Las Vegas Is Third-Most Popular Thanksgiving Destination After Disney Sites, AAA Says

Las Vegas is the most popular US destination for upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel with the exceptions of the cities where Disneyworld and Disneyland are located, the AAA recently reported.

A traditional Thanksgiving meal
A traditional Thanksgiving meal, pictured above. Las Vegas is ranked third as a US travel destination for the upcoming holiday. (Image: The Venetian)

The recent projections placed Orlando, Florida as the top destination. Anaheim, California is second. Las Vegas is third. New York City is fourth.

Also, average nightly holiday prices for Las Vegas hotels are about half of those for Orlando or Anaheim. The AAA estimated prices for Las Vegas hotels at $319 per night.

Busy Airports, Highways Predicted

Overall, close to 55 million travelers are expected in the US during the Thanksgiving vacation period, the AAA said. That’s an increase of 1.5% over 2021 and represents 98% of pre-pandemic travel levels.

The travel period runs from Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27, the AAA added. That means long lines at airports and congested roads at popular destinations.

About 4.5 million people are predicted to fly over the period. That is a nearly 8% increase over 2021. And nearly 49 million people are expected to travel by car.

“The upcoming holiday is projected to be one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades,” Brian Ng, senior vice president of membership and travel marketing for AAA Nevada, said in a statement. “Planning ahead will go a long way toward alleviating holiday travel stress.”

For Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior vice president of communications of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), the projections are welcome news.

Las Vegas offers an unparalleled entertainment experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else. We see holidays as another opportunity to host visitors as we not only continue to offer 24/7 non-stop fun, but our resorts also infuse the holiday spirit in all they do,” she told

There are special Thanksgiving events, menus, and experiences planned in Las Vegas.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Las Vegas fully recovered its leisure visitation and has recovered a significant portion of its business visitation, with all conventions and meetings convening again, she said.

“Since the US removed the remainder of travel restrictions, we’ve also seen a good return of our international visitation, with all of the international flights from our key markets restored,” Nelson-Kraft said.

Sign for Harry Reid International Airport
Sign for Harry Reid International Airport, pictured above. Many Thanksgiving tourists will fly into Las Vegas. (Image: KTNV)

Also, Stephen M. Miller, director of research at the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research, notes that Las Vegas relies heavily on travel and tourism to support economic activity.

Visitor volume, gross gaming revenue, occupancy rates, and Harry Reid airport passenger volume all fell to nearly zero during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he told

The climb back from the shutdown, however, occurred in starts and stops of several months’ duration, Miller said.

First back was the drive-in tourism, largely from California. Second came the air passenger volume from within the United States. Most recently convention traffic began to recover, and international tourists gained entry to the United States,” Miller said.

More Vegas Sports

He notes that a new player in the local tourism economy is “sports entertainment.” The Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Las Vegas Raiders provide pro sports, as does the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The Formula 1 race in 2023 and the Super Bowl in 2024 are upcoming.

But Miller points out that visitor volume, gross gaming revenue, occupancy rates, and Harry Reid International Airport passenger volume have been falling for the past four or five months.

Whether this will precede a downturn or is only a temporary pause in economic activity, time will tell,” Miller added.

Thanksgiving Traditionally Slow for Casinos

Also, the Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who closely follows gambling trends, said the AAA projections confirm Las Vegas’ strategy of providing every sort of entertainment.

“It makes Vegas a place where the entire family can come,” McGowan told “Clearly, this is a real boost to the Vegas economy when families will come over a holiday period.”

He points out that Thanksgiving and Christmas were normally very slow days for casinos.

Most recently, the LVCVA has launched a marketing campaign to leave kids at home and have adults travel to Las Vegas.

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