The saying “you can’t go home again” gets incredibly tough around the holidays — and Thanksgiving is an especially tough one to miss, because there’s nothing like sitting around a table with your loved ones, indulging in butter-dunked foods, watching a good ol’ American football game, shopping on Black Friday, and just being there to enjoy the leftovers all weekend. But before your inability to get home for Thanksgiving brings out your inner Scrooge, consider this: with an affordable vacation rental, you can still escape the monotony of everyday life to take in unique local cultures and embrace the holiday magic.
Here are a few cities to check out, plus some notable things to do if you’re homesick and solo on Thanksgiving. Each location has plenty of dining options sure to keep your ugly-holiday-sweater-rocking-self stuffed, in addition to plenty of activities to keep you busy. Don’t forget that sometimes it’s refreshing to spend some quality time alone, and in the end, we’re sure these locations will help put you in the holiday spirit.
Located about 45 minutes outside of Denver, Boulder is definitely accessible by car, but if you don’t want to spend a fortune or drive, there are also options to get there via shuttle courtesy Green Ride and Super Shuttle. Once you’ve arrived at this charming mountain getaway, there are plenty of Thanksgiving dining options to keep your stomach happy, and there are a lot of fun non-food activities you can do too.
Take in a holiday tradition courtesy of the Boulder Ballet. The holiday season means many things, but if you’re a ballet buff, chances are you’ll want to consider checking out this Boulder Ballet holiday classic, The Nutcracker, telling the magical and whimsical story of a young girl Clara and her beloved nutcracker. The show follows them on a fantastic adventure through fairy towns and faraway lands over one unforgettable Christmas night.
Enjoy Dude It’s Boulder at the Dairy Arts Center. Known locally as “The Dairy,” this center bills itself as Boulder’s “catalyst for creativity since 1992,” with cultural offerings that include cinema, arts, dance, music, and — of course — theater. Dude It’s Boulder, written by Jane Shepard, a Boulder native and award-winning playwright, presents the life and times of Boulder over 10 decades with live music and 75 characters. So beloved is this show, that it often sells out.
Hit the trails, slopes, or both to take in the local fun. The scenic backdrop that surrounds the area beckons visitors who seek a trail to hike or a slope for a skiing adventure. Beer lovers can enjoy a mug of local suds from one of the 21 nearby breweries or shop wares crafted by local makers. And don’t forget to sample some chocolate while you’re out and about.
Although Sedona is a two-hour drive from Phoenix and an hour outside Flagstaff, if you’re up for the drive, it is one scenic trip worth considering given the reward of breathtaking views along the way. Known as a retreat with many resorts and spas where visitors can get their rest and relaxation on, Sedona also provides visitors with some pretty sweet treats and activities.
Visit Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. This former site of an artist’s community now plays host to over 50 unique shops and art galleries. Visitors can browse local artist’s wares, which are sometimes crafted on the premises, including bronze sculptures, weavings, and fine contemporary jewelry. The village also offers fine dining with a nod to the state’s local Southwestern roots.
Enjoy the Vines of Verde Valley. Located in the nearby red rock countryside, Verde Valley is a wine lover’s paradise. Verde, which means green, is a great way to describe this region because it provides a lush oasis in the desert with nearly 80% of it designated as National Forest. The valley is home to the Verde River, the state’s only federally designated “Wild and Scenic River.” Verde Valley also consists of five vineyards and six tasting rooms, offering wine lovers the perfect excuse to sip and stroll on repeat.
Take a Jeep Tour. If it’s accessible to humans by car in Sedona, chances are you can probably take a tour of it in a Jeep Tour. Visitors to Sedona can expect to experience wineries, the Canyon, and countless other local draws from the vantage point of a local Jeep experience, with some lasting for an hour and others taking much longer. Don’t want to do the tour thing? Cool. You can also rent a Jeep and make your very own DIY tour.
