With busy schedules and tricky travel plans, hosting a Thanksgiving meal among friends is sometimes the best way to spend the holiday weekend. “Friendsgiving” can be celebrated with anything from a spontaneous potluck and a trip to the bars, to a well-planned get together complete with home activities. To help you do something original this year, we’ve compiled a series of nearby getaways from major cities where you can head to celebrate.
Here are five destinations you can travel to in just a few hours — with activities for going out and staying in — so you can celebrate Friendsgiving this year with a different backdrop and table setting.
If you’re from New York City, NY
New Yorkers are just a short road trip away from the Catskill Mountains. Head north from NYC on a scenic two-hour road trip to visit this idyllic mountain range full of wildlife, hiking trails, and ski resorts. For a holiday experience that’s off the beaten path, grab your friends and wander down the Hudson River Art Trail to see over twenty sites that showcase the vistas wonderfully captured by Hudson River School painters. These esteemed artists are known for captivating the world in the 1800s by focusing their paintings on the tenuous relationship between nature and civilization. The trail is also home to the Thomas Cole Natural Historic Site where you can find Cedar Grove: the home and studio of the school’s founder, Thomas Cole, full of his own unique artwork.
You can also check out Hunter Mountain to experience one of America’s longest, fastest, and highest zipline tours open year-round and offering nighttime zipping for the truly daring. You can also hike your way 1,900 feet to the top of Mount Tremper on a six mile round-trip route that offers wide, panoramic views of Catskill’s ranges. Then head to Cucina in the nearby town of Woodstock for an Italian-themed Thanksgiving menu featuring a turkey and lasagna Bolognese along with plenty of delicious, locally-source vegetarian options, all inside a beautiful farmhouse-turned-restaurant. Mangia!
Where to Stay
Mountainside Cottage Escape Near Catskills
This cottage sleeps a maximum of 6 people, and is located less than 30 minutes away from the Catskill Mountains. If you’re seeking a private hideaway for the long weekend, this is it.
In the daytime, guests are welcome to use the grill on the deck. On a clear night, you can spend the evening outside stargazing, with soothing sounds of the river surrounding you.
Looking to stay in? Create a planned potluck to share the wealth and relieve the stress of cooking a table full of food on your own. Have your friends create Thanksgiving themed dishes around themes like ‘apples’ or ‘cinnamon’ to enjoy holiday fare together with the spice of a Food Network show.
Looking to go out? Head to Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company, a bar themed around Washington Irving’s famous fictional character who drank some ale, fell asleep for twenty years and dreamed of giants. The story’s original setting is in a mountain range you can view from the restaurant, and the bar offers over eight different seasonal beers on tap to help you celebrate the holiday season. Just make sure you don’t fall asleep when you’ve finished your first glass.
If you’re from Chicago, IL
To change the holiday rhythm and get away from the big city for a few days, drive two hours to Lake Geneva where you can find the stunning architecture of Gilded Age mansions and Victorian furnishings. Late autumn in Lake Geneva offers a diverse and colorful landscape full of farmlands, dense forests, and beachfronts that are easy to marvel at. To explore the area during the day, hop on a boat tour to listen to the history of the region as you cruise over crisp Wisconsin waters, or hike along a portion of the Shore Path that weaves in and out of the woods next to the lake as you reflect with gratitude on the months behind you and the rest of the year ahead.
For a unique Thanksgiving meal, cook up a few homemade entrees, rustle up some hearty sides, and then head out to the Williams Bay Beach for a holiday picnic. If you’d rather have someone else do the cooking, check out Red Geranium for a classy, delectable Thanksgiving menu. You can also try Grand Geneva for a special Thanksgiving brunch buffet prepared by their chefs that includes lavender-roasted Amish turkey, seasonal salads, and fresh seafood.
Where to Stay
We present to you, the ultimate Friendsgiving home in Lake Geneva! This 9 bedroom home sleeps up to 20 people, meaning you can invite your whole crew for this out of town adventure.
The dining room even has an incredibly long dining table made perfectly for a Thanksgiving feast. Picture all your favorite people sharing a toast right here.
