20 Things to Do if You’re NOT Doing Thanksgiving

published Nov 25, 2019
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Credit: Daniel Kim Photography/Stocksy

Not celebrating Turkey Day this year? You’re not alone. Finances, family dynamics, and busy work schedules can make it difficult. But you can still totally make the most of this day off work and the start of the holiday season by taking part in the activities below. We’ve included a healthy mix of outdoor and at-home options, so you’ll be set whether you’re prone to cabin fever or just can’t motivate yourself to leave your cozy living room.

1. Plan an upcoming brunch for friends

Even if you don’t have Thanksgiving plans this year, you can still get in a festive mood by looking ahead to December and sending out invites for a holiday gathering at your place (just be sure claim a date quickly, as calendars fill up rapidly this time of year!). Draft a Paperless Post, plan your menu, and scope out your apartment for cute tabletop essentials while listening to your favorite seasonal tunes and sipping a cup of cocoa. My former roommate and I threw a low-key holiday brunch a few years back featuring bagels from our favorite local store, a festive fruit salad, and of course, plenty of bubbly! If most of your pals don’t know each other, fear not: Invite your entire crew and enjoy watching new friendships form over mimosas.

2. See a movie in the theater

With Netflix and other streaming services right at our fingertips, it’s easy to get into the habit of watching movies from the couch day in and day out. Change it up and treat yourself to a good old movie theater experience—complete with buttery popcorn and a box of candy from the concession stand, of course. Do some research to see if there’s a theater in your area that has reclining seats; they’re truly the best!

3. Do something charitable

One idea: Bake brownies and drop them off at your local police or fire station to thank hardworking first-responders for keeping you and your community safe all year long. A friend and I did this for our local NYFD crew around the holiday season, and it was such a simple way to give back. Or, drop off fresh socks and toiletries at a local emergency shelter. If you’re looking to take on a larger scale project, you can also arrange a coat drive or canned food drive for your apartment building or office. You’ll feel great about making an impact and helping those who need it the most, and who knows—maybe you’ve just started an annual effort!

Credit: Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock

4. Do a puzzle

I was recently traveling with a group and we discovered a gigantic puzzle in the house where we were staying. Let’s just say it became a huge hit. Grab a favorite out of your game cabinet, whip up a mug of hot cocoa, and get to work. You might be surprised at how oddly satisfying it is to watch everything fall into place, so to speak.

5. Go stargazing

Bundle up and drive somewhere where you can get a great look at the night sky. There are several space events taking place over Thanksgiving weekend that budding astrologists won’t want to miss! This would also make a great date idea for those looking to escape overcrowded bars and restaurants this weekend.

6. Write letters to loved ones

‘Tis the season to be thankful, after all, so be sure to show loved ones how much you care. Pull out that beautiful stationery you always forget to use, and sit down and write a life update to send to your long-distance pal who always wants to hear more from you, or send a “just because” note to someone else who you love. Expressing gratitude for a friend or relative will make you feel good and will surely brighten your recipient’s day during a particularly chaotic time of year.

7. Offer to walk a friend or neighbor’s dog

…or if you know someone with a pup who’s traveling for the holiday, you could even offer to dog sit! Let’s face it, there are few things puppy snuggles can’t fix, and spending time with a furry friend while getting a bit of exercise can easily turn your whole day around. Plus, walking around with a dog in tow can often lead to some great conversations.

8. Go ice skating

Hit up the local ice rink, whether it’s indoors or outside, then treat yourself to your favorite holiday beverage on the way home. Happen to be in New York City? The Rink at Rockefeller Center will be open on Thanksgiving Day, so you can get your touristy fix while everyone else is chowing down on turkey.

9. Craft a new cocktail

Take a moment to finally crack open that cocktail-making book, bust out your finest glassware, and whip up a drink that you’ve been wanting to try out for ages. You’ll have a new go-to recipe the next time you entertain or host movie night, and you’ll feel creative for sipping on something other than your usual red blend. Cheers!

10. Start a new book or audiobook

I personally have a huge stack of books that I’d like to read or at least start over the Thanksgiving holiday, and while my pile may be a bit ambitious, I truly appreciate the uninterrupted reading time that comes with a few days off from work. Curl up under the covers with a thriller or start an upbeat audiobook (we’re fans of the Libby app for free reads) while catching up on chores around the house.

11. Explore a town nearby

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned road trip, and while you won’t want to entangle yourself in weekend travel chaos, you may enjoy spending the morning or afternoon of Thanksgiving Day on a peaceful drive. Of course, many businesses will likely be closed for the holiday, but you can still loop around and take in beautiful outdoor holiday decorations, natural elements, and cute houses.

12. Pop some popcorn and binge-watch a new show

Need a new show to watch? Now’s the time to discover your new favorite. Pop up some popcorn or prep your favorite snack of choice and get started. My personal faves of the moment include Amazon Prime’s Modern Love, Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral (get a free trial here!), and Netflix’s Friends From College, all of which have plenty of episodes to keep you occupied all day long.

Credit: Milles Studio/Stocksy

13. Make yourself a fancy breakfast

If you’re like many of us, your usual weekday breakfast consists of desk oatmeal or some kind of protein bar that you consume while on the go. Treat yourself to the real deal—on a Thursday, nonetheless!—and enjoy every bite while reading the newspaper or a magazine at your kitchen table. Sometimes it’s truly all about the little things!

14. Bake something new

Test out

a new dessert recipe

15. Change out your artwork

Give your space a new look by changing out your art prints. This is super simple thanks to all of the print-at-home options available on Etsy. You could even go ahead and make your own collage or drawing to place in one of your existing frames. This easy upgrade can make a huge difference in any room!

16. Follow along with an online yoga or meditation video

Take this time to truly unwind and destress by following along with the yoga or meditation video of your choice. You could also check out a meditation app—Headspace and Calm both have free versions you can use to check out the basics without shelling out cash. The holiday season can be anxiety-inducing for a wide variety of reasons, and once you find a relaxation method that appeals to you, you’ll be well-equipped to handle whatever comes your way in the weeks ahead.

17. Take a hike

Get outdoors and go for a hike! You can find a state park near you by browsing the National Park Service site, then go out there and get exploring! If you enjoy photography, be sure to bring your camera to capture gorgeous nature shots to share with friends later.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

18. Paint a room a new color

We’re all about experimenting with new paint colors from time to time, and if your landlord allows it, why not treat your apartment to a bit of a makeover? First things first, check out this piece on what to do to make your next paint job as easy as possible.

19. Or just paint along with a Bob Ross video

Not up for tackling a whole wall? You can still let your artsy side shine by painting along with a classic Bob Ross video—talk about a Throwback Thursday! Then post one of your creations on the ‘gram and watch the compliments roll in.

20. Pick a new podcast and walk through your city’s downtown

I’m constantly receiving more podcast recommendations than I know what do with and could definitely use a day to just catch up on them all! Pick one that your friends have been raving about, grab your headphones and sneakers, and enjoy a leisurely stroll around your neighborhood while listening to an episode or two. Bring your own travel mug of coffee or stop for a caffeine treat along the way.