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30 Perfect Alternative Getaways for Thanksgiving
Trade holiday headaches for a more relaxing break.
Escape the holiday hoopla, and be grateful for a far-from-home getaway.
Ah, Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie, roasted turkey, football games and time with friends and family are top draws for celebrating the time-honored holiday at home. But if the prospect of navigating crowded airport terminals and bumper-to-bumper traffic to spend time with extended family and engaging in contentious political discussions (or cooking the bird and all the trimmings) has you pining for an alternative escape, fret not. With some help from seasoned travel pros, we've pinpointed unexpected places to spend a stress-free Thanksgiving. So ditch the turkey, gravy and green bean casserole for a sunny locale, urban retreat or snowy getaway over the long weekend.
For deal-chasers, "Europe is the place to go over Thanksgiving," says Wendy Perrin, founder and editor of travel-planning site WendyPerrin.com. Autumn marks a low season, yet the weather is still comfortable and rates are relatively less expensive compared to spring and summer. And in Budapest, you can admire striking architecture, soak in heated thermal baths and embrace European charm and Hungarian culinary specialties at charming cafes around Castle Hill. Best of all, in Budapest, you can start your holiday shopping early at brightly lit Christmas markets. Pick up a few gifts and admire the dazzling light displays at the Christmas Fair at Basilica (beginning on Black Friday), and the Christmas Market on Vorosmarty Square.
Park City, Utah
If you're longing for a winter wonderland, consider forgoing apple pie this Thanksgiving for some quality time on the slopes and around a roaring fire in Park City's snow-globe-like setting. Over the holiday weekend, there are plenty of festive, kid-friendly traditions at top resorts in the area, from cookie decorating to tree-lighting ceremonies. And with ski season beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 22, powder seekers can tackle well-groomed trails at Park City Mountain Resort before checking out the charming shops and eateries in Canyons Village and strolling along Main Street. Thrill-seekers can also enjoy exhilarating bends and curves on a toboggan-style bobsled ride at Utah Olympic Park.
Itching for a warm-weather escape? If you're looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation – from wildlife-viewing to an adrenaline-pumping zip line above Monteverde's Cloud Rainforest to lounging in a hammock beneath swaying palms – Costa Rica is an ideal escape. While you'll be visiting at the tail end of rainy season, you can take advantage of a few off-season benefits. Aside from fewer tourist crowds and verdant landscapes, you can also secure discounted lodging rates and flights. Plus, you can swap stuffing and mashed potatoes for fresh fruit and morning yoga sessions, and embrace Costa Rica's "pura vida" (pure life) philosophy with wellness-minded activities and nutritious cuisine.
Whether you want to lounge on golden sands, hike along the Blue Mountains or climb the legendary Dunn's River Falls waterfall, there are plenty of ways to embrace Jamaica's picturesque Caribbean scenery and laid-back vibes. "Hurricane season officially ends November 30, so traveling on or before Thanksgiving means you'll be catching the final low rates of the Caribbean's shoulder season before the snowbirds arrive," says Lindsey Olander, editor at travel site Jetsetter.com. Even better, in November and December, temperatures hover in the 70s and mid-80s, and you can secure discounted resort rates. "For sun-seekers, I'd recommend Jamaica in November, which was (thankfully) spared from recent hurricanes," Olander adds.
If you can't make it to France this fall, you can still enjoy a European-inspired setting and plenty of charm in Quebec City, Perrin says. Francophiles and foodies alike can delight in French-inspired gastronomy at top dining institutions. Plus, the centuries-old structures and quaint cobblestone streets and bistros add to the city's enchanting atmosphere. History buffs can check out Battlefields Park, the Citadel and the Notre-Dame Basilica, while nature lovers can stroll along the serene Terrasse Dufferin. And although temperatures dip into the 30s and 50s at this time of year, you can still admire brilliant maple trees and seize upon shoulder-season discounts.
