If traveling to a relative's house for Thanksgiving dinner isn't in the plans this year, and staying at home and fixing all the trimmings yourself doesn't sound like much fun, you might just want to pack up for a late fall vacation.
Florida is a large state, and there is plenty to do all over. Whether you're staying in state but need a change of local or you're headed south to flee the cold, Florida has a handful of holiday happenings that stretch from the Panhandle up north to the Orlando area in Central Florida and down to the Southeast.
Pensacola's Winterfest preview tour kicks off just before Thanksgiving and makes for a great reason to spend the holiday weekend away. The downtown tours feature interactive displays of holiday scenes and characters, including 16 performances during a 60-minute trolley trip through downtown Pensacola. Singing guides accompany you into a world of wonder with scenes from your favorite holiday memories.
The Fairbanks House Bed and Breakfast on Amelia Island on the Atlantic coast just north of Jacksonville offers three- and four-night Thanksgiving holiday packages that include a daily gourmet breakfast, bedtime sweets, and more. This historic district location puts you smack dab in the middle of town, which is a perfect spot to kick off the holiday shopping season on Centre Street. The popular holiday package sells out, but they offer a waitlist for last-second bookings.
St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, decorates the historic district with millions of lights in the Nights of Lights grand celebration that kicks off just before Thanksgiving and runs through the end of January. During Nights of Lights, businesses downtown stay open later, letting you dine in view of the lights and shop amongst the lit buildings. The trains and trolleys offer special seasonal tours that take you through the best areas of Nights of Lights, and there are also a variety of specialty tours—everything from walking to horse-and-carriage tours, and even tours to see the lights from the water and from the air.
The towering Gaylord Palms Resort near Orlando offers a special package that includes one, two, or three nights of accommodations, tickets to ICE!, and one ICE! photo. The Gaylord Palms' restaurant Villa de Flora has a Thanksgiving buffet. And, the Old Hickory Steakhouse hosts a Thanksgiving dinner. For both, call ahead for reservations.
Disney World celebrates the holidays with special displays and millions of sparkling lights that brighten the theme parks and on-property resorts around Thanksgiving. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is held at the Magic Kingdom during select nights in November and December. The special-ticketed event is great fun for the entire family and features a special parade and sweet treats. If you are staying at a Disney World Resort over Thanksgiving, you can find a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at your resort or see a parade and grab a turkey leg on the go in the theme parks.
For families wanting a more laidback Thanksgiving weekend head to Orlando's Villas of Grand Cypress for a Thanksgiving weekend celebration. The weekend usually includes a complimentary Thanksgiving brunch, and ample family-friendly activities like a game of foot-golf (played on the resort's 45-hole golf course), fishing in the resort's lake, and bike rentals. Plus, the Villas of Grand Cypress is a Disney World Gateway Hotel which means guests can buy park tickets and book FastPass+ selections through the resort's website. Complimentary transportation to Disney is also available.
While at the historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales just south of Kissimmee, reflect on life's blessings while taking in the breathtaking beauty of the gardens. You can enjoy a special Thanksgiving Day carillon recital featuring the melodic bells of the tower.
The free annual downtown Delray Beach Thanksgiving Weekend Art Festival usually draws hundreds of artists that exhibit their unique creations. This annual juried art festival of hand-crafted artwork including glass, photography, painting, mixed media, fiber, jewelry, and much more. Skip Black Friday and browse original arts and fine crafts. You are sure to find something unique for most everyone on your holiday gift list.
If you want to use your days off work to escape the routine (and the traditional turkey and stuffing), Vero Beach's Costa d'Este Beach Resort & Spa offers a relaxing holiday weekend like no other. Enjoy a sunrise beach yoga, spa treatments, and beachside cabanas. And if you're looking for a romantic and rallying getaway, Costa d'Este won't disappoint—it's owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan, after all.