My family has never been into sports at all, unless you somehow count gardening. I’m pretty sure my siblings and I didn’t know that football was even a thing until we hit high school. This indifference to the pigskin has stuck and, as I’ve come to define myself as a person who doesn’t watch football, you will not find me on the couch in front of the television on Thanksgiving. But what is there to do instead? Isn’t everything closed? If you have kids to entertain and want some quality family time and get out of the house to burn off some of your Thanksgiving feast, here are some alternatives to watching football.
Kick it at the aquarium. It may be counterintuitive, but many are open on this holiday. * Because most people will be doing the sports thing, your local fish zoo should not be nearly as crowded as usual. Your kids can get right up close to the glass, take as long as they want to wander around the jellyfish enclosure (or whatever the big, pushy draw at your aquarium is) and spend an hour in front of the sharks. Surrounded by beauty and wonder, your day will go swimmingly.
Take a stroll in a nature preserve. Thanksgiving is a great day to bundle up and pack a picnic. There will be far fewer people than usual, so the great outdoors should be totally quiet. Your family could see birds and animals that are normally hiding. If your kids are too little to walk a whole trail, find a place to sit and just enjoy the peace.
Become a graveyard explorer. If you’re one of those people who thinks graveyards are beautiful or historically intriguing, Thanksgiving might be a perfect day to spend some time in one. Try to find one that is particularly old and you’ll probably see better statues and markers. Bring along paper and crayons and you and your kids can do a super cool art project—gravestone rubbings.
Have an urban scavenger hunt. The sidewalks and parks should be a lot emptier than usual, so your scouts can meander. To get started, make a list of things that can be seen outside, in your city. For example: A mural on a building, a statue of an animal, a historic registry plaque, a blue van, and an article of clothing on the ground. Divide into teams to see who can find everything first. If you don’t want to split up, just keep track of who sees things first.
Take a weird signs and landmarks tour. Your town might have some underappreciated neon, or the biggest concrete arrow in the West. Maybe there’s a tree downtown with a famous face growing in its trunk. Your city probably has some things you’ve heard about but haven’t seen. Compile a route of funky stops and take your family on a tour, by car or bikes. Take turns playing tour guide—especially fun if your kids know the sights.
Snap a costumed photo shoot. This can be done anywhere, indoors or out, and all you really need is a digital camera. Can you find, in the collected clothing of your household, a way to make everyone a pirate? A 20s film star? (Just use all black, white and gray clothes, with heavy eyeliner.) Some post-apocalyptic models in tatters? Reimagine your spaces with your impromptu costumes. Good sets are waiting in the garage, on the stairs of your building, or on the climbing equipment at the corner park. Browse through some fashion mags ahead of time to get some ideas. Your kids can take turns being photographers and posing you, too. Set the camera’s timer and get some family shots. You could have the most exciting Christmas card photo this year.
*Nerdy With Children scoped some aquariums and these are just a few of the ones open on Thanksgiving: Seattle Aquarium, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Downtown Aquarium in Denver, Downtown Aquarium in Houston, Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey. Contact your local site, just to be sure.