Asheville, North Carolina
While Asheville may conjure images of microbreweries and the awe-inspiring Blue Ridge Parkway, there's much more to experience over Thanksgiving. Along with temperatures hovering in the mid-50s and 70s, "you've got the fall foliage," Perrin says, with peak leaf-peeping opportunities in early November. Plus, there's the 8,000-acre, decked-out Biltmore Estate, which has a unique history and elaborate holiday displays. Perrin suggests checking out the dazzling wreaths, lights and decorated evergreens at the annual Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration. What's more, you can check out the intricate winning entries from a national gingerbread competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn, Perrin adds.
For a winning mix of culture, history and modern allures, set your sights on Amsterdam for the holiday weekend. You can brush up on the past at the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum Foundation in Leiden, Holland, located near the Dutch capital. After getting a history lesson, visit world-class museums throughout Amsterdam, from the Van Gogh Museum to the Anne Frank House. If you don't mind chilly temperatures in the 40s, November also marks an enticing time to visit, given reduced crowds and plenty of flight and accommodation deals. Make the most of your trip by enjoying a canal-lined stroll and carving out some time to unwind in Vondelpark.
The Big Island, Hawaii
"Hawaii is usually a really great deal in the fall," Perrin says. You can spend your days trekking through tropical rainforests, lounging on black sands at Punaluu Beach, exploring state parks and hiking captivating volcanoes. Catching sight of the fiery lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must, as is checking out a quintessential luau, snorkeling and admiring the views from Mauna Kea. With daytime temperatures in the high 60s to low 80s and low-priced accommodations (including resorts with kid-friendly amenities), November marks an ideal time to visit. Even better, you can feast on traditional Thanksgiving culinary offerings at resorts throughout the island.
Whether you want to enjoy the early ski season – along with enticing gear and accommodation deals as well as faster lift lines – or you're looking to embrace Whistler's still-pleasant temperatures in the 40s and 50s, you won't mind forgoing turkey for days on the slopes. The official ski season kicks off Nov. 23, and since Thanksgiving in Canada takes place in October, you won't have to worry about battling heavy crowds. Check out the charming pedestrian-only Village Stroll in Whistler Village, and pop into galleries, shops and restaurants to charge up for more adventurous cold-weather activities. When you're ready to get your heart racing, enjoy snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and other active pursuits.
The Cotswolds, England
"The Cotswolds region in south-central England is beautiful any time of year, but arguably it's most picturesque in the fall, when the ivy blanketing its tiny towns and cottages turns brilliant red and yellow hues, and residents begin throwing logs in their stone fireplaces," Olander says. You won't miss home as you explore the area's striking walking trails, like the 102-mile long Cotswold Way National Trail, which weaves past beautiful hills, quaint villages and storied churches. "Restaurants here may not serve your family’s traditional Thanksgiving spread, but their home-cooked, often farm-to-table dishes hit the spot," Olander adds. What's more, there are plenty of affordable inns to pick from, making it easy to keep your budget intact.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Picture the Cape, and serene sands, clam shacks and shingled cottages likely come to mind. But while the warmer months offer an enticing beach break for East Coasters, the shoulder season offers its own draws: reduced crowds and attractive packages. If you can brave the crisp temperatures, with daytime highs in the 40s and 50s, you can enjoy a historic setting and traditional Thanksgiving meal, Perrin says. The peak foliage season will have wrapped up, but you can embrace peaceful surroundings. Immerse yourself in nature on one of the Cape's scenic trails along the Cape Cod National Seashore before refueling with clam chowder and unwinding in a budget-friendly bed-and-breakfast or inn.
For a warm-weather holiday break with desert scenery, high-end resorts and postcard-worthy landscapes, consider Scottsdale. You can indulge at a decadent spa (think: prickly pear and honey-infused body treatments), kick back in a poolside cabana or commune with nature and enjoy mountain biking and hiking at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. For more recreation, check out the nearby Camelback Mountain. After getting your adrenaline fix, refuel with a memorable meal at an acclaimed restaurant such as Virtù or Roaring Fork. Best of all, in late November, you'll avoid summer's scorching triple-digit temperatures and likely land a reasonably priced rate at a top resort before the peak winter season.
