Thanksgiving, California Style
By Agent Suzanne Ferrara
If the present day southern California coast had been the place onto which the Pilgrims first stepped foot in 1621, you can bet Thanksgiving Day would have been very different. The mild climate, the harvest and the indigenous peoples would have added amazingly unique touches to a Thanksgiving that…might have been. While this scenario would have been nearly impossible, what is a fact is that Americans who live in this region have celebrated Thanksgiving since 1850 when The Golden State became our country’s 31st state.
Southern California may have never seen the Mayflower, but Dana Point was the port for Boston-owned tall ships carrying goods to the Pacific shore in the early 1800s. Today visitors can board the historic replica Pilgrim, a stunning sailing brig which skirted the California coast and Dana Point during this hide trade.
For an unforgettable Thanksgiving, head to the California coast, specifically Dana Point and make California Dreamin’ a reality—it will be a trip of a lifetime with unparalleled experiences in a stunning backdrop, that’s for sure! Dana Point is a beach town known for its stunning cliffs skirting the coastline and for its whale watching and surfing. Before delving into those unforgettable discoveries, make sure you have plans for a Cali Thanksgiving feast.
There’s nothing like eating turkey, all the delicious fixings and fresh coastal seafood with the gorgeous Pacific Ocean in full-view. Adding to this inviting scene are the mild temperatures of November and southern California’s sunshine.
For an extraordinary experience that features both unforgettable ocean settings and unsurpassed cuisine, make a reservation at Raya, located at The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point. There isn’t a bad seat at Raya; but while this split-level restaurant offers stunning views from just about any spot, try to reserve a window table with an unobstructed view of the Pacific.
Offerings in Raya’s three-course Thanksgiving menu include Adobo Free-Range Turkey and Prime Rib. (Tip: Before enjoying your Thanksgiving Feast, sip a refreshing hand-crafted cocktail outside at 180blu, which is perched 150-feet above the beach. The panoramic views of the Pacific are incredible).
There’s a philanthropic side to Raya as well: This triple-A five-diamond resort also offers a Thanks-For-Giving Buffet, which features a sea of culinary options, and is held in a luxurious ballroom. (Tip: Guests are encouraged to bring canned goods and non-perishable food items that will then be donated to Orange County Rescue Mission).
While at The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel during Thanksgiving, be sure to notice the amazing gingerbread extravaganza being constructed by the resort’s skilled pastry team. This year’s massive confectionary display highlights climate change, sustainability and clean energy through a representation of the California landscape, and reflects how the resort supports and helps protects the environment. The pastry team is expected to spend more than 500 hours creating this unforgettable show of gingerbread artistry.
Speaking of the environment, Dana Point is known as a hotspot for whale and dolphin watching. A boat trip aboard one of the many whale watching cruises is a must and a great experience to add to this memorable California Thanksgiving.
For a one-of-a-kind experience, board the ‘Dana Wharf Whale Watch’. Coasting alongside these whales is a sight to behold, especially when the world’s largest mammals spout vapors from their blowholes. You will also see pods of dolphins on this trip!
Need more adventure? Make a bee-line to the Ocean Institute where, among many fascinating things, you can board the tall ship Pilgrim. Aboard this breathtaking ship you can travel back in time with period costumed docents who will show you the ship, sing sea chanteys and tell stories of nautical lore. You can even help them raise the sail or sit back and relax and enjoy the sea air while strolling the decks.
You can also tour the tall ship Spirit of Dana Point, a replicated 1770s privateer schooner used during the American Revolution, and this holiday season’s visiting vessel, Hawaiian Chieftain. (Tip: Be sure to sign up for one of the Institute’s Tall Ship Sails).
Want more sailing? You can also join Ocean Institute scientists on a whale watching cruise, and/or take the Sea Explorer voyage during which scientists will teach you fascinating facts about the ocean animals and much more.
The Ocean Institute is also where you can experience the captivating Headlands & Beyond exhibit. This exhibit offers hands-on exploration of the ocean’s underwater world, plus interactive programs featuring California’s fascinating maritime history.
After taking in all the sights, you will need—and definitely have— a great night’s sleep at The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel. It’s not just the goose-down comforters and pillows, and luxurious 400-count Egyptian cotton sheets that will leave you immeasurably relaxed, but also the ocean air and unparalleled views (offered in most rooms) of the hypnotic surf. (Tip: First floor ocean view rooms have an outdoor firepit).
Need more relaxation? You won’t come out of the Ritz Carlton Spa the same person you were when you walked in. All of your cares will certainly melt away in this award-winning spa which offers ocean-inspired services that incorporate sea salt, algae, minerals and water to enhance your relaxation and rejuvenation. (Tip: One of the most popular massages is the PACIFIC WAVE, a beach-inspired treatment that uses the ocean rhythm movements found in Ashiatsu barefoot massage techniques. These will ease muscular tension and leave you in a state of bliss).
Need even more relaxation and rejuvenation? This resort offers ocean-front wellness classes, including yoga and Pilates. There are also two outdoor ocean-view pools and whirlpools, and be sure to relax in an Adirondack chair on one of the luxurious lawns overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
After experiencing The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel resort– which is ranked among the world’s premier travel destinations — you will want to return again and again, and, like many, create Thanksgiving memories for generations to come.