32 Places Travelers Can Celebrate the Holidays Away From Home
Home for the holidays sounds just fine in song but isn't always possible. Sometimes work gets in the way, life events take you elsewhere, or you simply don't want to make the trip to wherever "home" is. That doesn't mean you can't celebrate wherever you happen to be, though. The transportation and hospitality industries have banded together to make sure that wherever you are is where the celebration happens.
Spending the holidays at this iconic pink palace isn't such a sad state of affairs. Beneath the candy-striped ceiling of its Polo Lounge, the hotel serves Thanksgiving brunch, Christmas Eve dinner, and Christmas Day brunch, each three or four courses and some with dessert buffet ($175 per person; $60 for kids under 12). A holiday bar menu is supplemented by a holiday happy hour with free cider and cocoa, cookie classes, and a giant gingerbread house in the lobby.
Denny's isn't just open Thanksgiving and Christmas; it creates a special menu for those days, making it a traditional holiday stop for local families and travelers alike. The Holiday Turkey Melt and Turkey and Dressing Dinner have been on the menu since late October, and Cinnamon Roll Pancakes and other treats will linger until Christmas.
Stuck in D.C. over the holidays? Most of the monuments are open, and the Willard Intercontinental offers Thanksgiving and Christmas brunches ($125 per person; $55 for kids 12 and younger). Fall and winter packages include room upgrades and beverage credits, in case the hotel turns into your home for the holiday.
The former Boston Chicken is not only open on Christmas and Thanksgiving but makes a point of producing a full holiday menu for dining or takeout catering.
If you must fly on Thanksgiving, Qatar Airways might be the way to go. Last year, Thanksgiving passengers were treated to sliced turkey breast with cranberry gravy, roast potatoes, carrots, and green beans, followed by pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. Those lucky enough to be traveling in business class also got roasted squash soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and chive crème fraîche, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert.
Chicago has its Thanksgiving parade, and The Drake hotel has its generations-old Thanksgiving feasts. The Grand Buffet ($129 for adults; $33 for kids 12 and younger) features multiple entrees, a potato station, dim sum, and sushi, as well as a family portrait, kids' movie room, balloon specialist, caricature artist, and face painter. A family dinner ($89 for adults; $35 for kids) and a Thanksgiving meal for one ($35) are available, and there are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals and events.
This Italian chain offers a full Thanksgiving meal of sliced turkey, homestyle gravy, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spicy Italian sausage stuffing, green bean blend, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie but will also put together $69 to $135 meals featuring spaghetti and other items off its family-style menu. It also offers big pasta and chicken meals for Christmas.
Cracker Barrel revels in how many people show up for its Thanksgiving meals. The holiday menu starts at $13 for dining in ($8 per kid), jumps to $68 for a to-go meal, and tops out with a fully catered dinner for $125. Sub out ham for turkey to take care of your Christmas meal, as well. Don't forget to pick up some holiday pies while you're at it.
In downtown Manhattan near the financial district, The Beekman offers holiday amenities within its Victorian wrought-iron trappings. The hotel's holiday package includes a free room upgrade for certain bookings, and free breakfast each day. Meanwhile, feel free to sleep in or explore the city the next morning: Holiday guests can stay until 2 p.m. the day of checkout.
Starbucks is typically open for pumpkin spice lattes on Thanksgiving and peppermint mochas on Christmas. That makes the coffee chain not only a great place to get a caffeine fix in peace, but a fine place to pick up last-minute gifts in case you end up seeing family or friends after all.
At this National Park hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee), a three-course Thanksgiving meal beneath the lofted timbers of the historic dining room ($109 per person; $38 for kids) is only a start. Closer to Christmas, seven-course, black-tie Bracebridge dinners are $320 ($252 for kids 12 and younger) or come as part of a two-night hotel package. There's also a Christmas Day menu.
With Santa's secret headquarters, a desert ice-skating rink, S'mores Land, a train, holiday characters, a Build-a-Bear workshop, and more than 4 million lights, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona does its best to be better than home for Christmas. Its Christmas at the Princess runs Nov. 20 through Dec. 31 and is free for hotel guests, or $55 for up to six people in a self-parked car. A "Sip, Savor & Celebrate" holiday package starts at $309 per room (double occupancy), with express access to some holiday attractions.
It may be in Georgia, but this is about as close to the North Pole as a resort gets. The historic Cloister offers Elf Tuck-Ins for kids (for $80, including a book), live carolers, Santa sightings, a Reindog Parade for families with dogs, a pheasant shoot, live bird shows, cookie baking, a Jeep train, a gingerbread house, and a "Feast of Seven Fishes" dinner in its wine cellar. On Christmas Eve, there's a Reindeer Dash Family Fun Run, a children's Christmas party, a Christmas Eve buffet, and a yule log ceremony. The festivities stretch into Christmas Day brunches and dinners, as well as a white Christmas "Snow Day." Room rates start at $549 a night.
Marriott offers holiday options around the country; just be prepared for Christmas to retroactively consume Thanksgiving. The festivities, all starting before Thanksgiving and running through New Year's Day, include ice skating, gingerbread decorating, and themed meals with characters ranging from the Grinch and Charlie Brown to the Elf on the Shelf, depending on location.
Emirates offers airline passengers Thanksgiving menus featuring roast turkey, roast pumpkin, smoked trout, and pumpkin cupcakes. Its Christmas programs include festive menus, gifts for passengers, character greetings, and in-flight entertainment filled with holiday film classics and TV specials. Even economy class tends to benefit.
