If you’re doing it right, Thanksgiving in Los Angeles means feasting on turkey and the best pies—and finding volunteer opportunities in your community. But what other things to do on Thanksgiving can you partake in, especially if you have relatives to entertain? Enjoy the long holiday weekend with a variety of events and these things to do on Thanksgiving in L.A.—from ice skating and participating in a charity 5K to feeding the homeless and even dancing the night away.
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Things to do on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles
Like an Angelyne billboard on Sunset Boulevard, the Hollywood Christmas Parade is an essential part of L.A. kitsch. Now in its 85th year, the annual parade will feature floats, balloons, bands, equestrians and celebrities as they ride in a U-shaped route that begins at Hollywood and Orange and ends up at Sunset and Orange. Reserved grandstand seats can be purchased, with proceeds going to Toys for Tots, but free curbside seating is also available.
This heartwarming event truly gives back to the community on Thanksgiving. Volunteers serve up a traditional turkey dinner (starting at 11am) for free, not only to the homeless but also many students, singles, seniors and low-income families. Participants can volunteer by donating food, money or time, helping to serve food or hand out clothing and blankets. The free, community event also offers free children's immunizations, haircuts and medical consultations to those in need. Plus—a kid-friendly carnival with games and crafts starts at 8am. The event takes place at the West L.A. Civic Center (1645 Corinth Ave).
Get moving for a good cause this Thanksgiving. Wake up early (yes, on a holiday) for Burbank YMCA’s (321 E Magnolia Blvd) Turkey Trot, a 5K/10K run/walk. The event draws around 2,500 participants who choose to run, jog, walk, or push strollers. Kids can enter a kiddie 1K run. Fastest adults receive cash prizes and medals. The Y is also hosting a costume contest (although we're not sure what kind of costumes really scream Thanksgiving—expect to find some turkeys running, er, trotting around). Proceeds go to the organization's membership assistance program, which offers free and affordable access to the YMCA's services for those in need.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal amongst fish and sea otters this year at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Feast on a traditional Thanksgiving buffet in the Aquarium’s Café Scuba and then explore the more than 11,000 animals from the Pacific on view. Definitely not your typical Thanksgiving setting!
Celebrate Thanksgiving with this catchall family-friendly event along Downtown's Spring Street, chock-full of races, games and activities. Work off those calories in either the 5K or the 10K run/walk (there's also a 1K “Widdle Wobble” for kids 10 and under). Or you can dress up like a turkey and join the costume contest or compete in the potato-sack race and turkey-calling contest. (Winners get a pumpkin spice cheesecake.) A kid zone will have face painting and arts and crafts to keep young ones happy. The race benefits the Midnight Mission.
‘Tis the season for indulging. So get your metabolism revved before the feast—and give back to the community—at this 5K run/walk and 1 mile kids run. The Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge hosts this annual benefit at Memorial Park (1301 Foothill Blvd), open to runners, walkers, kids and even pets (on a leash), with live music and games to boot. All participants must register and bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to families in need. Not much of a runner? Volunteer slots are open as well.
Many charities host 5K runs for Thanksgiving, but the Dana Point Turkey Trot at Dana Point Harbor (24921 Dana Point Harbor Drive) is one of the most massive and competitive. Yet, regardless of experience level, everyone is welcome to participate in the run. And the setting couldn't be more perfect—run by sweeping views of the beach, cliffs and coves of Dana Point. Choose from the 10K, 5K or a Gobble Wobble 1K kids race.If running isn't your thing, give back to the community by volunteering to help out with the race or have fun by dressing up for the morning's Thanksgiving costume contest.
Descanso Gardens’ light-up experience has ditched the kitsch in favor of a whimsical, wondrous, curiosity-driven display that's among L.A.'s most stunning and, more importantly, most fun. The interactive, nighttime program has set up eight illuminated installations around the botanical garden grounds, from luminescent forests to free-standing hands-on art pieces.
Need dinner plans for Thanksgiving?
This year, celebrate Thanksgiving without the hassle of DIY cooking and cleaning by dining at one of L.A.’s Thanksgiving restaurants for brunch, lunch or dinner.