A huge dinner, football games, Black Friday shopping – we all know what to expect come Thanksgiving weekend; though a Houston Thanksgiving is truly something to be thankful for. Add some ‘whoas’ and ‘wows’ by tying in one of these Houston-area holiday events. From holiday volunteer opportunities, concerts, parades and Thanksgiving 5K fun-runs, there is no shortage of ways to keep your family saying ‘thank you’.
Lots of delicious food, football games on TV, Black Friday shopping – we all know what to expect come Thanksgiving weekend, but why not surprise the whole family by switching it up a bit this year? Wow them by trying one of these Houston-area holiday events.
69TH ANNUAL H-E-B THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE
The Parade begins at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning in downtown Houston and is free for all. The Houston Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1949 when Santa arrived at Union Station and rode his sleigh to the downtown Foley’s. This tradition showcases the Houston community and entertains parade-goers lining the streets on Thanksgiving morning. This year, the Grand Marshals of the parade will be Houston Astros star Jose Altuve, and Rockets point guard James Harden.
THE ICE POWERED BY GREEN MOUNTAIN ENERGY
Burn off some calories after your meal by heading to The ICE, the largest outdoor skating arena in the Southwest. Located at Discovery Green in downtown Houston, the ice rink will be open on Thanksgiving Day, as well as Black Friday and the following Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 24 and 25). Once you’re done gliding around the ice rink, shimmy over to the park’s Brown Fountain Promenade to check out GUST, the park’s newest installation. The interactive artwork brings to live invisible patterns of wind with color, motion and patterns of light.
What better way to share the excitement of the holiday season than to enjoy a full day of explosive music, talent, and concerts? With choreographed dance, family fun with games, vendors, and food, the festival will take place rain or shine on Nov. 24, at Jones Plaza. Headlining the event is multi-Grammy winning musician Poncho Sanchez with special guests Francisco Torres, Raquel Cepeda, Jose Valentino, and Houston’s own Jose Antonio Diaz.
MAGICAL WINTER LIGHTS
Embracing Houston’s diversity, Magical Winter Lights at Gulf Greyhound Park is a spectacular, larger-than-life festival that presents a fresh multicultural take on traditional holiday light shows. Including lighting themes such as Mystery of the East, Dinosaur Land, and Landmarks of the World, your family will not soon forget this atypical holiday celebration. Just a short drive away in La Marque, TX, Magical Winter Lights will be open during the entire Thanksgiving weekend, including Thanksgiving Day.
TEXAS RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL
During the final weekend of the 2018 Texas Renaissance Festival, the fairgrounds will be transformed into a momentous winter wonderland, taking on the theme of ‘Celtic Christmas’. Expect Christmas trees, holiday music, and shops decorated in the lights and symbols of the season. Looking to get started on your holiday shopping list? Find unique gifts at the Shoppes of New Market, which stocks items not of this century. Also, don’t forget to bring your competitive spirit to the holiday costume and pumpkin pie eating contests. Huzzah!
Every year during the holidays, the Houston Zoo transforms into a magical wonderland of lights. More than 15 miles of LED lights light up the zoo’s beautiful trees and pathways. The zoo is closed on Thanksgiving Day but it will open during the evening for visitors to enjoy its display of lights while sipping on hot chocolate and taking in the sights and sounds of the season.
The Houston Ballet’s production of this beloved holiday classic returns to the Wortham Theater on the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 23) to kick off the company’s 2018/2019 season. Forgo shopping on Black Friday and instead take your friends and family to this joyous production, which follows Clara and her Nutcracker Prince on their magical journey to the Kingdom of Sweets.
Find even more to do this Thanksgiving weekend with our Calendar of Events.
Between the turkey, mashed potatoes, casseroles, and pies, your Thanksgiving meal might leave you feeling a little stuffed. Consider some outdoor exercise that can help you melt away the trimmings.
You’ve probably trekked to popular spots such as George Bush Park, Hermann Park, Discovery Green and Memorial Park, however Houston has nearly 53,000 acres of total park space to explore – that’s about the size of 40,000 football fields. But instead of just envisioning the gridiron, get moving on it!
Read on to find out more about the green spaces brimming within this concrete jungle we call home.
6400 BISSONNET ST., HOUSTON, TX 77074
Are you ready for some football? Bayland Park has multi-purpose fields perfect for unleashing your inner athlete: football, softball, baseball and soccer to name a few. Head over to the tennis court to practice that backhand technique. If walking off that food coma from a hearty Thanksgiving lunch is more your style, take to the trail! This park also features a trail for the visually impaired. Note that the park’s community center will be closed Thanksgiving Day.
TONY MARRON PARK
808 NORTH YORK, HOUSTON, TX 77003
Nestled not far from Downtown along Buffalo Bayou on the city’s East End, Tony Marron Park boasts soccer and baseball fields. Need a moment to stop and catch your breath while you’re here? Take in the lush landscaping and greenery provided with the help of Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
ROOT MEMORIAL SQUARE
1400 CLAY ST., HOUSTON, TX, 77002
The Houston Rockets won’t be playing basketball on Thanksgiving Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t! If you want to shoot some hoops, Root Memorial Square, across from the Toyota Center, has a full, outdoor basketball court. It also has lighting, lawn space and a view of the skyline – the perfect backdrop for those action shot photos you’ll be taking when you make that jump shot!
