It isn’t difficult to find a buffet or sit-down dinner on Thanksgiving, though reservations are harder to get as the date draws closer. But there are a few locations that are off the average tourist’s radar, each with something that makes them a bit different:
Alfond Inn in Winter Park
Details: Located in the Main Park Avenue Ballroom. First seating 12pm, second seating 3pm.Adults: $69 Children 4-12 $25; phone 407 998 8090
Why Go: It’s pretty easy to find buffet-style Thanksgiving dinners with potatoes six ways and mountains of stuffing, but this one is the elegant, full service version. You’re going to want to dress up just a bit, and remember to put your napkin on your lap. It’s the sort of place that makes you feel pampered, and that truly makes us thankful.
- 6 salads, from Mixed Greens to Baby Kale and Duet of Beets salad
- Fresh Fruit
- Root Vegetable Bisque
- Deviled Eggs with Caviar
- Sweet potato “Croquettes”
- Truffled Mac and Cheese Gratin
- Chive whipped Potatoes, Giblet Gravy
- Minted Baby Carrot Medley
- Maple-Bacon Brussel Sprouts
- Carved Beef Tenderloin,
- Carved Tom Turkey
- Cranberry relish
- Pumpkin Seed Crusted Grouper
- Carved Porchetta
- Shrimp & Grits
- Pumpkin, Bourbon-apple & Cherry pies
- Pot de Cremes
- Mason Jar Trifle
- Caramel Apple mousse
- House churned Lavender gelato
Get Active: Winter Park is a beautiful town for strolling, though many stores will not be open on Thanksgiving Day. Take a walk through pretty Rollins College campus, within easy walking distance of town, or just browse the shop windows along Park Avenue.
Seasons 52 in Dr. Phillips
Details: 7700 Sand Lake Rd; Adults $26.90, Children $12.90; phone 407 354 5212
Why Go: Everything at Seasons 52 is designed with ‘health-conscious’ in mind, and, by that, we mean portions are reasonable, calories are listed on the menu, and everything is fresh for the season—hence the restaurant’s name, reflecting 52 weeks in a year and a menu based on what’s in season.
- Plainville Farms Roasted Turkey (antibiotic free) with Pan Gravy
- Herb bread stuffing
- Yukon Mashed Potatoes
- Maple Glazed Butternut Squash
- French Green Beans
- Cranberry Relish
- Pumpkin Pie Mini Indulgence
- Seasonal Cocktails (additional):
- Cranberry & Sage with Prairie Organic Gin
- Organic Sunshine Orange-Infused Prairie Organic Vodka Martini
Get Active: Situated on Restaurant Row, there isn’t much in the immediate vicinity, but turn right out of the car park, go less than a mile, turn right again and you’re on International Drive, the most walkable street in town.
Highball & Harvest at Grande Lakes Resort
Details: 4012 Central Florida Parkway; 12pm-9pm; Adults $105, Children 12 and under $45; phone 407 393 4648
Why Go: The USA is a diverse country, and while many aspects of Thanksgiving dinner remain the same, various regions put their own culinary twist on the classics. At Highball & Harvest it’s a distinctly Southern twist. Think: Scarlet O’Hara meets the Pilgrims.
- Charcuterie, Local Cheeses, dips and Southern Relish
- Seminole Pumpkin Soup
- Sage Butter Roasted Turkey with Giblet Gravy
- Horseradish and Thyme Crusted Prime Rib
- Green Onion Cornbread Stuffing
- Rosemary Mashed Potato
- Green Bean Casserole
- Sweet Potato Puree
- Honey Glazed Carrots
- Coldwater Oysters, Poached Shrimp, Crab Claws
- Glazed Bone-in Ham
- Hot Smoked Salmon
- Maple Glaze Cauliflower Steaks
- Seared Scallop
- Mustard Greens
- A huge selection of desserts, including Classic Pumpkin Pie, Crème Brulee, Persimmon-Pear-Brandy Pie, Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake, Roasted Chestnuts and Apple Cobbler
- Seasonal Beverage: Caramelized Peach Hot Toddy
Get Active: There is a jogging trail at the back of the resort that runs between the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton. With a lake on one side and the magnificent resort on the other, it’s extremely pleasant during the day and especially so as the sun sets.
If you’re staying at Universal Orlando Resort, you’ll find semi-traditional Thanksgiving buffets at Trattoria del Porto at Portofino Bay, The Kitchen at Hard Rock Hotel, Islands Dining Room at Royal Pacific, and Amatista Cookhouse at the new Sapphire Falls Hotel. Each has stations specific to its cuisine (so, a bit of Italian at Trattoria, South Pacific choices at Islands). We’re using Amatista’s menu as an example here.
Amatista Cookhouse at Sapphire Falls Hotel
Details: 6601 Adventure Way at Universal Orlando; 10am-9pm; Adults $58, Children age 3-9 $24, under 3 free; phone 407 503 3463
Why Go: If you’re staying onsite, one of the resort buffets makes sense. But there are also some fun family extras, including face painting, a balloonist, and interaction with some of the Universal characters.
- A variety of salads
- Tropical Fruits Ambrosia
- Imported and Domestic Cheeses
- Baguettes, Crostini and Crackers
- Pumpkin Bisque
- Fall Spice Brined Roasted Carolina Turkey with Pan Gravy
- Apple-Celery Stuffing
- Cranberry Orange Compote
- Palmetto Creek Farms Smoked Ham, Apricot Bourbon Glaze
- Horseradish Crusted Salmon
- Stuffed Quail
- Roasted Sweet Potato with Spiced Rum Glaze
- Parmesan and Chive Whipped Potatoes
- Baby Carrots
- Brussels Sprout
- Plus a charcuterie, raw bar, ceviche station, churasco station, and an omelet and waffle station (until 2pm)
- Fresh-baked cakes, pies, and pastries
- Seasonal Cocktails (add $12)
- All-you-care-to-drink Mimosas and Cubanitas
Get Active: In this case, we recommend you make an evening reservation for 5pm or later and spend your day in the theme parks. You’re not really going to want to ride The Hulk or Dragon Challenge after a big meal. If you do have the stamina, consider saving the Wizarding World areas for after dinner, when you can take things at a leisurely pace and enjoy the shops and scenery.
If you’re staying at a Disney resort you’ll find traditional Thanksgiving options at nearly every resort, and at all four theme parks (Be Our Guest, Tony’s Town Square, and Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom; Norway, Germany, Canada, UK, The Seas and The Land pavilions in Epcot; 50s Prime Time, Hollywood & Vine, and Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios; and Tusker House at Animal Kingdom). But we’re going to suggest an unexpected location, primarily because if you don’t have an Advanced Dining Reservation for most of the restaurants already, you’re not likely to get one at this late date. Instead, try:
Raglan Road at Disney Springs
Details: 1640 E. Lake Buena Vista Dr.; $28 per person; phone 407 938 0030
Why Go: Yes, we know it’s Irish, but more important, you can probably still get a reservation and it’s close to what you’d find if you were dining in someone’s home on Thanksgiving. Simple, tasty, filling, and it won’t be overly taxing to your wallet. We call that a win!
- Turkey breast with gravy
- Apple, caramelized onion and sage stuffing
- Mashed potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Cranberry Chutney
Get Active: The theme parks will be crowded, but not uncomfortably so, making them a good choice for an evening wander. But you don’t have to exert that much energy; simply take in the atmosphere at Disney Springs for its pretty, relaxed vibe once the sun goes down.
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