There are worse places to spend a holiday away from home than a town that smells like chocolate. The Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania, leans into its company-town heritage by packaging rooms with trips to Hersheypark's Christmas Candylane holiday rides, the Hershey Sweet Lights display, breakfast or lunch with Santa, and milk-and-cookie delivery.
Gingerbread sculptures, thousands of twinkling lights and other Christmas decorations, and the warmth of two 36-foot majestic fireplaces are lovely touches to a Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas in Asheville. The Omni Grove Park offers three-night packages that include a daily breakfast buffet, Christmas dinner buffet, and keepsake gift from the hotel. This is the site of the National Gingerbread House Competition, so those you'll see here are among the best in the world.
Want to stay in the hotel where Kevin got directions from a would-be president in "Home Alone 2"? What about the place where Eloise had her adventures? This famed hotel on Central Park has a Thanksgiving package that includes breakfast, reserved seats in the Macy's parade bleachers on Central Park South, and a Plaza thermos and blanket. In December, there's "A Rawther Fancy Holiday" with a trip to the Eloise Shop (and $100 store credit), Eloise Afternoon Tea at the Palm Court, a photo with Santa, an "Eloise at Christmas" DVD, and milk and cookies in your room.
IHOP is open on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it's had a Grinch-themed menu since at least October — that means green pancakes, mint hot chocolate, and "roast beast" omelets.
Standard Oil Co. magnate Henry Morrison Flagler spared no expense on The Breakers Palm Beach, and that sense of largesse carries into the holidays. The hotel offers a three-course holiday menu at its Flagler Steakhouse ($125) and a Thanksgiving buffet in its Ponce de Leon ballroom ($175 per person; $60 for children 11 and younger) complete with chef-carved turkey breast, Breakers stuffing and cranberry sauce, hand-rolled sushi, caviar, smoked oysters, and Alaskan King crab legs. Amid sparkling lights and towering Christmas trees come holiday tea service ($55) and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners ($135; $50 for children) and brunch ($160; $60 for children) with a harpist circulating.
Yes, there's a Thanksgiving brunch here (starting at $89; $35 for children 10 and younger), but this New Orleans institution also has Teddy Bear Tea with Santa and his elves (starting at $72 for adults; $52 for children) and 44 lobby trees with 22,000 lights that turn on at the end of November. They set the scene for meals served on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, including a Christmas Day brunch (starting at $105; $45 for children).
This hotel in historic Charleston offers a Thanksgiving brunch by its fountain ($80; $40 for kids 12 and younger), but Christmas is on another level. The holiday train display is based on the Orient Express, the rooms come with a winter discount and a food and beverage credit, and the restaurants will make you a Christmastime meal if no one else will.
How would you like an actual home for the holidays? Stay here over Thanksgiving in a private cabin with a full Thanksgiving dinner prepared by the resort's kitchen. There are hayrides, ATV tours, horseback riding, a petting zoo, fireside s'mores, and laser tag, all starting at $567 a person nightly. Christmas brings even more perks: Guest cabins get their own Christmas tree, holiday movies, and visit from Santa Claus with presents for the kids. There's cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and tubing, a horse-drawn sleigh, ice skating, dogsledding, and a traditional feast during an $815-a-night stay.
With eight entrees, the St. Regis' Thanksgiving buffet ($125; $35 for kids 12 and younger) is big enough that the resort's access to the slopes might fade into the background a bit — even more so when Christmas and the 12 Days of Aspen kick in. There's ice skating with Santa's elves, a rescue dog showcase, stocking decoration, a Christmas Day buffet ($150; $50 for kids), and a New Year's Eve dinner and DJ set, if you choose to stay around that long.
This historic West Virginia hotel hosts four days of Thanksgiving activities, including a Thanksgiving Day feast ($79; $45 for children 10 and younger). It's all part of the "60 Days of Holiday Cheer," which go through New Year's Eve and peak at Christmas. A full week of holiday activities includes the Christmas Eve Gingerbread Ball ($89; $45 for children), with buffets, live music for dancing by the Sugar Plums Quartet, caricaturists, strolling puppets, Nutcracker ballerinas, balloon artists, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Are you on the road a lot during the holidays? Are you maybe a trucker? If so, you're probably familiar with Shoney's Thanksgiving buffet or, at the very least, Shoney's Thanksgiving to go. The holiday spirit rolls right into Christmas, too: For more than 70 years, Shoney's has kept the lights on during the holiday. In recent years, it has offered a Christmas buffet to hungry travelers.
The Brazilian rodízio chain is heavy on meat and light on time off for U.S. holidays. Last year, it offered a seasonal menu that included roast turkey breast, cranberry relish, Brazilian sausage with apple dressing, and sweet potato casserole. And, yes, it stayed open for all the winter holidays.
Sometimes, all you want is continuity. This beloved chain slings waffles, steaks, burgers, and more 24/7, year-round. If all you want is a pecan waffle, some coffee, some waffle-themed songs on the jukebox, and some time to yourself, the Waffle House has you covered.
This Italian chain will be open on Thanksgiving. It also caters and hosts holiday parties and offers a carryout holiday-style meal that serves five. (For an Italian touch, the turkey has focaccia sausage stuffing.) Ham and parmesan-crusted tilapia is also offered for carryout orders placed by Nov. 19.
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