things to do in Houston on Thanksgiving

14 Things to Do in Houston on Thanksgiving: A Local’s Guide

Can you believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner? If you’re anything like me, the holiday excitement kicks in right around the start of November.

But let’s face it, between all the food prepping and table setting, we sometimes forget to make plans for other holiday activities. So, whether you’re new to Houston or you’ve been here forever like yours truly, I’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Houston on Thanksgiving.

Buckle up and let’s dive into some Turkey Day fun!

things to do in Houston on Thanksgiving

Houston Turkey Trots

What’s one of the best ways to prep for that big Thanksgiving feast? A Turkey Trot! Every year, I make it a point to participate in one of these runs. It’s such an invigorating way to kick off the holiday.

There’s the Houston Turkey Trot in the Uptown Galleria area, and then there’s the renowned BakerRipley Houston Turkey Trot.

Houston turkey trot

This family-friendly event has been around for years and benefits the BakerRipley community-building initiatives. It’s not just a run – it’s a tradition that supports a great cause. Every year, I see families, friends, and even adorable pets coming together for this festive run. It’s a great way to start your day on an active note and meet fellow runners too.

Not a runner? No worries! There are walking categories and trust me, the camaraderie is half the fun.

Thanksgiving Parades

We might not have Macy’s, but Houston sure knows how to put on a show! The H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition I never miss. Grab your favorite cozy blanket, make some hot cocoa, and snag a prime viewing spot in the heart of downtown Houston.

things to do in Houston on Thanksgiving

You’ll see elaborate floats, high-flying balloons, talented high school marching bands, and maybe even a celebrity or two. Houston’s Thanksgiving parade is always a sight to see.

Ice Skating in Discovery Green

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “Ice skating? In Houston?” Yep, you heard right! Every winter, Discovery Green transforms into a magical ice rink.

I’ve had countless laughs (and a few tumbles) skating under the twinkling downtown lights. It’s the perfect way to feel like you’re in a winter wonderland, even if it’s 70 degrees out.

events in Houston on Thanksgiving

Houston’s Annual Uptown Holiday Lighting

If you’re all about getting into the holiday spirit early, you can’t miss the Uptown Holiday Lighting event and holiday market on Post Oak Boulevard. This Houston tradition dazzles residents and visitors alike each year, marking the official start of the holiday season.

Majestic oak trees are draped in thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, casting a magical glow over the boulevard. The evening also features festive live entertainment, holiday characters, and of course, the much-anticipated fireworks display that lights up the Texas sky after Thanksgiving dinner.

I always make it a point to attend with my whole family, grabbing our favorite spots early, and reveling in the cheerful atmosphere. If you’ve never been, this year is a great time to start! It’s a spectacular way to cap off your Thanksgiving and usher in the joy of the upcoming holidays in the Houston area.

Black Friday Shopping

While not exclusive to Thanksgiving Day itself, if you’re into shopping, Houston’s Black Friday scene is wild. And you know what that means? Bargains!

If you’re brave enough to face the crowds, Houston’s many shopping districts – from the upscale Highland Village to the sprawling Katy Mills – offer deals galore.

Want a pro tip? Head to The Galleria early; you can snag some of the best deals before the sun’s even up!

Where to Eat on Thanksgiving in Houston

If you’re wondering where you can eat out on Thanksgiving, Turner’s is one of the best places to be! When it comes to Thanksgiving dining that screams elegance, charm, and impeccable taste, it’s hard to beat Turner’s.

Nestled in the heart of Uptown, Turner’s offers a sophisticated setting replete with plush seating, moody lighting, and an old-world charm. Every Thanksgiving, they serve up a traditional dinner that’s a feast for the belly and the eyes. 

From the juiciest turkey to sides that rival grandma’s secret recipes, Turner’s pulls out all the stops. The ambiance, paired with live music, takes the festive feeling to a whole new level. If you’re looking to make this Thanksgiving extra special, I’d highly recommend booking a table here.

And if you do, save me a slice of their signature pumpkin pie!

Houston Children’s Museum Turkey Pardon

Oh, and if you’re looking for a unique twist to the usual Thanksgiving festivities, head over to the Houston Children’s Museum. Every year, they host their own light-hearted take on the presidential tradition with a “Turkey Pardon”.

It’s not just about pardoning the turkey, though. The event is packed with fun, educational activities that teach kids about gratitude, traditions, and the history of Thanksgiving, all while having an absolute blast. My kiddos love it, and to be honest, it warms my heart to see the turkey getting its own moment of fame.

Plus, it’s a great way to infuse a bit of learning into the holiday!

