13 Thanksgiving Activities & Things to Do with Your Family (& Not Do)
Too often we get consumed by Thanksgiving day.
Kids are out of school, the house needs to be cleaned, Black Friday ads are stacked on the counter, and anxiety settles in before the daunting task of preparing that perfect meal.
Thanksgiving Day is filled with families and friends gathering for a special meal, but that doesn’t have to be the only Thanksgiving activity or tradition for your family and friends on Thanksgiving Day.
Creative Thanksgiving Day Activities & Things to Do
Make Thanksgiving more than just the meal
Thanksgiving Day is the perfect opportunity to spend a little less time stressed out, and a little more time building traditions together.
This year, try out one of our twelve ideas and quick tips on how to make the most of your Thanksgiving Day with your loved ones.
#1 Read a Thanksgiving Story
Read up on the history of The First Thanksgiving.
Check out a Thanksgiving book at the Mid-Continent Public Library that is family friendly. Talk with your kids about what happened during that time.
A Thanksgiving favorite of ours is The Very First Thanksgiving Day by Rhonda Growler Green. It is a kid friendly non-fiction book geared for kids Pre-K to 5th grade.
#2 Watch a Thanksgiving Classic
Watch or rent one of our favorites, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. While it may not be completely historically accurate, it does make the Thanksgiving story a little more relatable for little ones.
If you’d prefer a more recent movie, check out your local movie theater for Thanksgiving Day showtimes. One of our favorites, B&B Theaters, has several Kansas City area locations.
#3 Support a Solider
Participate in the Adopt-a-soldier holiday program to support a soldier and/or their family as a way of thanking them for their service.
Many Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast-guardsmen don’t get to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Having a family say “thank you” goes a long way. Here is a link to get started.
#4 Learn a Prayer
Learn a new Thanksgiving Prayer to share at the dinner table.
A fun idea is to have each family member bring a new prayer to share every year before the meal. Find Thanksgiving prayer ideas here.
#5 Take Time to be Thankful and Give Back
Reflect on what you are thankful for.
- Start a family thankfulness jar. Notes can be added to it throughout the year and then revealed and read out the following year.
- Take turns going around the room and having each person give their personal reason to be thankful this year. This could be a simple way to remember the purpose of Thanksgiving.
Donate your Thanksgiving leftover food to a local charity in need. Not everyone in the community is fortunate enough to indulge in a Thanksgiving meal.
#6 Try a New Thanksgiving Recipe
Learn new Thanksgiving recipes to share at the family meal.
Check out some retro recipes for fun too!
Add your favorites to the family cookbook and keep adding to it every year – think about how big that book will be after several generations!
#7 Learn About Thanksgiving History
Visit the Mahaffie Stagecoach Farm and learn about life in the 1860’s.
This experience can give you a sense of appreciation for all of the fancy amenities we have these days. The farm is open to explore the day after Thanksgiving from 12 pm – 4 pm. Admission is $7/adults, $5/children ages 5-11.
#8 Turkey Trot
Just thinking about a Thanksgiving meal puts us in a food coma.
Many people have started to participate in Thanksgiving Day races to work off some of the meal beforehand.
There are several organized runs in the area, a popular one being the annual Kansas City Turkey Trot at Arrowhead Stadium. You can sign up for it competitively to run or walk the race or attend by virtually tracking your course on your own.
Find other local Turkey Trots:
- Ward Parkway Thanksgiving Day 10K & 5K
- Thanksgiving Day 5K Run and Family Stroll by Sprint
- Liberty Giving Thanks 5K
- Turkey Trot 13.1 M/10K/5K/1K Remote-run
If an organized Turkey Trot doesn’t sound like a fit for you, you could always map a route in your neighborhood using an app. This way, your friends and family could do it together before or after your meal.
Some of our favorite apps to use are MapMyRun and RunkKeeper.
#9 Spend Time Outside
Maybe you don’t want to have a full workout, but spending sometime in the fall weather playing in the leaves is always a fun option.
