50 Things You Can Do on Thanksgiving Besides Eat Food

by Journals to Freedom September 07, 2021 9 min read

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for more info. All printables are for personal use only.

It's Thanksgiving time, and you're probably wondering what else to do besides eating for the whole day. Well, we have compiled a list of things that will keep your mind busy as well as entertain your guests! There are plenty of fun games like charades or card games that can be played that don't involve food at all. Is it even Thanksgiving if you don't share what you're grateful for? We've got some printables for that, too. You could also take this opportunity to watch some old family movies you've never seen before with everyone else if they're into it. We hope these ideas help make your thanksgiving truly memorable!

50 Things You Can Do on Thanksgiving Besides Eat Food

1. Printable Thanksgiving Binder

This printable Thanksgiving Binder is not just for planning the perfect holiday; it also has tons of activities and ideas that you can enjoy with your family! Discus & create family traditions, keep track of the movies watched, write acrostic poems, share gratitude lists, answer Thanksgiving writing prompts, ABCs of Thanks, and so much more! You can keep all of the activities completed neat and organized in a 3-ring binder, which actually makes a really great keepsake! Next year, have a look through it with your family for a walk down memory lane.

printable Thanksgiving activity planner

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2. Create a Gratitude Pumpkin

Everyone loves pumpkins around this time of year, but they can be more than just a decoration! A fun activity to do with your family is creating a gratitude pumpkin and write down everything you’re grateful for. This has multiple benefits that are sure to leave an impression on everyone in the room.

gratitude pumpkin

3. Watch Thanksgiving movies together

Watching movies is a great way to bond and creating lasting memories with the people you love this holiday season. We've got some fun suggestions for your family's must-watch list. We have compiled a list of our favorite Thanksgiving day flicks guaranteed to bring up fond memories or provide good laughs!

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4. Get ready for Black Friday deals

Whether you are shopping online or in person for your Black Friday deals, it's best to have a game plan. We suggest making a list of what's important for your family so you can get shopping (and saving!) right away instead of wasting time looking around at everything!

5. Watch the Thanksgiving day parade

The parade is a long-standing tradition that never gets old. We all know the drill where you start off with floats representing different towns and states, followed by dancers or marching bands, ending with Santa Claus. If you have little ones who are too young to understand what's going on around them during this busy time of year, let them watch the parade to pass the time.

6. Watch football all day

If you're into sports, then Thanksgiving is your holiday of choice! There are tons of games that go on during this afternoon so sit down with some friends and enjoy cheering for your team together. Or enjoy some friendly competition!

7. DIY Thanksgiving Gratitude Game

Play this Thanksgiving gratitude game for a fun way to put the focus on thankfulness! It's a free printable!

Thanksgiving Gratitude Game

8. Run a turkey trot

Running is a great way to get some exercise and bond with friends or family! Find out where your local turkey trot will be taking place on Thanksgiving morning. Don't worry, you can do this by yourself if you don't have anyone else to go with and you'll probably make a new friend too. Plus, there are usually free t-shirts so it's worth it!

9. Watch the parade with your pet

Looking for something to do that doesn't involve people? Enjoying the Thanksgiving day parade can still be fun with your dog or cat (or other furry friends). You could even dress them up in their cutest outfit and snap some pictures together! If they're not into loud noises like this, you could always watch the parade from your window, if you're local to a parade. If not, the TV works great, too!

10. Research family history

Everyone loves stories about their family members that came before them! Why not spend some time digging up old pictures and learning more about your ancestors with the whole family? The department of Genealogy and Family History is a good place to start.

11. Start a gratitude journal

Encourage your children to start a Gratitude Journal with this free printable. It includes fun and creative prompts to establish the habit of gratitude.

Printable Gratitude Journal For Kids

12. Volunteer somewhere

Giving back to the community is always a great way to spend time together and help those who need it most. Find out where your local soup kitchen, animal shelter or food bank will be on Thanksgiving day so you can donate some time in appreciation for all that we have!

13. Scavenger hunt

Who doesn't love a good scavenger hunt? This activity is fun for the whole family and it gets your mind working.

14. Play a board game

Board games are a great way to spend time with the family and it's also an activity that doesn't require much energy or planning. It can be fun for all ages so you won't have any trouble finding someone who wants to play!

These games might not have a board, but they're sure to get the laughs rolling in.

15. Sew together some stuffed animals

Stuffed animals make everyone happy, especially little ones! If you have some free time on Thanksgiving afternoon, why not make a few new furry friends?

16. read a book

Sometimes, the best activity is one that doesn't require any prep time at all! Curl up with a good book and enjoy some quiet reading time.

17. video call a relative

If you don't live close by, take advantage of the holiday to video call a relative and tell them how much they mean to you. You can also do this same activity with friends who might be far away from home during the holidays!

18. Turkey Shape Craft

Learn about colors, shapes, counting and more with this easy Thanksgiving turkey craft for toddlers & preschoolers!

Turkey Shape Craft

19. play card games

Card games are a low-key way to pass some time and have fun. It's also great if you're waiting for something or just don't want to get up from your seat! Phase 10 and Uno are our family favorites.

20. play charades

Charades is a classic family game that you can really get creative with! Maybe you live with some family members who are not as enthusiastic about the holiday, so play a few rounds of charades to get everyone laughing.

21. host a photo shoot

Having a family photoshoot is a great way to commemorate this holiday and the special time you're spending together. Break out the silly props! Maybe it's even your first Thanksgiving with someone, so why not snap some candid shots around the house to keep as memories?

