Not your traditional Thanksgiving dinner

Sure, you could slave away at a hot stove – or you can take our advice on alternative ways to make this Turkey Day a memorable one.


Are you dreading waking up at 6 a.m. to put the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven? Worried about picking the right bottle of wine to bring? Have you had enough of your aunt’s dry and tasteless stuffing she insists on making for every holiday meal for the last two decades? Has that “can”berry sauce, or your family’s Costco ready-made apple pie, finally put you over the top? Allow us to suggest another option (or a few options, for that matter).

Thanksgiving is supposed to be about family and togetherness, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all day together at your grandparent’s house watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or listening to the annual spinning of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” There are plenty of ways to spend time to family and friends this week – whether serving dinner at a local rescue mission, dining at a local restaurant, or cozying up on a barstool at your local watering hole.


Donate Your Time

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on everything we’re thankful for, but not everyone has it so good. Take a moment this Thanksgiving to donate some time or goods to a local shelter.

• Bethesda Mission in Harrisburg has been giving hope to struggling men, women and children for 100 years in Harrisburg. The entirely community-supported shelter hosts a Thanksgiving meal from 4:30-5:30 p.m. They already have a full core of volunteers, but they welcome anyone to come in and share a meal and befriend someone. “Sometimes that has a huge impact in someone’s life,” says Ken Ross, director of community relations.

The Mission is also accepting donations for its Thanksgiving meal. Some of the items needed include sweet potatoes, green beans, carrots, butter and brown sugar. Donations of non-perishable food items are always welcome. Click here for more information on making a donation, or visit Bethesda Mission’s gift registry on Amazon.

• Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster hosts its annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet on November 26 from 4-6 p.m. Lend a helping hand by helping serve dinner!

• York Rescue Mission‘s annual Thanksgiving Basket Project is back. Last year, the Mission served Thanksgiving meals to 5,853 individuals.

Use the Homeless Shelter Directory to find volunteering opportunities at a shelter, soup kitchen or food bank in your community.


Dinners & Buffets

So you want to have Thanksgiving dinner like you’d have in grandma’s parlor, but you don’t want to clean up the mess? There are plenty of family-style dinners and buffets to choose from.

• Lebbie Lebkicher’s at the Hershey Lodge serves up a full Thanksgiving meal served family style. Dinner is $26.50 per person and served from 12-4 p.m.

• For the vegetarians out there, The Seed in Lancaster hosts a family-style harvest dinner on November 26 at 7 p.m. The meal features several courses of vegetarian entrees made with locally sourced produce for $20.

• Diners with a big appetite can look to the Stone Grille & Taphouse in York for its Thanksgiving buffet from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Get your fill for $19.95 for adults and $7.95 for ages 6-11.

• Combine gambling and your Thanksgiving meal at Hollywood Casino’s Epic Buffet, which features a special menu created by executive chef Allan Rupert. The buffet is $24.99 per person and runs from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Be sure to bet on black after finishing your pumpkin pie.)


The Watering Hole

A smoky backroom bar is typically not the first place you’d expect to find a Thanksgiving dinner. But at a well-known locale in Lancaster, turkey is taken very seriously – and it’s free!

• Eileen Drennen took over the Shamrock Cafe in Lancaster in 1980 and has served a free food dish almost every single day since then. But when it comes to the holidays, Drennen takes the concept of the free meal to another level, calling on her mother’s recipes to create a true family-style dinner among the tap handles of PBR and Miller Lite. She starts food preparation on Wednesday night, cooking her turkey, real mashed potatoes (it’s no exaggeration to say they’re some of the best mashed potatoes we’ve ever tried), filling, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. The food comes out around 1 p.m., and you’re allowed one plate (no seconds). Drennen says as she’s gotten older, it’s a little more difficult to make the meal. “It’s a hard habit to break because people look forward to the dinner now,” Drennen says.


Have a recommendation for an alternative Thanksgiving activity? Let’s hear ’em.


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Posted in Dining Scene

Mike Andrelczyk is a features editor for Fly Magazine. He is a graduate of Penn State University and currently lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. Interests include tennis, playing bad guitar, poetry (poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, The Inquisitive Eater and other journals) and oneirology – the study of dreams – mostly in the form of afternoon naps. His name appears in the title screen of Major League 2.

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