For many, Thanksgiving travel has always meant overpriced rates, delays and long lines to get anywhere, *(I do consider this a valid point of view), although I like to think of any 4 day long holiday as the opportunity to travel. Whether it’s going back to my hometown to have the big dinner with family and catch up with friends, or to use this break as the perfect excuse to head off to someplace new. More often than not, I find myself packing my bags in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, so if you’re not one of the millions heading home this holiday, let me suggest a few locales to explore, away from the Thanksgiving travel masses.
1. Head South of the Border for Sun, Sand & Culture in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Residents of the Western half of the US can opt for Puerto Vallarta as a great getaway destination as you can easily have sun, sand and great Mexican culture in under a 3 hour flight from many states.
Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa is my choice hands down if you want that luxury boutique hotel experience and the ability to be walking distance to the downtown art galleries, shops, restaurants and excitement. It’s one of the few downtown hotels with a truly great beach that happens to be private, and apart from the fabulous gourmet cuisine, which is an experience on it’s own, the thermal pools and sauna areas of the spa are included for all guests to enjoy.
Although PV is quite the cultural center on Mexico’s Pacific coast, and you can easily fill your days with relaxing on the beach, enjoying the spa and exploring the unique establishments in town, your getaway would not be complete without escaping to the pure nature of the Marieta Islands on a chartered boat. Mikes Fishing has great, private charters and they have the local insight to take you out early enough so you can enjoy snorkeling around in your own private island paradise. Around noon, head out to sea and away from the crowds then return around sunset after a complete day of bliss.
If you’re looking to dine off property for a truly remarkable Thanksgiving dinner, Puerto Vallarta is “the foodie destination” of Mexico, with a huge variety from local and inventive hole in the wall establishments that blow your mind to award winning gastronomic experiences. Café des Artistes, Chef Thierry Blouet’s flagship in town is the place to go for a multi course celebration of the senses, set amidst the most intimate and gorgeous backyard garden, your culinary experience is sure to be one Thanksgiving to remember. If a spectacular Pacific sunset and fabulous food is what you’re after, head up the hill, and keep driving up, up, up, until you’ve reached Vista Grill. Here you’ll feel like you’ve arrived to your own private rooftop terrace dinner party, so arrive early to enjoy one of their mixologist prepared cocktails then linger over dinner, the sunset and the show of the amber roofed city below turning into a sea of sparkling lights.
2. Explore the Eastern Caribbean Via Cruising on the Celebrity Silhouette
Southeast and East Coast travelers wanting to venture out beyond the typical Thanksgiving mold and find luxury and relaxation at their fingertips, can take a short flight to Ft. Lauderdale or even drive to catch the Celebrity Silhouette, departing on November 23rd for a full week in the Eastern Caribbean. This is the perfect getaway for families and large groups wanting to do something together for the Thanksgiving holiday, yet desiring a change of scenery at the same time. Due to the low demand of cruises during this week of the year, the prices are a fraction of their normal rates, so the value really adds up for the family.
Active groups and families will love the multi port itinerary, including Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and St. Maarten, as well as the gourmet culinary experience, entertainment and relaxation while at sea. Just think, Thanksgiving dinner, in an open air, lawn setting in the middle of the sea, now that’s a first.
3. A Little Taste of Europe Directly North – Montreal, Canada
*Photo via Redoxreaction for Visit Montreal
Many Northeasterners are merely a road trip away, and for the rest of us located within the Eastern half of the US, we can experience a little French flair easily within an hour our two via flight in Montreal. This is the perfect city to practice my favorite European tourism past time of being a short term local.
When heading to Montreal, pick one of the hip neighborhoods like Mile End, that’s overflowing with local flavor and establish your residency right away. This can be easily done via choosing an AirBnB apartment to call your own for the duration of your stay, like this elegant and spacious flat, full of character and currently available this Thanksgiving for an affordable rate of $118 / night.
Since you’re now a temporary local of Mile End, you’ll have to start your day with a cup of coffee at the eclectic and buzzing Le Cagibi Café, then take a morning stroll like your neighbors in Parc Jeanne Mance. Mid day, lose yourself for hours in the vintage havens of Lost & Found Shop, Amacord, L’Arterie and Les Etoffs, or discover a new favorite of your own, as there are many others in the area.
Early evening hours can best be spent by checking out the live music at one of the many nearby locales featuring open mics almost everyday, like Casa del Popolo or even return to Le Cagibi (it’s worth repeating), and enjoying a few drinks while chatting up the new neighbors. Later, head to the quirky chic Sparrow for a more upscale hipster vibe and enjoy some great eats for dinner as well.
By now, you’re officially an established short term resident of Montreal. You’ve got your intro to town, made local friends to invite for Thanksgiving dinner and you’re ready to venture out and explore the next layer, Marche Jean-Talon, Montreal’s top public market. Get there early in the day to purchase all of your Thanksgiving ingredients and stay for a few hours to enjoy a lunch and take in your surroundings. Welcome to the neighborhood!