Birds fly south for the winter (or so they say). So while Plymouth, Massachusetts is renowned for hosting America’s “first Thanksgiving” in 1621, nowadays turkey lovers flock south to Orlando, Florida to gobble up holiday goodness!
With feasts and festive fun aplenty, here are 10 ways to indulge in Thanksgiving merriment throughout the City Beautiful.
1. Get Your Bake On
Baking a Thanksgiving pie can feel intimidating. But preparing the perfect dessert can be, well, easy as pie this year thanks to Bubble & Co.’s Thanksgiving Pie Making Class. This hands-on experience is set for November 21, so you’ll have a whole week to practice your pie making skills before turkey day. Located on International Drive, this modern bakery will teach you how to prepare flaky French-style dough and a lattice crust. The $89 ticket includes a light dinner and the baking of two pies ─ Chocolate-Pumpkin Pie and Classic Apple Pie.
For more holiday treats, toss on a smock at Aprons Cooking Schools for Big & Little Chef: Turkey Day Desserts on Wednesday, November 27. Intended for parent-child culinary collaborations, roll up your sleeves and grab the rolling pin make homemade dough and three holiday desserts ─ Pumpkin Pie Crunch, Cranberry-Walnut Tart and Chocolate Cream Pie. Pssst… you have our permission to gobble these up on Thanksgiving Eve!
2. Be Totally Corny
Move over turkeys… it’s time to horse around at Corn Maze Orlando (open through November; closed Thanksgiving Day). Located next to Painted Oaks Academy’s equestrian facility on the east side of Orlando, this 3.5-acre labyrinth event also has pony rides, hay rides, train rides, face painting, a power jumper and a pumpkin patch ideal for autumn selfies. Don’t fret about navigating through the crop as Corn Maze Orlando has an app for that!
Likewise, the seven acres of corn maze at Long & Scott Farms is, well, a-maze-ing. Located about 40 minutes north of Orlando in quaint Mount Dora, Scott’s Maze Adventures is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays through December 8, with a bonus day on Friday, November 29. For a holiday twist (literally), twist and turn your way through the unique corn configuration and the pumpkin patch, in addition to tractor-pull hay rides, a ginormous jumping pillow, fishing, concessions and a general market stocked with fresh produce and homemade jams. And if you’re ready to shift holiday gears, Santa delivers Christmas trees to the farm the day after Thanksgiving.
3. Wobble and Gobble Along
Now in its 30th year, the Seniors First Turkey Trot 5K is one of Orlando’s most popular holiday traditions. Why? With an average of 4,500 calories consumed on Thanksgiving, participants are eager to burn off extra calories! Held at Lake Eola on Thanksgiving morning (November 28), festivities also include a costume contest, best turkey call challenge and tot trot; plus, proceeds benefit Seniors First, a Meals on Wheels program that supports local seniors. Other area races to try are the Turkey Day 5K (Sanford) and Turkey Trot (East Orlando).
4. Find Zen Before the Den
If you’re among the 30 million viewers that retreat to the couch for NFL football following your Thanksgiving meal, you might consider finding some zen before rowdy den time. Especially since pumpkin beer season is drying up and, thankfully, Orlando has plenty of boozy yoga classes to toast these periodic pints farewell. For pre-game stretches, check out Namaste for a Beer Yoga at Deviant Wolfe Brewing (November 24), Yoga and Hops at Dead Lizard Brewing Company (November 27) or Holy Yoga at Castle Church Brewing (November 27). For post-game stretches, find yoga sessions at Crooked Can Brewing Company, Hourglass Brewing, Ocean Sun Brewing and Suncreek Brewery (all on November 30).
5. Make it Farm Fresh
Nothing beats the freshness of farm-to-table dining and, in Orlando, the working farm of Lake Meadows Naturals is proof. To prepare your Thanksgiving meal using locally-sourced goods, pop into the food market to order a vegetarian-fed/antibiotic-free turkey and stock up on seasonal produce. But the turkeys don’t rule the roost here; the chickens do! On November 23, take a free Egg Processing Tour with a farmer to learn about the hen house, quality egg inspection and packaging. Plus, you’ll see ample farm animals and a flourishing garden.
Also, Orlando may be far from the North Pole but it’s pretty close to Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest in Eustis. If you’re one of the many jolly people who start Christmas decorating the day after Thanksgiving, visit this working farm to cut down your own tree (pre-cut also available). There’s also a zip line, pony rides, petting zoo, barrel tram rides and more.
