Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Historic places to stop and give thanks

Spend Turkey Day where the Pilgrims did and mix historic sites, parades, and festivals with your cranberry sauce and stuffing!

Thanksgiving is a time for family, turkey and football, right? Well, as we all learned back in school, there actually is a reason we sit at the table and give thanks each year (and not just because we get long weekends!). It’s to commemorate the courage and perseverance of the Pilgrims. There are many places to visit which embody this history, so let’s drop that drumstick and get ready to make a few Thanksgiving pilgrimages.

Berkeley Plantation – The First Thanksgiving

Many believe that New Englanders held the first Thanksgiving. But guess what? The first Thanksgiving in English-speaking America took place in Virginia, at Berkeley Plantation, more than a year before the Mayflower set sail for Plymouth. Records show that Captain John Woodlief led his crew and passengers from their ship to a grassy slope here along the James River for the New World’s first Thanksgiving service. Once they disembarked, in accordance with rules laid out by their British company expedition sponsor, the English colonists knelt down and prayed. The date was December 4, 1619.

Today on the exact site where Woodlief knelt, a gazebo contains the following words: “Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

To this day, Virginia continues to commemorate its noteworthy event the first Sunday each November at Berkeley Plantation, the original Thanksgiving site. The festivities took place on Nov 7th this year and featured skilled living history actors and musicians demonstrating instruments, tools and costumes of the 1600s and much more. (If you missed it on the 7th, you can still visit this fascinating historic home year-round.) Berkeley Plantation is located at 12602 Harrison Landing Road in Charles City, Virginia. (888/466-6018)

The centerpiece of any Thanksgiving tour: Plymouth

Plymouth, Massachusetts, is one of the most visited places in New England, especially during fall. That’s because this is where the Pilgrims first settled back in the 1600s, and, thankfully, many of the sites today are wonderfully preserved and/or restored to the Colonial period. Some of the primary places include:

  • The Richard Sparrow House at 42 Summer Street, built in 1640, is actually thought to be Plymouth’s oldest home. (You’ll even find pottery made on-premises since 1932 in an adjoining craft gallery.)
  • Burial Hill is the site of the Pilgrims’ first meeting house and fort. Look for the entrance via stone steps next to First Church.
  • The Old Court House (located in the town square) was built in 1749 and is the oldest wooden courthouse in America.
  • Howland House at 33 Sandwich Street, is the last surviving house in Plymouth in which a Mayflower Pilgrim actually lived.
  • Harlow Old Fort House, at 119 Sandwich Street, was built with timbers from the Plymouth Fort. Today, it is staffed with costumed guides who demonstrate candle dipping, weaving, spinning, and more period-related activities.


Read more from Chris Epting here

Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to RVTravel.com and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site, www.chrisepting.com



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Woohoo. Great article and Plymouth is on my itinerary for next year (Lord willing and the covid rates don’t rise). Four of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower and I’ve never been east of Arizona yet.

1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

I was born in New England, you will be amazed at the beauty. I now live in NW Tucson.

1 year ago

I really appreciate your glimpses of history and cool places to add to future itineraries. Thank you!

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.