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6 Outdoorsy Alternatives to This Year’s Turkey Trot

After all the fun of first helpings, plan an active excursion in the great outdoors to get that much-needed second wind.

For many, turkey trots have become a classic part of the annual Thanksgiving festivities. And while it can be fun to bring family and friends along for these communal runs, they aren’t the only option for outdoor activity come Thanksgiving. This year, switch up your routine and plan an outdoorsy adventure with these alternatives — from national park visits to tours of your local holiday lights, there are plenty of ways to get outside, stretch your legs, and start brainstorming what to do with all those leftovers.

Go for an urban hike

Lace up your sneakers and head into the city.

Go for a walk where you can after a fun Friendsgiving lunch. Photo: Zoran Zeremski / Shutterstock

Attending Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the city? Don’t worry — you can still take advantage of the great outdoors after your feast. To help forestall the tryptophan coma, lace up your walking shoes and set off on an urban hike. Whether you trade sidewalks for elevated train lines on New York City’s High Line; soak up blustery waterfront views along Chicago’s Lakefront Trail; wander the East Coast Greenway in Washington DC; or hop on the California Coastal Trail in the Bay Area, a metropolitan ramble is the perfect antidote to feeling a little too stuffed with stuffing.

Visit your local national park

Make the most of the beauty on your doorstep.

Get out and about in Arches National Park this Thanksgiving. Photo: Eustacio Humphrey / Viator

If you’re lucky enough to live near a national park, consider visiting on Thanksgiving weekend. Crowds are sure to be reduced from their summer peak and parks are typically open to visitors during the holiday. November is a good time to explore the likes of Yosemite National Park before the winter snow really beds in, while the often scorching-hot Death Valley National Park is more comfortable to explore once cooler weather begins. Hotels and restaurants in certain parks — like Olympic National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Arches National Park — have even hosted Thanksgiving meals and festivities in previous years.

Take in the holiday lights

Kick off the winter season with a bang, or a twinkle.

Get a head start on admiring the holiday lights in your town after dinner. Photo: TravnikovStudio / Shutterstock

For many, Thanksgiving Day marks the official beginning of the winter holiday season — and with Christmas just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to head outside and take in the newly installed glittering lights, decorations, and holiday windows for the first time. Plan a festive excursion, wherever you are — from Manhattan to San Francisco, Denver to Chicago, Brooklyn to Pittsburgh and beyond, there’s no better motivation to get out of the house than immersing yourself in the magic of tree lightings, Christmas markets, ice rinks, and other seasonal surprises.

Find your zen with outdoor yoga

Stretch those weary muscles after Thanksgiving dinner.

Relax and ease away the tension with a spot of outdoor yoga. Photo: S.Myshkovsky / Shutterstock

While running has become the default form of exercise on Thanksgiving, yoga — with its soothing stretches, calming breathing exercises, and digestion-aiding poses — might be an even better bet when you’re hosting family gatherings and doing lots of feasting. Every year, cities across the country host a variety of open-air yoga events, from group classes on Baker Beach in San Francisco to Hartford, Connecticut’s annual Thanksgiving Yoga Festival. Research what’s happening in your city, shimmy into a comfy pair of leggings, and start practicing your downward-facing dog.

Support local volunteering efforts

Give back after tucking in.

Get back to the reason for the season with some hands-on volunteering this Thanksgiving. Photo: addkm / Shutterstock

Thanksgiving is a time for giving back, and if you’re looking for a different way to get active outside your home, signing up for holiday volunteering lets you make the most of the season (even if you aren’t planning to raise funds through a charitable turkey trot). Whether you sign up as a meal delivery volunteer for Meals on Wheels, pledge to serve Thanksgiving dinner or assemble meal kits at your local food bank, host a clothing drive, or opt for something else entirely, you can still do your part and make a difference.

Embark on a Thanksgiving bike ride

Dust off your bicycle and get pedaling.

A casual family bike ride is the perfect way to ready yourself for Thanksgiving dinner round two. Photo: ilyapfoto / Shutterstock

Another alternative to the classic turkey trot? Grab your helmet, head out on two wheels, and hit your city’s best bike trails — you’ll be able to do some local sightseeing even while you work up a sweat and blow off some steam. In Boston, zip along the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway (which, as a historical bonus, follows the path of Paul Revere’s midnight ride); in Philadelphia, you can follow the Schuylkill River Trail all the way to Valley Forge National Historical Park; and in Atlanta, the BeltLine has transformed a former railway corridor into a popular multi-use trail that stretches across the city.

Author: Claire Bullen

Claire Bullen is an award-winning food, drinks, and travel writer and editor who has lived and worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Paris, and London. She is the author of The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, and the editor at Her writing has also appeared in Time Out New York, The Daily Meal, Pellicle Magazine, and beyond.




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