Thanksgiving is a great time to visit California, not just to see the bountiful local harvest at farms and vineyards across the state, but to feast upon it in scenic settings. Ranging from cozy mountain retreats, gourmet restaurants, and classic hotels to some surprising locales—including the top of an aerial tramway and a rustic dude ranch—here are 11 great places, listed north to south, to bring both your appetite and your thankful spirit.
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 a lodge-like feel ambiance in Truckee, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Thanksgiving prix fixe meal features colorful starters such as maple leaf duck confit and toasted chestnut bisque, and savory main courses of chestnut sage-stuffed turkey, brown sugar salmon, or an acorn squash risotto. The hotel also hosts a Harvest Buffet in its main ballroom from 1–7 p.m.
Carneros Resort and Spa, Napa Valley
Have a genuine farm-to-your-table Thanksgiving dinner delivered to your vacation home at the Carneros Resort in Napa Valley. The resort’s FARM restaurant team will hand deliver a fully-cooked meal complete with turkey to any of the Carneros rental units, ranging from small cottages to three-bedroom homes. Since you’re in the heart of wine country, the meal can easily be accompanied by wines purchased at visits at popular Carneros wineries, or from the resort’s extensive wine list.
Claremont Hotel, Berkeley
This classic 100-year-old hotel on the city limits of Oakland and Berkeley offers up a high-end, lavish buffet for Thanksgiving with three seatings at 12, 2, and 5 p.m. The menu includes an array of locally-sourced delicacies, including artisanal cheeses, antipasto, oysters, and a citrus-apple turkey with chestnut brioche stuffing. The expansive hot and cold buffets are accompanied by unlimited mimosas, and culminate with a dozen dessert choices, including an actual chocolate fountain.
Presidio Social Club, San Francisco
The Presidio Social Club is an intersting spot to dine any time of year, since it’s located within the former military base-turned-national park on the Bay. But on Thanksgiving, with seatings from noon to 7 p.m., they’ll offer a prix fixe three-course menu starting with a choice of a harvest salad or butternut squash soup, followed by a classic roast turkey with mushroom and sage stuffing, and all the sides. Finish the meal with a decadent bourbon chocolate pecan pie and toast the meal with one of the club’s barrel-aged cocktails.
Alisal Ranch, Solvang
This former dude ranch, now an upscale resort in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley, is a great place to visit for Thanksgiving, given the fall foliage, horseback and hay wagon rides, campfires, and a full schedule of fun activities for adults and kids. The resort's Thanksgiving meal features free-range turkey with apple and sage stuffing, a maple-glazed organic salmon, and vegan butternut squash sage ravioli, perhaps washed down with some local wine.
Aerial Tramway Peaks Restaurant, Palm Springs
Celebrate the day with this unique Thanksgiving Ride & Dine combination, set at the cool 8,500 foot elevation 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 San Jacinto State Park. Follow the ride with a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, beef, or lasagna with traditional sides and a pumpkin pie or carrot cake dessert at the Cliffside Peaks Restaurant.
Patina, Los Angeles
Enjoy fine dining plus cool architecture at downtown L.A.’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, where Patina’s three- and six-course prix fixe Thanksgiving meals, with wine pairings, put a French spin on the American tradition. A classic whole roasted turkey with cranberry and sweet potato is preceded by a white truffle tagliatelle, and a hiramasa sashimi starter with passionfruit.
Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach
There’s no fish on the menu for the Thanksgiving lunch at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, but you can still feast like a hungry shark on turkey and ham entrees, honey-glazed yams, and pumpkin bread pudding. The meal should provide plenty of energy for touring the aquarium’s more than 100 exhibits with 12,000 ocean creatures after the 11 a.m.–3 p.m. dining event.
Shutters at 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 goes all day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. with menu choices including organic turkey with sweet potato mash, striped bass, or short ribs with polenta and red wine sauce.
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 décor, 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.
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 Thanksgiving buffet spreads across the oceanfront ballroom and under the giant chandeliers of the classic Crown Room. If you don't feel like a buffet, enjoy a quiet three-course prix fixe meal at the hotel's Sheerwater restaurant.