Image: Otesaga, N.Y.
© Otesaga
This historic hotel in Cooperstown will offer an extensive program of activities for kids and adults from Nov. 21-25. The Thanksgiving Weekend Family Package starts at $415.
updated 11/15/2007 2:59:27 PM ET 2007-11-15T19:59:27

Tired of celebrating Thanksgiving the traditional way, at home, with family and a huge meal that you’ve cooked yourself or brought in?

Consider turning the holiday into a weekend getaway this year, where you can still feast and also find diversions galore for relatives of all ages.

There’s a wide variety of posh hotels to choose from, each offering special activities that differ by locale, everything from a ring-side seat at the renowned Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City to moonlight story-telling and a hayride in the dunes on Florida’s Amelia Island and a guided family bicycle tour on a private island off the coast of Antigua.

Judy Rafter, a travel agent at Provident Travel in Cincinnati, Ohio, finds family vacations are becoming increasingly popular over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The kids are home from college and it’s a wonderful time for everyone to get together. At Christmas time, as children get older, they want to stay home,” she finds.

“Because family time is so important to people and parents’ and kids’ schedules are so hectic, getting away from their day-to-day lives, and spending time together is essential. When they have holiday time, more families are now willing to get away,” says Misty Ewing, director of public relations for Virtuoso, a consortium of upscale travel agencies.

Colleen Donnelly, sales manager of the Otesega, a 98-year-old grand dame resort on the southern shore of Lake Otsego in Cooperstown, N.Y., (and the “Glimmerglass” of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels), sees greater demand for Thanksgiving getaways “with both moms and dads working these days. They just want to get together for a family holiday, they want somebody else to take care of everything.”

At the Otesaga, “guests come generation after generation, multi-generations together,” Donnelly says.

Another advantage of going away over Thanksgiving, compared to Christmas, Ewing finds, is better room availability. “Christmas break is still the one people focus on and plan further out for,” she says.

Luxury hotels of all sizes are offering Thanksgiving packages this November: These range from the 44-room Blackberry Farm, an elegant Relais & Chateaux resort in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, to the 593-guest-room Fairmont Southampton, on a 100-acre estate atop the highest point in Bermuda, and the 884-guest-room JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, Calif.

Images of the Fall Harvest Festival at Blackberry Farms Yallerhammer Pavilion
© Blackberry Farm
This Relais & Chateaux resort is set in a 19th century farmhouse on a 4,200–acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains, 25 miles south of Knoxville, Tenn. Its Thanksgiving festivities begin this year on Nov. 21, with a welcome reception and musical accompaniment on the Main House verandah.
Styles of hotels with Thanksgiving getaways also vary greatly. There are elegant urban properties like the Mandarin Oriental, New York and the Ritz Carlton New York, Central Park, both with spectacular views of that famous New York oasis of greenery, as well as exclusive resorts like Rosewood’s Jumby Bay, which has three white sand beaches on a 300-acre private island two miles off the coast of Antigua.

All of these hotels cater to kids (and their parents and grandparents): The Otesaga, for example, has an extensive program of activities that begins on Wednesday, November 21, and includes multiple visits by “Hay You,” a clown; holiday movies for kids; and apple-bobbing contests. The JW Marriott Desert Springs lets kids make their own candy apples, and has a petting zoo for them. The Resort at Paws Up, in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, takes advantage of its locale: It gives guests a horse-drawn wagon ride, and lets them choose among sports like winter horseback riding, ice-skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Fairmont Southampton has special activities at its “Explorers Camp” for kids five and older, including games, movies and arts and crafts.

Image: Desert Springs JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Calif.
© Desert Springs JW Marriott
Located on 450 acres of lush, landscaped grounds and lagoons in Palm Desert, Calif., this hotel is literally an oasis in the desert; after a $35 million renovation this year, it now has a new, 38,000-square-foot spa, refurbished lobby and new lobby and sushi bars. Thanksgiving activities include pony rides, a front-lawn carnival Saturday afternoon, and petting zoo.
Of course, the Thanksgiving feast is a major highlight of this weekend, and there are many different ways to enjoy it. Some hotels, like the Ritz Carlton New York, Central Park, serve a buffet dinner, while others, like Blackberry Farm, offer several options, including a dinner in the Main House that is reserved for families with children age eight and younger.

If you shop around, there are even a few deals at luxury hotels available Thanksgiving weekend: the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, a casita-style hotel outside of Phoenix, is offering guests who stay four nights a discounted rate of $19.29 on their last night. This commemorates the opening of the hotel—built in 1918 as a retreat for visiting executives from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company—on Thanksgiving Day in 1929. Guests who buy this package will also receive a private tour of the Wigwam, an autographed copy of a new history of the resort, and other gifts.

Another special deal: Participants in Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ Preferred Guest loyalty program get triple points for stays at most W hotels, except for a few overseas, between November 16 and 25.

So whether you’re in the market for special offers, or just want to find a relaxing place to share turkey and more with your loved ones, read on, and enjoy the holiday!


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