RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With COVID-19 cases down and vaccinations up, people are planning to celebrate in a big way this Thanksgiving.
"(Life being) a little more back to normal is a nice feeling," said Zebulon resident Connie Harrison.
Nicole Hathaway of Raleigh, and her husband stayed home last year. She's hosting 11 people this Thanksgiving.
"My folks are coming so I get to see my mom and play games and cards and drink and be merry, and it's just relief (I'm feeling)," said Hathaway.
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Grocery stores are packed as folks prepare for larger gatherings.
"The grocery stores seem to be just booming. They're stocked, which is amazing because I think last year even looking for anything that was halfway Thanksgiving-looking--there wasn't anything in the grocery stores," said Harrison.
Last year at this time, an executive order was in place making masks mandatory for all indoor settings across the state.
Families were forgoing get-togethers and people were staying in isolation.
Travel bookings were down 60%.
Restaurants were limited to 50% capacity and they were required to close at a certain time.
Those restrictions are now gone.
Thanksgiving Eve is traditionally one of the biggest party nights a year.
The Carolina Ale House is expecting a crowd tonight, especially since the first-place Carolina Hurricanes are playing at 10:00p.m. The restaurant is staffing up as best they can during a labor shortage.
"We're a lot more open this year," said Carolina Ale House District Manager Ryan Coyle. "We think that people are going to be coming out for Friendsgiving and pre-Thanksgiving to come out and enjoy some games and some food."
Wake County does still have an indoor mask mandate in place.
Doctors also suggest getting tested before gathering in large groups.