Planning a Last-Minute Thanksgiving Vacation

Five Ideas for a Long-Weekend Escape After Turkey Day

If you’re tired of spending yet another Turkey Day on the couch, consider taking a long-weekend escape and catching some sun in Santa Barbara, Orlando, or New Orleans. Have the money to go overseas? Consider planning a Thanksgiving vacation in one of Europe’s winter wonderlands, like Reykjavik or Brussels.

A Stateside Thanksgiving

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara by: Micheal Theis (CC)
Santa Barbara by: Micheal Theis (CC)

Blessed with a mild climate that makes it a popular holiday destination year-round, Santa Barbara sits between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, an area often called the “American Riviera.” While you may be thinking Rodeo Drive and Hollywood Hills for a California holiday, keep in mind that a Santa Barbara vacation gives you real range: within easy reach of this classy city you can explore beaches, wineries, and vast wilderness areas sheltering threatened and endangered species. Of course, visiting Santa Barbara in late November doesn’t mean you have to forgo a traditional Turkey Day dinner. Many restaurants here serve great Thanksgiving meals, with wines from the area’s award-winning wineries.

Look for more things to do on this Santa Barbara itinerary:


Orlando, Florida

Hulk Coaster, Islands of Adventure, Orlando by: Jeff Kays (CC)
Hulk Coaster, Islands of Adventure, Orlando by: Jeff Kays (CC)

Many families take advantage of the school break in November and come here for a few days of sunshine and unbridled childish fun. If you don’t mind kids and big crowds, by all means, take your Orlando holiday during Thanksgiving. Most of the city’s attractions are already festooned with Christmas decorations and open for extended hours, so you can actually visit more than one park in a single day. If your heart is set on a Thanksgiving-style dinner, make sure you plan ahead as decent restaurants fill up fast. No advance planning needed, however, for other nearby attractions, like Daytona Beach, Ocala National Forest, and Cape Canaveral.

Check out this complete Thanksgiving Orlando itinerary:

New Orleans, Louisiana

Jackson Square, New Orleans by: Christian Senger (CC)
Jackson Square, New Orleans by: Christian Senger (CC)

If you think a Thanksgiving New Orleans visit means escaping turkey…well, think again. The city that has gifted the world with cotton candy, dental floss, and poker is also the birthplace of turducken. No, it’s not a spelling mistake. The modern Thanksgiving tradition goes something like this: a deboned chicken is stuffed inside a deboned duck, which is then stuffed inside a partially deboned turkey. Many local restaurants serve this triple-poultry wonder during November, and you probably couldn’t miss it if you tried. No worries: work off those helpings of turducken by walking around French Quarter, the city’s oldest and liveliest neighborhood.

Click on this New Orleans itinerary for more vacation ideas:

Thanksgiving Abroad

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels Christmas Market by: Gary Bembridge (CC)
Brussels Christmas Market by: Gary Bembridge (CC)

The transformation that Brussels undergoes in late November is nothing short of astonishing. For most of the year, the city serves as the capital of Europe and hosts major political institutions, like the European Parliament. Right around Thanksgiving, however, politics take a backseat and this global center of power becomes a fairy-tale town bursting with the holiday spirit. Start your Brussels tour in the center of the city, where you’ll find one of Europe’s largest Christmas markets. Over 200 wooden stalls designed like little chalets sell handmade Christmas ornaments and edible treats. Black Friday sales have nothing on Brussels for holiday presents, so grab a Belgian waffle and start browsing for one-of-a-kind souvenirs and stocking stuffers.

Browse this Brussels itinerary to see what else you can do and see there:

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik by: Marco Bellucci (CC)
Reykjavik by: Marco Bellucci (CC)

If you visit Reykjavik in November, expect daytime temperatures not to exceed 5 C (40 F)—but don’t let that turn you off of a Thanksgiving vacation in Iceland. There’s plenty to do in this island capital that’ll keep you warm, both indoors and out. Start with a pleasantly warm soak in one of the city’s famous geothermal spas. The landscape in this area is stunning and the naturally heated waters are rich in minerals rumored to possess healing powers. Escape the nightly chill by doing exactly what many Icelanders do: get comfy at a bar, where the natives will regale you with local humor and treat you to a few of their domestic beers and schnapps.

Look for more activities for your vacation on this Reykjavik itinerary:

Spend Thanksgiving off Your Couch

Instead of spending yet another holiday in a food-induced coma, you could get out there and explore the great big world. Late November is a perfect time to break out of your daily routine and enjoy a short holiday from your couch. For other weekend vacation ideas, check out Inspirock, where you can create your own Thanksgiving itinerary.


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