6. Go Wild
Thankfully, temperatures in Orlando are finally cooling down (well, a bit anyway). So, during the week of Thanksgiving, go wild with outdoor adventures. In fact, you can keep it all about the holiday bird by visiting Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake. It’s actually the City of Orlando’s largest park, spanning 183 acres with picnic grounds, a 2.4-mile biking/hiking path, fishing piers, boat rentals, two 18-hole disc golf courses, camping facilities, a swimming pool and a small farm (yes, with turkeys). Some of Orlando’s other outdoor gems include Kelly Park, Lake Lotus Park , Lake Louisa State Park and Wekiwa Springs State Park.
7. Parade Around
You don’t need an airline ticket to NYC to catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade… just a theme park ticket to Universal Studios. Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s runs daily through January 5 featuring larger-than-life balloons and floats. Orlando’s theme parks, like SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, boast holiday-specific costumes, entertainment, food and décor with extended hours making it all worthwhile despite an influx in crowds. If you plan to dine in the parks, make a reservation; otherwise grab Thanksgiving on-the-go with a smoked turkey leg from the Frontierland Turkey Leg Cart in the Magic Kingdom.
8. Cranberry Cocktails
Did you know that Thanksgiving Eve is one of the biggest drinking nights of the years, according to various bar surveys? That’s because the majority of Americans are off from work on Thanksgiving, old friends return home for the holidays and, let’s be honest, Thanksgiving dinner is the perfect hangover meal. In the heart of downtown Orlando on Wall St. Plaza, the Night B4 Thanxgiving Block Party features live music,
drink specials and ‘Turkey Bowling.’ Spare yourself a night away from cooking to shake a tail feather and strike up festive fun!
9. Shop ‘Til You Drop
With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, savvy shoppers are thankful for holiday sales. Turkey lovers can morph into mall rats at traditional malls, like Florida Mall and Mall at Millenia; discount centers, like Orlando International Premium Outlets and the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets; retail hubs, like Disney Springs and Pointe Orlando; and outdoor strips like Winter Garden Village and Winter Park Village. For small business buys, check out Orlando’s main street districts, Park Avenue, Plant Street (downtown Winter Garden) and 1st & 2nd Streets (downtown Sanford).
10. Eat, Sleep & Be Merry
Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which can make people tired. Picture this: A holiday feast fit for royalty followed by a rejuvenating slumber in a plush king-sized Serenity Bed at Hilton Orlando. And Allergy sufferers… sneezes won’t interrupt snores because the entire 17th floor is dedicated to Pure Allergy Rooms.
Most importantly, you don’t have to cook! The Thanksgiving Buffet at Spencer’s for Steaks & Chops at Hilton Orlando is full of traditional favorites and unexpected flavors. Start off nibbling on seven small plate selections, including the Pistachio Duck Ballontine served with braised caraway cabbage and cranberry chutney. Enjoy the raw bar, charcuterie board and pasta station; and, then, cleanse your palate with one of four salads, like the Apple & Endive composed with Point Reyes blue cheese, shaved apples and chives. Next, gobble up the impressive carving station of roasted tomahawks, rack of lamb, roasted turkey and maple bourbon roasted ham. Definitely do not sideline the sides because the Spiced Sweet Potato with oatmeal cinnamon crumble is divine! Make some room for holiday pies (topped with nitro ice cream), cheesecakes, assorted cookies and other confections. [You see, that’s why you need to book a room!]
For a winning feast pairing food and football, take a seat at David’s Club Bar & Grill, Hilton Orlando’s swanky sports pub. You’ll be an instant fan of the Spiced Butternut Squash Soup with pumpkin seeds and cinnamon croutons.
Weekend After Thanksgiving Ideas
Here are ways to overcome your Thanksgiving food coma during the long, holiday weekend.
- November 30: Christmas Wreath Workshop | Driftwood Market
- November 29 & 30: Holiday Chocolate House Party | Peterbrooke Chocolatier of Winter Park
- November 29 & 30: Gingerbread House Class | Aprons Cooking Schools
- November 30-December 1: 9th Annual Orlando Pottery Festival and Holiday Arts Market | Florida Army National Guard Armory
- November 30-December 1: Welding Workshop | Crealde Art School
- December 1: Dirty Pour Party | Hourglass Brewing
- November 26: Orlando Solar Bears Norfolk Admirals | Amway Center
- November 26: Jazz Chamber Concert Series | University of Central Florida
- November 26: The Four Italian Tenors: Viva Italia! | Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
- November 29: Critical Mass Community Bike Ride | Orlando Loch Haven Park
- November 30: Orlando Solar Bears South Carolina Stingrays | Amway Center
Stay Festive with Festivals
- November 28-30: Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival | Sertoma Youth Ranch
- November 30-December 1: Fusion Fest | Seneff Arts Plaza, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts & Orlando City Hall Commons Plaza
- November 29-30: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus Live! | Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
- November 29-December 1: Bill Bellamy | Orlando Improv
Say Bye to Turkey and Hello to Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer