Thanksgiving is fast approaching, where the masses will flock to the homes of relatives and friends. But we have another idea: Why not shake up the status quo and head somewhere new this year? From nearby adventures with the family (Disney World) or a romantic weekend away (San Francisco) to farther-flung escapes (jerk turkey in Jamaica, perhaps?), these are the top 10 places we recommend going to start a new Thanksgiving tradition. We can’t promise you’ll find turkey “just like Mom makes,” but really, how much will you miss that big, stuffed bird?
By Erin Gifford
Spend Thanksgiving the way the pilgrims did so many years ago in Plymouth, just 45 minutes south of Boston. Be entertained by costumed players on the Mayflower II, a full-scale replica of the original Mayflower, then explore Plimoth Plantation to learn how the early colonists lived in the 17th-Century English Village. Get into town early to enjoy the annual three-day celebration of the history of Thanksgiving, complete with parades, concerts and waterfront activities (Nov. 22-24).
Where to Stay: Spend the night in Boston at Fodor’s 100 Hotel Award winner, XV Beacon. The hotel hosts lovely Thanksgiving meals and is a perfectly cozy home base for an autumn getaway.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Plymouth Guide
Few know that before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock they spent eleven years in Holland. Enjoy the annual Thanksgiving Day service at the renowned Pieterskerk church in Leiden. Following the service, explore the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum to learn about the pilgrims that fled from England to Holland. Drive or take the train to nearby Amsterdam for a Thanksgiving buffet at The Kitchen or go to Seasons Restaurant for holiday fare served for lunch or dinner.
Where to Stay: Book a room at Amsterdam’s romantic, intimate Canal House (a 2013 Fodor’s 100 Hotel Award winner), and you’ll feel like you’re staying at a chic friend’s pied-a-terre. Or book a stay for the whole family at the modern and playful Park Hotel Amsterdam.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Netherlands Guide
Dana Point, California
Lace up your running shoes for the annual Dana Point Turkey Trot, an event that draws 10,000 runners who come to take in the scenic route along the coast. Head to Dana Point Harbor for a day of sailing, fishing, or whale watching. Or, take the kids to the Ocean Institute for interactive marine science activities. Cap off the day with a Thanksgiving feast at Stonehill Tavern or the Chart House.
Where to Stay: Spend Thanksgiving on the beach at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, a short drive down PCH from Dana Point. The hotel hosts a mouthwatering feast every year and instead of falling leaves, you’ll look out on a sandy beach.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Dana Point Guide
Christkindlmarket in Chicago
Head to State Street for marching bands, balloon floats, and baton twirling in the annual McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade (a good spot to camp out is at State and Washington). The annual open-air German holiday market, Christkindlmarket Chicago, is also not to be missed. Sip Glühwein, enjoy bratwurst and potato pancakes, and pick up handmade Bavarian ornaments. For a treat after-dark, take the kids to ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo starting the day after Thanksgiving.
Where to Stay: Splurge on a stay at 2013 Fodor’s 100 Hotel Award winner InterContinental Chicago. The historic hotel just reopened after a major renovation, offering you and your family swanky digs from which to explore the Windy City.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Chicago Guide
From glass blowing to wine tasting, there’s a lot to do in Grapevine, and over the holidays, there’s so much more in the “Christmas Capital of Texas.” Take in the nightly Light Show Spectacular from the Town Square Gazebo or ride along the vintage railroad on the North Pole Express. Thanksgiving weekend also kicks off Snowland at Great Wolf Lodge and Christmas on Main, a town celebration complete with Victorian-style buildings all dressed up for the holidays.
Where to Stay: A stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Dallas, which feels like a mix between a country club and a resort, means built-in activities for the whole family, as well as fabulous Thanksgiving Day feasts.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Grapevine Guide
Enjoy the sunshine, snorkeling and beachcombing, as well as off-season discounts, in Negril over the Thanksgiving holiday. Climb the steps of the Negril Point Lighthouse, go hiking to visit Mayfield Falls and Mineral Springs, or swim with dolphins at Dolphin Cove. Stay at Beaches in Negril and enjoy a Thanksgiving party right on the beach complete with a parade of Sesame Street characters, a bonfire, dancing, and traditional holiday fare as well as Caribbean-inspired dishes, like Jerk Turkey.
Where (Else) to Stay: If Beaches isn’t quite right for you (if you don’t have kids in tow, for example), book a stay at the charming, intimate, and cliff top Caves hotel.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Negril Guide
Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC
The official arrival of the turkeys pardoned by the president at Mount Vernon is a must for anyone coming to Washington, DC over Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy fewer crowds as you explore the museums and monuments (assuming the government shutdown is over), or head to the privately-owned Phillips Collection to take in the new Van Gogh exhibit, which opens Oct. 12. For a traditional turkey dinner, look to Old Ebbitt Grill or Georgia Browns.
Where to Stay: Take the family back to the 1920s with a stay at the 2013 Fodor’s 100 Hotel Award winner The Jefferson. The 1923 Beaux Art building is luxurious and situated in a perfect sight- (and turkey-) seeing spot.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Washington, DC Guide
For many, Thanksgiving kicks off ski season. At Keystone, kids ski free all season long and there are plenty of activities for both skiers and non-skiers, like Kidtopia, the annual family festival featuring parades, ice skating, and snow-tubing. Then, strap on your skis to enjoy the new Family Ski Trail and grab some hot chocolate at the Tree Lighting Celebration on Nov. 30. Try the wagon ride dinner for an adventurous twist on your Turkey Day meal.
Where to Stay: The easiest place to stay to keep the whole family together for the holiday is the Keystone Lodge and Spa. If its luxury you’re after, this might not be the place, but its situated just next to the lake in Keystone village and very close to the area’s charming restaurants and shops.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Keystone Guide
San Francisco, California
Take a ride on a trolley, visit with sea lions at Pier 39, or enjoy the shopping and views at Fisherman’s Wharf. For classic Thanksgiving fare, try Burritt Tavern or One Market. Or, come together as a family for a holiday cooking class at Cavallo Point Lodge in nearby Sausalito. Got a passion for cars? Head downtown to the Moscone Center for the annual Auto Show, which opens on Thanksgiving Day.
Where to Stay: Spend a few whimsical nights at the bright and colorful 2013 Fodor’s 100 Hotel Award winner Hotel Triton. It’s perfectly placed for your San Francisco city break and the kids would adore staying in The Haagen-Dazs “Sweet Suite” that comes with a freezer filled with ice cream.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s San Francisco Guide
Fort Wilderness Resort at Walt Disney World
You may need more than a long weekend to enjoy all that Walt Disney World has to offer for Thanksgiving. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party kicks off in November at the Magic Kingdom while Disney’s Hollywood Studios welcomes the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Kids will enjoy holiday-themed parades at each of the parks. Look for a traditional turkey dinner at many on-property sit-down restaurants, as well as turkey and stuffing at a number of the buffets.
Where to Stay: For a festive, Fiji-island atmosphere, Disney’s Polynesian Resort is a fun choice. Or for something a little more classically American, spend a few nights at the Western-themed Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit the Fodor’s Walt Disney World Guide