This is the Travel Take, where Matador’s writers and editors make the case for their favorite travel hacks, tips, and personal tics.
There’s a widespread misconception that Thanksgiving is the biggest November holiday in the United States. Don’t worry if you’ve fallen victim to this fallacy; it happens to the best of us. Thanksgiving may sound like a pretty big deal with its parades, football, and feast of calorie-filled goodness, but it actually sits in the shadow of a much more notable holiday: Thanksgiving Eve. Unlike Christmas Eve, which is reserved for wholesome family time by the fire, Thanksgiving Eve is all about ditching your family and partaking in less-than-wholesome shenanigans that likely involve Fireball shots.
Thanksgiving Eve (also known as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Legends Night”) is the biggest bar night of the year. It’s when everyone from high school who you forgot existed descends on your local bar. It’s a phenomenon that more resembles a fascinating social experiment than a typical Thirsty Thursday, and chances are you either love it or absolutely despise it.
Things are a little different if you’re traveling over Thanksgiving and don’t make it back to your local haunt. Missing out on Thanksgiving Eve might give you more FOMO than missing out on grandma’s apple pie. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s why you should still go out and party with the locals if you’re away from home on Thanksgiving Eve.
The best night of the year to meet the locals
So your family is dragging you to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for Thanksgiving dinner with your second cousin who you haven’t seen in six years. The situation seems dire. Your hometown friends will be celebrating without you hundreds of miles away. That person you kind of liked sophomore year will be out, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll find you slightly less repulsive eight years later. You could dwell on this and throw yourself a pity party, or you can recognize that you have a unique opportunity. Remember, that giddy, pre-Thanksgiving buzz isn’t limited to your hometown bar; it exists pretty much everywhere across the country, and no matter where you are, you should dive right in.
For travelers that are always seeking to “connect with the locals,” a local bar in a new town is the perfect way to get acquainted with the community. At other times of the year, it can be difficult to hunt down a good time in a small town unless you know exactly where to go and when. On Legends Night, however, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a bar teeming with locals on a holiday high. In fact, if you were to go out in a big city on Thanksgiving Eve, you’d probably suffer through the deadest night of the year. The beauty of Thanksgiving Eve is that it transforms typically tumbleweed-strewn dive bars into what feels like the Omnia nightclub at Caesars Palace, making it easier than ever to meet new people.
The lesser of two awkwards
If you identify with the camp of people who loathes Thanksgiving Eve, there’s a good chance it’s because seeing people from high school is awkward. No argument there. We all know the feeling of locking eyes with someone we sort of knew 10 years ago, have nothing in common with, and yet thanks to the reunion-like environment, we are now obligated to force a conversation. No thanks.
Luckily, celebrating Thanksgiving Eve in a different town frees you from this social obligation. Inserting yourself into the bar scene as a total stranger is awkward, but at least you’ll be shaking off the social shackles of your high school past. At home, you might scan the room and see dozens of people with whom you have complicated or confusing histories. At a strange bar in a new town, you’ll scan the room and see a blank slate. And if you don’t, that’s what the Fireball shots are for.
Speaking of blank slates, that’s exactly how you should view Thanksgiving Eve in a different town. Unless you were the most popular kid in school with straight As and athletic achievement plaques on the wall, chances are you’d like to change a few things about your high school persona. Now is your chance to be the person you wish you always were.
You can even pretend you went to the same school as everyone else at the bar, and you know what? They’ll probably feel so guilty for not recognizing you, most will just play along. Tell people you dropped out junior year to join the Ukranian Youth Basketball League. Convince people you used to throw the most insane parties until they actually start to believe you. Make up a name. All bets are off on Thanksgiving Eve.
No one will remember you the next day
You’ll always remember your first Thanksgiving Eve away from home, but there’s a good chance no one will remember you. You won’t be sitting in shame at your Thanksgiving dinner, head in your hands, staring glassy-eyed at the turkey and wishing you could swap places with the dead bird. There’s no embarrassment from accidentally spilling a long-held secret you’ve been keeping from a past acquaintance, and no residual gossip about who you did or didn’t speak with. Worst case scenario: You’ll be that random stranger who showed up on Thanksgiving Eve. Best case scenario: You’ll become the legend of that town’s Legend’s Night.