3770 SUMMIT VALLEY DR., HOUSTON, TX 77082
Located between Highway 6 and the Westpark Tollway, this family-friendly space has something for everyone. There’s a 9-hole disc golf course, playgrounds, a rock-climbing wall and a sand volleyball court. The sports amenities don’t end there; you can bend it like Beckham on the soccer field or swing for the fences on the softball field. This park is somewhat of a hidden gem. It’s not easily visible from the street; the entrance is tucked away off Summit Valley Dr. Note: The park has picnic tables if you want to pack up some post-Thanksgiving meal snacks. The park opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
MARY JO PECKHAM PARK
5597 GARDENIA LANE, KATY, TX 77493
Up for a game of putt-putt on Turkey Day? Head to this park for its miniature golf course, complete with putters for young children. Families can also enjoy disc golf. Another perk? The park isn’t just built for kids. Older adults and those with disabilities can stay active on the senior fitness playground. Weekends draw large crowds, making parking a premium, so plan accordingly in the event your family and friends aren’t the only ones looking to burn some calories! If you want to spend time outdoors without breaking too much of a sweat, you can also kick back at the fishing pier. Check out the fishing rules here.
JAMES DRIVER PARK
10918 1/2 BENTLEY ST., HOUSTON, TX 77093
This park in Northeast Houston is open 365 days a year – and so are its amenities. Covered and lighted basketball facilities mean you can stay cool or dry (depending on the unpredictable Houston weather) and the fun doesn’t have to stop once the sun sets. For the set who’s always on a roll, catch some air at the skatepark. If you find that your Thanksgiving outing here is a success and you want to come back, you can rent the pavilion area (near the basketball courts and skate park) for no fee. However, rentals do require a reservation.
Not sure where to find a park where you live? Check out Visit Houston's parks and outdoors page where you can search for a green space by region.
Don’t want to do all the cooking this Thanksgiving? Many Houston restaurants are ready to lend a hand with Thanksgiving to-go menus ranging from complete meal packages to appealing sides and desserts. Because, hey, you deserve to rest a little, too. Read on for our favorite Thanksgiving to-go menus and make sure to order fast; some places have deadlines as early as Nov. 15. Click here for recommendations on great meals without the fuss.
Thanksgiving is a time for fun, good food, laughs and giving thanks. It's a time to gather with family, friends and loved ones to express how grateful we are for the good things in our lives. It’s also a time that most of us really want to give back. Read on for ways to give back in H-Town this holiday season.
SERVE WARM MEALS
City Wide Club, a non-profit organization that provides services to those in need, holds an annual Super Feast on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve days at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Volunteer your time to help serve warm, nutritious meals. The event also provides items such as clothing, food and medical services to those who attend. If you can’t make it, consider donating non-perishable goods and home items. Or volunteer to deliver meals on Thanksgiving Day through Interfaith Ministries’ Meals on Wheels program.
SUPPORT OUR TROOPS
Our troops are at the forefront, helping us in more ways than we will ever know. If you'd like to support those who have returned home, Career Gear Houston helps local veterans with their transition back into the workplace.
While some may feel uncomfortable donating blood, it’s an incredibly rewarding way to give back. To change up the traditional way of donating, invite others to go with you or go solo during your lunch break. Click here to find an American Red Cross, Gulf Coast Regional Blood Bank or MD Anderson Blood Bank near you. Or, stop by your local hospital.
I don't know about you, but some of the most significant gifts I’ve ever received came in the form of the giving that folds. The holidays are a busy time of year. If you can’t carve out time to volunteer, consider a charitable donation. Local organizations like Dress for Success, Gulf Coast Community Services Association or Houston Area Urban League, just to name a few, work one-on-one with people to provide career training, housing assistance and educational support. The best part is that they always accept monetary donations.
DONATE OR VOLUNTEER AT A FOOD BANK
Instead of tossing extra canned goods or non-perishables you’ve been stocking up on (for next year), take them to your local food bank. You can drop items off or if you want to have some fun with it, arrange a time with the food bank for you and a few friends to stop by and stuff boxes. Get a group and add some music for a fun time and new way to get involved.
SHOW SOME LOVE TO PETS
Take your kids, friends or family to a shelter and donate pet food to spread the Thanksgiving love to furry friends near you. Check out groups like the Houston Humane Society, Rescue Bank Houston or your favorite animal shelter. If you’re feeling extra generous, adopt a pet from a shelter. A new puppy may be just what your family needs to help bring everyone together this Thanksgiving.
STOP BY A SHELTER
Clothes you'll never wear again, school supplies or hygiene products are always in need at local shelters. If you would like to help others, but don’t have all day to spend volunteering at a shelter, this is a great way to give back. With organizations like Star of Hope, Salvation Army of Houston or Goodwill Houston, you can just stop by to drop off your items any day of the week.
For more holiday volunteering opportunities, check out Volunteer Houston’s 2018 Holiday Project.
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