Family-friendly activities to enjoy over the Thanksgiving holiday in Savannah

United Way of the Coastal Empire's Turkey mascot greets a young trotter at a previous Turkey Trot event. The mascot will be on hand for the annual event taking place on Thanksgiving morning Nov. 23, 2023.

Credit: uwce.org

Credit: uwce.org

United Way of the Coastal Empire's Turkey mascot greets a young trotter at a previous Turkey Trot event. The mascot will be on hand for the annual event taking place on Thanksgiving morning Nov. 23, 2023.

Leave the giant cartoon floats and cold parade temperatures to cities like New York and Philadelphia. Thanksgiving in Savannah offers unique opportunities to celebrate in the presence of family and friends. There are feasts…footwear and fairies?

For those who might not have their Thanksgiving Holiday entirely mapped out and need to keep the kids occupied while out of school for the week, make room on your plate for some of the following Savannah traditions.

Trot before you feast

Locals and tourists who are looking to work up an appetite prior to their big meals on Nov. 23, look no further than the United Way Turkey Trot. Festivities start early around 8 a.m.

Director of Volunteers and Events Laurie Humphries said awards will be given out to the top three overall male and female runners as well as to the top three within each age group. Other awards include the best costume, largest family, runner from farthest away, most senior and most junior. Some notable costumes from year’s past have been a chef carrying over-sized forks and Santa Claus. He made an appearance one year with a team of reindeer in tow as many running groups choose themed costumes. Humphries said, “There are always lots of turkey hats on race day, too.”

The runner from farthest away will be one category to watch as registrants from nearly 22 states will be attending ― some as far as Utah and Arizona.

All donations and registration fees from the race go toward United Way's Community Fund which supports 211, a program that provides rental and utility assistance to people experiencing domestic violence. Humphries said that 211 took 13,000 calls from the community last year. "Race proceeds also support local food pantries, Backpack Buddies and the list goes on."

The race starts and ends at Daffin Park. The four-mile route winds through Ardsley Park. Organizers anticipate a similar crowd to last year, which was about 1,200 people. Spots remain up until race time, but organizers encourage would-be participants to pre-register, which closes Nov. 22 around 9 p.m. Onsite registration opens at 7 a.m. at Daffin.

Avid runner Sherry Feathers poses in her Savannah Striders Track Club shirt. She will be running in her 15th United Way Turkey Trot race on Thanksgiving Day

Credit: Joseph Schwartzburt, Savannah Morning News

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Credit: Joseph Schwartzburt, Savannah Morning News

The Turkey Trot is certainly a family affair. Humphries said registrants range from 18 all the way through over 80. “It’s an even split across age groups,” she said. Many families have made the trot a tradition and bring their whole crew since the Turkey Trot offers a Diaper Dash and Kids K for free.

The race will also be the fifteenth trot for one runner, who is known as The Princess. She is one to look out for, especially since she’s coming off a half-marathon in Clearwater, Florida, where she took second in her age group. At 79 years old, Sherry Feathers will be running alongside her group, the Savannah Striders, as well as 11 of her family members. “We’re going down to Disney World right after the race,” she said. They will be honoring her husband, who passed away from cancer this past year but had planned this trip for everyone.

So start your holiday with a brisk trot, run or walk followed by one of the Turkey Trot’s most cherished traditions: Frito Pies. “For some reason, those are what everybody talks about,” said Humphries. The delicacy of Frito chips with a scoop of Crystal Beer Parlor chili on top is handed out post-race run ― a warm up for the feast later in the day.

Savannah Riverboat Cruises' Georgia Queen and Savannah River Queen float alongside one another. The cruise line will host their annual Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Thursday Nov. 23, 2023

Credit: SavannahRiverboat.com

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Credit: SavannahRiverboat.com

Savannah Riverboat Cruises Thanksgiving Dinner

For folks who don't care to cook or fuss with all the post-meal dishes, Savannah Riverboat Cruises has them covered. The annual Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise is billed as a "Southern holiday buffet with live entertainment sure to get you tapping your feet and out of your seat dancing as you cruise up and down the beautiful Savannah River."

