30 Things to Do on Thanksgiving That Don't Revolve Around Eating

Things to Do on Thanksgiving—Margo and Me

 @margoandme

For the past several years, I've had an ongoing, albeit simple, Thanksgiving tradition with my father. We drink cups of coffee together, lace up our walking shoes, and go for a morning stroll overlooking the surf. I grew up near the beach in Los Angeles, so Thanksgiving mornings often resemble summer more than fall—last year it was 80 degrees, and dozens of surfers were out on the waves. But my dad and I use this time to catch up, enjoy some fresh air, and get some exercise before a day of eating. It's also fun to trick him into thinking the ocean water isn't as cold as it is. He always falls for it.

Thanksgiving is a day of routines, of course, and they mostly revolve around food. We all anticipate the same comforting heaps of sides and the golden turkey, as well as the cuts of ham and vat of gravy, but the rest of the day is often left open. This year, plan to create another tradition or two for your family to celebrate instead of putting all the pressure of the day's success on the dining table. Below, 30 ideas for you to consider—from an early morning turkey trot to an afternoon touch football game to an evening wearing matching pajamas—so that your routines extend past the expected menu.

01 of 30

Go For a Walk

woman taking walk

Getty Images/Fu Yi Lee/EyeEm

A simple walk around your neighborhood is a relaxing way to get this often hectic day started, and it's especially beautiful if you live in a place where the leaves change colors.

02 of 30

Participate in a Turkey Trot

woman walking

Getty Images/mikroman6

There are countless different races you can join on the morning of Thanksgiving Day, and it's a great opportunity to get the family together. Bonus points are given to those who dress up!

03 of 30

Make a Light Breakfast

light breakfast

Julia Robbs

It's never a good idea to skip eating altogether until the turkey hits the table. Whip up a light breakfast to keep your energy up—even if it's something as simple as a fruit salad and a coffee—so that you don't feel out of sorts later.

04 of 30

Go Sledding

sledding

Getty Images/Westend61

If you're lucky enough to have seen the season's first snow, take advantage of it by going sledding.

05 of 30

Call Older Relatives

woman on phone in kitchen

Getty Images/AleksandarNakic

Maybe you have older relatives who are no longer able to travel to join everyone on Thanksgiving. Give them a call and let them know you're thinking of them. It'll make their day.

06 of 30

Organize the Kitchen

organized kitchen
Sugar & Cloth

Do you ever watch cooking shows and notice that the hosts always have the ingredients they need within reach? Make the chef's duties easier by organizing everything that's needed for the feast ahead of time.

This will also give you a chance to notice what's missing in case you need to make a last-minute grocery store run.

07 of 30

Have Some Quiet Time

Things to Do on Thanksgiving—Hanna Stefansson

@hannastefansson 

Before you're surrounded by relatives asking you 1,000 questions, find some time to be alone. Sit quietly by a window, read a chapter of a book, or scroll through Instagram—just find something that gives you a moment of peace.

08 of 30

Volunteer

soup kitchen

College Housewife

Serve breakfast at a local soup kitchen with your relatives, or help deliver Thanksgiving dinners to the community.

09 of 30

Watch the Parade

couple in kitchen
Julia Robbs

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade only comes once a year. It's cheesy, we know, but it's also a heartwarming tradition.

10 of 30

Tune into the National Dog Show

dog show

Julia Robbs

For cuteness overload, the annual National Dog Show shouldn't be missed. Who will win this year? The golden retriever? Or maybe the Shih Tzu? There's only one way to find out.

11 of 30

Decorate for the Holidays

woman decorating for christmas

Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill

Now may be a good moment to start decorating for Christmas, since you have some much-needed time off work. Get out the tree and get to work while you have a lot of people around to help.

12 of 30

Start Cooking

thanksgiving turkey

Half Baked Harvest

You may have already started doing prep and a few easy recipes in the morning, but now is the time to really get to work. Don't forget to ask for help if you need it, especially if there are teens around.