22. Gift a meal to someone

What better way to show someone how thankful you are than by cooking them a meal? If there's no one in your family who is hosting Thanksgiving this year, why not sign up with an organization that makes deliveries to families during the holiday season.

23. Thanksgiving Paper Chain Garland

Make a Thanksgiving paper chain garland with your family this year. Remember what you are thankful for year after year by adding to it!

DIY Thanksgiving Paper Chain Garland

24. handmake a gift

Handmade gifts are always the most meaningful because you took your time and put in the effort. If you don't have a lot of money to spend, this is also an excellent option since it's free!

25. dance party

Dancing around the house is great for getting rid of some stress and having fun. Turn on some music and get moving!

26. go to the beach

If you find yourself looking for something to do that doesn't require a lot of energy or planning, why not take advantage of the nice weather and head down to the beach? It's always a good time.

27. Go on a nature walk

Enjoy some fresh air with your family by going on a short hike through the woods! This is a great way to take in nature and appreciate all that you have. 

You can use this tool to find a state park near you.

28. play "Would you Rather"

"Would you Rather" games are great because they get the creative juices flowing and help break some tension among family members.

29. Go through photo albums

Everyone loves looking at old family photos, especially younger children. If there are any photo albums around the house that you can look through with them, it will be a great way to get everyone reminiscing about past Thanksgivings together!

30. Clean a room in the house

Yes, I know what you're thinking. But even if it's just tidying up the living room, cleaning is always a great way to acknowledge your family's hard work and express your gratitude for them.

31. Travel to a new place

If you're looking for something fun to do that's different or unique, why not plan a trip somewhere with family members? Take advantage of the long holiday weekend and give everyone an opportunity to relax.

32. Go on a bike ride

If you're living in a place where there's not too much snow on the ground, try a bike ride! It's always a great way to get your blood pumping and enjoy being outside.

33. Cross something off your bucket list

If you haven't done it already, take advantage of the long holiday weekend to cross something off your bucket list! Whether that means traveling somewhere or trying a new activity, try to enjoy yourself and embrace the holiday spirit.

34. Call older family members

If you have a lot of older family members who might be spending the holiday alone, now's a great time to call them and check in on them. It'll probably make their day!

35. Enjoy some quiet time

If you're not feeling too social this holiday, just spend some time relaxing on your own. Treat yourself to a bubble bath or a spa day. Coloring is a great way to unwind and de-stress, check out these free printable Thanksgiving coloring pages.

printable Thanksgiving coloring pages

36. Watch the national dog show on TV

Why not take a moment to appreciate the dogs on this holiday? It's something we can all agree is pretty great. I always enjoyed seeing the unique dog breeds.

37. Put up holiday decorations

Holiday decorations are always a fun way to get in the spirit and spread some cheer. This is also a great time of year because stores have some amazing deals on decorations! Some families have a tradition of putting up the Christmas Tree after Thanksgiving dinner!

38. Text your friends

Send your friends a text and let them know that you're thinking about them. Just don't do it in a group message, copy & paste like a mad woman! 😅

39. Use conversation starter cards

Conversation starter cards are great because they make it easy to connect with other people over the holiday. If you're feeling shy or anxious, this is a great way to break the ice and get comfortable.

Use this printable Thankful Heart Binder to have each family member or guest write down all of the ways they are grateful and then share them for a great conversation starter!

40. See who can find the biggest leaf

This is always a fun game to play on autumn days. The person who finds the biggest leaf gets bragging rights!

41. Host a gift exchange (turkey trade anyone?)

If you're feeling competitive this holiday, why not host a gift exchange with your family members? The person who gives the best present gets first dibs on the leftover Thanksgiving food.

42. Carve a pumpkin

Carving pumpkins is always a fun activity to do with your whole family. If you don't have any carving tools, why not try something new and decorate your pumpkin with some paint, glitter, or googly eyes.

43. Plant a tree

If you're living in a place where the weather's nice enough to plant some trees, this is definitely something to think about. It'll be a great way to give back and honor nature.

44. Listen & identify animal sounds

Listening to the sounds of nature can be a great way to relax and reflect on your gratitude. It's also a good activity for children! Take some paper with you and write down all of the animals you hear!

45. Sew a thanksgiving tablecloth

Tablecloths are a great way to add some color and personality to your table. If you're feeling crafty this holiday, why not sew your own?

46. Have a kid-size parade

If you have little children, organizing a parade in your front yard would be so much fun! Use cardboard boxes and get creative with those mini floats!

47. jump in piles of leaves

Who doesn't love jumping into gigantic mounds of crispy, crunchy leaves? If you're lucky enough to live in a place where the leaves are changing colors, this is definitely something to get excited about!

48. Pumpkin bowling

This is a great activity for all ages! You can play with small pumpkins or big ones, just make sure you keep the pumpkin steady and try to knock down as many pins as possible!

49. Paint mini pumpkins

This is a great activity to do with your children! Let the little ones paint their favorite fall designs on small pumpkins and use them as decorations.

50. Thank your host

Lastly, don't forget to thank whoever is hosting Thanksgiving this year! Give them some flowers or freshly baked cookies to show your appreciation.


Our list of Thanksgiving activities should keep your mind and body busy while also entertaining your guests. Which activity on our list would you like to try this year?

Journals to Freedom
Journals to Freedom

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