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22 Fantastic Thanksgiving Feasts in California

22 Fantastic Thanksgiving Feasts in California

Come for well-crafted turkey dinners with local wine, decadent desserts, and gorgeous settings

Posted 10 months agoby Bill Fink

Why toil over a hot stove during Thanksgiving—or subject yourself to someone else’s less-than-Michelin-starred home cooking? In foodie-friendly California, Turkey Day is a great chance for local and celebrity chefs to strut their stuff. Taking well-sourced gobblers (many from Tuolumne County’s acclaimed Diestel Family Ranch), chefs add bells and whistles from their choices of brine to veggie sides and miles of pies, tarts, and more. There are quirky surprises too, such as dinner inside an aquarium or atop a tramway. No need to diss the in-laws, either—invite them to tag along. Here are 21 great excuses, listed south to north, to be thankful that you decided to spend Thanksgiving in the Golden State:

Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego

This iconic hotel on San Diego's Coronado Island has a storied history, having hosted presidents, celebrities, and a classic Marilyn Monroe film. Its buffet spreads across the oceanfront ballroom and under the giant chandeliers of the classic Crown Room. Afterward, get your exercise by taking a few loops around the seasonal beachside rink.

Fairmont Grand Del Mar, San Diego

This luxury resort in north San Diego offers a full (and plush) Thanksgiving weekend. Choose from the three-course menu at Amaya or the sumptuous feast at the Manchester Salon. Feasts include turkey as well as options like local Carlsbad oysters on the raw bar, sweet and savory baked brie, and desserts ranging from pumpkin cheesecake to chai madeleines to chocolate-caramel tarts. Stick around for the long weekend to see the tree lighting on Friday and enjoy the resort’s outdoor seasonal ice rink. 

The Gambling Cowboy, Temecula

Enjoy an Old West–style feast in Southern California’s Old Town Temecula, with the four-course Thanksgiving feast at the colorful Gambling Cowboy Chophouse and Saloon. Enjoy the rustic-cowboy-chic atmosphere and decor, take in the Temecula Valley views from its third-floor deck, and then dive into roast turkey, prime rib, or maple-glazed ham accented with local wines.

Balboa Bay Resort, Newport Beach

Pair your Thanksgiving Day feast with a beach walk or boat ride at this resort in Newport Beach. The buffet at the waterfront resort’s Lighthouse restaurant includes the classics along with a charcuterie station, seafood bar, and a dessert station.

Purple Room, Palm Springs

First opened in 1960, this classic on Palm Springs’ Palm Canyon Drive used to be a prime Rat Pack hangout, and today it offers a retro-lounge-style Thanksgiving. The menu features throwback delicacies like shrimp cocktail, Scottish salmon, and gelato, along with turkey, vegan ravioli, and the restaurant’s beloved pumpkin spice cheesecake.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Restaurants, Palm Springs

Celebrate the day with the unique Thanksgiving Ride & Dine combination, set at the cool 8,500-foot peak of Mountain Station. A 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride up the mountain on a rotating tram car is a feast for the eyes overlooking both the Palm Springs area and the wilds of the Mount San Jacinto State Park. Choose from two different dining options: dinner of turkey, beef, or lasagna with traditional sides and a pumpkin pie at the Pines Cafe (and the prix fixe includes the tram ride) or turkey dinner with the trimmings at the Cliffside Peaks Restaurant.

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach

Marine life is on display but not on the menu at this unique feast at Long Beach’s don’t-miss aquarium, which is open most of the day on Thanksgiving (the meal runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on its veranda). The turkey feast also includes a vegetarian mac and cheese casserole; a holiday salad of spinach, quinoa, dried cranberries; and a cash bar as well as complimentary cucumber-lemon spa water and mango lemonade.

Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica

While the view of palm trees, sand, and blue ocean may not be traditional scenery, you’ll still feel thankful dining at the 1 Pico Restaurant at Santa Monica’s stylish Shutters on the Beach hotel. The hotel's Thanksgiving meal offers menu choices including Mary’s Organic Heritage turkey, Santa Barbara spiny lobster, and farmers’ market squash with winter truffles.

Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo

There’s nothing traditional about this quirky hotel in San Luis Obispo County, but its exuberant spirit makes a great setting for the feast of turkey, ham, or roast duck with trimmings. Save room for the famous desserts—a dozen-plus pies and cakes, including the famous Pink Champagne Cake.

Leftovers Are for Quitters Thanksgiving at the Padre Hotel, Bakersfield

“Be sure to bring your stretchy pants,” advise the folks at this charming boutique hotel in downtown Bakersfield. The buffet menu includes creatively accented classics, such as turkey confit leg croquette, Brussels sprouts with poached apples, and pumpkin pie with pepita brittle. Come to town early the day before: it’s a local tradition to enjoy the city’s acclaimed Basque restaurants the night before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite National Park

With snowy Yosemite Valley as the backdrop, a holiday stay at the 1920s masterpiece The Ahwahnee is a serious treat. Spend Thanksgiving at the stone-and-timber hotel for a five-course feast of free-range turkey, vegetarian options, and Yosemite-inspired desserts like the Chocolate Dome, with cappuccino mousse and raspberry sauce.

