10 Things to Do on Thanksgiving Day That Don’t Involve Eating

Aka what to do before the main event

things-to-do-on-thanksgiving-day: A man in a red plaid jacket holding mini pumpkins on a sunny day.
Natalia Ganelin/Getty Images

Thanksgiving is around the corner, which means it’s almost time to plan the menu…and maybe figure out what else there is to do on the holiday besides, well, eat. While the Thanksgiving Day feast is obviously the main event, there are quite a few hours to fill and guests to occupy before and after the meal. As such, we put together a list of fun and interesting things to do on Thanksgiving Day, whether you’re looking to flee the scene for a few with a quiet drive or participate in a festive and family-friendly event like a mini pumpkin hunt. Read on and get your ducks (or turkeys) in a row.

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1. Watch (or Attend) a Thanksgiving’s Day Parade

If you’re in or near the Big Apple on Thanksgiving Day and are willing to brave the crowds, head to Midtown for front row seats to the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Alternatively, you can watch the festive show on TV from just about any couch in the country or find a smaller spectacle to enjoy in your own town. Either way, a holiday parade is sure to get you feeling festive.

2. Join a Turkey Trot

This long distance (typically 5k) foot race is one of America’s oldest Thanksgiving traditions and an excellent way for the whole fam to bond, whilst burning off some calories before the big feast takes place and the tryptophan food coma sets in. Best of all, these events are often associated with charities, so participating in one also provides an opportunity to give to a good cause.

3. Play Touch Football

Another time-honored tradition, albeit a less formal one, touch football is a Thanksgiving Day activity the whole family can get in on—provided you have a backyard with enough room to run around, that is—and it’s safe to say that playing is more fun than watching, and better for your waistline, too.

4. Take a Scenic Drive

Whether you’re seeking a way to get out of the host’s hair until dinner is on the table or simply trying to escape the company of your in-laws for a sec, a quiet Thanksgiving Day drive is a blissful way to unwind. Pick a scenic route featuring the season’s most colorful foliage, queue up your behind-the-wheel playlist and try not to stray too far, lest you be late for the family feast.

5. Volunteer

There’s never a bad time to volunteer—research shows this wholesome activity actually makes you happier—but Thanksgiving is a particularly fitting occasion for giving back to the community. For that reason, however, volunteer organizations are often overwhelmed with extra help over the holidays, so be sure to call ahead to find out how you can contribute.

6. Plan Your Black Friday Shopping

Thanksgiving is kind of two holidays in one, since it’s also Black Friday Eve. If you plan on participating in the consumer extravaganza, the time to start making your list and mapping your route is now. After all, a savvy Black Friday shopper never shows up at the mall unprepared.

7. Play a Gratitude Game

This gratitude game—featuring a free printable, yummy candy and color coded prompts—is a major improvement on the standard practice of awkwardly putting each friend and family member on the spot around the dinner table. Find the full tutorial, courtesy of Kara Creates, here and thank us later.

8. Take a Hike

Plan a short hike with your people for before or after the feast to burn off calories and boost blood flow in the brisk autumn air. Psst: The scenery will likely lend itself to leaf peeping, so this healthy activity also provides a prime opportunity to hone your photography skills (no filter necessary).

9. Have a Mini Pumpkin Hunt

Aside from being the most adorable piece of produce at the local farm stand, mini pumpkins also make excellent substitutes for Easter eggs in this (borrowed) holiday event, which involves a family-friendly hunt and treasure that’s destined to be placed in a cornucopia centerpiece.

10. Watch a Festive Movie

If you’re hopelessly drawn in by the couch’s magnetic pull post turkey dinner, don’t try to fight it—just hunker down with a festive movie marathon. (You can find 51 suitable flicks for your viewing pleasure here.)

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...