Too much Thanksgiving? That feeling can set in after a few hours of pie, the television blaring games and family squabbles heating up alongside the leftovers. That's the ideal time to head over the river and through the woods to other places that are open on Thanksgiving in Atlanta.
These seven outings don't involve bowl games or shopping, but are full of family-friendly action and entertainment:
Frolic at Fort Yargo. You'll have to wait until Friday for Georgia State Park events like the two-mile Black Friday Hike 5 p.m. on November 29 at Fort Yargo (210 South Broad Street, Winder. 770-867-3489). But the parks near Atlanta are also open on Thanksgiving, though there won't be rangers or other staff there.
Fort Yargo with its sand beach and 20 miles of hiking trails offers a good chance for the whole family to be boisterous or take a leisurely stroll. The pups can come, too, if they're leashed. If you want to escape the hubbub that surrounds Atlanta for the rest of the weekend, you can book Fort Yargo campsites and cottages Thanksgiving Day, too. And the historic log settlement built by European settlers in 1792 is a good way to initiate a conversation about Georgia history and the real story of indigenous people in the area.
See what the Legos are doing for Thanksgiving. LEGOLAND Discovery Center (3500 Peachtree Road NE, 404-848-9252) is open on Thanksgiving, which may give parents who don't have a lot of weekends off a chance to finally see the iconic Atlanta family attraction in action. The factory tour is always a big draw, but there's also DUPLO® Village for the wee ones, and the Merlin's Apprentice ride and LEGO® 4D Cinema to add interest for teens and tweens. Groups of 10 or more get a special rate.
Enjoy native plants and greenery. While it's certainly more colorful in the spring, the Georgia Perimeter College Native Plant Botanical Garden (3251 Panthersville Road, Decatur) has greenery year-round. The kids can race around while the adults get landscaping inspiration. The garden features fascinating bog plants, trails that wind through shaded gardens at rest for the winter, and an internationally-renowned Ferns of the World exhibit. It's open dawn to dusk on Thursday if you're looking for something to do with antsy kids ahead of the feast.
Start the next season with twinkling lights. If your family is not the type to fret about starting one holiday while another's still in progress, Callaway Gardens (17800 U.S. 27, Pine Mountain. 800-852-3810) has an entrancing Fantasy of Lights from Nov. 15-Jan.4, 2020, and it doesn't close for Thanksgiving. The event includes a decorated garden, costumed characters and a ride through more than 8 million twinkling lights. Ages three and younger are free.
Try a Turkey Trot. The Invesco QQQ Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon, 5K, Mile and Dash gives everyone a chance to run around. The committed runners can lace up for the half marathon at Georgia State Stadium (755 Hank Aaron Drive SE, Atlanta. 404-231-9064), but even casual visitors can take on the mile. There are also free-to-enter 50-meter dashes for children ages 14 and under and a spirited post-race celebration.
Drive-in for a Thanksgiving movie. Atlanta's Starlight Drive-In has multiple screens of first-run movies and is open seven days a week, including the fourth Thursday in November. This is bargain family entertainment at its best, with a $9 adult ticket and $1 kids ticket granting admission for two movies playing on the same screen (remember the term double feature?).
Just make sure to get there when the gates open, which is about 45 minutes ahead of the listed show times. This will give you plenty of time to find a great parking spot and eat traditional movie snacks from the snack bar. This could become a family Thanksgiving tradition far superior to the annual fight over the remote and the proper way to mash potatoes.
After the culinary, try the botanical. If you're one of those Atlantans who never seems to catch up with the iconic attractions in the city, this Thanksgiving could be a chance to correct the error of your ways. The Atlanta Botanical Garden (1345 Piedmont Ave. 404-876-5859) opens its Garden Lights, Holiday Nights festival on Nov. 16 and it runs nightly through Jan. 11, including Thanksgiving. The garden promises s'mores, a revamped music score and perennial favorites like the Ice Goddess and Tunnel of Light.
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