Houston Downtown Aquarium Thanksgiving Buffet

Now, for those of you who want a second round of turkey gravy and stuffing, Houston’s Downtown Aquarium has a Thanksgiving Buffet that doesn’t disappoint. Not only do you get a sumptuous spread of traditional Thanksgiving delights, but you also dine surrounded by mesmerizing aquatic life.

It’s a dining experience like no other. Imagine savoring pumpkin pie with a side of shark sightings! With a spread that boasts everything from roasted turkey to seafood delicacies, your taste buds will definitely be doing a happy dance.

Outdoor Activities for Thanksgiving

Before or after my Thanksgiving meal, I always find it refreshing to spend some time outdoors. From strolling through Hermann Park to exploring the beautiful Buffalo Bayou, there’s no shortage of places to enjoy Houston’s mild November weather. 

Houston Zoo Lights on Thanksgiving

And if you’re with the entire family, the Houston Zoo lights is a must-visit. Yes, they’re open on Thanksgiving! As the sun sets and the animals tuck in for the night, the Houston Zoo transforms into a twinkling wonderland with its annual Zoo Lights event.

If you haven’t experienced it, you’re seriously missing out! Picture the zoo illuminated with millions of colorful lights, creating themed sections that range from a musical light tunnel to a whimsical enchanted forest.

things to do in Houston on Thanksgiving

The holiday trees shimmer, reflecting light onto ponds, and adorable light sculptures of animals peek out from every corner. I’ve been going year after year, and each time, it feels just as magical as the first. It’s an absolute must for Thanksgiving evening or any evening during the holiday season.

Bundle up, grab a hot cocoa, and immerse yourself in this vibrant light safari!

Related post: Houston Zoo Guide

Houston Botanic Garden Lightscape

For those of you who’ve always dreamed of wandering through an illuminated garden, the Houston Botanic Garden Lightscape is just the thing for you. It’s a newer addition to the city’s festive line-up and, boy, is it a sight to behold!

As you meander through the gardens, you’re treated to an array of radiant installations, each more mesmerizing than the last. From glowing flowers to shimmering water features, the whole garden comes alive in a symphony of lights and sounds. And the best part? It’s not just for the holiday season, but it’s especially magical during Thanksgiving.

It’s the perfect blend of natural beauty and artistic brilliance. Whenever I visit, I can’t help but feel a little bit of that childlike wonder. So, throw on a cozy scarf, grab your loved ones, and prepare to be enchanted!

Thanksgiving Weekend Pass at Kemah Boardwalk

Want to venture a tad outside the city for some seaside fun? Then you’ve got to check out the Thanksgiving Weekend Pass at Kemah Boardwalk on Galveston Island.

Every year, the boardwalk becomes a hub of excitement during the Thanksgiving weekend, and their special pass offers unlimited access to rides, games, and attractions. It’s the perfect mini-getaway for families, couples, or even solo explorers like me sometimes!

Feel the thrill of the roller coasters, savor the coastal cuisine, and bask in the beauty of Galveston Bay. And let’s not forget the stunning views of the water from the Ferris wheel!

If you’re up for a short road trip this Thanksgiving, the Kemah Boardwalk should definitely be on your list. And hey, with the weekend pass, you might just find yourself coming back for more the next day!

Magical Winter Lights Lantern Festival

Another magical gem not to be missed during Thanksgiving in Houston is the Magical Winter Lights Lantern Festival over in Baytown. If you’ve never been, it’s a surreal experience, folks.

This larger-than-life lantern festival of lights showcases both the beauty of Chinese lantern designs and the dazzling spectacle of modern lighting. We’re talking replicas of famous landmarks, a mythical creature’s playground, a giant ice throne, and scenes that seem straight out of a fairy tale. And the best part? They’re open on Thanksgiving!

magical winter lights in baytown tx

So, if you’re looking for an enchanting evening after your turkey feast, this is the place to be. I personally love how the festival blends various cultures and traditions in its displays, offering a visual treat for people of all ages.

Cultural Experiences

If you’re looking to infuse a little culture into your Thanksgiving holiday, our Houston museums have got you covered. Many of them, like the Museum of Fine Arts and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, have special holiday hours. Plus, after feasting on all that turkey, a leisurely walk through these treasure troves can be just what you need.

Watch the Football Game

Last but certainly not least, if you’re like my family and me, Thanksgiving isn’t complete without some football. Numerous bars around the city, like Saint Arnold Brewing Company, screen the games and serve up some crafty brews.

Summing Up The Best Things To Do In Houston On Thanksgiving

There you have it, folks! My top recommendations for things to do in Houston on Thanksgiving. Whether you’re lacing up your running shoes, carving up a turkey, or simply enjoying the company of loved ones, I hope you have a fantastic holiday. And hey, if you see me at the Turkey Trot or skating (probably falling) at Discovery Green, come say hi! Happy Thanksgiving!

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