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13 Best Thanksgiving Bucket List Ideas for Autumn Fun

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What can you do on Thanksgiving besides eating?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! (Probably because of all of the food.)

But there must be something else you can do at Thanksgiving to keep you from going into a turkey coma. And to help your waistline.

That’s why I’ve put together this Thanksgiving bucket list! You can use this list year after year to make sure you’ve completed all the important things (besides eating). Or use it as part of your lifetime bucket list and try a new activity each year.

There are fun things for all ages on this Thanksgiving bucket list, so put down that turkey leg and get started!

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What are some fun things to do on Thanksgiving?

men running a race
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU

Turkey Trot

What better way to prepare for all those incoming calories than getting up and going for a run (or brisk walk)?

Most cities hold some type of fun run early on Thanksgiving morning (so you still have time to stuff that bird). If you can’t find one nearby or if you’re just too busy making a magical holiday, consider an after dinner walk around your neighborhood to burn off some calories.

You could even have relay races in your backyard, depending on the number of people.

marching band
Photo by Александр from Pexels

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

This is a favorite of the kiddos, but it’s something you just can’t miss: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! They even air it twice on Thanksgiving, just in case you do miss it.

Think it’s boring to spend another Thanksgiving watching the same old parade? For a truly exciting Thanksgiving bucket list idea, plan a trip to New York City to see it live!

football on grass
Photo by Jean-Daniel Francoeur

Football Game

Are you a football family? Then, I’m sure you’ll be watching the big game on Thanksgiving Day.

Want to take that Thanksgiving bucket list idea up a notch? Get tickets and see it in person!

Not quite that big of a fan? No worries. Hold a backyard football game. You could make team jerseys out of t-shirts and have a trophy for the winning team.

large pots of soup
Photo by Timur Saglambilek

Volunteer or Donate Food

This is the time of year to reflect on everything you have and what you’re thankful for. A generous addition to your Thanksgiving bucket list is volunteering your time to a local soup kitchen or shelter or donating food to a local pantry.

It’s important we show our kiddos how to help others, rather than just tell them to help others.

woman serving a dish of vegetables
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Host and Cook Dinner

This is a big deal, especially if you’re never done it before. It can be quite the feat to figure out the size of the turkey, how many sides, decorate your table, and time it all perfectly for the best holiday ever!

It should be something everyone experiences at least once. And then call in reinforcements! No need to put yourself through that year after year. And if you were invited to someone’s home for the holiday, come prepared with a beautiful hostess gift.

woman holding a pie
Photo by Nicole Michalou

Try a New Dish

Whether you’re hosting this year or just attending Thanksgiving as a guest, this is the year you can try making a new dish. Try an old family recipe that hasn’t been used before, find something brand new, or try a non-traditional Thanksgiving dish.

Thanksgiving bucket list: New York City in autumn
woman holding a pumpkin pie
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Make a Pumpkin Pie

Pie is not always the easiest thing for people to make, but pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving is a MUST. While you’re busy whipping up a beautiful meal, throw together a yummy pie for dessert. I’m not even requiring for it to be made from scratch, just made with love. You can get a frozen one next year.

family celebrating Thanksgiving outside
Photo by Askar Abayev

Invite Someone New

I always love having a large group around the Thanksgiving table. And this is something you can add to your Thanksgiving bucket list year after year.

It’s always hard to be alone during the holidays. So, find someone in your neighborhood, at work, or a close friend who doesn’t have anywhere to go this year, and invite them over.

If you’re feeling especially generous, invite a local veteran to have dinner with your family.

Thanksgiving meal
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Don’t Overeat

After all this talk of food, now I tell you not to overeat. But since you were looking for things to add to your Thanksgiving bucket list that didn’t include eating, this makes perfect sense.

It’s easy to overindulge in a holiday that is all about food. So, this year make it easier for you and your guests.

Start by not making as much. Get a smaller turkey, cut back on sides, and serve smaller slices of pie. (And then take that after dinner walk.)

white and orange pumpkins
Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist

Make a Thankful Pumpkin

This is a fun craft idea that can be done on Thanksgiving as a family or well before the holiday to be used as a decoration.

First, start with a pumpkin. (I’d suggest using a white pumpkin as the final product will really stand out.) Take a fine point black Sharpie marker and start writing in circles (at the top of the pumpkin) everything you are thankful for.

Use it as a game for your guests. Instead of everyone saying what they are thankful for, pass the pumpkin and have them write it. Then they can say it out loud, have the next person say it, or wait until the end to read them all.

front of movie theater at night
Photo by Nathan Engel

See a Movie

Many new movies come out during the holidays. And while this is something I’ve never actually done; I know families who do this for every major holiday. (Maybe it’s the thrill of having a movie theater mostly to yourself, which actually doesn’t sound half bad.)

Not willing to miss out on family time to hit the theater? Screen your favorite holiday movie at home. Include hot chocolate and pumpkin pie as movie snacks.

man and baby by a lake
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova

Skip the Big Meal and Travel

Tired of putting so much work into one big meal and then deal with the clean up? Skip it!

Yep, add some travel time to your Thanksgiving bucket list. Kids are out of school. Mostly everyone is with their families. So, spend some time at your favorite destination when it’s less crowded.

You could even travel to Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts to see where the Pilgrims landed and Thanksgiving began.

Related: How to Budget Your Next Vacation

Thanksgiving card
Photo by RODNAE Productions

Find a New Tradition

Each holiday is the perfect time to start a new tradition for your family.

Unsure of what tradition to start? Anything on this Thanksgiving bucket list could be your next annual tradition (except that one where you do all the work yourself – that’s CRAZY!).

Maybe making an annual Thanksgiving bucket list is your new tradition. Or check out some of the traditions you can start with young kids.


There you have it: the best things to add to your Thanksgiving bucket list. There are so many memories to make during this holiday and so many things to be thankful for, so pick your favorite activities and enjoy something besides the turkey!

What’s at the top of your Thanksgiving bucket list? Let us know in the comments.

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13 Best Thanksgiving Bucket List Ideas for Autumn Fun

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