60 Black Friday Activities That Aren't Just Shopping

by - Monday, November 19, 2018

Walking in the Woods- 60 Black Friday Activities That Aren't Just Shopping

So, the tryptophan is wearing off and you can smell the scent of shopping in the air... it must be Black Friday! Lots of people will be up at the crack of dawn, fighting through crowds to get small deals on everything from electronics to toys. They will buy a LOT of stuff, and they will save a little bit of money.

Sounds kind of terrible, right?

It's clear how this happened. Since Thanksgiving is on a Thursday, many people had Friday off. In the 1960's. this day became the first "shopping holiday." Now it is infamous for the most aggressive and terrifying shopping ever. People have literally died. Capitalism has succeeded in convincing us that shopping is an accomplishment and a deal is shopping done well. This attitude, paired with many others, has made shopping a major part of our lives, and the seeking of the easiest and cheapest option an unspoken obsession for most of us.

But you will never save more money than if you just don't buy anything. That is 100% off! We know that this consumerism is out of control; it makes us miserable, overruns our home, and is even a major factor in Climate Change!

So, instead of heading out to the stores this Black Friday, what if you did something that was actually fun? We use consumerism to fill holes in our life- a lack of connection, of community, of love, of self worth. But buying things will never satisfy those needs. So, instead, why not be intentional and fill some of those cups instead?

Time is our most precious commodity, and a free day with nothing on the agenda is a powerful thing. Stores create a false sense of scarcity and urgency to try to steal that time from us. Instead, let's devote this day to the things we actually need.

Let's do this!

opt outside on black friday

Getting Outside

1. Take a Hike

I bet you have somewhere really beautiful near you that you could go and take a long, well-planned walk at. Maybe change elevation a bit. Have a backpack full of needed things (snacks?). Ok, clearly I am not a hiker, but you don't have to be to enjoy the day this way (but maybe go with someone who knows what they are doing).

2. Take a Walk in your Neighborhood

From what I understand, this is like hiking with less planning and less gear. Much more my speed. But really, you don't even have to trek to a special location to experience nature. You live in it. You are it. Just walk out your front door with a favorite person and find it.

3. Be a Tourist Where You Live

It's the perfect day to go to the beach or landmark you never actually go to, even though it is really close. If Roadside America has taught me anything, it's that no American is that far from a kitschy tourist attraction. Go see the Future Birthplace of Captain Kirk or the Spam Museum (both real. I have been to both). Go to the cool little museum your town has or collect pictures of all the art in your hometown. Or go to the freaking Space Needle, Frank Lloyd Wright building, or Times Square! It matters less what you do and more that you enjoy the world you are in.

4. Have a Picnic

Whether it is sunny or snowy, you could pack up some sandwiches, a blanket, and maybe a lot of hot chocolate and eat a meal outside. This is the kind of tradition kids remember their whole life.

5. Go to Your Happy Place

What is your favorite park to visit? Favorite place to go for a walk. Favorite view of your town? You grandma's backyard? We know these places we love, but often don't go there as often as we like. Celebrate gratefulness by visiting and just breathing in the happy air of a place we feel joy.

6. Play at the Playground

Kids need play, and Thanksgiving can be a long string of get togethers and sit down meals. Don't spend another day dragging them around. Instead, pack some snacks and give them play and fresh air.  Invite friends or cousins and teach them the yard games you played growing up. But not Red Rover, that only ends badly.

7. Take a Road Trip

Pick a spot on the map and go for an adventure (maybe within a 3 hour radius) Visit a nearby town you have never explored or drive and surprise a family member or friend. Check out what fun stops are on the way. I have had amazingly fun road trips with everyone from college friends to my Nana. All you need is music, a lot to talk about, and a destination.

8.Collect Leaves or Pinecones and Paint Them

You can rake up those fallen leaves and play in the pile (sounds fun to me), but you can also collect some of these newly grounded treasures, take them home and decorate them, and make a museum. It doesn't take tons of supplies or planning- just start with the conceit that you are going to go on a treasure hunt and start a museum, and see where it takes you.

9. Climb a Mountain

Does anything make our lives' little details (like our shopping plans and lists) seem more inconsequential than standing high up on a mountain looking out at the Earth? That sublime experience is a perfect snap into perspective as we head into this major season where we lose the forest through the trees.

10. Go for a Bike Ride (or Sledding)

If it's sunny, go bike. If it's really sunny, go swim. If it's snowy, go sled. I highly recommend sledding, since gravity is on your side, but all of these sound like a blast.

11. Try Geocaching

People who do it absolutely swear by it. Like a treasure hunt, but for adults.

12. Go to a State Park

Every state in the US has parks of beautiful, still wild landscapes. Go visit one. It won't be the wow factor of Yosemite or Arches, but you can enjoy the quiet and the wildlife. Slow down and enjoy all the little details.

