Thanksgiving Away: Eight Savory International Escapes

Thanksgiving is always one of the busiest travel times of the year -- and no surprise, as we race home to gobble up three servings of legendary homemade punkin' pie. Next week, I'll be part of the holiday rush heading to see the family (and enjoy my brother's take on our grandma's classic).

While I prefer to be home, I know not everyone will be stuffing their face with turkey and, well, stuffing. If your Thanksgiving plans aren't around a table, a new Switchfly survey shows you're not alone: lots of Americans will forgo traditional festivities to take short jaunts out of the country.

So, where are they heading?

Mostly places warm and exotic, of course. On average, international travelers will spend between four to six days soaking up the sun and sand abroad before heading home.

Here are the top eight places Americans are escaping to for the holiday. And if you're not heading south for the season, consider spicing up your family's traditional smorgasbord with a few new international flavors suggested below.

Top Eight International Thanksgiving Travel Destinations

As compiled by Switchfly

A Globally Inspired Thanksgiving Menu

Apรฉritifs 

  • Pinot Noir: Argentine Pinots tend to be fuller than their American counterparts. The 2014 Schroeder Estate vintage, out of Patagonia, will pair well with a Thanksgiving meal -- and it won't break the bank, retailing around $20 a bottle. 
  • Red Stripe Lager: For your beer-loving guests, Jamaica's national beer is light enough to leave room for turkey seconds (or thirds, or fourths).

Mains & Sides

Source:  Wordpress

Source: Wordpress

  • Jamaican Jerk Chicken: There's a reason jerk stands pop up on virtually every Jamaican beach. Your Thanksgiving guests won't be disappointed with this as an alternative to traditional turkey. 
  • Pรฃo de Queijo: If there's anything Americans love, it's cheese and bread -- so these simple, savory cheesy Brazilian rolls will go over well. 
  • Wasakaka Sauce: To spice up your main course, wasakaka is a popular Dominican topper made from citrus, parsley, garlic, and chili peppers. It pairs best with chicken. 
  • Gandules: Known commonly as pigeon peas, this easy side dish appears at Caribbean holiday meals in places like the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. For a delicious appetizer, whip up this Escabeche Pigeon Pea Crostini recipe. 

Desserts & Pousse-Cafรฉ

  • Brigadeiros: These chocolate truffles are a celebratory staple in Brazil -- and they're as pretty as they are delicious. 
  • Pumpkin Flan: This recipe by Wendy Polisi puts a Thanksgiving spin on the traditional Mexican dessert.
  • Cafe de Oila: Mexico's signature cinnamon-infused treat is a perfect caffeine fix after a big meal.

"Back From Vacation"

Hi, everyone. Remember that time I disappeared for a good three and a half months with no warning, and no out-of-office letting you know when I'd be back (gasp!)?

Yeah, I'm sorry about that. The summer filled up fast, and sadly blogging fell by the wayside.

  • The exciting news is I've spent lots of time thinking about how to make Thirty Somewhere bigger and better, and I have new tricks up my sleeve for the coming months.
  • The bad news is I missed spending the past few months with you, hearing what you've been up to and sharing stories of my own. Let's try to make up for that, right now. What's new? Here's my rundown:

We celebrated America, in one of America's greatest cities, with cocktails, one of America's greatest pastimes. 

Spending Chicago's sticky-sweet Fourth of July evening at  Drumbar , next to the all-American, all-lit-up red, white and blue  John Hancock Center . 

Spending Chicago's sticky-sweet Fourth of July evening at Drumbar, next to the all-American, all-lit-up red, white and blue John Hancock Center

I certainly miss this (slight) tan.

I certainly miss this (slight) tan.

We wet our German whistles celebrating Oktoberfest... with lots and lots of Chicago-brewed beer.

Spending my birthday weekend enjoying an epic  boy band medley at  Revolution Brewery's Oktoberfest . 

Spending my birthday weekend enjoying an epic  boy band medley at Revolution Brewery's Oktoberfest

Seriously, check out  Revolution's Oktoberfest  if you happen to be in Chicago that weekend next year. We had eight tickets to refill those giant beer glasses over just a three-hour period, plus food, plus fantastic entertainment -- both musically, and from our fellow exubert attendees. It's a good time.

Seriously, check out Revolution's Oktoberfest if you happen to be in Chicago that weekend next year. We had eight tickets to refill those giant beer glasses over just a three-hour period, plus food, plus fantastic entertainment -- both musically, and from our fellow exubert attendees. It's a good time.

We commemorated our #BasicBia love for Starbucks, pre-#RedCup "fiasco," with pretty on-point Halloween costumes.

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A former colleague makes the most fantastic cookies. Every time they're around, the resounding review is, "OMG. This cookie doesn't just look good; it tastes AMAZING." I can vouch, after eating at least a third myself. Check out her creations, and put in your orders, at  For Sweet's Sake .

A former colleague makes the most fantastic cookies. Every time they're around, the resounding review is, "OMG. This cookie doesn't just look good; it tastes AMAZING." I can vouch, after eating at least a third myself. Check out her creations, and put in your orders, at For Sweet's Sake.

And now that we look back, if it seems like we've been nesting here in Chicago, you're on the right track...

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We're nesting in the NEW HOME we finally locked down last August!

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A GIGANTIC thanks to the BEST REALTOR in Chicago,  Gwen Stark ! Not only did she help us find our dream home, but she kicked off our closing celebration with the cutest champagne toast possible. FIND HER if you're looking to buy!

