Thanksgiving's almost here. Families are coming together–the smart ones wearing pants two sizes larger to prepare for the damage to come–and filling dining tables with a stuffed bird, cranberries, potatoes, greens, and pie. For some, this is truly a time to hold hands around the table and give thanks kumbaya-style. For others, it's when relatives you never see–and maybe don't like–are all together in one room. In other words: pure agony.
If you find yourself stuck in the latter situation, here are some ways to escape (at least temporally).
10. Pick Up To-Go Food For Your Family
This is the most temporary escape plan, but it'll at least get you an hour outside of the house. Several restaurants–including Lucca Cafe, Clay Oven (tandoori turkeys!), and Hotel Irvine–are accepting orders on Thanksgiving. Hotel Irvine's Marketplace, for example, is offering turkey, ham, strip loin, 12 different side options, pumpkin pie, pecan tarts, and carrot cupcakes.
Lucca Cafe, 6507 Quail Hill Parkway, Irvine, (949) 725-1773; luccacafe.com
Hotel Irvine, 17900 Jamboree Road Irvine; hotelirvine.com/holidays/thanksgiving
Clay Oven, 15435 Jeffrey Rd #116, Irvine, (949) 552-2851; clayovenirvine.com/events
9. No Ka Oi's All-You-Can-Eat Thanksgiving Feast
Football lovers who want time away from relatives should opt for Hawaiian restaurant No Ka Oi, which has just enough big screen TVs to catch the Eagles-versus-Lions, Panthers-versus-Cowboys, and Bears-versus-Packers games. For the holiday, they'll be cooking butternut squash bisque, turkey, honey-baked ham, cranberry pecan stuffing, and other dishes to complement your solo getaway. Now, for a glass of wine…
No Ka Oi, 215 Main St, Huntington Beach, (714) 960-8300; nokaoirestaurant.com
8. Annual Passholders: Take a Short Trip to Disneyland
Holiday season at Disneyland lasts from November 13 to January 6, which mean there'll be Christmas lights and special turkey offerings at Carnation Cafe, Plaza Inn, Cafe Orleans, and other restaurants. You could even just go in and grab a turkey leg while enjoying the fireworks show (FYI: from November 21 to November 28, there'll be two shows instead of one–hurrah for more festivities!) If you're planning to dine at the restaurants, be sure to reserve ahead as they get busy fast.
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim; (714) 781-7277; disneyland.disney.go.com
7. Dinner at 370 Common (Laguna Beach)
If you're escaping from your family, you're probably not alone. Chances are you know some people who're trying to escape too, and in that case you might want to do it together. Few restaurants are open on Thanksgiving, but the ones who are go full out. One such restaurant is 370 Common, which is offering a three-course prix fixe menu with free range turkey, mushroom-stuffed pork loin, candied yams as options. The adult price is $49 and $24.50 for kids ten years old and younger.
370 Glenneyre St, Laguna Beach, (949) 494-8686; 370common.com/thanksgiving.php
6. Turkey Trot Throughout Orange County
Rebels, this one's for you: instead of eating as much as you want this Thanksgiving, run (or walk) a 5k race at Turkey Trot. The result: funds to provide 50,000 meals to the county's homeless population. The race is followed by an expo with vendors, a results and awards ceremony, and food from The Grilled Cheese Truck (which started an initiative to create jobs for veterans–go support them!)
Orange County Rescue Mission, 1 Hope Drive, Tustin
5. Dinner at Bayside Restaurant (Newport Beach)
Another group-escapee destination is Bayside Restaurant, which cooks up an elaborate meal for Thanksgiving each year. The main course is organic turkey breast served with bread pudding, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. For the appetizer, you have a choice between an autumn salad, yam and ginger soup, roasted red beets and goat cheese, and smoked salmon salad. Dessert is between pumpkin pie and chocolate souffle.
900 Bayside Dr, Newport Beach, (949) 721-1222; baysiderestaurant.com
4. Dinner at Bistango Restaurant (Irvine)
Bayside's sister restaurant, Bistango, is also having a special dinner menu on Thanksgiving, and it too features organic turkey as the main course. In the three-course prix fixe menu, you can choose between butternut squash soup and apple salad for the appetizer and, for dessert, you have the same options offered at Bayside.
19100 Von Karman Ave, Irvine, (949) 752-5222
3. Thanksgiving at Queen Mary
Anyone who escapes by boat (a la The Truman Show) likely has no intention of going back. So you might as well make something out of it. The ship's Sir Winston's, Chelsea Chowder House, and Promenade Cafe will be serving Thanksgiving dishes all day and football games will be screened at Chelsea Chowder House and Observation Bar. If that's not enough entertainment for you, explore the ship's wintry offerings: an ice skating rink, carolers, and ice sculptures.
Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach; queenmary.com/events/chill
2. Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore Holiday Food Drive
If you're going to flee, you're going to have a good–that is, morally good–excuse. After all, you're going to have to explain your departure to family members you rarely see–a potentially awkward scenario. But with Habitat for Humanity's ReStore Holiday Food Drive, whatever guilt you gain from ditching the party may be supplanted with altruism-induced pleasure. Grab some canned goods that have been lying around the house and drop them off at the ReStore locations in Santa Ana or Anaheim. You'll help feed low-income families, seniors, disabled individuals, and the homeless.
Anaheim ReStore, 1656 West Katella Avenue, Anaheim
Santa Ana ReStore, 1400 Village Way, Santa Ana
1. Serve Thanksgiving Meals to the Homeless
Speaking of altruism, those who want to take a step further in helping others should consider serving dinner to the homeless at a dinner hosted by American Family Housing. The organization is trying to serve 1,000 meals–twice the amount they served last year–and is also accepting donations in food and cash.
Westminster Community Center, 8200 Westminster Blvd, Westminster; www.afhusa.org