By Jane Marie
Everyone loves the holidays, but not everyone was born to host a holiday dinner. What will you make? How long do you roast the bird? When do you start the potatoes? Where will everyone sit? Do you even have enough chairs? Or tables? Should you let Grandma bring a burnt pie again? And don’t forget about the cleanup. Egad. But there’s no law saying holiday dinner has to happen at home. This year, why not buck tradition and take your brood on the road for a stress-free holiday feast? (Not unlike the newly transformed Impala, maybe it’s time for an innovative, sophisticated reinterpretation of the annual dinner!) Seats fill up fast at these scrumptious destinations where the food isn’t the only draw, so call for reservations.
Zehnder’s, Frankenmuth, Michigan
Start your day at this family-style restaurant famous for it’s chicken and turkey dinners, available year-round and on Thanksgiving and Christmas. After you’ve scarfed down your share of stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, head outside to stroll the streets of the Bavarian-style village, known best for its Christmas-year-round megastore, Bronner’s. But bundle up! It’s cold enough in winter months to be the host of an annual ice sculpture festival.
Spirit of Philadelphia Thanksgiving Cruise, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Are you kidding me? A THANKSGIVING DINNER CRUISE IN AMERICA’S BIRTHPLACE!? It’s like…it’s like having dinner aboard your own little Mayflower. Unbelievable. Who even cares what they’re serving? Okay, fine, it’s a delicious lunch buffet with all the traditional fare, from the turkey to the pie. And if you miss their Thursday cruise, have no fear: They’re sailing and noshing all weekend long. What a way to refuel after Black Friday shopping!
Medieval Times, Various locations
Horses! Fair maidens! Cups overflowing with mead! “As you thrill to a rousing live jousting tournament, and marvel at awe-inspiring horsemanship and falconry, Medieval Times serves a four-course meal fit for royalty.” Sold. You know they’ve got the turkey legs covered; just pick up a pumpkin pie at the grocery store on the way home and your Thanksgiving feast will be complete.
Tre Kronor, Chicago, Illinois
Every holiday season beginning in November, Chicago’s premiere Swedish restaurant hosts a holiday julbord like no other in North America. First, the setting will melt your heart: Guests for this special seating dine at small tables clustered in a cozy, dimly lit traditional Chicago home situated above the restaurant and only open during this special time. One candlelit room contains a buffet fit for a king—Tre Kronor translates to “Three Crowns,” the national symbol of Sweden—and you’re encouraged to try every item on offer. From pickled herring and cured salmon to cheese and meat and traditional Swedish meatballs—and the mysterious Lutefisk—you’ll get an education in this Nordic fare. Sip some warm house-made gløgg while servers dressed in traditional garb sing “Santa Lucia.”
The Omni Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina
Celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year, this massive, 500-guestroom hotel is a sight to behold overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. From the granite exterior to the grand fireplace and wood beams of the dining hall to the sunset mountain views, there’s much to take in—all before you sit down to Christmas dinner. On offer is an all-day holiday brunch complete with a raw bar and endless desserts. Be sure to check out the Gingerbread House Competition on display between courses.
The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.
Jane Marie is a former public radio producer, current writer and editor, and future coffee table book author.