Note: The annual Bracebridge Dinners will not return until 2023, due mostly to the hotel’s upcoming renovations, requiring that the hotel be closed from Jan. 2–March 3, 2023.

Presidio Social Club, San Francisco

The Presidio Social Club is an interesting spot to dine any time of year, since it’s located within the former military base-turned-national park in San Francisco. The Thanksgiving tradition returns this year with a prix fixe three-course menu starting with a range of options including winter chicory salad or butternut squash soup, followed by a classic roast turkey with mushroom-and-sage stuffing, and all the sides, as well as options such as prime rib or Barolo and radicchio risotto. Finish the meal with a pumpkin cheesecake or a chocolate brownie sundae and toast your fellow diners with one of the club’s barrel-aged cocktails.

International Smoke, San Francisco

Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry’s epic buffet adds some heat to the usual Thanksgiving, with additions such as Pacific oysters, Brussels sprouts with huckleberries and maple syrup, and Ayesha Curry’s bread pudding.

Claremont Club & Spa, Berkeley

This classic 100-year-old hotel on the city limits of Oakland and Berkeley offers up a decadent Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, lobster mac and cheese and a veggie cornucopia with Romanesco cauliflower and heirloom tomatoes. The resort’s East Bay Provisions offers a curbside Thanksgiving feast that includes apricot-and-sage cornbread stuffing, orange cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin tart with maple bourbon chantilly.

La Toque, Napa

This Michelin-starred restaurant in the Westin Verasa Napa has made its Thanksgiving an annual tradition: The four-course menu is known for delights like their slow-roasted turkey—sourced from the high-end Bay Area turkey purveyor Willie Bird—and sides like chestnut-herbed stuffing and steamed broccoli hollandaise. At the end, you’ll take with you one of the chef’s famous “leftover” sandwiches.

Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa

Set your Thanksgiving against Napa Valley’s lovely fall landscape on this 3.5-hour train-ride-meets-dinner with Diestel Farms turkey, acorn squash bisque, and crème brûlée—and plenty of local wine. Choose from 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. departures.

Carneros Resort and Spa, Napa

Enjoy a farm-to-your-table Thanksgiving dinner created by this Napa Valley resort. Locals can order a to-go feast from the resort’s FARM restaurant, featuring Willie Bird turkey, brioche-and-sourdough dressing, and chimichurri Brussels sprouts. Or, sit down for dinner at either FARM or the resort’s Boon Fly Café. Since you’re in the heart of wine country, the meal can easily be accompanied by wines either purchased at visits at popular Carneros wineries, or from the resort’s extensive wine list.

Montage Healdsburg, Healdsburg

Feast with a view of the vineyards and the river at this Montage resort in Sonoma County.

The three-course menu includes options such as turkey with chestnut stuffing, parsnip ravioli with Dungeness crab, Wagyu Beef Bordelaise, and pumpkin pie or Chocolate Delight for dessert. During Thanksgiving week, the family can enjoy activities such as kids’ crafts or a day of gratitude session with meditation, yoga and journaling.

 Granlibakken, Tahoe City

This classic lodge on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe makes a picture-perfect setting for a family feast, with your turkey carved tableside (along with vegetarian options, including a savory Indian harvest cake). Best of all, they will help you pack up some leftovers. If there’s snow, don’t miss out on the Tahoe City resort’s famed sledding hill.

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, Truckee

There’s nothing like cool mountain air to build up your appetite, so the setting at the Manzanita restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, is a perfect one, with its lodge-like ambience in Truckee, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Thanksgiving prix fixe meal typically features colorful starters such as maple leaf duck confit and toasted chestnut bisque, and savory main courses such as chestnut-and-sage-stuffed turkey, brown sugar salmon, or an acorn squash risotto.

Trillium Café, Mendocino

Local flavors abound at this inn and restaurant with ocean views, set in the heart of Mendocino. Along with the Diestel turkey, the menu includes wild mushroom pâté, Point Reyes blue cheese salad, fall vegetable gnocchi, cranberry-orange cheesecake, and chocolate moon pie, along with pumpkin pie.

Featherfalls Casino, Oroville

Enjoy a traditional feast at the Butte County casino resort owned by the Concow-Maidu of Mooretown Rancheria Tribe. Beyond turkey and the staples, the Dreamcatcher Buffet features salmon, roasted chicken, cranberry-glazed pork chops, and dozens of sides, pies, and bread pudding. The casino resort is also home to the Feather Falls Brewing Co.