Dining Out for Thanksgiving in Florida

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida
••• Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida. Anne Rippy/Getty Images

It seems the tradition of families gathering around a large table for their Thanksgiving Day meal is still alive, but that table is less likely to be filled with traditional homemade fare than with take-out turkey and trimmings. And, not too surprising, is that for at least one in 10 Americans, that table may be located in a restaurant instead of the family home.

The National Restaurant Association has published research that indicates clearly more than half — 53 percent — of Americans use restaurant-prepared takeout items for all or part of their Thanksgiving Day meals.

The study also concluded that eleven percent celebrate Thanksgiving Day by dining in one of the nation's 945,000 restaurants.

While there are many reasons for families to dine out for Thanksgiving — convenience and travel come to mind — 79 percent of American adults say going to restaurants with family and friends is a better use of leisure time than cooking and cleaning up.

So, if you're going to be dining out for Thanksgiving, it is clear that reservations are a must to ensure a quality meal in a desirable location. While many restaurants in hotels offer Thanksgiving buffets, space is limited and restaurants in popular locations, like Disney World and Orlando, are often booked months in advance. And, did you know that you don't have to be a hotel guest to dine at their restaurants?

Here are just a few suggestions in locales throughout Florida (prices, dishes, and availability subject to change):

Amelia Island

  • Omni Amelia Island Plantation - Enjoy a Thanksgiving Grand Buffet at the Amelia Plantation's Sunrise Cafe and Ocean Grill from 12:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Guests also receive a complimentary family photo.
    A four-course Thanksgiving dinner will be served at The Verandah from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Call 904-261-6161 x5050 for reservations.
  • The Ritz-Carlton - Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings in the Ritz-Carlton Ballroom, served from 12:00 noon until 3:00 p.m. Reservations are required. Call 904-277-1028.
    A Thanksgiving buffet featuring roasted turkey will be served in Cafe 4750 from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Call 904-277-1028.
    A special four-course meal of organic turkey to be enjoyed in the elegant oceanfront surrounding of Salt at the Ritz-Carlton. Reservations are recommended. Call 904-277-1028.

Disney World

  • Swan and Dolphin Resort - The Garden Grove will serve a traditional Thanksgiving Buffet from 1:00 to 9:00 p.m., featuring roasted turkey, glazed ham and herb-crusted grouper with all the trimmings. Children will enjoy chicken tenders or pasta with meatballs and be thrilled with a visit from their favorite Disney characters. Adults $38.98, children (3-9) $18.99 and those under age three are complimentary.
    A special Thanksgiving menu will also be available at the Fresh Mediterranean Market from 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m. Adults $31.95 and children $16.95.
  • If you'll be at Disney World in November, you'll be happy to know you can get traditional Thanksgiving Day fare at restaurants within these Disney World resorts.

    Miami

    • Rusty Pelican - Enjoy a Thanksgiving Day Champagne Brunch Buffet with outstanding views of Biscayne Bay. Serving from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Cost is $75.00 for adults and $30.00 for kids (ages 4-11). Children under age 4 eat free! Reservations recommended, call 305-361-3818
      Thanksgiving Dinner will be served from 5:30 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. and feature turkey and stuffing. Fresh seafood and aged beef will also be available. Price averages $49 per person. Reservations recommended, call 305-361-3818

    Ocala

    • The Ivy House Restaurant in Williston (near Ocala) offers a Thanksgiving menu that's every bit as good as your mothers. This restaurant has repeatedly been named by Florida Trend Magazine as one of the top 400 places to eat in the state. Call 352-528-5410 for reservations.

    Orlando

    • Caribe Royale on World Center Drive in Orlando will serve a traditional Thanksgiving Buffet from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. in their Tropicále Restaurant, featuring a live Jazz Trio for entertainment. Adults are $44 and children ages 3-9, $15. Children under age three eat free. Reservations recommended, call 407-238-8020.
    • Columbia Restaurant, with six locations in Florida, including Celebration south of Disney World, will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving feast of Roast Vermont Turkey, Columbia stuffing, fresh vegetables, whipped potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. Dinner also includes a choice of Columbia soups or Caesar salad. Dinner will be served from 11:00 a.m. throughout the day. The cost is a reasonable $21.95 for adults and $5.95 for children under 10. Reservations are required.
    • Emeril's, located at Universal Orlando's CityWalk, will serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal as well as Cajun and Creole entrees.
    • Gaylord Palms Resort - The Villa de Flora has a Thanksgiving buffet from noon until 10:00 p.m. It sells out early, so call 407-586-1114 soon for reservations.
      Also, the Old Hickory Steakhouse will open at 4:30 for Thanksgiving dinner. Call 407-586-1600 for reservations.
    • Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress - Offering a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional fare for Thanksgiving Day at La Coquina Chef's Table and Cascade.
    • Rosen Plaza - This International Drive hotel is planning a Holiday Grand Buffet served in the Grand Ballroom of the hotel from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. The cost is $34.95 per adult, children (ages 4-12) $15.95 and children under age four eat free.
    • Rosen Shingle Creek Resort - A Land Remembered has put together a special non-traditional Thanksgiving Day menu.
    • About.com's Orlando Guide, Theresa Johnston compiled a list of popular places to dine on Thanksgiving Day that includes special buffets and brunches.

