Top 10 Thanksgiving destinations
Granted, there’s not much of a connection between Thanksgiving and this Dutch-owned Caribbean isle, but it’s certain that giving thanks for all of life’s little pleasures is made infinitely more effortless when kicking back on the turquoise shores of tropical paradise. Boasting glorious weather nearly year round (Aruba is safely situated south of the tropical-storm belt), basking on the powdery white sand beaches needn’t be interrupted, unless, of course the activities of this tiny 20-mile long island should lure you away. Watersports abound, as do opportunities to explore surreal desert island landscapes where cacti and iguanas compose an exotic landscape — head out on foot, jeep, or by ATV. All-inclusive, luxurious resorts line the shores, diverse culinary fare is served up in numerous restaurants, and superb shopping opportunities abound. Casinos, bars, clubs, and assorted evening extravaganzas animate the night, while glorious sunrises give an incentive to party until dawn.
Sure, you could be content scarfing down your traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all its trimmings, from turkey to Brussels sprouts, or you could sprout a plan for something a little bit different this year and actually head off to Brussels instead. With just over seven hours of flight time between the Belgian capital and the East Coast, Brussels makes for a feasible long-weekend getaway. Plus, this gastronomic paradise assures you needn’t forgo the feasting — just trade in the turkey and eggnog for moules-frites (mussels and French fries) and any one of several hundred delectably brewed Belgian beers instead. Or, give in to the whims of tradition and hunt down one of the restaurants where many ex-pats gather for the holiday — the American Club of Brussels, for one, hosts an annual Thanksgiving dinner. Best of all, when you’re not chowing down, you can explore a charming city of cobbled streets and historic squares drenched in European tradition — with the magnificent Grand Place as its focal point and dozens of unique museums, you’ll be giving thanks for treating yourself to the trip.
If you’re hankering to leave the shores of the continental U.S. this Thanksgiving, but are craving traditional Americana on Turkey Day, there’s no finer option than the Aloha State. We recommend spectacular Kauai, a dramatically landscaped isle surrounded by glimmering Pacific waters. The oldest inhabited island in Hawaii, it’s no wonder people first settled down here — and opted never to leave. Every inch of Kauai seems to reflect some new and fascinating wonder of nature — be it the remote Na Pali Coast, where majestic cliffs preside over the sea; the central jagged mountain region with its verdant rainforests; the breathtaking grandeur of Waimea Canyon; or the seemingly endless miles of golden sandy beaches. And while much of the rest of the U.S. is watching leaves drop to the ground with the onset of winter, Kauai remains as lush and green as you’ve ever seen — a most rewarding holiday getaway in every way.
4. Los Cabos
Whether it be fishing, golfing, a spa retreat, or lazy beach-bumming days, a Thanksgiving getaway to Los Cabos sure beats the usual family banter around the dining table. Located at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is composed of two very different towns: Cabo San Lucas, described by some as a glorified Los Angeles-style resort, and San José del Cabo, a traditional Mexican village. Whichever you fancy, both come complete with haute-style resorts and spas, world-class dining, and plenty of golden beaches. Fishing and golf are also major draws here, and an array of championship courses will easily tempt you away from watching afternoon football. Plus, you’ll be able to forego the usual game-watching diet of beer and chips and treat yourself to margaritas and tacos instead!
5. New York
For the biggest Thanksgiving event in the country, head to New York City for its annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. At 9am each Turkey Day, over 10,000 Macy employees and volunteers meet at 77th and Central Park West to begin their march down Broadway. It’s a fantastical procession filled with colorful floats, marching bands, and at least a dozen giant helium balloons — to the delight of the 2.5 million spectators that come out to watch from the sidelines. If you’re at home basting the turkey instead, stay tuned to the spectacle on television; this is one American pageant that’s bound to please.
6. Phoenix & Scottsdale
Thanksgiving celebrates a legendary dinner between Pilgrims and Indians — why not tip your hat to America’s original inhabitants this Thanksgiving and head to Arizona, where the ubiquitous presence of ruins and reservations hold living tribute to the nation’s Native American past. Lively Phoenix makes for a good home base, boasting such jewels as the Heard Museum, housing a wonderful Native American art and archaeology collection that highlights works by indigenous peoples of the Southwest — Navajos, Hopis, and Apaches — many of whom still reside on nearby reservations. It’s also a great base to head out on a local road trip along the legendary Apache Trail, a 48-mile-long route marked by breathtaking scenery, ghost towns, and ancient Indian ruins. Meanwhile, the posh resort city of neighboring Scottsdale offers such diversions as Western-themed Old Town Scottsdale, a good spot to pick up turquoise jewelry and Navajo rugs. Even the local “pamper-me” spa culture reflects the area’s Native American heritage and desert setting; get smothered in an adobe clay body mask or exfoliated with a cactus and aloe moisturizer at an area spa.
Celebrate the first Thanksgiving, pilgrim-style, in Plymouth, Mass., where Mayflower passengers famously disembarked back in 1620. After visiting their supposed landing site, at Plymouth Rock, pay your respects to the statue of native Wampanoag chief Massasoit, who signed an accord with the pilgrims in 1621; what few members remain of his tribe today can be found living across the water, on Martha’s Vineyard. These two sites aside, the area’s biggest draw at this time of year is Plimouth Plantation, a sizeable estate that recreates the 17th-century pilgrim village that once stood here, complete with timber houses, barn and livestock, as well as a replica of the Mayflower itself. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more historic spot to spend the holiday.
8. Transatlantic Cruise
You’ll need your sea legs to follow in the Pilgrims’ footsteps this Thanksgiving! We propose reenacting the seafaring adventure that those adventurous pioneers set out on nearly 400 years ago aboard the legendary Mayflower. Happily, you can experience the exhilaration of crossing the Atlantic without having to rough it as the poor Pilgrims surely did — we’ve discovered that some of the world’s most luxurious cruise lines offer transatlantic crossings during Thanksgiving week. Years past have seen Cunard Line’s lavish Queen Mary 2 whisks travelers from Southampton, England to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while this year Windstar’s upscale ships operate routes from Lisbon to the Caribbean — a little off path from the original course between Plymouth, England, and Plymouth, Mass., but a fitting tribute all the same.
Vail is set to open in mid-November, and ski bums the world-over are hoping for another year of spectacular snow conditions. This means snow bunnies can head west for the holiday and hit the slopes to work off those extra turkey-day carbs. With over 2300 acres of terrain available, including superb back bowls, you’ll have plenty of wide stretches and untouched trails to schuss on. Besides the exciting mountain possibilities, the picturesque snow-covered town also offers notable restaurants, lodgings, and fashionable boutiques to charm you off the pistes as well. One of America’s favorite winter retreats doesn’t come cheap mind you, but you can capitalize on season-starter lift packages that will save you a few bucks to use towards your holiday shopping.
This tiny U.S.-affiliated island paradise is as close as you’ll get to uncharted territory in the Caribbean — it only recently opened to tourism after serving for decades as a US military base — and its close proximity to the East Coast (eg., it’s only four hours from New York plus a short flight or ferry ride from Fajardo, Puerto Rico) makes it ideal for a long-weekend beach getaway. Known for its virtually unspoiled sands, this 21-mile-long isle six miles off the coast of Puerto Rico isn’t your average Caribbean hotspot, so don’t come expecting high-rise hotels, luxury complexes, or shopping centers — instead, the island caters to sophisticated, eco-minded tourists with small boutique hotels, the Caribbean’s largest wildlife refuge, and about 42 miles of pristine beach. Visit before everyone else discovers it — and be thankful for the experience.