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

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

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

Thanksgiving decor ideas

Thanksgiving is a day of routines, and they mostly revolve around food. We all anticipate the comforting heaps of sides and the golden turkey, as well as the cuts of ham and vat of gravy, but there are plenty of fun things to do on Thanksgiving that don't put all the pressure of the day's success on the dining table. This year, plan to create another tradition or two for your family to celebrate.

We rounded up 30 ideas of things to do on Thanksgiving—from an early morning turkey-trot to an afternoon touch football game and an evening wearing matching pajamas—so that your routines extend past the expected menu.

Go for a Walk

woman taking walk

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.

Participate in a Turkey Trot

woman walking


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

Make a Light Breakfast

light breakfast

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 coffee—so that you don't feel out of sorts later.

Go Sledding


If you're lucky enough to have seen the season's first snow, take advantage of it by going sledding. You may associate sledding with childhood snow days, but trust us, it's just as fun as an adult as it was when you were a pre-teen.

Call Older Relatives

woman on phone in kitchen

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.

Organize the Kitchen

organized kitchen

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.

Try doing this earlier in the day just in case you need to make a last-minute grocery store run.

Have Some Quiet Time

Things to Do on Thanksgiving—Hanna Stefansson

Before you're surrounded by relatives asking you about a thousand questions, find some time to be alone and meditate. 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.


soup kitchen

Serve breakfast at a local soup kitchen with your relatives, or help deliver Thanksgiving dinners to the community. Helping others experience the joy of delicious food on such an important holiday will make you feel great (and probably a little more grateful).

Watch the Parade

couple in kitchen

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade only comes once a year, but it's a heartwarming tradition.

Tune Into the National Dog Show

dog show

For cuteness overload, check out the annual National Dog Show. Who will win this year? The golden retriever? Or maybe the Shih Tzu? There's only one way to find out.

Decorate for the Holidays

woman decorating for christmas

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.

Start Cooking

thanksgiving turkey

You may have already started doing prep and a few easy recipes the day before, but now is the time to really get to work. Grab some help from others, especially if there are extra people around.

Decorate the Table

setting table

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.

Put the Game On

tv room

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

Play a Game

washers yard game

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 a simple DIY washer game from Sugar & Cloth.

Text Your Friends

woman texting

Don't forget to wish all of your friends a happy Thanksgiving. You're thankful for them in your life, after all!

Prep for Black Friday

woman writing list

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.

Go To the Movies

go to the movies

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.

Serve Cocktails


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

Create a Buffet Line Based on Birthday Months

thanksgiving menu

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.

Have Conversation-Starters Ready

thanksgiving table

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

Say What You're Thankful For

thanksgiving table

Go around the table to give everyone a chance to share. That's the whole point of Thanksgiving anyway, right?

Go on an Evening Stroll

family on walk

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.

Watch Your Favorite Thanksgiving Cartoons

watch cartoons

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.

Dinner Winners Serve Dessert

pumpkin pie

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

Serve Digestifs

serve digestifs

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

Play Charades

couple in kitchen

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

Whip Out the Board Games

foosball table

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

Wear Matching Pajamas

matching pajamas

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

Look at Family Photos

photo album

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

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