A GIGANTIC thanks to the BEST REALTOR in Chicago, Gwen Stark! Not only did she help us find our dream home, but she kicked off our closing celebration with the cutest champagne toast possible. FIND HER if you're looking to buy!

We have a ways to go, but we're slowly making this place our home. I'm excited to finally have wall space for all the vacation art we've bought over the years!

We have a ways to go, but we're slowly making this place our home. I'm excited to finally have wall space for all the vacation art we've bought over the years!

Honestly, for those of you who were part of our condo purchase roller coaster, you probably understand why we didn't have much time to travel, or to blog -- or to do anything really, beyond pushing to seal that deal.

We're so glad we're finally settled in our very first home, picking out paint colors, scoping out new furniture and hosting our best friends for any excuse to throw a party. While we've been checking out West Elm more than the West Indies lately, we're finally ready to scratch that insatiable travel itch again. 

And that means you can expect a lot more fun and exciting updates on Thirty Somewhere! Plus, I'll be pulling in travel tips from fellow wanderlusters who've logged a lot more miles than me. Get ready for lots of fun ahead. Buckle up for the ride!

Beer Today, Beer Tomorrow

America has so many great beer cities, like Denver, Millwaukee and Boston -- just to name a few of the tried and true. But after a weekend in Grand Rapids, I second its claim as the top beer town for craft brew enthusiasts.

From the nationally recognized Founders Brewery, to regionally acclaimed brewers like Vivant, this western Michigan gem of a town takes its beer seriously. Last month, seven of us made the three-hour jaunt from Chicago to sample selections at more than five local haunts.

Kicking off the evening with a variety of beers at  Grand Rapids Brewing Company , right in the heart of downtown.

Kicking off the evening with a variety of beers at Grand Rapids Brewing Company, right in the heart of downtown.

I did some research beforehand and landed us tickets on the Hoptimus Prime -- an incredible deal at only $10 per person for all-night hop-on, hop-off shuttle service around town. Our driver was more than accommodating, helping us map out the top spots to see over a five-hour span. Yes, folks, this evening was a marathon -- not a sprint.

Now this is my kind of bus. The Hoptimus Prime, operated by  Beer City Runner , is the best -- and safest -- way to get around on a Grand Rapids barcrawl... and it's a steal at only $10/person for the entire night!

Now this is my kind of bus. The Hoptimus Prime, operated by Beer City Runner, is the best -- and safest -- way to get around on a Grand Rapids barcrawl... and it's a steal at only $10/person for the entire night!

Here are my tips to make the most of a night in Grand Rapids -- and my top pick for beer to try while you're there. 

1. You must eat at Brewery Vivant.

Besides being one of the coolest breweries in the city, with fantastically eclectic brews, Vivant boasts a delicious food menu -- including to-die-for frites. As a frites connoisseur myself, I don't dole out this distinction lightly. In terms of ambiance, the space is so unique, reminiscent of a trappist monestary with a huge stained glass window in the main dining room. 

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When you're there, make sure you try at least two of the beers. My favorite was the Farm Hand, a French-style farmhouse ale, but I honestly think they could turn even me into a stout fan here. 

2. Founders Brewing Co. is a great daytime stop -- but totally skippable after sunset.

When we got to town, we wanted to see Founders, but thought it would be best to try out the more obscure breweries first (in case we didn't make it all night). But, when Hoptimus Prime stopped in front of the beautiful -- and busy -- patio at the brewery, we knew we needed to make it back.

Source:  BeerLens

Source: BeerLens

Founders became our second-to-last stop on the barhop -- but when we arrived, well after dark, we were disappointed to find the fun daytime crowd had dissipated into a strange group of folks dancing to a mediocre DJ, complete with strobe lights and old-school rap. This place is definitely a must-do during the day, when the patio is open and you can enjoy laid-back beers with a group of friends.

3. If you're looking for the best international beer selection, HopCat is your place.

While Grand Rapids is all about locally brewed beers, HopCat is a must-see for those of us who have a thing for hard-to-find Belgian classics. It's constantly listed as one of America's top beer bars -- the kind of place that makes you want to swirl, smell and sip while talking the finer points of brewing with a knowledgeable barkeep.

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We didn't have a chance to eat here, but I have a feeling the food is pretty fantastic, too. And with a central location right in the heart of Grand Rapids, it's the perfect start or end on your brewery tour.

4. The B.O.B. only gets better as the night goes on.

Before we even got to town, we had heard about The B.O.B. The downtown hotspot isn't just a brewery -- it's a consortium of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues all under one, constantly hopping roof. Sadly, after lingering a little too long at Founders, we barely made it there to hear the awesome brass band's encore -- a lively rendition of "Uptown Funk." 

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You can tell this is the place where everyone from college kids to middle-aged jazz fans come to kick back. Definitely make sure you get there in time to enjoy the weekend entertainment -- it will be a fun night well spent.

5. My favorite beer in town? The Hefeweizen at Elk Brewing.

To be totally honest, Elk Brewing -- a fairly new brewer on the scene -- wasn't exactly my favorite spot on our trip. We got there a little hungry, and looking for more to tide us over than the bar nuts and popcorn available for purchase. But what this brewery may have lacked in ambiance, it certainly made up for in flavor. I absolutely loved my Hefeweizen -- so much I'd call it my favorite brew of the trip. Chris sampled a really unique IPA micro brew, which literally looked like a science project filtered from a beaker in the middle of the bar. It was super tasty.

If you get there early enough, you'll have a good selection of board games to enjoy over a lively conversation with your buddies. Just beware: Don't plan to eat here -- it's solely focused on good beer (and that's okay by me!).