Among the many words used to describe the holidays, for me, "exhausting" somehow supercedes all that giving and thanks business. As much as I enjoy the tradition of it all, there’s part of me that wants to run far, far away. This is because a) The hours and hours of shopping and re-shopping and clean up and re-clean up and b) Thanksgiving means I have exactly 28 days left to get my act together for Christmas. This year, I'm going to my husband's parents house...again. But there's no harm in daydreaming, right? Here's where I'd take my kids if I ever get the courage to say no to the family mafia.
Avalon, Catalina Island
Biking. Kayaking. Lying on the sand doing absolutely nothing. Catalina Island, off the coast of California, is a postcard-perfect beach escape for families. Make Avalon your base and rent a cottage or waterfront villa for the long weekend. In town, Seaport Bistro and Villa Portofino restaurants are both serving traditional Thanksgiving meals, but you could always hole up in your house and skip it altogether.
New York, NY
There's something special about Thanksgiving in NYC: the crisp fall air, the energy of the shifting seasons, and of course, the ridiculously good hotels and restaurants. It's almost impossible to choose from the surfeit of options, but I've narrowed it down to one anyway: the Nomad Hotel, where Chef Daniel Humm's extravagant four course prix-fixe (foie gras, short ribs, chestnut stuffing) is guaranteed to put the family into a blissful, food-induced coma for days (best for older kids).
If you’re a ski or snowboard lover, head for a Rocky Mountain hideaway. At Keystone Resort, kids ski free all season long—and an early morning run on the new “School Yard” Family Ski Trail is the ultimate way to slide into the holidays. There’s also a winter festival on the 30th with ice-skating, snow tubing, and live music.
Like some fictional southern gentleman, Charleston can’t stop being charming. Check into the Inn at Middleton Place, on a 65-acre historic landmark filled with centuries-old camellias and live oaks on the banks of the Ashley River. Under an elegant white tent, the hotel restaurant serves the classics with a Southern twist: green bean casserole, macaroni pie, sweet potatoes, and biscuits. After the feast, take a carriage ride around the grounds (yes, you may feel slightly corny, but who doesn’t secretly love a carriage ride?).
Clara Sedlak is a mother of two and Special Projects Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @csedlak1.