Cape Cod is serious about Thanksgiving. After all, the Pilgrims landed first in Provincetown before sailing about 30 miles southwest to Plymouth across Cape Cod Bay. The four-day weekend is a perfect time to visit and take advantage of classic New England cooking, cozy fires in local taverns, and village centers that feel much more homey without big summer crowds.
Here are our best bets for making the most of your Thanksgiving on Cape Cod:
Lace up your sneakers and burn off Thanksgiving dinner before you even turn on the oven or open a can of cranberry jelly. There are several Turkey Trots and 5k runs on Thursday morning in towns across the Cape. The Chatham Turkey Trot sets off at 8 a.m., with proceeds going to the Lower Cape Outreach Council. The Sandwich 5k gets underway at 8 a.m. and benefits the Sandwich & Bourne Food Pantries. Provincetown's Pilgrim Trot, with proceeds donated to the Provincetown Art Association & Museum, is a leisurely 3.1 mile (run or walk) race starting at 9 a.m. down Commercial Street from the Sandcastle Resort and Club.
Looking to fuel your festive spirit in advance of Turkey Day? Provincetown's annual Lighting of the Pilgrim Monument is the perfect choice. The spectacular lighting ceremony - now a pre-Thanksgiving tradition - takes place on Wednesday, November 22 at approximately 6 pm in celebration of the Pilgrims first landing in the New World in 1620. Get there early, light refreshments and entertainment are procided starting at 5 pm. The monument remains aglow through January 6, illuminating the whole town center.
But let's get serious, what about the food? Many restaurants on the Cape are open and serve both classic and modern twists on Thanksgiving favorites. These are just a few (please note that reservations are encouraged at all).
The Pointe in Provincetown, specializing in locally-sourced seafood and farm-to-table dining, prepares an upscale take on turkey dinner. The chic restaurant, which offers stunning views of the illuminated Pilgrim Monument at night, offers a traditional 4-course Thanksgiving meal consisting of butternut bisque, pear salad, a choice of traditional roasted turkey, salmon or tofu entrée, and homemade pumpkin pie.
Part bakery, part bistro, the Thanksgiving menu at PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet reflects a mix of local and French flavors. Diners can choose from a mix-and-match list for the 3-course prix fix menu. Options include pumpkin soup, fall salad, house-made pate, or foie gras ravioli for appetizer, while main dishes range from a turkey dinner with all the sides, to yellowfin tuna, locally-harvested clams in a coconut curry sauce, steak frites, or butternut squash & mushroom risotto. The meal concludes with homemade apple pie.
For fine dining in a historic residence that is nearly as old as the first Thanksgiving, Chillingsworth on Main Street Brewster fits the bill. Their annual multi-course holiday feast requires reservations, and seatings are available at 2 or 6 pm. Arrive early as each seating begins with a buffet of hors d'oeuvres and cheeses at 1:30 and 5:30, respectively. The extensive menu features everything from Brewster oysters, lobster ravioli and corn custard to yellowfin tuna, rack of lamb and pumpkin creme brûlée.
In West Yarmouth, The Yarmouth House serves up modern New England fare inspired by seasonal offerings. From small plates, raw bar, lobster, steak and pasta, to a classic Turkey dinner option, the restaurant offers a varied menu on Thanksgiving Day to please every palate.
From noon to 4 pm on Thanksgiving Day, the oceanfront Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth offers a relaxed but gourmet holiday buffet. Cold station items range from farmer’s cheese and walnut-stuffed dates and pumpkin ale poached shrimp to grilled autumn asparagus, while hot station items include cider-glazed organic turkey, maple butternut squash and petite pepper-crusted sirloin steaks. The only thing that may rival this buffet of champions is the stellar ocean view.
Over in Dennis, the restored house-turned restaurant Red Pheasant is complete with a dining room fireplace for maximum coziness. Thanksgiving dinner is served from 1 to 4 p.m., but reserve your place as soon as possible, as they tend to fill up quickly. Dinner is traditional, with turkey, locally-harvested sides and homemade dessert. There's also a roast duckling or salmon offering for those who want options.
The Dan’l Webster Inn in Sandwich offers Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 6:30 pm. The 3-course menu sticks to classic New England flavors, with corn chowder, roast turkey and sides like cranberry sauce, sage stuffing and butternut squash. Save room for dessert, which includes traditional favorites like pumpkin or apple pie, Indian pudding or grapenut custard.
The Hyannis, Weymouth and Yarmouth locations of the Hearth n’ Kettle offer a relaxed Thanksgiving dinner ideal for families. Choose between a roast turkey, prime rib, scrod or ham entrée, that comes with sides and dessert. Dinner is served all day starting at 11:30 am.
While you can visit Plimoth Plantation year-round, the living history museum is most poignant around harvest time when a season's worth of work is ready for feasting. In addition to visiting, you can also eat at the plantation, including on Thanksgiving day. They offer several types of meals, including formal dining service with a fixed menu, as well as a buffet in the heated courtyard. Ingredients are grown locally, and the menu strives to recreate what the Pilgrims enjoyed on the first Thanksgiving – though adjusted for today's palette as the early settlers had very little, if any, sugar and no sweet potatoes.