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- Where to Go for a Thanksgiving Getaway
- 1. Alisal Guest Ranch, Santa Barbara, CA
- 2. Sea Island, Sea Island, GA
- 3. Paws Up Resort – Greenough, MT
- 4. Sanderling Resort – Outer Banks, NC
- 5. The Osthoff Resort – Elkhart Lake WI
- 6. Sunriver Resort – Sunriver OR
- 7. Kingsmill Resort – Williamsburg VA
- 8. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort – Farmington PA
- 9. Gillum House Bed & Breakfast - Shinnston, WV
- 10. Keystone Resort - Colorado
- 11. Great Smoky Mountains - Tennessee
After months of being home, you may be dreaming of a Thanksgiving getaway. These 11 spots across the country have updated their Thanksgiving plans to meet current realities. These resorts include different sleeping options to accommodate various family sizes and plenty of activities for hosting a multi-generational family holiday. Find the perfect one to keep everyone in your party happy this Thanksgiving season.
Thanksgiving weekend traditionally is the most traveled long weekend of the year in the USA. But with the rush getting the house ready for family, I lose some of my steam when it comes to cooking dinner on Turkey Day.
To make life simpler, my extended family (15-20 people) is considering a Thanksgiving getaway. We are looking for a resort that can host us all.
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If your family is looking for something more than the usual holiday — watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the morning, playing flag football in the afternoon, then stuffing your faces at dinner, finishing your pumpkin pie just in time to start your Black Friday shopping — one of these Thanksgiving holiday ideas might be just the ticket.
How to Plan Perfect Thanksgiving Getaways
Knowing all the different members of my family, here are the most important things I’m looking for in a resort to host my family:
- Activities that appeal to the whole family. With ages ranging from my baby boomer parents to toddler niece, as a family we have almost every decade covered.
- Different options for sleeping rooms. Each individual family has its own needs for space and amenities. My parents need less space than my family of four.
- Unique holiday experiences. It is a long weekend getaway but it is also a Thanksgiving family getaway so we want plenty of fall foliage and activities for families with some traditional Thanksgiving aspects, like a full-service Thanksgiving Dinner. It wouldn’t hurt to have a day after Christmas tree lighting and ice skating party either.
- Easily accessible by airplane. Because my family lives everywhere from Florida to California, I didn’t limit the location. But I did rule out locations that would require difficult travel, such as commuter planes or long car rides from an airport. Since it’s only a four-day weekend, we also don’t want to travel too far — no long flights to Hawaii, for instance. And we are sticking with United States Thanksgiving destinations. No Mexico all inclusives right now.
Where to Go for a Thanksgiving Getaway
With the criteria set, the challenge for me now is: Where should we go to celebrate Thanksgiving?
Based on your family’s favorite activities, you might choose a ski resort, a foodie destination with great eateries, a beach resort with great snorkeling, a resort near a state park with plenty of hiking trails or even a small town with a Main Street historic district to explore.
Using my friends’ travel experiences as a starting point for our family vacation ideas, here are a few of the resorts that I felt would be a good fit for making our Thanksgiving family getaway the best family vacation. Good news is that if we don’t make it this holiday, we can plan for the future since these resorts are great year-round.
1. Alisal Guest Ranch, Santa Barbara, CA
The Alisal Guest Ranch And Resort in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, right outside of Santa Barbara, is a Thanksgiving tradition for lots of families. Just a 90-minute road trip from Los Angeles, the 10,500-acre ranch offers more than 70 cottages, 50 miles of horseback riding trails, two golf courses, and a 100-acre spring-fed lake.
Why it works: The cottages range from studios sleeping 3 up to 2 bedrooms sleeping 5, and they can be combined for larger groups. There are plenty of unique outdoor adventures waiting. Some of the highlights of a visit include egg gathering, horseback riding, family bingo, talent shows, and the Breakfast Ride.
Check here for Alisal’s Covid-19 rules, including mask requirements, cleaning protocols and cancellation policies.
2. Sea Island, Sea Island, GA
Sea Island harkens back to an era of formal elegance. It is located right off the coast of Georgia, between Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL. The close proximity to both cities means that we’ll have plenty of travel options and additional areas to explore. Accommodations range from rooms at the Inn at Sea Island, to seven-bedroom homes for rent.
Why It Works: Sea Island’s holiday traditions include a fireside historical chat on Wednesday and a formal Thanksgiving meal. Both are before the grand Christmas tree lighting on Friday evening. And for fitness enthusiasts, there are the Oceans Edges Thanksgiving Day walk and a Friday morning turkey trot, the “Burn Off that Turkey 5K.” Children will even have their own fun in Camp Cloister with the Turkey Tie-Dye experience and kids’ night out program.
Check here to see Sea Island’s current health and hygiene protocols.
3. Paws Up Resort – Greenough, MT
Last year, a friend shared her family adventure in Montana and it gave me a new perspective as a place to visit. A highlight would be going to visit Yellowstone Park since we’d be in the area. The Resort at Paws Up seems like a great choice because it offers a luxury ranch-resort travel in a vacation home with a private butler and chef services.
Why It Works: This Thanksgiving family getaway offers dedicated children’s programming and everything that you’d expect from a luxury ranch vacation. A sample of the activities includes horseback riding, ATV rides, fireside s’mores and pro football watching.
During the holiday weekend, the resort hosts a special Thanksgiving buffet.
