7 Totally Unique Thanksgiving Destinations

by  Teresa Bitler | Aug 24, 2016
Courtesy Le Cirque, Bellagio Las Vegas
Courtesy Le Cirque, Bellagio Las Vegas

Believe it or not, now’s the time to start making Thanksgiving plans -- before airline ticket prices jump in anticipation of the holidays and resorts sell out. While New York City and Plymouth, Massachusetts are obvious choices, we’ve compiled a list of seven unexpected travel destinations where you can still indulge in the Thanksgiving spirit.

1. Leiden, Netherlands

Leiden American Pilgrim Museum / flickr

Before the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony, they spent 11 years in Leiden, Netherlands. To commemorate their presence, every year on Thanksgiving Day, people gather for a non-denominational service at the 900-year-old church Pieterskerk. Following the morning service, townspeople linger for cookies and coffee, then return home to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Visitors can enjoy a turkey dinner at the Holiday Inn Leiden or make the 45-minute drive to Amsterdam for a holiday meal at the Hard Rock Cafe or the American Book Center. While in Leiden, don't miss the two-room Leiden American Pilgrim Museum.

2. Mountain View, Arkansas

Ozark Folk Center / Visit Arkansas

The town hailed as “The Folk Music Capital of the World” is also home to the Ozark Folk Center State Park, where Thanksgiving is a big deal. Its restaurant, The Skillet, serves a huge Thanksgiving Day lunchtime buffet featuring turkey, fried chicken, beef tips, ham steak, and all the sides. After lunch, watch artisans weave baskets, tool leather, and spin yarn at the park’s Thanksgiving Day Craft Village (where you can also get a head start on your holiday shopping). Or, head into Mountain View to shop at the charming antique stores. In the evening, the park holds a Gospel Concert.

3. London, England

Thanks to Brexit, London is more affordable than ever -- and better yet -- you won’t have to skip the turkey and trimmings if you decide to go over Thanksgiving. According to a survey released by The Telegraph, one in six Britons celebrate the American holiday. (Even Kate Middleton’s family encouraged the nation to embrace Thanksgiving.) You’ll have no trouble finding a restaurant that serves a traditional holiday fare. For a Thanksgiving meal to remember, though, make a reservation at The Narrow, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant overlooking the Thames, or The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant, a Knightsbridge establishment popular with celebs. Holiday extra: Catch The Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker on the day before or the day after Thanksgiving.

4. Maui, Hawaii

Courtesy Fairmont Kea Lani

November is actually one of the best times to visit Maui: the rainy season is over and humpback whales have returned. You have several options for celebrating Thanksgiving on the island. Most resorts, including the Fairmont Kea Lani and the Four Seasons, serve special dinners, and many of the luaus, including the one offered by Grand Wailea, add a turkey to the menu that day. You can also take a Thanksgiving dinner cruise through the Pacific Whale Foundation, which sails out of Lahaina Harbor. Dinner includes Kalua turkey, ham with guava jelly, mashed potatoes, live music, and the chance to see dolphins and humpback whales.

5. Sacramento, California

La Provence Restaurant & Terrace / Facebook

If there was ever a holiday devoted to food, it’s Thanksgiving, which makes Sacramento, one of the nation’s best foodie cities, a great choice for the holiday weekend. The land surrounding California’s capital produces wines on par with its Napa neighbors, not to mention 80 percent of the nation’s caviar, almost all of its sushi rice, and tons of produce. On Thanksgiving, eat turkey dinner at La Provence Restaurant or Silva’s Sheldon Inn, two local favorites. Or, take your dinner on a train ride. The Sacramento RiverTrain serves a scenic Thanksgiving dinner as it rumbles alongside its namesake river. (Across the country, the Cape Cod Central Railroad offers a similar ride-and-dine experience on Thanksgiving Day.)

6. Ambergris Caye, Belize

Belize / flickr

While you’ll find white beaches and plenty of water sports at just about any Caribbean destination over Thanksgiving weekend, we prefer Ambergris Caye, just off the coast of Belize. Not only can you dive or snorkel at the Great Blue Hole before feasting on turkey, but you can also schedule a mainland excursion to explore Mayan ruins or cave raft. Most of the resorts, including Portofino Beach Resort, serve Thanksgiving dinner, but several local San Pedro restaurants do, too. Try Elvi’s Kitchen. Although it’s known for its Mayan fare, the restaurant offers a traditional Thanksgiving meal with the option to substitute lobster for turkey.

7. Las Vegas, Nevada

The last weekend in November is one of the quietest times in Las Vegas (apparently most people would rather spend time with family than at a convention or on the slot machines). You can still expect crowds, but hotels and resorts traditionally discount their rates to get them there. For Thanksgiving dinner, skip the buffet, where the wait in line can be up to three hours, and head to an off-the-strip eatery. Or, make reservations for the 18-pound turkey and all the trimmings, served family style, at Carmine’s in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. If you hit the jackpot, you might try the upscale, five-course Thanksgiving dinner at Bellagio’s Le Cirque.

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