Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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The perfect time for a sunny Florida getaway, Thanksgiving weekend offers you a few extra days to appreciate the state’s fun fall events, shopping deals, and beautiful coastal landscapes. Pair your mashed potatoes, gravy, and apple pie with exciting attractions, where you can work off your meal with an exploration of the state’s most impressive outdoor adventures. From quaint small-town charms to tranquil beach escapes, here are some of the best Thanksgiving weekend getaways in Florida.
One of the most charming towns in Florida, St. Augustine is particularly alluring at its annual Nights of Lights event, where millions of tiny white lights decorate the city. A great weekend destination for history enthusiasts, America’s oldest city is the perfect place to meander down the cobblestone streets and admire historic landmarks. The kids will enjoy the re-enactments at the Colonial Quarter, while those needing an outdoor adventure can find a four-mile beach and scenic trails at nearby Anastasia State Park.
A beach town with tons of charm, Delray Beach is perfect for a quiet weekend excursion. Without the hoards of tourists, you can enjoy its beautiful beaches or enjoy a day of surfing, kayaking, sailing or snorkeling. For a dose of culture, head to Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens to discover serene landscapes and beautifully manicured gardens. The Annual Downtown Delray Beach Thanksgiving Weekend Art Festival is a popular event where you can browse colorful pieces of art made by local artists.
Far from the overcrowding at other tourist spots in Florida, Amelia Island and nearby Fernandina Beach are a quiet slice of paradise with over 13 miles of beautiful coastline. Lined with historic Victorian mansions and quaint bed and breakfast accommodations, this barrier island is located just off the coast of northeast Florida. Comb the beach for colorful seashells, pop in for a drink at the longest-operating saloon in Florida or browse the boutique shops and local seafood restaurants.
Considered the epicenter of activity in Florida’s Gulf Coast, Pensacola is worth a weekend getaway just to see its sugar-white sands and picturesque views. Perfect for a trip with the entire family, the popular Winterfest event transforms the city into a winter wonderland. You’ll find thousands of holiday lights, live performances, a parade and plenty of festive cheer. History enthusiasts can also take a tour of the National Naval Aviation Museum, while nearby Big Lagoon State Park is perfect for a day of paddling.
It’s hard not to be lured in by the beauty of Naples, as you’ll find this nature lover’s paradise filled with family-friendly activities and wildlife viewing opportunities. Head to Lowdermilk Beach to enjoy its pristine coastline, admire the collections of fine art in The Baker Museum or explore the lush vegetation and floral displays at Naples Botanical Garden. The gateway to the Everglades is nearby at Everglades City, where you can take a boat tour to fully see Florida’s rugged terrain.
A family-friendly area with an abundance of activities, Clearwater Beach is most famous for its powder-white sand and crystal-blue waters. The kids will enjoy the marine life at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, while art fans can appreciate the masterpieces of artwork at the Dali Museum. End your day celebrating the colorful sunsets and live entertainment at Pier 60 or take a romantic stroll along the Beach Walk to enjoy quaint ice cream parlors and craft shops.
A great place to take the entire family on Thanksgiving weekend, Panama City Beach boasts a combination of white sand beaches and outdoor adventures. Dig your toes in the sand at the beach, or head to St. Andrews State Park to find paddling, biking and hiking excursions. The kids will enjoy the interactive exhibits at the Science and Discovery Center in nearby Panama City, while Conservation Park offers a range of wildlife viewing areas and scenic trails. If you’re looking for evening entertainment, head to Pier Park to find restaurants, attractions and souvenir shops.
While the beautiful Gulf waters might be too chilly for some, this doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the stunning coastal landscapes on Marco Island. A great weekend escape for those who want to enjoy laid-back vibes, picturesque palm tree views and local seafood restaurants, Marco Island is the largest island in the Ten Thousand Islands and an ideal place to go on an eco-tour excursion or dolphin-watching tour.
November is a great time to visit Siesta Key, as the temperatures are pleasant, and you can still enjoy the natural landscapes, from scouting for sand dollars along the shore to paddling around South Lido Nature Park. You’re a short drive from the family-friendly attractions in Sarasota, including The Ringling, Marie Selby Botanical Garden and the Ca’ d’Zan Mansion. Make sure you pick up a delicious pie at the famous Yoder’s Restaurant nearby, where you’ll find freshly baked goodies and Thanksgiving desserts.
One of Florida’s most picturesque small towns, Mount Dora is a charming lakefront town in Central Florida. Soak in the quaint ambiance and admire its 19th-century clapboard houses, antique shops, and outdoor cafes. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to go on a fishing excursion, sample some of the local cuisines, or have a picnic at Grantham Point Park. If you’re traveling with the kids, take them to Scott’s Maze Adventures for fall-related fun like hayrides and a corn maze.
Offering the best of both worlds, Santa Rosa Beach is a small town on Florida’s stunning Emerald Coast, nestled between Pensacola and Panama City. In addition to its miles of pristine shoreline with clear blue waters, you also have access to an abundance of outdoor adventures in its nearby state parks. Spend an afternoon paddling, hiking and unwinding at nearby Grayton Beach State Park, Camp Helen State Park and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.