12 Things to Do With the Family Over the Thanksgiving Break

Give blood, see the circus, do a virtual 5K, and more

Missing ThunderCloud Subs' annual Turkey Trot? It's not too late to sign up for the virtual version. (source: Getty Images)

Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different for most of us this year. Many traditions just can’t go on in the same way because of the pandemic, and we’ve all lost something because of it.

But there’s still so much to be thankful for, and this year is an opportunity to start new traditions. And some of our favorites are still happening, just in a modified way. We’ve highlighted a few things here that might make your Thanksgiving week special, and there are lots more listed at austinchronicle.com/events. And if you’re in need, or feel like giving back this year, check out “Where to Find Free Turkey Dinners and Grocery Relief in Austin.”

Doing Good, Saying Thanks

Interfaith Action of Central Texas' 36th annual Day of Thanks – which takes place Sunday, Nov. 22 – is virtual, family-friendly, and open to all. This year’s celebration, hosted by the Austin Buddhist Community, is centered on the theme “Love Has No Distance.”

Blood donors are especially needed during the holiday season. Sign up to donate blood and get in some holiday shopping at the same time at one of We Are Blood’s drives taking place at Barton Creek Square, Lakeline Mall, and the Arboretum Nov. 24-25 and again Nov. 27-28 (at Arboretum Nov. 25 and 27-29).

Virtual broadcast HOME Cookin' for the Holidays combines singing and cooking on Friday, Nov. 27. In addition to over 30 performances from a who's who of Texas music (including Ray Benson, Marcia Ball, Gina Chavez, and Jimmie Vaughan), join some of the artists cooking up their favorite holiday dishes. The star-studded concert, emceed by Turk Pipkin, will be donation-based and livestreamed via the HOME Facebook page and the KUTX Youtube channel, with proceeds benefitting Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers (HOME), a nonprofit providing assistance and housing aid to musicians in need.

Visual Feasts

Venardos Circus

A Broadway-style, animal-free circus production with aerialists, acrobats, juggling, balancing, comedy, magic, and music, the Venardos Circus (Nov. 25-Dec. 6) is viewed in socially distanced pods of up to four guests each. Don’t want to make the trek to Buda? There are also two chances to livestream the event on Thanksgiving Day, at 11am and 6pm.

Is Christmas Vacation an essential part of your family’s holiday festivities? Join stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo for the Long Center’s A (Virtual) Christmas Vacation With the Griswolds, as they screen favorite clips from the movie, share stories from the production, and field questions for a live audience Q&A.

Stretch Your Legs

The 30th edition of Austin's favorite T-Day tradition, ThunderCloud's Turkey Trot walk/run, is going virtual this time, but it's no less fun. Participate where you are, with the whole family, and log your times online to compete for prizes. There's also a raffle to win a brand-new Honda Accord, and all proceeds from the event benefit Caritas of Austin, which supports Austinites experiencing homelessness. To date, the Trot has raised over $4 million for the nonprofit.

Our neighbors in Buda are putting on their own Thanksgiving 5K run/walk right smack in the middle of Buda, presented by the Hat Creek Burger Co. and benefiting the Hays County Food Bank. Virtual option is also available if you'd like to participate from afar.

Looking for an outdoor activity that involves less sweat and more art appreciation? Check out our roundup of walkable art, or snag a ticket to the Paramount’s popular true crime outdoor (and socially distanced) walking-around-the-city theatre experience Art Heist.

Musical Moments

On Sunday, Nov. 22, the Long Center Lawn plays host to The Songs I Left Behind: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, courtesy of the Luck Reunion's Long Live Music series. There to give the Waco songwriter a proper Lone Star send-off are featured musicians including Charlie Sexton, Ray Benson, Dale Watson, Shakey Graves, and Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1976, the Band gathered for a final, star-studded perfomance and Martin Scorsese caught it all on film. The Far Out Lounge will host The Last Waltz Revisited, an outdoor, socially distanced musical event playing homage to the original concert film on its spacious South Austin grounds, a re-creation that's been going on 12 years now.

Light It Up

The Zilker Tree at Trail of Lights (photo by Jana Birchum)

Traditional tree lighting ceremonies are moving online this year, but that doesn’t mean holiday lights are canceled. Austin's 56th annual Trail of Lights returns to Zilker Park as a drive-through event this year and runs two additional weeks. As you drive through the trail illuminated by more than 2 million lights, tune in via your car radio for holiday music, highlights, and history. As for the annual tree-lighting ceremony, KVUE’s Quita Culpepper will host the lighting, viewable on city of Austin social media channels and featuring  city officials, the young winners from the  Zilker Holiday Tree art contest, Austin Civic Wind Ensemble, and Barton Hills Choir.

Moving north, to the Holiday Lights in Georgetown’s Historic Town Square: For the official lighting ceremony, the city will share a video on social media, featuring a countdown, lighting, and music for home viewing. The Square will be lit through Jan. 2 so everyone can enjoy the lights and local flavor throughout the holiday season. And Nov. 27-29, there'll also be treats from hot chocolate and kettle corn vendors.


Find more Thanksgiving activities and opportunities to give back at austinchronicle.com/thanksgiving.


Peruse our Chron Events calendar for daily, always updating, in-person and livestreaming event listings.

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