"A trip to Iceland might not seem so practical in November, but if you don't mind being a bit cold, it's a perfect place to get away," Olander says. The low season ushers in dwindling crowds, discounted accommodation rates and the opportunity to explore Iceland's can't-miss cold-weather attractions, she explains. Highlights include soaking in the otherworldly Blue Lagoon, exploring icy glaciers and bar-hopping in Reykjavik. "And what could be more magical than catching the northern lights?" she adds, emphasizing that the winter months mark an ideal time to catch the natural phenomenon, as the skies are darkest and clearest. For more adventure, join the Golden Circle tour.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Make the pilgrimage to Colonial Williamsburg, and you'll feel like you've stepped back in time, Perrin says. Learn about the country's revolutionary heritage with the "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" event at the Hennage Auditorium, when Cliff Williams and John Turner re-enactors recite Thanksgiving songs and hymns the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. If you have a sweet tooth, don't forget to pick up a pecan, apple, pumpkin, rum cream or apple-cranberry pie at Raleigh Tavern Bakery. For more of a history lesson, make your way to Jamestown to delight in Foods and Feasts of Colonial Virginia – a three-day extravaganza that recounts how traditional Revolution-era meals were prepped and other historical details.
Charleston, South Carolina
For a fun holiday weekend, flee to Charleston for an old-fashioned, all-American atmosphere, Perrin says. Temperatures hover in the 60s and 70s, ideal conditions for exploring can't-miss attractions and antebellum architecture throughout the city, from the Nathaniel Russell House to Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. Plus, you can delight in a memorable Thanksgiving meal at one of the city's acclaimed restaurants, she adds. When you're not enjoying a Spanish moss-canopied stroll or taking a horse-drawn carriage in the Historic District, you can pop into charming boutiques along King Street. Best of all, there are plenty of holiday happenings, including the annual Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park and the Turkey Day Run & Gobble Wobble 5K.
The Big Easy delivers more than jazz, blues, beignets, Sazeracs and stellar po'boys. You can join the fray in the French Quarter before feasting on a Cajun-inspired turkey day staple: turducken (a turkey stuffed with chicken and duck), typically paired with cornbread and gravy. For more holiday festivities, attend the Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And when you need a respite, meander through the Garden District. Already dreaming of a white Christmas? Admire the dazzling displays during the annual Celebration in the Oaks in City Park, when bright lights adorn hundreds of oaks throughout the park, beginning Nov. 24.
Gorgeous weather year-round makes San Diego an alluring beach break at any time, Perrin says, but in autumn, tourist crowds and accommodation rates drop. And while the Southern Californian retreat may be more renowned as a microbrewery mecca and low-key surf town, it's easy to pull off a family-friendly holiday getaway – complete with beachside lounging, hiking at Torrey Pines and exploring Balboa Park – without busting your budget. For those looking to get into the Thanksgiving spirit, there are a variety of turkey trot 5K races and feasts throughout the city. At the famous Hotel del Coronado, for example, you can enjoy a pre-fixe Thanksgiving meal with live music.
With low-season crowds (and prices), Europe's cultural meccas beckon to those looking for a world-class weekend getaway over the holiday, Perrin says. In Florence, you can check out world-renowned art institutions like the Uffizi Gallery without battling swarms of tourists. Plus, you can score tickets to top theater and opera performances. Even better, when you're not admiring iconic art, you can escape to the enchanting hills of Tuscany, leisurely sip distinguished bottles of Chianti and soak in the city's sophisticated restaurant and shopping scenes. And though you can expect chillier temperatures in the 40s and 50s, if you don't mind the crisp weather, you'll be rewarded with off-season hotel rates and shorter attraction lines.