Plus, check out this rendering of the property before it was brought to life! It has an epic weekend written all over it.
Looking to stay in? For a nostalgic Friendsgiving, fire up A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or Planes, Trains and Automobiles while you sip some holiday cocktails like this two ingredient apple cider mimosa. Or poll the group for their favorite sitcom and find a themed episode. Helpful resources include this definitive guide to the best Friends Thanksgiving episodes and this show-agnostic guide to the 15 best turkey day episodes available on Netflix.
Looking to go out? Oakfire offers a legendary happy hour to help you start the night right, with half-price beers, half-price rail mixers, and half-price select appetizers all with a scenic Lakefront view you can enjoy as the sun sets. Then head to the Grand Geneva and look for Ember’s Terrace, which offers desserts and cocktails next to a fire pit complete with s’mores for a decadent Thanksgiving top-off. You can also step inside to enjoy Evolve Nightclub, which serves sophisticated cocktails and a cozy atmosphere to wind down the evening.
If you’re from San Francisco, CA
Stuck on where to celebrate Friendsgiving in San Francisco? Drive an hour and a half to Napa Valley for hundreds of hillside vineyards with more wine than you can drink, on top of delicious, seasonal and locally-sourced Thanksgiving cuisine. With over 95% of Napa’s wineries being family-owned and operated, it will be easy for you and your friends to feel at home. Before the big meal, try a holiday tasting at Elhers Estate just north of St. Helena in a stone barn built in 1886. Then take a stroll around the property and relax under the shade of an olive grove planted by the winery’s founder, Bernard Elhers, over 100 years ago.
Another great winery to visit is CADE Winery on the top of Howell Mountain for a modern winery experience made with over 98% renewable materials. When you’re ready to eat an elegant Thanksgiving dinner you won’t forget, sit down at FARM where you’ll experience a three-course Thanksgiving meal by Executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli that plays on classic holiday dishes infused with seasonal twists.
To pack two vacations in one, follow your Friendsgiving meal with a drive to South Lake Tahoe the following Saturday, tucked in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and known for its incredible beaches and ski resorts. If the group is looking to hit the slopes, you can ski or snowboard at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Resort, or Sierra at Tahoe. Late fall and winter trips also offer sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice skating to help accommodate the different experience levels you might be travelling with. If the snow is light but you’re still looking for an outdoor holiday adventure, try hiking up glacier-carved granite slopes and discover hidden waterfalls in Tahoe South.
Where to Stay
For a more intimate Friendsgiving getaway for a party of 4, check out this chic barn with vineyard views and a private pool in the outskirts of Napa Valley’s St. Helena.
There are two bedrooms on opposite ends of the home, opening up to the swimming pool on one side, and a hot tub on the other — right outside of the master bedroom’s doors.
If you decide to head to Lake Tahoe after Napa, check out this quaint chalet, just down the street from Heavenly Ski Resort’s slopes.
The property has a hot tub surrounded by the trees, setting the stage for a private peaceful escape in the snow.
Looking to stay in? Put a spin on a classic potluck by doing desserts only. You can delegate baking up golden pies to your most culinary-inclined friends and delegate toppings like whipped cream and fresh fruit to those who don’t like the pressure. You can also make cocktails sticking to the “desserts only” theme, like a spiked hot chocolate or a strawberry shortcake martini.
Looking to go out? Napa’s best places to sip after sunset include the Crush Lounge where you can experience a modern take on bowling and enjoy cocktails by the fire or around a pool table, and Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ in the heart of downtown, where you can select your preferred bottle of wine from their list of over 400 to sip among friends.
After hours in Lake Tahoe on the other hand, is filled with local, laid-back bars with a few dance clubs in the mix. Head to Fat Cat or the Red Dog Saloon for some live music, or dance the holiday blues away at Opal Ultralounge.
If you’re from Denver, CO
Head up to the high country to visit Breckenridge. It’s only an hour and a half away, but plan for the possibility of a bit of holiday traffic. Pre-holiday meal, you can grab a pass and hit the mountain for peaks that offer everything from beginner routes to advanced alpine chutes and bowls, all complete with breathtaking views. For those who don’t want to ski or board, Breck also offers unique outdoor winter experiences like mushing through the Swan River Valley with a team of dogs or snowmobiling through the Rockies to take in the incredible sights of Summit County.
