Travelers headed to Hawaii for Thanksgiving will find plenty of turkey dinners to choose from in addition to a selection of events that highlight the Aloha State's artists, unique goods and natural beauty.
If the bathing-suit weather makes it hard for mainlanders to flip the switch to a holiday mindset, there are a range of Thanksgiving activities to spark the holiday spirit including Turkey Trots and holiday festivals with shopping and entertainment.
The end of November can be an ideal time to visit the Aloha State. By Thanksgiving, humpback whales have typically started arriving for their annual winter stay, the tropical storm season is petering out, and the larger holiday crowds of late December have yet to arrive. Here's a look at some of the top events to open the holidays in Hawaii.
Rock-A-Hula Thanksgiving: Rock-A-Hula holds an annual Thanksgiving dinner and show, and this year's installment features Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson tribute artists. There is an option of three dinner packages, and two packages featuring only the live show. The "Green Room" package includes a backstage tour and a souvenir photo with one of the stars. In addition to the special guest impersonators, the show includes a selection of Hawaii-inspired songs and dance numbers, and a fire knife performance.
The Waikiki Holiday Parade is held the day after Thanksgiving each year and commemorates the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Waikiki Holiday Parade: This colorful, music-filled affair has been held the day after Thanksgiving for 21 years, and is in commemoration of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and U.S. military service members. The evening parade kicks off at Fort DeRussy before heading through Waikiki on Kalakaua Avenue and concluding at Kapiolani Park with a procession of marching bands, dancers, military veterans and other notable figures, and a variety of other performers.
Islandwide Christmas Craft and Food Expo: For more than three decades this event has brought together hundreds of vendors for a craft fair and holiday festival over Thanksgiving weekend. Artists from across the islands, including glass blowers, ceramicists, wood and stone carvers, and clothing makers will be on hand for the expo in Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall in central Honolulu from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. When shoppers need a break from perusing the more than 400 stalls, there are contests, door prizes and live entertainment.
Ward Village Skating Rink: Ward Village opens a seasonal ice rink each year, from late November into early January. Skates are available for rent, and hot chocolate, s'mores and other treats are available for warming up while taking a break from practicing crossovers and hockey stops.
Atlantis Adventures Thanksgiving Cruise: While numerous resorts offer special Thanksgiving dinners for the holiday, visitors can get their tryptophan fix and an unobstructed tropical sunset on this Atlantis Adventures cruise held every year. The two-hour excursion includes a traditional holiday menu with roasted turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and, for a Hawaiian touch, fresh catch of the day.
Oahu Turkey Trot: Oahu's 10-mile Thanksgiving fun run is celebrating its 45th year and takes off from Kapiolani Park east of Waikiki Beach. Instead of awarding the fastest runner, racers predict their times prior to starting. No watches, headphones or other pacing devices are allowed, and the finisher closest to their predicted time wins. The Turkey Trot, Nov. 28, held by the Honolulu Marathon Clinic also serves as a training run for the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 8. Race day registration is available.
Paddle for Hunger: Held at the Kihei Canoe Club on Maui by Hawaiian Paddle Sports, paddlers of all kinds come out for this free "jungle rules" untimed event that takes both monetary (pre-race day only) and food donations for the Maui Food Bank. Participants must bring their own board, kayak, canoe or other floating device, which visitors can rent from various oceansport outfitters in the area. The paddle includes prizes for contestants and a silent auction, and in 2017 raised more than $10,000 and 1,000 pounds of food for the Maui Food Bank.
Thanksgiving Volcano Tour: Stretch the legs and get a one-of-a-kind nature experience before dinner with a tour of the Kilauea volcano caldera, recently transformed by four months of eruptions in 2018. KapohoKine Adventures takes participants into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to explore the crater, as well as other sites in the park including steam vents. Guests then head to Volcano Winery vineyard for a wine tasting with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Royal Hawaiian Holiday Kick-Off: Each year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Royal Hawaiian Center in central Waikiki jump starts the holiday season with its official Christmas tree lighting, the arrival of Santa, and a selection of live entertainment. The evening marks the start of the center's holiday calendar, including special activities and performances throughout the end of the year.