13. Fly a Kite

Fall is windy. Take advantage of the windiness and give your kite one last run.

hang out in the kitchen on black friday

Keep on in the Kitchen

14. Have a Leftovers Party

Brunchgiving! Invite friends or family over and make fun new dishes from all of your leftovers. You can clean out your cupboard a little bit and spend more time with loved ones without the stress of cooking a turkey (because you probably still have turkey left).

15. Bake Treats All Day... And Then Give Them Away

Those of us who have family to celebrate Thanksgiving with have a lot to be grateful for. If you have neighbors or acquaintances who aren't so blessed, maybe make a bunch of treats to gift them. You can change a life by simply noticing someone. Co-workers, grocery store employees, regulars, anyone could use this sweet gift (and you will have fun doing it).

16. Have a Leftovers Sandwich Showdown

Can't get enough hardcore cooking action? Looking to flex some competitive muscles? Host a Turkey Sandwich throwdown. Have a party, make a bunch of sandwiches with your leftovers, and have everyone else judge. Doesn't this sound so fun!? Could be great with friends or cousins or your football buddies.

17. Host a Party- Friendsgiving

You love your friends and they mean a lot to you. That is well worth celebrating, so throw them a party. You could make it something special, recreate Thanksgiving all together, or order in food and eat something totally different. But make a point of being together, start some traditions of your own, and appreciate that you have people who choose to love you (not out of genetic obligation, though I am sure you are wonderful).

18. Clean out your Cupboards and Donate to a Food Pantry

If you want to spend the day in the kitchen in a totally different way, finally do the purge you have been dreaming of. Make a big pile that you can donate to a food pantry, or set aside kitchen tools you can donate or gift on Buy Nothing. You will feel better, and you will help someone else.

19. Make Meals for Families who Need Them

Do you know any families who are struggling to get by? Who work through the holiday and wouldn't have the chance to make a dinner? Who are adjusting to a baby, an injury, or another transition? Check in with them first, and then make them a meal- turkey, lasagna, or a weird casserole, it could make a huge difference for somebody.

spend time with your family on black friday

Family Time

20. Just Hang out with Family

The day of Thanksgiving has a lot of pressure attached to it, but the day after can just be fun and low key. Just go hang out where everybody is. Do what your family does when they are together. Leave the phone on the counter and go play (no matter what your age). These times together are always a gift, and you never know what things will look like next year.

21. Board Game Tournament

I cannot even tell you how much sleep I have lost and laughing I have done playing board games at my in-laws. We have the best time cheating and yelling and getting way too competitive about Uno.  You could just devote the day to Settlers of Catan and see where it goes (my guess- somewhere with no freaking wheat) OR you could set up something more formal and have a real leader board to see who wins the day.

22. Make Puppets and Put on a Show

Have a bunch of kids you need to entertain? Get ready, I as an art teaching professional will share the secret with you:

First, collect a pile of garbage, doodads, googley eyes, and pipe cleaners. Maybe a glue gun.
Second, put it in front of a child and say "make a puppet" or "make a toy"
Watch and be amazed.

Kids have spectacular imaginations- set up a space where they can make things and a space for them to show off their work.

23. Build a Giant Fort

Bring all your pillows and blankets into your living space and make a fort to hideaway in. Have a great day of hiding from the world. No, you don't have to have children to justify doing this. Hiding away as grown ups is maybe even more fun.

24. Play an Epic Game of Hide and Seek

I have a LOT of cousins, and one of the things we have done for years when we are all together is play huge games of reverse hide and go seek (one person hides, and everyone else looks. when they find the hider, they hide too). It's such a fun game, and everyone will be laughing in no time. If you aren't sure how to wrangle a big group of kids and adults, this can be a fun place to start.

25. Take Family Photos

You are all together, so the day after Thanksgiving could be the perfect day to finally take that big group photo. You can find a professional photographer to take them or you can take them yourself, but take an hour or two to document everyone just as they are now. Get a cousins picture or the picture with all the grandkids and grandparents. You will have fun and you will have a bunch of gifts already done!

26. Look at Old Home Videos and Photographs

Do you have a bunch of family videos you never actually watch? What about photo albums? Everyone come with their own slideshow or video reel and watch together. Someone's hair will look hilarious and you will feel that much more grateful for all the wonderful memories you have. That reflecting on the past guarantees you will be taking lots of new pictures and videos this winter!

volunteer on black friday

Give Back

27. Send Care Packages to Soldiers

We can enjoy this time of year with our family, because others are serving all over the world and far away from theirs. We can show our appreciation by sending care packages to servicepeople all over the world. If that seems like too much, you could also honor the firefighters, nurses, and other people serving the common good every day near you. Treats and a genuine thank you can mean a lot in practically thankless jobs.

You could also donate to an organization that helps veterans near you, since we know soldiers suffer long after they leave the field. 

