Help 3 clueless Brits do something fun for thanksgiving in NYC!
November 23, 2009 7:26 AM   Subscribe

3 Brits in NYC, no plans for thanksgiving and wondering what all the fuss is about! What cool stuff can we do this weekend?

Husband I have recently relocated to NYC from the UK. We have a friend visiting from the UK for the weekend, arriving late on Wednesday night. We haven't really made any plans for thanksgiving, apart from maybe checking out the Macy's parade. After all, we don't really understand what all the fuss is about! But now I'm thinking - maybe we should make a bigger deal about it! What cool (preferably cheap/free) things can we do? Will all the good restaurants be fully booked by now? And finally, will there be more or less tourists than usual around and queueing up for things like the Empire State Building / Statue of Liberty / [other mandatory tourist things that visitors like to do] ?
posted by hibbersk to Society & Culture (17 answers total)
You know about Black Friday, right? Unless you want to show your friend how horrifying American consumerism can be, don't go shopping on Friday (preferably, stay away from anywhere with a lot of chain stores). Thanksgiving day, if you really don't care about the feast, is probably a better time to wander around the city-- after the parade, the streets should be pretty empty.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:32 AM on November 23, 2009

If your friend gets in not too late on Wednesday, you may want to check out the Macy's balloon inflation on the Upper West Side. Crowded, but free.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:32 AM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

(and if anyone happens to invite you to a family Thanksgiving dinner, you should definitely consider going. The "fuss" is about delicious, slow-cooked food and lots of wine, and a good excuse to sit around eating for 3 hours or so)
posted by oinopaponton at 7:35 AM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thanksgiving is one of the nicer US holidays, so yeah, seconding oinopaponton, if you can get an invite, go. Would be somewhat like a Christian being invited to a seder. Enjoy!

Or make your own!

Note unlike Christmas where all the New York Jews and other heathers will eat Chinese and go to the movies, even in New York, you'll find most places and restaurants closed.

Black Friday is a good day to stay the hell out of Midtown or any place with retali as oinopaponton points out as well. I don't know since most people have off, but might be a decent day for museum-hopping or going to Coney Island and people watching.
posted by xetere at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2009

I should modify that - many restaurants will have sit down Thanksgiving meal sand those will be booked, but the good New York foodie restaurants, they'll be closed as the staff stay home with their families on Thanksgiving. I've had thanksgiving in restaurants and it in no way has the same ambiance.
posted by xetere at 7:46 AM on November 23, 2009

The Saturday after Thanksgiving has eclipsed so-called "Black Friday" as the worst shopping day of the year. That's because every year, more and more people have to go back to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving now, so the stores are not as crowded as they used to be.
posted by Zambrano at 8:22 AM on November 23, 2009

Many stores will kick off their Christmas shopping season with cool window decorations, so window shopping is fun.
posted by theora55 at 8:34 AM on November 23, 2009

If you hate crowds of crazy people, avoid any retail store on Friday or Saturday. It's just not worth the hassle.

My wife and I are doing what we do almost every year: jumping in the car and driving down to Atlantic City and taking advantage of the free-room offer from the Borgata. My family is in Michigan and her family is too dysfunctional to invite us to their Thanksgiving meals, so we made up our own tradition. Carmine's (in the Tropicana) is a fantastic place to eat a Thanksgiving GIANT PLATE OF PASTA.
posted by camworld at 8:38 AM on November 23, 2009

If you hate crowds of crazy people, avoid any retail store on Friday or Saturday. It's just not worth the hassle.

Seconding that. I remember once being at a Fortunoffs on Long Island on Black Friday and you couldn't buy something if you wanted to. At the jewelry corral, there were several sales associates inside and several hundred people pushing and shoving towards the counter. What a nightmare.

