8 Ways to Get Outside on Black Friday

For many folks, Thanksgiving is just a warm-up for the shopping frenzy known as Black Friday, the unofficial start of the holiday season. There is a growing number of people who are saying “no thanks” to long lines, big crowds, and a focus on consumerism. After all, you don’t get that many days off in a year. Why not spend this one doing something you love instead of trying to save a few bucks on something you probably don’t need?

Retailer REI encourages its patrons to make a different choice with its Opt Outside promotion, closing its stores on Black Friday and encouraging its patrons to instead have fun outdoors. It’s a movement that’s easy to get behind. The fall season may be winding down at the end of November, but it’s still a prime opportunity to enjoy parks, trails, forests, and lakes before winter arrives. The bugs are gone, and for the most part, so are the crowds. So let others fight for the last parking spot at the mall this year. Instead, try one of these eight ways to enjoy the outdoors, and make this a Black Friday to remember for all the right reasons.

1. Go Camping

andrew-neel-eJ OyOeGFHI-unsplashAndrew Neel

Sure, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are the traditional times for a camping getaway. With COVID-19 restrictions making travel more difficult, this might be the year to plan for an outdoor adventure over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Cook a feast over the campfire complete with a big bird and side dishes and create a holiday to remember.

After the big meal, spend the next three days enjoying the outdoors and burning off those calories. Worried about the weather? Most KOAs feature cabins and other accommodations designed for inclement weather. If you’re worried about having family together inside over a four-day weekend, this is a great way to spend the holiday together while still staying socially distant.

2. Visit the Zoo

Animals need to be cared for every day of the year, and most zoos remain open over the Thanksgiving holiday. While indoor exhibits may be restricted, wandering around the outdoor displays is a fun way to spend the day. Your kids will love it, and with few crowds, you’ll get a better look at the animals than during a typical summer trip.

3. Hit the Hiking Trails

Late fall is an excellent time for hiking, as the cooler temperatures make it much more comfortable. Dress in layers, as you warm up quickly once you get moving. Is there an arboretum or forest preserve you’ve been meaning to visit? Pick someplace new to explore. In much of the country, you’ll still get to see some fall colors.

4. Volunteer

Spend your Black Friday giving back by finding volunteer opportunities that match your outdoor interests—this holiday is called Thanksgiving, after all. Volunteering could mean working to maintain mountain bike trails or pick up litter in your favorite park. If environmental causes are important to you, contact a local organization and see how you can help. Animal shelters often need help during this time of the year. Even if the opportunities are limited on Black Friday itself, spend some time figuring out how you can help when these charities need it the most.

5. Go Fishing

taylor-grote-hA9GQ9QzLt4-unsplashTaylor Grote

The ice hasn’t come yet, which means you can get out the rods and reels one last time. Check your state’s fishing calendar to find out what’s easiest to catch this time of year. Even if you don’t get a bite, you can enjoy time outside with your friends and family.

6. Run a Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving Day may be the traditional time for a turkey trot race, but you’ll find races scheduled over the entire weekend, including Black Friday. Because of restrictions of large gatherings this year, many races are opting for virtual runs, meaning that you’re encouraged to run the course—or any route—on your own.

Most running events serve as fundraisers for local organizations. Chances are they need your contributions more than ever, so consider running for a cause even if the usual turkey trot can’t be held. It’s also prime trail running season, so you may want to organize your own run on a favorite trail system. Finish up with a socially distant post-race gathering with hot chocolate and treats.

7. Ride Your Bike

A lot of people rediscovered their bikes this year as a way to get exercise outside the gym. Keep it going as long as possible. Find a new bike trail to explore on Black Friday, or plan a family bike ride at a favorite location. Biking is fun even in cold weather—just remember that the fingers and toes tend to get cold, even when you’re pedaling hard. Wear gloves and wool socks to help.

8. Find Some Snow

While much of the country is squeezing in outdoor fun before the snow arrives, some parts have already started winter sports by Black Friday. In Colorado, many of the resorts are opened by Thanksgiving. Killington in Vermont typically opens in mid-November. If there’s snow around, take advantage of it. Buy (or rent) a pair of snowshoes and enjoy the winter wonderland. Try cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. Embracing the snow makes this time of year even more special.

Of course, it all comes down to what you enjoy doing outside. Toss around the football, get out the badminton net, or have a bonfire—whatever makes you happy. The stores will still be open when you’re done.

Written by Jeff Banowetz for Matcha in partnership with Kampgrounds of America.