Thanksgiving is about feasting. Then sitting on the couch watching football. Then eating leftovers. Then watching a movie. And if that’s what you choose to do, you’re well within your rights to do so. That said, many of us feel better with a bit more movement in our days, while it can seem a shame not to take advantage of having a few days off with some outdoor adventures.
Though getting away for a trail run or hike can seem impossible when there’s stuffing to be mixed and turkey to be trimmed, but with a little creativity, you can get some fresh air and movement on Thanksgiving Day and feel all the better for it. We’ve got six idea ranging from taking your holiday on the road to adding some fun backyard games that will spice up your holiday.
1. Do the turkey trot
If you’d like to really get your heart rate up and not take too much time over it, join your town’s local turkey trot. The turkey trot is an annual tradition of running events held across the US on Thanksgiving Day. The first turkey trot took place in Buffalo, NY all the way back in 1896 and involved a scant six participants who took part in a five mile race downtown on dirt roads.
These days, you can find them all over the country and they usually involve a family friendly course that you can walk or run and choose your distance. Typically, the trot kicks off bright and early so you can get a 5k or 10k in with plenty of time left over to get the turkey in the oven. If it’s already frosty where you are, make sure you grab some winter traction devices to pull on over your running shoes.
2. Take a family hike or walk
For obvious reasons, disappearing for three or more hours while your family cleans the house and cooks dinner might not be everyone’s idea of a good idea, but if you can get the whole family involved, you might be able to keep everyone happy.
Pulling on your hiking boots and taking an early morning hike or walk together on a local trail makes for fabulous bonding time (hiking has been shown to improve relationships!) and is a great way to work up an appetite. You can also take a forest stroll or riverside walk after lunch before collapsing on the couch.
Offering your services for the benefit of those less fortunate is at the heart of Thanksgiving and it’s also a great way to stay off the couch and on your feet. It may be hard work, but dishing up a hot meal at your local soup kitchen will be a rewarding way to spend the day and also keep you moving.
4. Take a break at a National Park
The thing about Thanksgiving is that everyone in your house probably has at least four days off, so you could take your holiday on the road if you live near a National Park. There are lots of great reasons to visit a National Park over Thanksgiving weekend: reservations are no longer required, camping may be cheaper and wildlife viewing is often better with animals coming to lower pastures to graze, so bring your binoculars along.
You can set off bright and early on Black Friday, or even throw the food in your camping cooler and head out to a self-catering accommodation for the day itself. Quite a few lodges inside some of the most popular National Parks like Yosemite and Rocky Mountain host Thanksgiving dinners too, so you may not even need to miss out on the traditional meal.
5. Plan a scavenger hunt
If you want to stay closer to home and there are lots of kids coming over, a family scavenger hunt after lunch can keep everyone on their toes and out in nature for an hour. Use the backyard or a nearby open space and have seasonal prizes like chocolate turkeys or bags of candy corn. Learn how to get started with our article on how to plan a scavenger hunt.
6. Play some flag football
If Thanksgiving in your family means football, you don’t have to just spend three hours on the couch mindlessly picking at leftovers. As long as you’ve got 10 people, you can organize a game of flag football in the yard or at the park before lunch. Flag football is a Thanksgiving classic and is a no-contact game, so it’s appropriate for the whole family, lots of fun and between the running and laughing gets your heart pumping.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.