    Sarasota

    • Columbia Restaurant, with six locations in Florida, including Sarasota, will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving feast of Roast Vermont Turkey, Columbia stuffing, fresh vegetables, whipped potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. Dinner also includes a choice of Columbia soups or Caesar salad. Dinner will be served from 11:00 a.m. throughout the day. The cost is a reasonable $21.95 for adults and $5.95 for children under 10. Reservations are required.
    • Marina Jack - Enjoy a panoramic view of the marina, downtown, Sarasota Bay, Big Pass and the Gulf of Mexico as you partake of either a traditional Thanksgiving meal of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean almandine and cranberry sauce. Reservations are suggested. Call 941-365-4232.

    St. Augustine

    • Columbia Restaurant, with six locations in Florida, including St. Augustine, will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving feast of Roast Vermont Turkey, Columbia stuffing, fresh vegetables, whipped potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. Dinner also includes a choice of Columbia soups or Caesar salad. Dinner will be served from 11:00 a.m. throughout the day. The cost is a reasonable $19.95 for adults and $5.95 for children under 10. Reservations are required.
    • World Golf Village Renaissance Resort - 500 South will serve a Thanksgiving Brunch from 11:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., offering traditional Thanksgiving favorites as well as a few of 500 South's chef's creations. Call 904-940-8623 for additional information and reservations.

      Tampa Bay (Tampa, St. Petersburg & Clearwater)

      • 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House in Downtown St. Petersburg has put together a traditional Thanksgiving menu that will be served between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. $27.95 for adults and $12.95 for children under 12. Call 727-896-2400 or 727-896-4400 for reservations.
      • Columbia Restaurant, with six locations in Florida and three in the Tampa Bay area — Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg and Ybor City in Tampa — will be serving a traditional Thanksgiving feast of Roast Vermont Turkey, Columbia stuffing, fresh vegetables, whipped potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and giblet gravy. Dinner also includes a choice of Columbia soups or Caesar salad. Dinner will be served from 11:00 a.m. throughout the day. The cost is a reasonable $21.95 for adults and $5.95 for children under 10. Reservations are required.
      • Parkshore Grill in Downtown St. Petersburg is offering a special Thanksgiving menu that will be served from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. Cost is $32.00 for adults and $17.00 for children. Call 727-896-9463 for reservations.
      • Rusty Pelican - Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving Day buffet with outstanding views of Tampa Bay. Serving from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
      • Sheraton Sand Key Resort - Enjoy the elegant atmosphere of Rusty's and the mouthwatering Thanksgiving Buffet featuring traditional as well as non-traditional selections served from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Priced $35 for adults and $14 for children (6-12), children 5 and under eat free. Reservations suggested. Call 727-593-6000 x7001.
      • Six Tables will be open Thanksgiving at 3:00 p.m. for an elegant non-traditional Thanksgiving dining experience. Dining by reservation only. Call 813-207-0527.
      • Dine aboard the Yacht StarShip as you cruise Tampa Bay on Thanksgiving Day. Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving buffet, cash bar and entertainment for $44.95 for adults and $29.95 for children, plus tax and gratuity. Departure at 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Call 813-223-7999 for reservations.

      Chain Restaurants with Multiple Locations

      • Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, with locations throughout Florida, can get you out of the kitchen and into a very reasonably-priced traditional Thanksgiving meal. Although no reservations are required, you can expect waiting for a table.
      • Piccadilly has 16 locations in Florida that will be serving a buffet that includes the traditional Thanksgiving Day turkey, or order your pre-cooked holiday meal for pick-up.
        * All prices are subject to change without notice.