ABOVE PHOTO: Plaza Colon in old San Juan with statue of Cristobol Colon surrounded by xmas trees and illuminations.
(Photo Credit: Steve Heap/Shutterstock)
It seems consumers can always manage to find a slew of excuses to celebrate the end of the year like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s and even wrapping up Q4.
Many individuals and families devote the holidays to visiting with friends and families or slipping away from the hustle and bustle for a little R and R, but the festive season is also known for eating. And lots of it. Turkey, hams, pies, pumpkins, stuffing, latkes, candy canes, chocolates, you name it, it is being consumed. So whether traveling far or near, here is a list of the top towns to get your eat on over the holidays:
Bar Harbor, Maine
Peek out of the window of the bed and breakfast to watch snowflakes fall through the twinkling glow of a lighthouse. That’s the kind of enchanting holiday experience visitors will find in Maine. Festivals, sleigh rides and shopping can easily fill a day, but to fill that grumbling belly, Maine lobster is a must. According to the Maine Lobster Council, most lobsters are caught between late June and late December, so skip down to the docks and watch the fishermen bring in their pots full of these fresh crustaceans. Then, find a local chef or a DIY recipe to cook up this prized seafood. Maine’s natural beauty, delicious food and great camaraderie earned it top honors from Away.com as a quintessential destination for a getaway.
There are few places in the world that take food more seriously than New Orleans. Reaching to the city’s strong French heritage, families and restaurants in “The Big Easy” have reincarnated a Creole custom called Reveillon, a multi-course meal that was originally served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Many restaurants have a diverse holiday menu from foie gras to shrimp remoulade to turkey with chestnuts, and finish the courses with desserts like bread pudding or pumpkin cheesecake. Reserve some time to hear the caroling at St. Louis Cathedral, then get back on the food train at a jazz or gospel brunch in the French Quarter and see free cooking demonstrations by top chefs.
Park City, Utah
This old silver mining town is covered with snow, snow and more snow, which gives visitors a great excuse to snuggle up and sip on mulled cider by the ski lodge fireplace. It has been said that Park City has more chefs per capita than Paris, and the quaint but slightly funky Main Street is where most of the dining hot spots can be found. Start the evening with a selection of cheese on an aspen slab, and then please the palate with a London broil of elk or pomegranate-glazed pork tenderloin. Visitors can rejoice in getting a surprisingly good deal, too. At online travel site Orbitz.com, deal-seekers can find hotels for less than $100 a night.
Once named Beertown USA, Portland is known for its large number of microbreweries and micro-distilleries. Some of the country’s best happy hours are here, as jolly patrons drink their way through more than 28 breweries within the city limits. Plus, the Food Network put Portland’s food scene on the map when it was named as a “Delicious Destination” a few years ago. If beer and exquisite food isn’t enough, the area has also become known as a premier coffee destination in the Pacific Northwest. Coffee, beer and food – that combination could even make the Grinch jolly. The Oregon Zoo also gets in the holiday spirit with its annual Zoolights event that includes more than a million lights along with live music, hot chocolate and other yummy treats. One of the oldest traditions, the Portland Christmas Ship Parade, can be enjoyed while dining on delectable local fare at the many restaurants that line the Columbia and Willamette rivers.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Can’t get enough of the holiday season? Celebrations run from November through mid-January in San Juan, where U.S. citizens don’t even need a passport to enter. Catch a re-enactment of the nativity scene at midnight mass on Christmas Eve; then eat 12 grapes for good luck and party on the streets for New Year’s Eve. Stop by the Winter Wonderland event at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, where snow activities find a short-lived home on the island. And keep an eye out for the SoFo Culinary Festival, when the restaurant community of Old San Juan features lots of food, drinks and music. Seasonal favorites here include suckling pig, rice with pigeon peas, and yucca and meat wrapped in a banana leaf, all typically served family-style. Before you leave the Caribbean warmth, stop by Bacardi’s distillery in Catano, the largest rum distillery in the world with free tours and a complimentary drink.