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What to Do on Thanksgiving Day in New Orleans

All dressed up at Thanksgiving Day races at the Fair Grounds race track. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

As a child, Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday. It boasted neither candy (unless you count yams with marshmallows), nor presents, and there was definitely no mysterious character in a lumpy suit to usher in the holiday. As an adult, though, this perception has shifted completely (as has my sweet tooth). Unlike some of the more commercialized holidays, Thanksgiving can truly can get us back to what is important: time with family and friends, good food, and practicing gratitude. This year, try getting back to basics by giving back to the community, spending the day with loved ones, and eating a satisfying meal.

Turkey Day Race

Build up an appetite for your Thanksgiving meal by lacing up your tennis shoes and pounding the pavement for a good cause. This year marks the New Orleans Athletic Club’s 111th annual Turkey Day Race. The race takes place at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park and includes both a 5 miles race (starting at 8:30 a.m.) and a kids’ half mile race (starting at 8:35 a.m.) for ages 12 and under. Register now through November 14 for a reduced entry price. Race day registration is $50 for adults and $20 for children. Proceeds go toward Spina Bifida of Greater New Orleans.

Swan River Yoga hosts its annual Swansgiving class on Thanksgiving (photo courtesy of Swan River Yoga)
Swan River Yoga hosts its annual Swansgiving class on Thanksgiving (Photo courtesy of Swan River Yoga)

Swansgiving Annual Thanksgiving Benefit Yoga Class

Start Thanksgiving Day by allowing time for yourself to develop a sense of peace—at least before the in-laws arrive for dinner later (just kidding!). Every year, Swan River Yoga Mandir in Mid City hosts Swansgiving, an open yoga class with live music which, this year, will benefit Restore the Mississippi River Delta. Class is from 9:00 to 10:15 a.m. and is by donation (suggested $15-25). Pre-registration is required.

Give Back to the Community

Keep up the contributions to the community by finding a local organization to volunteer with. Sometimes, Thanksgiving can be a day of excess where we eat until we are bursting. On days like Thanksgiving, it is easy to forget about those who are less fortunate. Contact United Way of Southeast Louisiana or their partner agencies to make some time to give back. Perhaps help feed those who are hungry with Loaves and Fishes Feeding Ministry or at Ozanam Inn. Then, when it comes time to eat your own delicious meal, you will have developed a true sense of thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving at the Fair Grounds

In New Orleans, a favorite Thanksgiving pastime consists of watching the horse races at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. This year marks the 147th anniversary. Do some people-watching—especially ogling the large, conspicuous hats (the more feathers and flowers, the better), or place bets on your favorite horse if gambling is your thing. Relieve some of the pressure of preparing a Thanksgiving meal by making reservations in the club house, or simply enjoy nibbling on concession food.

Eat Thanksgiving Dinner Out

For those who host Thanksgiving, the preparation can induce a lot of stress. If you’d rather not, or if you want to switch up the tradition, consider making a reservation at one of many local restaurants that will be open on Thanksgiving Day, many with prix-fixe menus. If the intimate nature of your own home is what you really need, there are plenty of places that offer take-out too—from appetizers, to turkey, to dessert. Check out GoNOLA’s guide to some of the many restaurants and caterers open that day, including Dryades Public Market (get your fried turkey and sides), Commander’s Palace, Compére Lapin, and Ralph’s on the Park.

Saints fans at home in the Dome (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Saints vs. Falcons

For most families, no Thanksgiving is complete without football. On Thanksgiving night, the New Orleans Saints meet the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Turn on the big screen after dinner (the game starts at 7:20 p.m.), or plan a daytime meal and head to the Superdome to watch the heated rivalry, which dates back to 1967. Regardless of the score, remember to give thanks to the boys in black & gold.

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