Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- 1. Alisal Guest Ranch, Santa Barbara, California
- 2. Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia
- 3. Paws Up Resort – Greenough, Montana
- 4. Sanderling Resort – Outer Banks, North Carolina
- 5. The Osthoff Resort – Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
- 6. Sunriver Resort – Sunriver, Oregon
- 7. Kingsmill Resort – Williamsburg, Virginia
- 8. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort – Farmington, Pennsylvania
- 9. Keystone Resort - Colorado
- 10. Great Smoky Mountains - Tennessee
- How to Choose the Right Thanksgiving Getaway
- How to Plan Perfect Thanksgiving Getaways
Thanksgiving is a time for family — the loving grandparents, the weird uncles, the cousins, the kids and the brother-in-law you wish you didn’t have to invite. And then there’s the turkey dinner. The turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauces, oh my! It can feel like a lot. But there’s a better way: Try a Thanksgiving getaway at a luxury hotel this year.
The family-friendly resorts on this list range from East Coast wonders to California charmers to lovely ski resorts. Wherever you want to go, know that the best Thanksgiving getaways have one thing in common: They take the work out of Thanksgiving.
Bring all of your loved ones along or just take the people you love most (it’s OK with us if leave the weird uncle and the brother-in-law home). Plan to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with nothing to do but pamper yourself and enjoy your family during a fabulous holiday getaway.
1. Alisal Guest Ranch, Santa Barbara, California
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. And, on Turkey Day, there’s Executive Chef Endy’s famous Thanksgiving meal.
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. Nearby are California wineries, art galleries, kayaking and other water sports.
2. Sea Island, Sea Island, Georgia
Sea Island harkens back to an era of formal elegance. It is located right off the coast of Georgia, between Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida. 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 start on Wednesday with a holiday reception. It continues on Thursday morning with the Thanksgiving Day 5k followed by a special service in The Cloister Chapel. Turkey dinner options range from casual to formal and the weekend rounds out with a Turkey Trot Family Fun Run at the Beach Club, fitness workshops, Cookie Cutters for kids, and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
3. Paws Up Resort – Greenough, Montana
Spending the Thanksgiving weekend at this luxury ranch-resort makes it easy to tack on a visit to Yellowstone National Park. The Resort at Paws Up offers a weekend full of gourmet cuisine and exquisite wine pairings, outdoor adventures, Thanksgiving crafts and wagon rides. Plus there’s a private butler and chef services.
Why It Works: This Thanksgiving family getaway offers dedicated children’s programming and everything you would expect from a luxury ranch vacation — horseback riding, ATV rides, fireside s’mores and pro football watching.
4. Sanderling Resort – Outer Banks, North Carolina
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 with gorgeous ocean views. Renting a home is a smart option if you plan to bring everyone, including the weird uncle and annoying brother-in-law. 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 Thanksgiving holiday resort destinations, there is no minimum rental period, so you could spend Thanksgiving Day at Sanderling 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.
The resort is offering a special three-course Thanksgiving dinner and a Black Friday Seafood Boil & BBQ.
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5. The Osthoff Resort – Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
The AAA Four-Diamond Osthoff Resort is reminiscent the Kennedy compound in Massachusetts. Its gentile white buildings house condos of up to 3 bedrooms. While November is a little late in the season for boating in Wisconsin, the setting on the shores of Elkart Lake still offers serene sunsets and the Aspira Spa is one of the best in the country — it was named one of the Top 100 Spas by Spas of America.
Why It Works: The special Thanksgiving buffet at the Osthoff features a herb-roasted turkey carving station, pistachio-crusted salmon, chicken picatta, rigatoni Bolognese, classic mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, roasted vegetables, a variety of grand displays. You don’t have to stay at the resort to eat at the buffet, but if you do, you can stumble back to your room after eating all of that! (Or take a long walk around the lake to work off a few of the calories.)
6. Sunriver Resort – Sunriver, Oregon
During the holiday season, Sunriver Resort hosts an annual Traditions Celebration with more than 150 different activities and events beginning just before Thanksgiving weekend. For more than 50 years, the holiday experience has included horse-drawn sleigh rides, sipping hot cocoa by the fire, building a gingerbread house and a Takoda teddy bear and enjoying a holiday meal with all the fixings.
Why It Works: Thanksgiving weekend leads into the Christmas season full force. In past years, that has been 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.
7. Kingsmill Resort – Williamsburg, Virginia
Kingsmill Resort marks the location of the the first Thanksgiving in 1619 and would make a great choice this year as well. It’s not Plymouth Rock (where the Mayflower landed), but the Williamsburg, Virginia, area resort is steeped in traditions and history.
Why It Works: The resort includes 138 units with a full kitchen. 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.
8. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort – Farmington, Pennsylvania
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.
Thanksgiving is a weekend-long celebration that includes family movies, craft events, bedtime visits from a North Pole elf, a gingerbread house workshop and the kickoff of the Christmas season with the lighting of the holiday lights at Light Up Nemacolin!
9. 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.
10. 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 live 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 large families and give everyone a private bedroom and bath. You can cook Thanksgiving dinner in your cabin or head into Pigeon Forge for a Thanksgiving feast at Paula Deen’s. It’s open 10am to 10pm on Thanksgiving. But go early. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations.
How to Choose the Right Thanksgiving Getaway
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, I narrowed down my Thanksgiving family getaway options to these. The 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.
If your family is looking for something more than the usual holiday — watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade from New York City 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.