The best places in New England to visit around Thanksgiving

If you go, heed all COVID-19 guidelines from state and local officials.

Plimoth Patuxet in Plymouth in 2017. Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe, File

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many New Englanders will remain close to home this Thanksgiving, where there’s plenty of historic and festive towns worth exploring.

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“Family gatherings around the dinner table are a big feature of the Thanksgiving holiday tradition, and while things may look different this year, there are still opportunities to make new and lasting memories,” Keiko Matsudo Orrall, executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, said in an email. “Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate and reflect upon American history, and Massachusetts has a lot to offer.”

The following 10 New England cities and towns are especially interesting around the Thanksgiving holiday, New England travel experts said. All COVID-19 travel restrictions must be followed when crossing state lines, and be sure to heed guidance from local officials as well.

Spend time in Plymouth, where it began

“Plymouth holds an important place in American history: the first Thanksgiving in the new world was celebrated between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags in 1621,” Orrall said. “Plymouth’s annual Thanksgiving Parade is cancelled this year, but Plymouth remains a destination for people seeking to be inspired by the birth of America.” You can check out the following Plymouth landmarks: Plymouth Rock, the National Monument to the Forefathers, and the Massasoit Statue overlooking Plymouth Harbor. Also worth visiting: Plimoth Patuxet Museums, formerly Plimoth Plantation, a living history village that tells the story of 17th century life between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags. Here are the museum’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and the state’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Walk America’s oldest working farm in Ipswich

At Appleton Farms, America’s oldest working farm, you’ll discover trails, livestock, and a farm store, Ann Marie Casey, executive director of the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in an email. Ipswich also boasts the most First Period houses (1625-1725) of any town in the U.S., according to Casey, so “you can feel like an early settler walking through its quaint downtown.” Other spots worth checking out: 1634 Meadery, Ipswich Ale Brewery, and the grounds of Crane Estate at Castle Hill, which Casey called “a spectacular spot to take in the marshes and beach alongside a film-worthy historic mansion.” Here are the farm’s COVID-19 safety guidelines as well as the Massachusetts COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Wander through a 19th century New England village in Sturbridge

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time at Sturbridge Village, which Orrall called “a fascinating facsimile of a 19th century New England village, evoking that sense of Yankee ingenuity and self-sufficiency that characterize our region when it was still largely agricultural.” Kids are admitted free at Sturbridge Village through Nov. 28, which is the last date of daytime programming before evening holiday programming begins on Nov 29. Check out the COVID-19 safety guidelines and the Massachusetts COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Bike the Province Lands Bike Trail in Provincetown

Those seeking outdoor adventure will find plenty of inspiration in Provincetown on the Cape, where the Mayflower pilgrims landed four centuries ago, Bill DeSousa, publicist for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said via email. “At Thanksgiving, remote Provincetown’s ‘small town’ feeling — especially during the pandemic — makes visitors feel safe,” DeSousa said. Visitors can bike the Province Lands Bike Trail, visit Herring Cove and Race Point beaches, follow the stony breakwater to Long Point and stroll Commercial Street, full of shops, restaurants, and art galleries. View Massachusetts COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Spend the day shopping and picnicking in Beverly

Beverly has lots of “funky shops and galleries” that are great for holiday shoppers, and participating downtown businesses will be distributing free “Shop Small” tote bags on Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28, Casey said. Guests will find many restaurants offering takeout and outside dining as well, she said. You can bring food to Lynch Park, the former summer home of President Taft, which has elaborate gardens, a playground, and is the “perfect place for a picnic,” according to Casey. Also worth checking out: the Montserrat College of Art galleries. Read the college’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and the state’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.


Lynch Park in Beverly.

Attend a holiday show in Manchester, N.H.

You can get in the holiday spirit by watching “A Christmas Carol Jr.” at Manchester’s historic Palace Theater, according to Lori Harnois, New Hampshire’s director of travel and tourism. The theater is operating at a reduced capacity, and guests must follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. Also happening in Manchester: a Thanksgiving 5K, which will take place both in person and virtually this year. Here are New Hampshire’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Stroll along Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith, N.H.

Embrace lake life this Thanksgiving by escaping to the lakeside town of Meredith on Lake Winnipesaukee. “Visit Mills Falls Marketplace and browse the boutique shops for unique finds for everyone on your holiday list,” Harnois said via email. If you’re looking for food, Hart’s Turkey Farm, a family-owned and operated restaurant for 66 years, is offering curbside and takeout meals on the holiday. Read New Hampshire’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Check out a traditional 1800s Thanksgiving in Woodstock, Vermont

You can explore the “charming” downtown of Woodstock and visit the historic Billings Farm and Museum, established in 1871, where guests can view displays of a traditional 1800s Thanksgiving celebration, according to the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing. Before you go, read the museum’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and Vermont’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

See a holiday light show in Freeport, Maine

L.L. Bean’s Northern Lights musical holiday light show kicked off Nov. 23 and takes place daily from 5 to 9 p.m. through Dec. 31, according to Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. Freeport is “the perfect place to get in the holiday spirit and get great deals at the outlet stores and Maine specialty shops,” Lyons said via email. Guests will also find restaurants for socially distanced dining and takeout, according to Lyons. Here are Maine’s COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Ride a holiday train in Essex, Conn.

The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat is offering holiday dinner train excursions beginning this month, according to Randy Fiveash, director of the Connecticut Office of Tourism. Guests are served a four-course meal during the two-hour trip, which follows COVID-19 safety guidelines. For even more train fun, check out the Connecticut River Museum’s Holiday Train Show exhibit, which Fiveash called “a favorite for the whole family.” Here are the COVID-19 safety guidelines for the exhibit. The Griswold Inn, one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the country, is also offering a Thanksgiving meal and takeout, he said. View the Connecticut COVID-19 travel restrictions.


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