13 of 30

Decorate the Table

setting table

Julia Robbs

Create a themed centerpiece, and make sure everyone has a matching table setting. You can also decorate the kids' table with crayons and construction paper.

14 of 30

Put the Game On

tv room

Design: Arlyn Hernandez, Photo: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Even if it's not your team or you couldn't care less, watching football is still a big Thanksgiving Day tradition. Not interested? Focus on putting some game day appetizers together.

15 of 30

Coach a Game

washers yard game

Sugar & Cloth

Once the early afternoon is underway, the chef is likely scrambling to get things finished. Make sure guests who want to watch football are taken care of—with drinks and snacks, of course—and then lead others to play a game outside and away from the kitchen. That can be a simple relay race, hide-and-go-seek, touch football, or this simple DIY washer game from Sugar & Cloth.

16 of 30

Text Your Friends

woman texting

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Don't forget to wish all of your friends a happy Thanksgiving. They're something you're thankful for, after all!

17 of 30

Prep for Black Friday

woman writing list

 Getty Images/Westend61

You're going to need a game plan to get all those best deals. So research what sales are going on and create a schedule for yourself.

18 of 30

Go to the Movies

go to the movies

Photo by Myke Simon on Unsplash

If you're suffering from some major cabin fever, the movie theater just may be the place to go. Great movies tend to come out during the holiday season, so take in a flick before awards season hits.

19 of 30

Serve Cocktails

cocktails

College Housewife

Whether you pass out seasonal beers or flavorful mocktails, make sure everyone has a drink waiting for them before dinner.

20 of 30

Create a Buffet Line Based on Birthday Months

thanksgiving menu
Half Baked Harvest

Now that the turkey is on display and the sides are ready to go, it's time to do what this holiday is all about: chow down. But instead of rushing to the front of the line, ask everyone to line up according to their birthday month. Flip a coin to see if you'll go forward from January or backward from December.

21 of 30

Have Conversation Starters Ready

thanksgiving table

College Housewife

Nothing is worse than eating in an awkward silence, so be sure to have some lighthearted conversation starters ready for when everyone starts slowing down.

22 of 30

Say What You're Thankful For

thanksgiving table

College Housewife 

Go around the table to give everyone a chance to share. That's the whole point of Thanksgiving, after all.

23 of 30

Go On an Evening Walk

family on walk

Photo by Amy Humphries on Unsplash

Thanksgiving dinners are often served earlier than usual, which means that it's probably just going to get dark as you finish eating. Ask everyone to bundle up for a short walk around the block. You can even sing carols if you're up to it.

24 of 30

Watch Your Favorite Thanksgiving Cartoons

watch cartoons

Design: Emily Henderson, Photo: Sara Tramp

You can't forget to tune into It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It's a beloved classic that adults and kids will love to watch again.

25 of 30

Dinner Winners Serve Dessert

pumpkin pie

Half Baked Harvest

 

Slices of pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie aren't going to eat themselves, you know. Ask those who were served dinner first to be the ones to serve dessert.

26 of 30

Serve Digestifs

serve digestifs

Dine X Design

You know, those alcoholic beverages that help you digest? Thanksgiving is as good a time as ever to try one—from brandy to Jägermeister.

27 of 30

Play Charades

couple in kitchen

Julia Robbs

Break everyone into teams to guess clues for different movies, restaurants, and television shows.

28 of 30

Whip Out the Games

foosball table

Photo by Bao Truong on Unsplash

Since you have a big group together, this is the perfect opportunity to play board games, from Monopoly to Scrabble and foosball.

29 of 30

Wear Matching Pajamas

matching pajamas

We the People Style

Buy everyone cheap matching pajamas to wear during a classic movie marathon. Our vote? The Indiana Jones trilogy.

30 of 30

Look at Family Photos

photo album

Sugar & Cloth

Reminiscing on past vacations and baby photos tends to conjure up some good memories. So bring out old photo albums or pull up more recent pictures on the TV.

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