Have you ever dreamed of going to Germany without having to dust off your passport? If so, you’re in luck because Leavenworth is waiting for your arrival, with all the Bavarian delights one can hope for this side of the Atlantic. The self-proclaimed “Alps of Washington” prides itself in keeping it local. Whether it’s wine, chocolate, cheese, or goods and trinkets, Leavenworth is down to party Bavarian-style any time of the year.
Enjoy a Horse-Drawn Carriage or Sleigh Ride. What better way to kick off the holiday season than to cozy up under soft blankets and see the sights in a carriage or sleigh ride? There are dozens of ways to participate, including, breakfast and dinner routes, at nearby ranches and in nearby meadows, and of course, some offer warm cider by the fire to top it off.
Give Yourself a Spa Day. Holidays can be stressful, so why not consider booking yourself an afternoon at the spa to relieve the stress and help you feel like a million bucks in the process? While Leavenworth is known for its nod to the old country, its spa offerings are modern and up-to-date, including luxury treatments such as massages, facials, scrubs, and wraps.
Swing by the Nutcracker Museum. You read that right. Leavenworth is so in love with all things Nutcracker that it even has a museum solely dedicated to the intricate wooden gadgets. The collection features figurines from all around the world and presents their rich history in a way that delights both children and adult visitors.
Thinking about keeping it weird this Turkey Day? The town known for just that is more than equipped to give visitors a great experience this time of year. While slightly larger and more well known than the other locales on this list, Portland usually manages to keep a small vibe even as it incorporates big-city sophistication.
The result: a holiday to remember.
Enjoy Holiday Spirit Aboard the Portland Spirit. Want to skip the hotels and restaurants for dinner and hit the waters instead? Great news! The Portland Spirit can do just that. For two hours, a boat will take visitors along the Willamette River, providing great views of the city and the nearby Milwaukie Waterfront. Dinner is served buffet style and includes all the trimmings one can expect to find at a holiday table. Visitors are also treated to candle-lit tables and live piano music.
Dig the Vibe at Dig a Pony Thanksgiving. Ready to dance, get down, and maybe find a sweet treat? You just might want to see what’s going on at Dig a Pony Thanksgiving. The venue is a performing art and dance space that also offers drinks. In honor of Thanksgiving, guests at Dig A Pony are invited to enjoy dessert while they bop to the music because it plans on serving up some pie along with a side of funk.
Check Out the Holiday Tree Lighting and Beaverton Night Market. Portland will host its 35th annual holiday tree lighting from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM at the Pioneer Square Court House on November 29th. In addition to the brilliance of over 14,000 lights on a 75-foot Douglas fir, the town will host a holiday sing-along with hot chocolate on hand. Meanwhile, shoppers can bop over to the Beaverton Night Market Bazaar for souvenirs, arts, and crafts by nearly 30 vendors.
Last but not least on this list is Jackson Hole. At over an hour’s drive from Yellowstone, Jackson Hole is part of a 50-mile valley surrounded by mountains that prides itself in historically progressive moves such as electing the first all-female town council in the country in 1920. In 1930, Snow King Resort was established, marking the first ski area in the state and one of the first in the United States.
Run For A Prize. Each Thanksgiving, runners, joggers, and even prancers gather in downtown Jackson Hole to kick off the town’s annual Turkey Trot 5K. The race, which starts and finishes in the downtown square, celebrates its 27th year in operations and for 2019 will collect non-perishables for the nearby Jackson Cupboard, a local soup kitchen.
Attend A Tree Lighting With the Locals. From 5:00 PM to 7:00m PM the Friday after Thanksgiving, Jackson Hole invites visitors and locals alike to come and enjoy the lighting of its town tree, to sing Christmas carols together, and to get into the holiday mood. Even non-believers can expect a sense of magic, as Santa enters the town square pulled by sleigh dogs.
Get Lost In (Responsibly) In Nature. The fun in Jackson Hole doesn’t stop at the town square. There are plenty of excursion worthy stops outside the center city as well. Try a 12-minute ride in the Jackson Hole Tram if you want to see the surrounding area from high in the sky. Ski buffs can hit the slopes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and for those who want to really get lost, taking in a guided wildlife tour is a sure bet.