14 Epically Cheap Thanksgiving Weekend Destinations

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An open road in the mountains during the weekend after Thanksgiving.
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It’s officially November! When all of our minds shift from toothy jack-o’-lanterns to tender Thanksgiving turkeys. 

But once you’ve had your fill of mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and remarks from that racist uncle who still uses the word “Indians” to describe Native Americans, you’ll realize that the weekend after Thanksgiving offers a great opportunity: Namely, to escape! 

With Thursday off, the potential for a four-day weekend provides a big opportunity to travel. 

So, this Black Friday, would you rather be waiting in line at Best Buy or exploring someplace new and awesome? We’re gonna bet on the latter. And here’s an added bonus — you can find crazy deals on travel, too!

That’s where Wanderu comes in. With the cheapest prices on buses, trains and flights across North America (and Europe!), Wanderu is the best place to book your post-Thanksgiving travel plans. 

Using our data to track the most popular Thanksgiving weekend destinations from the past few years, we’ve created a list of the top 14 places you should be considering. To home in on a specific region, just click one in the table below:

Or care to see them all? Scroll down for a look at the full spread. 

EAST

Washington, DC

Photo of a brick street in Washington, DC in the fall.

Fresh off a victory in baseball’s fall classic, DC is a winning destination when autumn roles around.

Anyone going to the District is familiar with its impressive museum lineup, headlined by those of the Smithsonian Institution (all of which are free!). Our fav: The National Portrait Gallery. Sure, you’ve seen those beautiful paintings of the Obamas before, but the gallery also features an in-memoriam exhibit on Toni Morrison (through 2020), and an exhibit on women of the Civil War (through 2022). For a full guide to free activities in D.C., check out our complete guide.

History buffs and holiday travelers alike should consider taking in a play at Ford’s Theatre. You know it as the site of Lincoln’s assassination, but we promise the modern-day version is more merry than morbid — post-Thanksgiving, you can expect to catch a performance of “A Christmas Carol.”

Book Your Trip:

Richmond, VA

Photo of the Old Main Train Station in Richmond, Virginia.

Lying only a stone’s throw (well, 117 miles, but who’s counting?) from the nation’s capital is the real hidden gem of the Mid-Atlantic: Richmond. 

Bundle up for a walk around Maymont Mansion’s gorgeous grounds, or warm up with a tour inside the residence itself. Completed in 1893, the gargantuan house has 33 impressively decorated rooms. Or, channel your Yuletide spirit at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, which kicks off its Gardenfest of Lights the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. 

For those hungry for some history (though, frankly, we don’t know how you’re hungry for anything after all that stuffing), Richmond’s Museum District features the Edgar Allan Poe, American Civil War, and Virginia Holocaust museums. Nobody said vacation couldn’t be informative, and Virginia’s museum lineup will make sure yours is full of food for thought.

Book Your Trip:

Bus tickets to Richmond Starting at $1.00
Train tickets to Richmond Starting at $10.00

Tampa, FL

While most of the cities on this list provide a classic fall getaway, complete with crisp breeze and cool air, Tampa is an option for those travelers who want to spend Black Friday weekend in a bikini. 

Take advantage of the warm weather with a day at Busch Gardens, where you can get Disney World–level entertainment for a fraction of the price and wait time. At this time of year, the theme park gets turned into Christmas Town, complete with Santa and a sing-along train.

And while most football stadiums aren’t on their city’s must-see list, let’s just say Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is not like most stadiums. Think you’ve seen it all when it comes to stadiums? You’ll think again as you gape at the 103-foot concrete pirate ship that looms atop Tampa’s home field. And to top that off, the ship’s cannons fire every time the Bucs score a touchdown.

Plus: The venue isn’t just for football — maybe there’s a concert coming to town that plays your tune.

Book Your Trip:

Bus tickets to Tampa Starting at $1.00
Train tickets to Tampa Starting at $10.00

Burlington, VT

Photo of the University of Vermont in autumn.

While Boston, Providence and Portland might be the main cities that come to mind when you think New England, Burlington is truly the Northeast’s “diamond in the rough.” 

Every Burlington visitor should be sure to hike through Camel’s Hump State Park. Even in late November temps, hiking to the peak of the hump (a generations-long tradition among University of Vermont students) is sure to be worth the effort. 

And to relax after that killer calf workout, we’d recommend grabbing a table at Bluebird Barbecue. Sure, Vermont isn’t exactly a barbecue mecca, but after a plate of Bluebirds’ brisket you’ll be ready to call it one!

Finally, if you get a kick out of culture, then on Saturday night you can catch a performance of The Nutcracker at the Flynn Center, a yearly tradition.

Book Your Trip:

Niagara Falls, NY

Photo of the roaring waterfall at Niagara Falls.

Sure, you’ve seen Niagara Falls on Google Earth a million times, as well as in that episode of “The Office” about Jim and Pam’s wedding. And while it’s definitely a natural wonder, the town next to those falls is a great time in its own right. 

Obviously, any visit to this upstate gem starts at the Falls themselves. (Remember to bring a thick coat — it’s November, after all.) But once you’ve taken in the natural beauty, we recommend a warm apple fritter at Frankie’s Donuts, a local institution. Open 24 hours, this Niagara staple is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth no matter the time of day (or night). 