With antebellum architecture, horse-drawn carriages, Spanish moss-lined streets and historical treasures, Savannah delivers on Southern charm. And in mid-November, you can take advantage of shoulder-season discounts, pleasant temperatures in the 50s to 70s and even a twinkling tree-lighting ceremony followed by the Boat Parade of Lights on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Take in more of the city's genteel charms on Black Friday as you explore the City Market, check out River Street or people-watch in photogenic Forsyth Park in the Historic District. What's more, over the long weekend, you can count on mouthwatering low country cuisine, from shrimp and grits at Cotton & Rye to biscuit buns and scones at Back in the Day Bakery.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
If you're itching to embrace the great outdoors over the holiday break, Joshua Tree National Park packs plenty of dry air, desert scenery and spectacular hikes, Perrin says. For postcard-worthy views, make your way to Keys View lookout. Fuss-free, frugal-minded vacationers seeking cost-effective accommodations may consider an Airstream (via Airbnb) at Kate's Lazy Desert near the park entrance, while campers can stake out a spot at one of the 44 sites at Hidden Valley Campground, which offers easy access to top trails. Best of all, the park's striking desert landscapes and two distinct ecosystems – the Colorado and the Mojave – are 140 miles west of Los Angeles. Skip shopping on Black Friday to join a ranger-led program or take a hike.
Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara's consistently pleasant temperatures in the mid-50s and upper 60s, reduced nightly room rates and mix of fashionable boutiques and acclaimed restaurants appeal to those craving an escape-it-all getaway far from the holiday stress back home. Grape-seekers can enjoy leisurely wine tastings and gallery-hopping at the Funk Zone, while shoppers stroll along State Street to stock up on holiday presents. When you're not attending a yoga class, you can enjoy strolls along the harbor in the dubbed "American Riviera" before delighting in a farm-to-table meal at an acclaimed dining institution such as Brophy Bros, The Lark or Opal Restaurant & Bar.
Whether you want to explore ornate palaces, catch an opera or peruse an elaborate Christmas market, Austria's cosmopolitan capital is a great choice for the holiday weekend, Perrin says. After all, you won't miss stuffing or Black Friday shopping as you savor roasted chestnuts, seasonal delights and handcrafted goods beneath twinkling lights at the Viennese Christmas Market outside City Hall. A number of Christmas markets and cultural happenings take place throughout Thanksgiving weekend, Perrin adds. The Viennnese Christmas market begins on Nov. 18, and the Christmas Village Belvedere Palace begins on Nov. 24. And while temperatures dip, if you can brave the 30- and 40-degree temperatures, you can score reasonably priced accommodations in November.
While Lisbon lures travelers with its bargain-friendly rates and affordable attractions year-round, in fall you can embrace thinning crowds and comfortable temperatures lingering in the 50s and 70s through the end of November. Visit Alfalma to admire in the city's elaborate tile-laden sidewalks. Next, make the pilgrimage to postcard-worthy Sintra to admire picturesque villas and palaces along the hilly cobblestone streets. When you're ready to refuel, savor an authentic Portuguese meal followed by a pasteis de nata – a sweet custard pastry and an enticing alternative to pumpkin pie. At the end of the day, retire to one of Lisbon's affordable boutique hotels or take in iconic fado music in the Alfalma district.
Newport, Rhode Island
For an idyllic New England getaway with coastal scenery and fall colors, plan your escape to Newport. While temperatures can dip into the 30s, you can take advantage of thinning tourist crowds and plenty of pampering. At the enchanting Castle Hill Inn, there's an elaborate Thanksgiving spread – complete with littleneck clams, turkey and pie. Plus, with the Thanksgiving Package promotion, you can enjoy a two-night stay, a Thanksgiving feast, breakfast and afternoon tea – along with a half bottle of Cabernet – at a fixed rate. For more activity, check out the shops along Thames Street and take a brisk stroll along the Cliff Walk trail before warming up by a crackling fire at The Chanler.
