West Building highlights European and American art from the 13th to the early 20th centuries, as well as Spanish, Dutch, Flemish, French and German works from the 17th century. The East Building represents more current work, including a skylit atrium that houses a 32-foot long still mobile by Alexander Calder. And don’t miss the sculpture garden, a six-acre square across 7th Street the includes a Louise Bourgeois 10-foot bronze spider and a pyramid by Sol LeWitt. Must-see: Leonardo da Vinci’s almond-eyed portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, the only work of the artist in the Western Hemisphere. Carve out: 3 hours. Which gives you 1.5 hours in each building.

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5 out of 5 stars
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National Museum of African American History and Culture
Things to do

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The newest addition to the Mall, this eight-story museum continuously draws huge crowds. In other words, it might be hard to gain admittance. The reverential collection pays tribute to the historical figures, moments and events that shaped the African American experience. Exhibits are thorough and plentiful (to truly experience it would take days) and the cafeteria, Sweet Home Cafe, caught the eyes of the James Beard Foundation, which named it a semi-finalist in the best new restaurant category in 2017. Must-see: The Musical Crossroads exhibit, which has a pair of shoes owned by Sammy Davis Jr. along with Chuck Berry’s cherry red Cadillac. Carve out: 3 hours at least to explore 85,000 square feet of exhibition space which holds nearly 3000 objects.

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. Must-see: 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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4 out of 5 stars
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