It’s Thanksgiving and at some point you will watch Planes, Trains & Automobiles. It can be very easy to treat our nation’s only sanctioned four day holiday as an excuse to sit on the couch and ignore the outdoors. But Thanksgiving weekend, with all it’s carb-loading meals and extended family visits is actually an outdoor weekend waiting to happen.
Whether you are playing the role of host or guest this holiday, take a few minutes to plan some outdoor activities and you may even end up with a family tradition or two that last for generations.
Thursday: An organized run or some friendly(ish) competition
An organized run/walk is a solid way to start Thanksgiving day. If there is any way to sit down to dinner on Thanksgiving without some remorse for what and how much you are about to consume, this is it. Once unique but now de rigueur, most turkey trots are scheduled early in the morning so you can be out and back to perform your holiday duties. Just plug your location into Active.com’s search page and you will most likely find a run/walk within 10-15 minutes of your Thanksgiving feast.
An Annual Game
Traditions bring family and friends together. An annual game is a fun way to build an outdoor tradition that has the chance to stand the test of time. Thanksgiving might be about football, but ultimate frisbee is a game kids and grownups can play together more easily. All you need is a 175 gram disc and 4-8 cones (depending upon whether you care about defining the back ends of the end zones) and you are good to go. Need rules? These will get you started but don’t worry about how many players you have on the field or the size of your field, just make do with what you have and enjoy the game.
If you schedule it early Thursday morning, pick a centrally located park near your home and invite your nearby friends and their families as well, you will be surprised how many people show up. Everyone may jump at the chance to spend a little time with people with different last names than their own.
Friday: The first day of the holiday season can be cheer-filled
Enjoyable holiday shopping – Wasn’t that the original goal of the Friday after Thanksgiving? At some point in the last few decades the day after Thanksgiving has morphed into Black Friday, a sort of Beyond Thunderdome of holiday shopping where we ‘camp out’ at Target and bum-rush the doors when they open for the precious few actual deals held within. There are still nice, fun shopping opportunities to be had in New England and we’ve got one that will get you all on your bikes as well.
Pack your bikes and drive in to Porter Square in Cambridge, MA early Friday morning and park in the parking garage at 1 Porter Square. Grab breakfast at Cafe Rustica and then hop on your bikes and ride the Minutemen Trail(it’s about 1.5 flat miles) to Arlington Center. Once there, lock up your bikes and explore the shops. Among others, Wild Child is a kids’ clothing/gear store you may want to check out.
Had enough? Climb back on your bikes and head back to Porter Square for lunch at Anna’s Taqueria. After your cheap, quick, good and turkey-less lunch treat the kids to a ride on the Red Line from Porter to Harvard Square. It’s a short enough distance you could walk and shop your way between the two squares but the huge escalator will be a trip to the younger kids and they’ll need their energy to walk around Harvard Square.
Explore all of Harvard Square. Take the time to poke around the eclectic (weird) shops you would never find at the mall and to walk through the eponymous university’s campus (who knows, something may rub off!). Watch a street performance together and play/watch some speed chess outside Au Bon Pain. Get that Harvard Square experience. And don’t forget to warm up with Hot Chocolate and chocolate mice at Burdick Chocolates.
When the kids are close to hitting the wall, T it back to your car and load ‘em up. If you want to grab dinner before heading home, consider American Flatbread in Davis Square. It’s a 2 minute drive from Porter Square and there’s an adjacent parking lot and on site candlepin bowling!
Does all of this seem great but like way too much to pack into one day for your kids? Cherry pick the parts that work for you, follow the Minuteman Trail all the way to Bedford, or spend only half the day. Invite another family to do it all with you. It’s amazing how quickly kids fall into line with adventures like this when there are peers around to potentially judge them.
Saturday and Sunday: A nature lunch close to home, and then a classic Thanksgiving movie
Make yourselves some leftover sandwiches, you know what we’re talking about, don’t act innocent with us…bread, mayo, cranberry sauce, stuffing, turkey, a little s&p….fill up your thermos with warm cider, throw in a blanket or two and stuff it all into your pack and head for a close and easy trail, park or beach. The idea here is to just get outside for a picnic, but to make it a little unique. There’s no need to spend your whole weekend driving the family around scouting hiking locations. Instead, pick a local spot you know and head there for a walk and a leftover lunch. Everyone will enjoy the traditional couch-viewing of Planes, Trains & Automobiles later that afternoon all the more. Those Aren’t Pillows!
PS: If you miss John Candy as much as us, here’s a classic interview from Letterman.