Celebrate the long weekend with some quality time catching up on R & R by the pool, the beach or at top shopping meccas on a sunny escape to Miami Beach. Thanks to swift recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma, major hotels, resorts, museums, nightlife venues and shops are open for business. Whether you want to check out striking art deco buildings on Ocean Drive, rent a beach chair on South Beach or simply stay put in a cabana at your hotel, there are plenty of ways to unwind and dodge the holiday routine (and countless hours of meal prep). What's more, you can embrace an American feast and celebrate the holiday at acclaimed restaurants without lifting a finger. At StripSteak by Michael Mina at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, for example, you can enjoy holiday staples such as glazed carrots and roasted turkey.
With its storied sites, Southern charm and burgeoning culinary scene, Richmond is an enticing Thanksgiving escape for foodies, culture vultures, history lovers and outdoorsy types alike. Along with trendy art- and design-centric hotels like the Quirk Hotel, there are plenty of opportunities to embrace the great outdoors. Cross the James River to Belle Isle for a memorable bike ride or picnic, or enjoy blazing fall colors in Shenandoah National Park (about 90 miles west of Richmond off Interstate 64). And if you opt for a history-filled vacation, get a sense of Richmond's genteel attractions like the Jefferson Hotel and the Valentine Museum. When you're ready to refuel, enjoy traditional Southern cuisine – including fried chicken and biscuits with sausage gravy – at The Roosevelt.
For a mix of requisite New England charm and history, it's hard to match Portland. You can admire the area's craggy coastlines, Victorian homes and picturesque Portland Head Light before retracing pilgrims' footsteps and heading to Popham Colony, an early American settlement that some believe was formed in 1607, before Plymouth Rock in 1620. Set along the Kennebunk River, approximately 25 miles northeast of Portland, the colony features a boulder with the sign "Popham Rock." For modern allures, base yourself in Portland and retreat to the Press Hotel before enjoying a leisurely meal. The Holy Donut and the Highroller Lobster Co. are a couple of must-visit eateries. Cap off your feast with a pub crawl in the East Bayside neighborhood.
Pink-hued sands, world-renowned golf courses and captivating oceanfront scenery offer the perfect antidote to the holiday grind. And while the weather in this mid-Atlantic island will be chillier at this time of year, with daytime temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s, you'll be rewarded with reduced accommodation rates. Whether you want to explore unspoiled coral reefs, hit the links at Port Royal Golf Course or enjoy leisurely strolls in historic St. George – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – you'll be grateful for some time in the sun rather than making the pilgrimage to your in-laws' house. What's more, you can enjoy duty-free shopping or pampering at the spa before savoring a traditional rum-infused cocktail and delicious Bermudian culinary specialties (sampling traditional fish chowder is a must).
In November, London draws visitors with its festive Christmas markets, mild daytime temperatures, colorful autumn foliage and enticing flight and hotel deals ahead of the peak winter tourist season. If you're a history buff, you can catch the acclaimed hit musical "Hamilton" at Victoria Palace Theatre throughout November. What's more, culture seekers can explore can't-miss institutions such as the National Gallery, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. For more time outdoors, explore lively Borough Market or meander to Notting Hill's Portobello Road Market to pick up vintage gifts and classic English antiques. For more world-class shopping, head to Oxford Street. And if you're feeling nostalgic for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, you'll find quintessential American trimmings like pumpkin pie and roasted turkey at top restaurants throughout the city.
With striking coastal scenery along the Chesapeake Bay, delicious blue crabs and crisp autumn air, Annapolis offers a refreshing change of scenery. Admire the colonial architecture and cobblestone streets in Historic Annapolis before grabbing a bite at one of the area's fine dining establishments (Cantler's Riverside Inn, O'Learys Seafood Restaurant and Chick & Ruth's Delly are longstanding crowd-pleasers). And on Black Friday, after you stroll along the city's charming brick streets, peruse the boutique shops and galleries along Main Street in Historic Annapolis to pick up a few holiday gifts. Afterward, visit Dock Street in Ego Alley to people-watch on a bench, grab a bite to eat and admire the sailboats bobbing in the water.
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