A Weekend Stuffed with Holiday Fun By Katrina Brown Hunt
KeyLime Cove Waterpark, Gurnee, IL (Flickr: juggernautco)
Thinking of ditching the big turkey dinner with the in-laws and running away on vacation? You won’t be alone. Every Thanksgiving, families flock to kid-friendly resorts nationwide, leaving the cooking and cleaning to someone else. After all, with the kids out of school, it can be a wonderful opportunity for a long, unstressed weekend getaway an affordable rate. Here are just a few of the many resorts offering fun, activity-filled schedules over the long holiday weekend.
Where: Pinehurst, NC Why: Because this hallowed golf resort is surprisingly kid-friendly (see our review), and Thanksgiving weekend offers myriad opportunities for families to have fun together. The weekend roster includes family movie nights, wagon rides, ornament-making, gingerbread-house-decorating and “Family Fairways” golf clinics. (And to please the gents, plenty of football showing in the lounge.) For extra admission, you can see local productions of The Nutcracker and the Carolina Philharmonic’s Peter and the Wolf. The Thanksgiving package starts at $160 per person and includes overnight accommodations, a traditional Thanksgiving meal, breakfast, and most activities. Kids 12 and under eat, stay, and golf for free with an adult.
Where: Cooperstown, NY Why: Because this historic hotel is offering a huge roster of activities for the whole family from November 23 to November 27. There will be clown performances, nightly kids’ movies, ghost stories, cookie decorating, and other age-appropriate festivities. There will also be family hayrides through Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Santa is scheduled to make a special appearance at breakfast on Saturday morning. The two-night Thanksgiving Family Weekend package starts at $595 per couple (add $130 per child 5-12 and $160 per teen) and includes lodging, activities, two dinners, and two breakfasts for each guest.
Where: Olympic Valley, CA Why: Because during the long weekend, this Lake Tahoe resort will roll out its annual Magical Memories program with a tree-lighting ceremony and the unveiling of its gingerbread village. After enjoying a classic Thanksgiving buffet, families can take part in winter-themed activities such as sleigh rides, ice skating, caroling, ice-carving demonstrations, Menorah lighting, and even bedtime tuck-ins from elves. The supervised Mountain Buddies kids’ club offers arcade games, arts and crafts, outdoor fun in the snow, and more. The Magical Memories Bed and Breakfast package starts at $189 a night and includes breakfast for four.
Where: Sun Valley, ID Why: Because Thanksgiving marks the official kick-off to Sun Valley’s 76th winter season and a celebration that has become a tradition among many skiing families. This year, the resort has six new adventure trails geared toward kids, a new halfpipe, and two dozen new features in the terrain park. You can also work up your appetite by ice skating, hiking, and snowshoeing—or stay warm inside with bowling, virtual golf, and movie showings in the resort’s theater. Special weekend rates start at $297 per person and include four nights of lodging at the Sun Valley Lodge or Sun Valley Inn, a three-day lift ticket per person, and a Thanksgiving buffet. Plus, kids stay and ski for free.
Where: Sandusky, OH Why: Because Thanksgiving weekend is the kick-off for the Festival of Lights at this Lake Erie resort. Families can take a hayride through the holiday lights display as they listen to Christmas classics, or they can drop in on Mrs. Claus for hot chocolate, cider, and donuts. Kids can go swimming in the indoor pool, walk the trails of the nature preserve, or head to the video game room. There will also be a corn-hole toss contest with wine and juice pops as prizes, a caricature artist, and Santa will be on hand passing out candy canes. The two-night Thanksgiving package for a family of four starts at $324 and includes Thanksgiving buffet, a Festival of Lights hay ride, and breakfast on Friday. Additional nights can be added for just $79.
Camp Russel at Oglebay Park in West Virginia (Flickr: irisphotos)
(MORE: Find more Thanksgiving family deals.)
Where: San Antonio, TX Why: Because this luxury resort and spa is stuffed with family fun for the holiday, including a craft show, a parade with guest-fashioned wagon floats, performances by a local marching band and a high-school show choir, as well as meet-and-greets with Santa and some real live reindeer. There’s also a four-acre waterpark with a lazy river and cascading falls. On November 24, the resort serves up an impressive Thanksgiving spread. Book the “Fall Promotion” and receive a third night free. Holiday weekend rates start at $199 a night.
Where: Greenwater, WA Why: Because this family-friendly wilderness retreat is located near Mount Rainier National Park, just below Crystal Mountain, one of the state’s premier ski destinations. The holiday weekend starts off with Thanksgiving crafts, followed by some morning hiking or snowshoeing before the evening feast, followed by s’mores around a bonfire. There’s also karaoke on Friday night, another bonfire on Saturday, then football-watching on Sunday. Book the four-night “Thanksgiving Eat and Stay Special” from $249 a night and receive Wednesday night for free, plus a traditional holiday buffet. Two- and three-night packages are also available.
Where: Gurnee, IL Why: Because Santa will be hanging out during Thanksgiving weekend at this Florida Keys-themed indoor waterpark, complete with slides, wave pool, and lazy river. On dry land, grown ups can relax in the Paradise Mist Spa while the younger crowd can win prizes in the 8,000 square-foot arcade, do crafts in the Leapin’ Lizards kids club or even get their nails done at the kids spa. The weekend starts off with a Sunset Parade, and a tree-lighting ceremony to celebrate Santa’s arrival. Families that stay through Sunday can also join Santa in a special breakfast buffet. The two-night “Thanksgiving at the Cove” special starts at $400 and includes accommodations, four waterpark passes, and Thanksgiving buffet.
Where: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA Why: Because this splurge-worthy beachside resort outside Los Angeles offers both family-friendly feasting and fun ways to burn it off—and you’re even a fairly short drive from Disneyland. The resort does its own Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, followed by a Turkey Shoot-Out team scramble on the golf course on Saturday. The resort is offering a variety of dinners, from a grand buffet in the ballroom to care packages to take back to your room. With the Extended Holiday Package, you can shave at least 30% off stays of three nights or more in a two-, three- or four-bedroom casita or villa equipped with kitchens and fireplaces. The package brings the starting rate to about $425 a night.
Where: Wheeling, WV Why: Because this picturesque golf resort and spa is a mini-city in itself, with a planetarium, glass museum, and even a 30-acre zoo. Every November, the resort unveils its famous Festival of Lights, where 70 holiday-themed LED light displays can be viewed. The three-night Thanksgiving package starts at $469 and includes a welcome reception, daily breakfast, a vehicle pass to the festival of lights, and many activities.
Where: Pismo Beach, CA Why: Because this hotel perched high on the beach bluffs offers a compelling mix of mild temperatures, good rates and easy access to sights such as wine country, Hearst Castle, plus a local children’s museum and zoo. Daily festivities at the resort begin on Tuesday with s’mores around the firepit, followed by nightly movies, the Thursday feast and a local wine tasting on Friday. Three-night packages start at $569, and include a locally baked apple pie, for your own stash of leftovers. You can add daily breakfast for two for $15, and fourth night for just $99.