You’ll be thankful for the memories made jumping in those huge piles of leaves in your yard.
A popular Thanksgiving Day tradition is to play a football game, or “Turkey Bowl” with family and friends.
…Nothing says fall like cool weather and football!
#10 Watch a Thanksgiving Game, or Play One of Your Own
Of course, there are always NFL games on if your friends and family are fans. These are the teams that will be playing on Thanksgiving this year:
- Bears vs. Lions
- Redskins vs. Cowboys
- Falcons vs. Saints
After dinner, your family and friends could play a Thanksgiving game of your own.
We’ve found some fun family game night ideas that would work great too. Plus, a good board game is always a good option too.
#11 Make a Thanksgiving Craft
This year, make some fun Thanksgiving crafts with your little turkeys! There are tons of ideas on Pinterest and Facebook. Some of our favorite Thanksgiving ideas are:
Or check out this video to make a Thanksgiving corn craft.
#12 Watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a staple for a lot of families.
Whether it’s a big draw or just background noise, this is always an option. Several local communities have their own parades too.
#13 Holiday Lighting at the Plaza
This doesn’t classify as a parade, but one of our favorite local happenings is the Holiday lights at the Country Club Plaza. Make your Thanksgiving a little more magical.
The annual lighting ceremony begins on Thanksgiving evening where the flip the switched to light up over 280,000 lights! This has been a Kansas City tradition for 86 years!
No matter how you slice it, Thanksgiving is more than just a big meal.
What is your favorite Thanksgiving Day activity or tradition? We want Thanksgiving Day to be a special one for you and your loved ones, no matter what you do. Make the day more than a meal.
Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays.
It almost always guarantees that I’m getting a four-day weekend. I get to enjoy time with friends and family, and there is a huge turkey dinner with all the trimmings. That being said, there are a few holiday traps involved that you should try to avoid. Here are a few things you absolutely should not do this holiday:
Things NOT to Do on Thanksgiving
We all have that hectic Thanksgiving To-Do list… from cooking to entertaining. It’s important that in the middle of all of the chaos that we remember what the holiday is truly about… enjoying your loved ones and all of the things that you have to be thankful for.
DON’T Spend all your time shopping
A few years ago, it was all the rage to start Christmas shopping immediately following the Thanksgiving meal.
That’s not the case this year, as many stores are closing so that their employees can enjoy time with their families. The “bad” (actually AWESOME) news is that means you get to spend time with your family, too.
DON’T Spend all day cooking and/or cleaning
I usually cook Thanksgiving dinner. My stove only has two burners (don’t even get me started!) so, this means I usually get up at 4:00AM to start meal prep. This is not recommended. You’ll be so tired by the time dinner is served, you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
It’s not realistic to expect one person to cook the entire meal, and that same person to have to clean up when everyone leaves. Consider potluck options, ordering pre-cooked holiday meals, and supplementing as necessary.
I know your grandmother did it all. But you are not your grandmother!
DON’T Sleep the day away.
I know the Thanksgiving food comma hits us all.
I am the last person to deny anyone their afternoon nap, but please don’t spend the entire day napping. Watch the parade. Try to figure out the recipe for grandma’s rolls.
If you doze off during the game, just know that smart phones are everywhere, and someone is bound to catch you with your mouth wide open, and your eyes wide shut.
DON’T Count calories.
This is a set up for certain failure. Thanksgiving is not the time to go on a fad diet.
Leave your calorie counting apps at the door, the macaroni and cheese I baked a few years ago had something like a gazillion calories per serving (and it tasted amazing).
It’s a time to enjoy yourself.
Try to get a small amount of all your favorites, and if there is room after that, go back for the rest.
Leave room for dessert… because dessert is awesome and somebody will make a peach cobbler, and a pumpkin pie, and an apple pie…
Seriously, the best thing about the Thanksgiving holiday is that we all have so many reasons to be thankful. Do not let these little things ruin a perfectly good day, and a perfectly delicious meal. Spend time with the people you love, and be grateful for the chance to do just that.
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