While the traditional image of Thanksgiving dinner usually involves a family gathering and a home-cooked meal, every November there are travelers in cities like Sedona who find themselves far from the comfort of their grandmother’s kitchen.
Whether on the road to conduct business, vacation, or in the midst of a more permanent move, many people passing through town during the Thanksgiving holiday are simply unable to celebrate with a turkey in their own oven. Thankfully, Sedona’s thriving hospitality industry has a tradition of its own: hosting lavish Thanksgiving dinners that combine gourmet dining with warm, inviting ambience.
With the area’s famed combination of wintry weather and warm days lasting throughout November, tourists flock to Sedona during the holiday season, and the local lodging industry is more than happy to recreate the Thanksgiving experience for these seasonal guests.
Paul Maguire, who works as the director of food and beverage for Sedona’s world-renowned Enchantment Resort, confirmed that catering to guests during this traditionally sentimental time is a priority for both himself and his peers in the industry.
“Thanksgiving weekend is extremely busy in Sedona and at Enchantment,” said Maguire. “There are many extended families that spend the holiday together not only at Enchantment but in Sedona as well.”
For snowbirds and annual visitors who arrive in Sedona every autumn, sampling world-class menus while soaking in the scenery has become as much of a tradition as the usual family meal.
As Maguire notes, hosting Thanksgiving dinner and associated events at the resort has become a tradition unto itself.
“We have hosted a Thanksgiving buffet since 1993 and in 2000, we began hosting a prix fixe menu in our signature restaurant,” he said. “We offer a wide variety of options, including Buffet at the Village, Prix Fixe in Che Ah Chi and regular menu dining in Tii Gavo.”
Featuring an inspired blend of traditional items like Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Butternut Squash, and Cider Brined Turkey with modern spins such as Sweet Potatoes Foster, the distinctive prix fixe menu prepared by Executive Chef David Schmidt has made Che Ah Chi at Enchantment Resort one of the premier Thanksgiving dinner destinations for tourists and locals alike. Enchantment’s signature Thanksgiving Buffet will be served in the Anasazi Ballroom from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., while Chef Schmidt’s prix fixe menu will be available at Che Ah Chi beginning at 4 p.m.
Babs Harrison, who works as the director of communications for Enchantment Group, said the resort’s commitment to fostering a genuine Thanksgiving feel for guests also extends to the property’s array of on-site events and activities.
“The resort has special events planned for guests to enjoy on Thanksgiving,” she said. “There will be two hour-long performances that afternoon on the Village Terrace, featuring Tony Duncan, five-time world champion hoop dancer, and the Yellowbird Indian Dancers.”
One of the main reasons that Sedona continues to attract visitors during Thanksgiving and other major holidays – which are typically slow times of the year for major hotels and resorts – is the targeted marketing efforts made by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and other local business organizations. Positioning Sedona as a destination that can provide visitors with a novel vacation experience, while also reminding them of home during the holidays, is a delicate balancing act, but the leadership of the Sedona Chamber’s President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff has proven integral.
“Sedona is a perfect place to celebrate the holidays,” said Wesselhoff. “Businesses open their doors each day to visitors from around the world who come to make memories in the most beautiful place in America. Local restaurants offer delicious, festive meals set amongst stunning red rock spires and along the banks of Oak Creek.”
According to Wesselhoff, the city’s longtime association with the holiday season – built through annual traditions like Los Abrigados Resort’s Festival of Lights – has contributed to Sedona’s ability to capture such a wide segment of the market during Thanksgiving.
“Events such as Holiday Central Sedona and the beautiful lights and decorations along Sedona’s streets only add to the visitor experience and our small town charm, creating memories that last a lifetime,” she said. “If you’re going to make memories, make them some place spectacular. Make them in Sedona.”
In addition to the property-wide Thanksgiving events hosted by Enchantment Resort, nearly all of the leading hotels, bed and breakfasts and fine dining restaurants in the area host their own interpretation of the classic holiday meal. Longtime favorites like the Heartline Café and René at Tlaquepaque have delivered carefully designed culinary masterpieces to diners on Thanksgiving for decades, serving delicious riffs on traditional dishes to a loyal group of local residents.
The Sedona Elks Lodge hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner, which attracts more than 1,000 people annually, and many of the community’s churches provide hot turkey and a warm embrace to those in need as cold weather begins to become the norm.
From charitable events that provide a basic meal and all the fixings, to luxurious prix fixe menus at upscale resorts, Sedona’s hospitality industry gives thanks to visitors and the members of the local community. FBN