Published November 21, 2012
Although we are taught in school that the first Thanksgiving took place after the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, the site of the “real” first Thanksgiving is a hotly debated topic. Here are four places that all say they did it first, and are still worth a trip today.
This coastal New England town is traditionally considered the site of the first Thanksgiving dinner in 1623. Today, you can visit Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the original ship, Plymouth Rock, Plimouth Plantation and Pilgrim Hall Museum.
Getting there: You don’t have to take your own Mayflower and recreate the pilgrims’ route to Plymouth (and we do not recommend this method of travel). Plimouth Planation is about an hour from both Boston, and can be easily reached by bus or train.
Fun fact: Governor William Bradford originally used "Plimoth" in “Of Plymouth Planation,” and the museum uses that spelling to differentiate itself from the modern town of Plymouth.
St. Augustine, Fla.
St. Augustine, Fla. is actually the oldest continuously inhabited European-established city in the U.S., so it is no surprise that local historians and St. Augustinians also believe that it was the site of the first Thanksgiving. What is now known as the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park was originally the Seloy Native American Village, and where Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in 1565. In addition to swinging by the park, you can also explore Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas.
Getting there: St. Augustine is a little over an hour from both Jacksonville International Airport and Daytona Beach International Airport.
Fun fact: St. Augustine is 42 years older than Jamestown, Va. And 55 years older than Plymouth.
El Paso, Texas
According to the Texas State Historical Association, the first Thanksgiving was held on April 30, 1598 by Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate. This means you have to be in El Paso in the spring to see the Thanksgiving reenactment there, but fall visitors should still check out the 80-year old Tiffany glass dome in the Camino Real Hotel’s Dome Bar and El Paso’s Mission Trail, to name a few attractions.
Getting there: Fly into El Paso International Airport, or travel by car and take I-10 from Las Cruces, New Mexico or East Texas.
Fun fact: The Texas Society of Daughters of the American Colonists claim that Francisco Vázquez de Coronado celebrated the first Thanksgiving in May 1541 in Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, Texas, although this may have just been a commemoration of the Feast of the Ascension.
Charles City, Va.
Berkeley Planation, which is by the James River in Virginia, is also said to be the site of the first “official” Thanksgiving on December 4, 1621. If you visit Berkeley Plantation (which is closed on traditional Thanksgiving), make sure to tour the 1726 mansion and its museum and explore the gardens and grounds of the plantation.
Getting there: The Berkeley Planation is located off of Route 5 and is halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg.
Fun fact: Berkeley Planation is the birthplace of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States who is probably best known for dying 32 days into his first term.