When you get hungry, there are a few fantastic options in town to enjoy a unique Thanksgiving meal. Spencer’s offers a gourmet Thanksgiving buffet, complete with chef-attended pasta and meat-carving stations, smoked seafood, fresh salads, and traditional holiday fare with a full pie and cake spread. Sauce on the Maggie has three different holiday meals to choose from that include either all-natural smoked turkey, slow roasted prime rib, or a gourmet Surf & Turf. This restaurant is located on the mountain between two peaks, so you can fine dine with a guaranteed view.
Where to Stay
If you’re planning to hit the slopes, this ski-in ski-out cabin is the way to go. It’s situated right by the 4 O’Clock Run at Breckenridge Ski Resort, so as the name implies, you can ski straight home at 4 o’clock when the slopes close.
The 5 bedroom home sleeps 10 people comfortably, and even has a hot tub on the balcony with great views to warm up after a full day on the mountain.
Looking to stay in? Gather the gang and pull out the cards and board games. For a rowdy group, play Cards Against Humanity or for a tamer crowd, play Apples to Apples. If you’re looking for something more festive, try baking and decorating cookies together while you express some group gratitude.
Looking to go out? The Gold Pan Saloon is known for having the oldest liquor license west of the Mississippi with over 140 years of rich history. Learn about the storied gunfights and how it outlasted Prohibition while you sip some wine from the new addition of the Carboy Winery. Then, head to Downstairs at Eric’s for a traditional holiday dessert like their famous seasonal pumpkin pie.
If you’re from Nashville, TN
If you live in Nashville, head a few hours east to Gatlinburg, the self-proclaimed gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With over 520,000 acres to explore, the Smokies offer majestic views, one-of-a-kind attractions, and plenty of unforgettable experiences that make it worth the journey. If you’re looking to play outdoors, Gatlinburg offers night skiing, snow tubing, ice skating, and over 800 miles of backcountry trails with waterfalls, wildlife, valleys, and vistas. Head to the top of Crockett Mountain on the iconic Gatlinburg SkyLift that rises over five hundred vertical feet to catch a sunset you won’t forget.
If you’d rather stay inside, head to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies housing thousands of exotic sea creatures, including 12-foot sharks and a giant tortoise. Wine enthusiasts can visit the Smoky Mountain Winery for a free tasting of award-winning wines from Tennessee’s oldest premium winemaker. As for a Thanksgiving meal, visit the locally owned Holston’s Kitchen to experience a unique twist on American classics, or head to Mama’s Farmhouse for a taste of home-cooked meals served in large portions and a comfortable atmosphere.
Where to Stay
This Gatlinburg cabin has everything you need to kick off a weekend full of Friendsgiving activities, starting with a theater room to watch all your favorite holiday classics.
In addition to a theater room, this property also has a hot tub, pool table, and foosball table. It’s safe to say you won’t fall short of things to do, even if you stay in all weekend long.
The best part is, this 8 bedroom home sleeps over 20 people, and there’s space for everyone to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast. As you can see, the dining room has not one, not two — but three dining tables to accommodate everyone!
Looking to stay in? Host a booze tasting of regional bourbons or your favorite spirit of choice for a fun way to learn as a group. Or, if you’re looking to dial up the energy, play a Thanksgiving Day Parade drinking game centered around the Macy’s Day parade. Not looking to drink? Play a drinking game with fitness instead by substituting burpees or squats for shots to suffer now and save the guilt for when you indulge on pie later.
Looking to go out? Go investigate Sherlock Holmes Pub which offers a true European experience fit for the country’s forefathers, complete with Irish and English beers on tap and live music. You can also head over to Hogs and Honey’s Saloon for a sports bar by day to catch all the football your heart desires and wild west saloon by night, complete with swinging doors and a balcony that overlooks downtown Gatlinburg.
This Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be spent at home. Find a nearby vacation, grab some friends, and do something different. Wherever you plan to go, VacationRenter can help you find and book the perfect stay.