And finally, for those travellers who favor some higher-stakes fun, Niagara also features the Seneca Niagara Casino. With an award-winning hotel, a casino floor the size of three football fields and nine restaurants attached, it’s sure to thrill those who decide to make the trip.

On Friday night, catch the Winter Fireworks Series, spectacular as they gleam over the illuminated Falls.

Book Your Trip:

Cambridge, MA

Photo of the John Harvard statue in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Home to educational meccas like Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge feels like Boston’s more put-together older sibling. (#adulting?)

While these prestigious institutions are pretty cool, we understand if you’re not looking to go back to school on your weekend trip. So instead of taking a walk through campus, why not hit up Harvard’s Museum of Natural History, packed with taxidermied animals from New England’s forests and beyond.

Follow it up with a walk from Harvard Square, brightly illuminated for the holidays, up to Cambridge Common. And once you’re hungry, indulge in a meal at notorious local brunch spot The Friendly Toast. From breakfast staples like eggs benedict to some more eclectic options (breakfast lo mein, anyone?), this Cambridge hotspot is sure to show you a great meal.

And if you want to see something really cool? MIT is hosting its annual after-Thanksgiving Chain Reaction Event, where you can watch a giant Rube Goldberg machine live at the school’s Rockwell Cage.

Book Your Trip:

Bus tickets to Cambridge Starting at $5.00
Train tickets to Boston Starting at $14.00

CENTRAL

Louisville, KY

A horse race at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

The crown jewel of the Bluegrass State, Louisville offers just about everything a visitor could ask for — from booze to barbecue and beyond.

For those who enjoy a day at the track, Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby, hosts horse races every day of Thanksgiving weekend, including races that start as early as 11:30 a.m. on Turkey Day. (You know, if you want to skip that trip home altogether.) If picking the ponies isn’t your poison, you can also visit the Kentucky Derby Museum.

And for some good old fashioned Kentucky fun, we’d recommend sampling some local bourbon. Whether it’s Evan Williams, Angel’s Envy or Bulleit, the Derby City has a deep roster of distilleries to show visitors a great time.

Book Your Trip:

Cincinnati, OH

Photo of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cincinnati is an underrated destination, dense with excellent architecture, entertainment and … pork? Porkopolis, as the city is nicknamed, has the nightlife of a major city with the low prices prevalent throughout much of the Midwest. 

Make it to town in time for Macy’s Light Up the Square on Friday (an annual event — Macy’s is HQ’d in Cincy). It marks the opening of a giant skate rink in downtown’s Fountain Square, alongside a Christkindlmarkt and tree lighting.

And no joke: Statistically, Cincy is the second-cheapest drinking city in the U.S., and the fourth-best craft beer city, meaning you really can’t go wrong. As for where to imbibe, we recommend Rhinegeist Brewery for the beer, Queen City Radio for the atmosphere, and Lost & Found for the cocktails. And if you need something solid to mix with all the suds, try a local favorite — Cincinnati–style chili (chili on spaghetti, topped with a mountain of cheddar cheese) at local chain Skyline

To get your mind working as hard as your stomach, we recommend taking a stroll through a couple of trademark Cincinnati museums. At the top of our list: the American Sign Museum for a more lighthearted experience, while the Underground Railroad Freedom Center will no doubt move you with its intensely powerful exhibitions. 

Book Your Trip:

Springfield, IL

Photo of Abraham Lincoln's grave in Springfield, IL.

Next we arrive in the land of Lincoln (not to be confused with the city of Lincoln, which you’ll read about soon). The Abraham Lincoln Museum gets decked out with holiday decor, so don’t miss a chance to see how Honest Abe would’ve celebrated the season.

Unfortunately, as far as we know, this Springfield doesn’t have a Krusty Burger. What it does have are Nutella Poppers (served at Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery), all-you-can-eat brunch (Mariah’s Steakhouse & Pasta), and one of the best classic diners in the country (Charlie Parker’s). In short, you’ll be eating very well on your visit to Springfield, a city that is, coincidentally, home to the world’s largest fork. 

To help digest that second plate you had at brunch, take a ride through the Fantastic Caverns. With naturally formed floor-to-ceiling columns, cave pearls and more, these are the only caverns of their kind in North America, and one of only four such caverns in the world, making them a must-see on your post-Thanksgiving escapade.

Book Your Trip:

Lincoln, NE

Photo of a monument in Lincoln, Nebraska.

If you’ve seen the classic Jim Carrey movie Yes Man, you know that even last-minute trips to Lincoln can be a ton of fun. But to get the absolute most out of your weekend in the Cornhusker State, scope out the main attractions first.

Which we’re happy to do for you. Kick off your holiday shopping at A Very Vintage Christmas Market, open over the weekend with classic gifts available from dozens of high-quality vendors. 

Then hit the Nebraska State Museum, where exhibits cover every aspect of the state’s history, from prehistoric times to its extensive Native American roots to today. And if you’re a sports fan, seeing University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium is an absolute must. It has been nicknamed the “Sea of Red,” and once you feel that tidal wave of energy at a Huskers home game, we’re sure you’ll understand why. 