A representative said that patrons would delight in a full buffet with turkey, ham, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and other typical Thanksgiving sides. There is also a bit of a “twist on the traditional,” with Savannah shrimp and grits, a Waldorf salad and a few other Savannah Riverboat specialties. Three different types of pie will round out the dessert options.

The cruise line offers two departure times on Thursday, Nov. 23.

  • 1st Cruise boards at 11:30 a.m., Sailing at 12:30 p.m., Returning at 2:30 p.m.
  • 2nd Cruise boards at 4:00 p.m., Sailing at 5:00 p.m., Returning at 7:00 p.m.

While Savannah Riverboat Cruises prefers that folks make advanced reservations, their representative said tickets will be available right up until each boat casts off. Adult spots cost $109.95 each and children aged five to 12 eat for $62.95. Children four and under eat for free. Interested parties should note that the prices do not include state tax, local tax, port fees, or service charges. A service charge will be applied for parties of 10 or more people.

While each cruise has 500 seats available, the cruise line said that last year it nearly sold out. Calling 912-232-6404 ahead of time is recommended.

Members of Front Porch Improv including co-founder Brianne Halverson (third from left) will be bringing their version of holiday movies to the stage over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Credit: Front Porch Improv

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Credit: Front Porch Improv

A family-friendly comedy show at Front Porch Improv

The cure to a Thanksgiving food hangover could be a nap or it might be a few good laughs. Luckily, Front Porch Improv serves laughs by the spoonful. First on the menu over the holiday weekend is the Totally Made-Up Holiday Movie. It is the improv troupe's send up of a typical Hallmark special.

Performer and co-founder Brianne Halverson said, “Picture crackling fires and cable knit sweaters kind of vibe, along with a central character who has a problem that gets solved.” She made no promises but there might even be a little romance. “We poke fun at the blind spots, tropes and characters we saw growing up,” she said. She described the evening as a mullet. “Short games at the front of the show followed by the 90-minute long ‘movie’ on the back end.”

Front Porch advised that the show is best suited for audience members who are 13 years old (possibly 16 years old) and older.

Thanksgiving events tend to bring in an intergenerational audience, and Front Porch welcomes them all. "Bring the showboats in your family and the shy," Halverson said. "Get the kids out of the house and keep grandpa from taking too many naps." Families who are seeking G-rated holiday-inspired improv should consider Squeaky Clean: A Family Friendly Comedy Show at 6 p.m., Nov. 25. It is a kid-focused show where any child who wants to can get on stage at some point during the performance.

Lead Dancers from the South Carolina Ballet pose for a promotional photo of The Nutcracker which comes to the Johnny Mercer Theater 5:30 p.m. Saturday Nov. 25

Credit: SouthCarolinaBallet.com

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Credit: SouthCarolinaBallet.com

Theatrical productions dish out holiday spirit

A Sugar Plum Fairy, a Prince and a mouse wearing a crown walk into Savannah's Johnny Mercer Theater. No joke, they all will as part of a long-standing holiday tradition. The South Carolina Ballet's annual performance of "The Nutcracker" takes place 5:30 p.m., Nov. 25. The Columbia City Ballet is now known as the South Carolina Ballet. So, it's not a new company, just a new name. This year's version of Clara and her nutcracker prince aspires to "breathe fresh life into this cherished ballet while paying homage to the history and culture of the South," according to Artistic Director William Starrett.

Savannah Civic Center General Manager Monty Jones. Jr. said, “No matter what city you are in, whether small or big, Nutcracker is a staple.” He said it is a thrill to see the national lead dancers perform but also to know some local dancers take to the stage, as well.

The ballet is one of two live performances options at the Savannah Civic Center over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. At 7 p.m., Nov. 26, Cirque Dreams Holidaze will wow audiences with its acrobatic feats amid a flurry of holiday music and sets. Attendees can expect performers to "convey the magic of the season with a Broadway-style production infused with contemporary circus arts."

Jones said tickets for either event are still available, but tend to move quickly as Thanksgiving nears. Tickets can be purchased at the Savannah Civic Center's website.

Joseph Schwartzburt is the education and workforce development reporter for Savannah Morning News. You can reach him at JSchwartzburt@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Family-friendly activities to enjoy over the Thanksgiving holiday in Savannah


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