Where to Play on Thanksgiving Day (2023)

Seasons Greenings at the US Botanic Garden opens on Thanksgiving Day


How about a side of recreation to go with your Thanksgiving meal? If you’re going to be in town for the holiday and are looking for pre- or post-feast activities, here are some ways to complement the main event of the day. Happy Thanksgiving!


Glide the day away at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink

1) Go ice skating! Many of the outdoor rinks in the area are open on the holiday, including our favorites in DC. Glide with beautiful Potomac views at Washington Harbour, right over the river at The Wharf, and on the National Mall at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink.  And after a little snafu, Canal Park should finally be opening on Thursday.  Find info on those and more in Virginia and Maryland.  And be sure to check ice rink websites for Thanksgiving Day hours!



Visit Zoo animals before you hang with the turkey

2) Visit a Smithsonian museum or the National Zoo. They are all open on Thanksgiving from 10am – 5:30pm, except for the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery which are open 11:30am – 7pm and the National Zoo 8am – 4pm. The National Gallery of Art (which is not part of the Smithsonian, just a neighbor on the Mall) is open, too, from 10am – 5pm. Admission is free at all of them, so they’re all easy pop-ins!



Last year’s Season’s Greenings train display at the US Botanic Garden

3) Experience Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the official opening day. The always delightful model train exhibit, constructed from plant materials, is outside in the National Garden again. And the Conservatory will be filled with its signature holiday decor, including sculptures of iconic DC sites, also made from plant materials.  Open 10am – 5pm. Admission is free.



Keep the day’s theme going at Turkey Run Park

4) Enjoy a holiday hike.  The forecast is looking great for Thursday, perfect some time on the trail.  In honor of the day, I suggest going to Turkey Run. 🦃😉  Rock Creek, Great Falls, Roosevelt Island, Huntley Meadows, and Riverbend are all nice parks for family tramping. This post has details on all of them along with even more recs for local walks in the woods.



The wonderful Wizard of Oz playground at Watkins Regional Park

5) Hang out at a playground.  BeauvoirHains PointClemyjontri, Watkins Regional Park, Cabin John Regional ParkWheaton Regional Park, plus loads of DC Parks and Rec locations, and many more in the DC Metro are good places to take littles to play while you’re waiting for the feast.



Fun on ICE! at National Harbor

6) Get into the holiday spirit at National Harbor.  There is a nightly tree lighting and light show in the Waterfront District that runs every half hour from sunset until 9pm. Plus, there’s much more holiday magic at the Gaylord National, including the popular ICE! exhibition, which you can can get a discount on using the code CYBER23.



Go for an evening swing at the Light Yards interactive installations

7) Take an evening drive or stroll (or swing) through a holiday light display— several around the area have started dazzling visitors with twinkling wonderlands.



Go see The Eras Tour movie if you haven’t yet (or even if you have)

8) Catch a flick.  Just about all of our local movie theaters will be open, and there some good films to see!   A few family movies:  Wish, The Marvels, Trolls Band Together, The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbird and Snakes, and if you haven’t see it yet Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.  (On my list, with teens and older:  Priscilla, Dream Scenario, Saltburn, May December.)  See what’s playing at a theater near you.


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