4. Sanderling Resort – Outer Banks, NC
The Sanderling Resort in the Outer Banks of North Carolina is the only full-service resort in the Outer Banks providing luxury options ranging from vacation house rentals to single rooms in the Inn. Renting a home is a smart option. Guests will still be able to access all the resort amenities, including the pools, restaurants, fire pits and beach butlers.
Why It Works: Unlike most other places, there is no minimum rental period, so we could spend Thanksgiving Day and then head to Disney World for the rest of the long weekend. Because the Outer Banks area is the home of the first flight, there are a number of outdoor activities that allow families to explore the air. It’s also close to the Corolla Wild Horses, which are located in the northernmost beaches of the Outer Banks and always a kid-pleaser.
5. The Osthoff Resort – Elkhart Lake WI
I grew up in Minneapolis, so over the years, I have often suggested that friends visit the Elkhart Lake area of Wisconsin. It’s convenient for most of my family so The Osthoff Resort is also on the list.
Why It Works: The AAA Four-Diamond Osthoff has condos of up to 3 bedrooms available. The Osthoff has a variety of lakefront activities, including fishing, canoeing and guided cruises that showcase the natural beauty of fall in the area. The Aspira Spa at the Osthoff was named one of the Top 100 Spas by Spas of America.
The Concourse Restaurant and Lounge (formerly Lola’s on the Lake) will serve Thanksgiving dinner at tables set 6 feet apart. Room service dinner is available on Thanksgiving.
Check here to see the resort’s Covid-19 protocols.
6. Sunriver Resort – Sunriver OR
During the holiday season, Sunriver Resort hosts an annual Traditions Celebration with more than 150 different activities and events beginning Thanksgiving weekend. For 2020, outdoor activities included carriage rides; skiing, snowboarding, sledding and tubing at Mt. Bachelor, a holiday light show three times each night; family photography with a surprise visit from Santa on the TV screen, and Takota Bear Scavenger Hunt with prizes for kids.
Thanksgiving dinner can be in the restaurant with limited capacity or in your room via curbside pickup.
Why It Works: Thanksgiving weekend leads into the Christmas season full force. That is the weekend Santa’s Workshop opens, where guests can create their own holiday keepsakes. Art workshops include making holiday luminaries and wreaths, a chef cooking demo and a wine tasting. Or stay socially distanced with in-room activities via kits for decorating ornaments, cookies or a gingerbread house.
Check here for the resort’s coronavirus policies.
7. Kingsmill Resort – Williamsburg VA
Kingsmill Resort marks the location of the first Thanksgiving in 1619 and would make a great choice this year as well. It’s not Plymouth Rock, but the Williamsburg, Virginia, area resort is steeped in traditions and history.
Why It Works: Activities for families include tennis, fishing in the James River, hiking, biking, and an indoor pool. Busch Gardens theme park and Colonial Williamsburg living history museum are nearby.
Thanksgiving dinner is a buffet. Or order ahead and get a complete Thanksgiving meal for 4 or 8 to be picked up the day before Thanksgiving. Heat it up in your condo onsite — 138 units on the property come with a full kitchen.
8. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort – Farmington PA
The Nemacolin Woodlands Resorts is just an hour and a half outside of Pittsburgh and spreads out over 2,000 acres. A wide range of accommodations includes three different hotels, townhouses and private luxury houses that can sleep up to 22 people.
Why It Works: Guests can choose from more than 70 different activities ranging from the serene to the extreme. The serene includes touring the art collection of more than 1,000 pieces. Extreme adventure seekers should consider hitting the slopes at nearby Mystic Mountain or ziplining the resort’s Fatbird Super Flyer Zipline.
For Thanksgiving, there is a Thanksgiving Brunch at Lautrec’s, one of only 27 Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond restaurants in the world.
Check here for coronavirus protocols.
9. Gillum House Bed & Breakfast – Shinnston, WV
This charming B&B is the place to show kids what an 18th Century Frontier Thanksgiving looked like. Book the dinner package to be served by an innkeeper in authentic 18th century clothing.
Why It Works: The Gillum House innkeeper will take your family inside a 1778 two-story log house built by Levi Shinn for his wife (Elizabeth Smith) and their 9 children. The log house built by Shinn, for whom Shinnston is named, still stands on the original site. Then she’ll surprise the kids with a trip to a nearby farm to feed carrots to a camel and zebra!
TravelingMom Tip: Current and retired military, fire and police get discounted rates. Mention it when you call to book.
10. Keystone Resort – Colorado
This lovely ski resort area is just 90 minutes west of Denver. Thanksgiving is the start of the winter season. If you get up early on Thanksgiving Day, you might have the ski runs to yourself while the rest of the visitors lounge around watching football.
Why It works: The draw here is two-fold: the multitude of accommodation options for families and the fact that kids ski free the entire ski season. Plus, if you really must have a home-cooked Thanksgiving feast, you can rent a luxury condo with a fully stocked kitchen.
11. Great Smoky Mountains – Tennessee
If yours is a family of outdoor lovers, spending Thanksgiving weekend hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park might be just the right choice. Or get a jumpstart on your Christmas celebration with the Christmas lights displays in Sevierville and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, when the park is filled with holiday music, a nightly Parade of Lights and the stage production “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Why It Works: The area is dotted with cabins — from tiny cabins made for two to giant mega-cabins that can accommodate several families and give everyone a private bedroom and bath. You can cook in your cabin or head into Pigeon Forge for a Thanksgiving feast at Paul Deen’s. It’s open 10am to 10pm on Thanksgiving. But go early. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving family getaway? Share with us in the comment section below.