13 Things to Do on Thanksgiving Day in Atlanta (Beyond Shopping)

When the Thanksgiving dinner turkey has been carved, the last piece of pie has been eaten, and the adults wake up from a nap, you start to look for things to do on Thanksgiving Day in Atlanta. Beyond hitting the mall or other retail stores that is. Believe it or not, there is a lot to do in Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day.

So if you’re going a little stir crazy with lots of family and friends in town, or you just want to get out and work off a few helpings of stuffing, here are our favorite things to do on Thanksgiving Day in Atlanta (plus you can continue to enjoy this list the entire Thanksgiving weekend).

Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon

Georgia State Stadium (formerly Turner Field) | 755 Hank Aaron Dr | Atlanta

Before the craziness of the holiday weekend begins, slip out for a little run. The Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon and 5K attract thousands of runners and walkers eager to share in the holiday spirit and give thanks for their health and fitness. Come celebrate this Thanksgiving Day with the Atlanta Track Club and earn your turkey! Bonus, you’ll be back in time to catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.

Explore the Chinese Lanterns

25 decorative lanterns, handcrafted giant flowers, a three-story pagoda and a 200-foot-long Chinese dragon will deck the South Park area during the Chinese Lantern Festival. All of the colorful creations featured in the Chinese Lantern Festival are constructed by artisans from China and will make the Park come alive each night.

Go for a Hike

Fall is here with cooler temperatures and leaves still falling from the trees. Enjoy the outdoors and work off a little of your Thanksgiving meal with a family hike. Here are three places near Atlanta to enjoy a hike, plus here’s a post on 52 Atlanta area destination hikes if you need more ideas.

Sope Creek Trail

Brook Hollow Cir | Marietta

Sope Creek Trail trail in Marietta takes you to a babbling creek and historic mill ruins.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

1750 Mount Vernon Road | Lithia Springs | 770-732-5871

My boys loved hopping the rocks across the water at Sweetwater Creek State Park. You’ll also walk past mill ruins. Unfortunately, the Green certified visitor’s center is closed on Thanksgiving, but come back another day to check out the museum about Sweetwater Mill. Hear first person accounts of the day Union soldiers came to the Mill and destroyed it.

Amicalola State Park

418 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd |  Dawsonville | 706-265-8888

In addition to hiking at Amicalola State Park, you can enjoy living history demonstrations in the lodge lobby throughout the day. Contact the Lodge for specific times.

In fact, all the Georgia State Parks are open on Thanksgiving day (as well as Christmas and New Years). And if you are looking for a way to #optoutside the day AFTER Thanksgiving, they have a full slate of events too. And REI has an entire website to inspire you to #optoutside and share with friends. Who has time to shop when there is so much to do!

Go Biking

Whether you just want to ride along a paved path, or hit the mountain bike trails, you’ll find a lot of places around metro Atlanta to enjoy a bike ride.

Silver Comet Trail

Mavell Rd. | Smyrna

The Silver Comet Trail is in Smyrna, and goes all the way to Alabama.

Atlanta Beltline

There are several different sections of the Atlanta Beltline. Along each route you’ll find local art as part of the Art on the Beltline project.

Hard Labor Creek State Park

5 Hard Labor Creek Rd |  Rutledge | 706-557-3001

Hard Labor Creek State Park is just east of Atlanta has miles of mountain bike trails for the beginner through advanced biker.

Go Ice Skating

Atlanta has several different ice rinks with very different personalities. Choose the one that is right for you and go ice skating in Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day. Here is a review of the ice rinks in Atlanta with links to additional information.

See Holiday Lights

Thanksgiving night is a perfect time to see Holiday Lights in Atlanta. This is one of the most popular evenings, so if you plan to go to any of the paid attractions, call ahead for tickets and no matter where you go, bring an extra dose of patience. You aren’t the only one with this great idea.

My current favorite light display is the Atlanta Botanical Gardens Garden Nights, Holiday Lights. The Drive-Thru Christmas Lights at The Rock Ranch are open Thanksgiving night from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.! Cruise through for free Nov. 22 – Nov. 30! 

Play with LEGOS

Phipps Plaza | 3500 Peachtree Rd NE G-1 | Atlanta | 404-848-9252

LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Phipps Plaza is open on Thanksgiving Day from 10 – 7 pm. Get $12 discount tickets before you go here.

Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Purchase a ClueTown Book before the holiday and explore the city with a scavenger hunt. Solve puzzles to move on to the next stop. There are four ClueTown Books, so you can explore any of these four areas of Atlanta. Decatur, Piedmont Park, Oakland Cemetery or The Atlanta Beltline.

Play with Trucks

5900 Sugarloaf Pkwy | Lawrenceville | 678-847-5500

Ok, so this IS a retail store, but they have lots of fun kids activities that will get them out of the house and doing something. At Bass Pro Shops Santa’s Wonderland, you can play with RC trucks, as well as shoot in the laser arcade, or do a craft. If you’d like, get your picture taken with Santa. The best part is, it’s all free.

Looking for something to do on Black Friday that doesn’t involve shopping on the busiest day of the year? Try the High Museum of Art Family Day.

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Sue Rodman | Co-Founder

Sue came to Atlanta after finishing the Walt Disney World College Program where she was a tour guide then guest relations hostess (and no she did not moonlight as Snow White). Sue spent 25 years in PR before adding freelance travel writing to her resume. Prior to 365 Atlanta Traveler, Sue published an award winning family travel blog called Field Trips with Sue for eight years, and produced a TV segment with the same name on CBS Better Mornings Atlanta. Her favorite place to visit is anywhere with her husband and three sons. Sue believes anytime is a good time for dessert and there are no bad field trips, just better stories. @SueRodman

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