Thanksgiving really is one of the best of holidays. It is a great excuse to get the extended family together for a good meal, conversation and then hang out and watch some football (the kind where they use their hands). If you are religious the many churches have a special service in the morning often focusing on giving thanks for all of our bounties and encouraging charity. In this week community services are also popular in which people from many disparate faiths in the community get together Our community will have spiritual leaders from 20 some houses of worship at this service including Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths and more.
posted by caddis at 9:09 AM on November 23, 2009

I just heard that apparently no one stays to watch the balloon deflations after the parade in the streets around Herald Square... so if the crowded parade madness isn't your thing, wait till it's done and check out the aftermath.
posted by xo at 9:29 AM on November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving is very much an at-home sort of holiday, which makes it slightly weird in NYC, where people tend to live outside of their homes more than most. A lot of my NYC-based friends seem to prefer spending it with family outside of the city, whether that means a train to the tri-state suburbs or a long cross-country flight.

Unless you can get an invitation to someone's home -- Thanksgiving when you're a guest is really great -- I'd either take camworld's suggestion of going to AC, or just wandering the city. And probably go for the wander/watch the NFL games in a bar with a big screen option, because your first experience of Thanksgiving ought to be with friends.
posted by holgate at 10:08 AM on November 23, 2009

I'm another Brit who didn't get Thanksgiving until invited to join a family dinner. It's really an almost invisible celebration otherwise, thankfully not commercialized.

Chances are almost everything will be closed all day Thursday. I don't know about NYC but here the shops and restaurants don't open. You should check ahead so you don't end up foodless and bored.
posted by anadem at 10:30 AM on November 23, 2009

Stay far far far away from midtown manhattan on fri and sat nights starting after thanksgiving. Youy literally cant walk.
posted by majortom1981 at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2009

I agree that you should go wander about on Thanksgiving day as Friday and Saturday are going to be nuts. I think that your idea to go to some of the touristy sites that would normally be crazy is brilliant. I checked and the Empire State Bldg at least is open, not sure of anything else on your list. As for the following weekend, I would bet that not only the shops, but based on my day after Thanksgiving trips to NYC in recent years, the art museums will be pretty nuts as well. It would be a good time to check out less popular, quirkier museums as well as those that are off the beaten path.

If you can't swing an invite for Thanksgiving day, don't feel like cooking yourself, and don't want to splash out for an expensive meal, I think that French Roast (both uptown and downtown locations) might be open. It's nothing too special, but I tend to end up there for dinner when I'm in New York by myself and I'm always impressed that it is really good, basic French bistro fare at an incredibly reasonable price and they are open 24/7. Check to make sure that they are open on Thanksgiving. Their website sucks and seems to be mostly not working, but the home page gives you the general locations. The downtown location is at 11th and 6th in the West Village and that is the only branch that I've tried. Otherwise the only restaurants typically open on Thanksgiving are those in expensive hotels and a few other pricey restaurants. You will also need reservations. Check Open table if you want to go that route.
posted by kaybdc at 11:08 AM on November 23, 2009

While Thanksgiving is different than Christmas, there should still be plenty of restaurants open in places like Chinatown. It might also be a good day to go to Queens and get Korean food.

But mostly, just echoing the above ... stay as far away from midtown as possible on Friday and Saturday unless an enormous crush of people sounds pleasant to you, and if someone invites you to a Thanksgiving dinner, you'll understand the fuss.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:13 PM on November 23, 2009

While Thanksgiving is different than Christmas, there should still be plenty of restaurants open in places like Chinatown. It might also be a good day to go to Queens and get Korean food.

I would check on that. This info may be out of date and may not apply to all Chinese or other ethnic restaurants, but I remember hearing something, I think on NPR a couple of years ago stating that Thanksgiving was the most popular day for weddings of Chinese immigrants, who worked in Chinese restaurants, as for many it was the only day of the year that Chinese restaurants are closed and they all have off. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in some random news story that I heard awhile ago, but it always stuck in my head. Also I do not want to imply that all Chinese immigrants and their families work in Chinese restaurants, just repeating the story that I heard.
posted by kaybdc at 4:51 PM on November 23, 2009

Response by poster: thanks folks! Most of our friends here are going back to their families for thanksgiving so no invites forthcoming unfortunately.. I agree that would be by far the best way to spend our day! We've decided to go to the parade and then come home and cook a good ole British roast. Friend wants to do some shopping and is leaving on Sunday night - so maybe we'll save that for Sunday if it will be marginally less crazy?
posted by hibbersk at 9:02 AM on November 24, 2009

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