For more fun in the NU neighborhood, stop in at LeadBelly. With a wide selection of beers on tap and a lengthy list of loaded burger options, LeadBelly is sure to leave visitors full and happy. (Not that you weren’t full enough after Thanksgiving but, you know. Burgers.),

Book Your Trip:

Bus tickets to Lincoln Starting at $1.00
Train tickets to Lincoln Starting at $12.00

WEST

Portland, OR

While you might know the City of Roses for keeping the dream of the 90s alive, you might not know that it’s a seriously awesome place to spend the weekend after Thanksgiving. 

For starters, Rip City is one of the top five cities in the United States for fall outdoor activities, so be sure to pack your hiking boots. Vast Forest Park — 5,200 acres of Oregon woodland with 80 miles of trails, sitting just to the west of downtown — is one of the biggest urban forests in the country. 

And while we don’t necessarily recommend a visit to the artisanal knot store, we will recommend a trip to The Grotto. Taking a stroll through The Grotto’s 62 acres of botanical gardens and marvelling at more than 100 statues is sure to put your mind at ease on this weekend getaway — especially if you’re looking for some holiday spirit, as the spectacular Christmas Festival of Lights will doubtless get you in the mood. 

Book Your Trip:

Bus tickets to Portland Starting at $1.00
Train tickets to Portland Starting at $5.00

Oakland, CA

Photo of Oakland at sunset.

Oaktown, historically, has one of the most temperate climates in the United States — ideal for after-Thanksgiving excursions into nature — but did you know it’s also one of the West Coast’s top craft beer cities? And, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, the Athens of the Pacific is also the best city in the country for fall outdoor activities. So bring your knit cap, your Camelbak and prepare to hit the trails!

Forget Black Friday: Oakland hosts Plaid Friday, which encourages shoppers to hit up local businesses instead of big-box stores. Do yourself a favor and peruse boutiques in hip shopping neighborhoods Rockridge, Temescal and Grand Lake.

To round out your trip, we recommend grabbing a bite (or five) at Shakewell, a stellar spot with a menu that features wood-oven paella, pork shoulder and everything in between. So why not treat yourself a bit? It’s Thanksgiving time, after all.

Book Your Trip:

Bus tickets to Oakland Starting at $6.00
Train tickets to Oakland Starting at $3.50

Spokane, WA

Photo of a waterfall in Spokane, Washington.

When you think Washington state, you probably think of Seattle. But for some of The Evergreen State’s true must-sees, you’ll have to follow the yellow brick road beyond the Emerald City. Specifically: to Spokane. 

This year, Clark Griswold himself, Chevy Chase, is hosting a screening of Christmas Vacation on Saturday at the Martin Woldson Theater — almost as exciting as a Jelly of the Month Club subscription. 

Want to try some world-renowned wine? Sip savory and sweet vintages atop a 450-foot cliff at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, an experience sure to make you wonder why you ever drank at ground level. And once you’ve had your fill of vino, take a stroll to see Spokane Falls. Sure, it’ll be a bit nippy, but the majesty of a waterfall isn’t confined to any one season. 

Spokane is also home to gorgeous Gonzaga University. So while you’re in the neighborhood, why not tour campus and try to catch a Bulldogs game?

Book Your Trip:

Bus tickets to Spokane Starting at $10.00
Train tickets to Spokane Starting at $13.00

Sacramento, CA

A photo of fall in Sacramento, CA.

Sacramento is the capital of The Golden State, nestled just an hour outside of Cali’s wine country. (And coincidentally, or not, has the cheapest wine in the entire U.S.

So, what makes this NoCal city an epic spot for post-Thanksgiving travel?

For starters, the Old Sacramento Waterfront offers a relaxing walk into California’s past. An ode to the state’s gold-rush roots, old Sactown will certainly take you back in time, with excellent shopping and dining alongside attractions like the California State Railroad Museum and the Huntington & Hopkins Hardware store (which looks like it was pulled from a “Red Dead Redemption” campaign).

And those eager to dive directly into Christmas Carols can celebrate: Trans-Siberian Orchestra is performing on Saturday at the Golden1Center, a show that’s sure to jingle-bell rock your socks off.

Book Your Trip:

So, sure, you’re still pretty full after that Thanksgiving feast — but even so, we implore you, don’t stay at home with the leftovers this long weekend. We promise, the rest of that green bean casserole can wait till you get back. Instead, loosen your belt and seek out some place interesting, like the 14 locations listed above. 

And when it comes to booking your tickets, try browsing the travel options on Wanderu. Whether your destination is reachable by bus, train or plane, you can compare ticket prices in the same search to find the very best deals. (Which, we promise, will be more rewarding than a Black Friday weekend doorbuster.) Book on Wanderu.com, or on your mobile device with the Wanderu app.

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About the author
Tom Gambardella

Tom Gambardella

While originally from the New York area, Tom has found himself in travel spots all over the world. Whether he's living it up in the big city or taking in the sights of a countryside, you can probably find him near the food.