28. Go Visit a Food Pantry or Other Helping Spaces

Our country has an ever growing divide between the very rich and the very poor. You can help the people who are struggling near you. Do some research, find out what the spaces near you need, and maybe ask your friends and neighbors to help you fill those spaces. You can spend your day after Thanksgiving bringing a food pantry a ton of food or a women's shelter basic necessities.

29. Clean and Donate Day

Instead of acquiring even more stuff. why not finally make an epic Donate Pile and free your home of clutter? What clothes did you not wear at all this summer? Which toys have your kids not played with in a while? Set a big goal and finally get rid of all that stuff you don't need Combine it with a treat baking day or movie marathon and make it a moderately fun tradition!

30. Volunteer

Is there a group working near you that you always wanted to get involved in but never had the chance? This day off is your opportunity! Poke around and see if a greening group is having a planting day or if your church is doing a special service project. Something is going on, and they can use your help.

31. Join the Buy Nothing Project

Frequent readers know I absolutely LOVE the Buy Nothing Project. Each of these hyper local groups creates a space where neighbors can ask and gift freely with each other. It floods my newsfeed with positivity every day, and it connected these out of towners with tons of neighbors. For Black Friday, our Buy Nothing group is sharing everything we don't need anymore that will make good gifts- people could potentially finish their holiday shopping without spending one dollar (or one minute in a store).

I am not exaggerating when I say that it can change your life. Find your group here. If your neighborhood doesn't have one, consider starting one!

32. Go Clean Up your Neighborhood

You don't need an organizer or any fanfare to do this. Grab a grocery bag (hopefully a paper one- we all need to quit all plastic bags) and go for a walk. Walk for an hour. When you see garbage, put it in said bag. If you are in a neighborhood where that garbage could be drug-related, be sure to bring gloves. Otherwise, it is that simple- burn calories and do your daily good deed.

33. Work for a Day at a Homeless Shelter or Food Pantry

These places often need a ton of help, and you could get in there and make a difference. Even better, sign up to help once a month for the rest of the year, so they aren't just getting your help when everyone else is wanting to volunteer too.

34. Plant Trees

If you want a single thing to be grateful for this year, be grateful for trees. They keep the air clean, they fight climate change, they house and protect animals and biodiversity, and they have even been proven to make you happier! Want to make the world better? Plant a tree. Plant five.

35. Have a Garage Sale or Bake Sale and Donate the Money

If you aren't in a climate that will support a young tree, throw your own tiny bakesale and put the money toward the Arbor Day Foundation. Help us green the world; it's one of the only things that can save us.

One that I particularly love in the Thanksgiving spirit is a gift through the IRC for refugee families. You give 120 dollars and it sets up a family with everything they need to feel welcome in America.

That said, there are certainly lots of organizations that can use our help. Help feed those who don't have access to what they need or give money so everyone can have clean water. Involve the kids you love and turn this day into a day of giving instead of one of getting.

slow it down this black friday

Slow It Down

36. Write Thank You Cards

Do you know that being grateful is one of the most effective ways to increase your happiness? Sit down and write a list of the people who have really helped, supported, and inspired you this year. Then write them a note to tell them so. That is a simple gift that will be uplifting for them, and it will make you feel really, really good.

37. Focus on your Spirituality

Spend a day focused on prayer or meditation. For many of us, we are entering into a holy season, and I think the best way to kick it off would be to focus on the spiritual element.

Ok, let's be frank here. If you are the kind of person who wants to talk "Jesus is the reason for the season" but you kick off your advent pushing people at Walmart, you have 100% lost the plot. Most of us aren't at that level, but we are closer than we care to admit. If you really want to keep Christ at the center of your Christmas, Black Friday is the perfect place to start. Go to church. Volunteer. Help out at a shelter. Just spend a day reading your Bible or setting up a new prayer habit .

If you aren't a Christian, this is still a perfect day to focus on your spiritual health. Prayer, meditation, reading. We all have that thing we have been meaning to do or habit we really want to get going on. This day is the perfect time to start.

38. Have a Movie Marathon

Watch the Lord of the Rings from start to finish. Watch the newest additions to the National Film Registry. I have a friend who actually watches horror movies with her family all day. So simple, no fuss, and super fun!

39. Sleep in and Be LAZY

Don't do any of this! Just. Do. Nothing. Wear your pajamas. Accomplish nothing. Doesn't it sound kind of wonderful? We won't judge you.

40. Weatherize, Taxes, Clean out Email - Grown Up Nonsense

We all have these "should do's" that never seem to get checked off the list. Today, you may just have the time. It could be work, but it feels good and accomplished without necessarily having to go way out of your way.

Shrinking that To Do List always feels a little bit good too.

41. Just Read

Do you have a big pile of books waiting to be read? Is that just me? If you have the day off and nothing in particular you have to do, why not spend the day reading? If you need enabled, I am here to enable you.

42. Put together a Puzzle

There is something about a puzzle that just puts you in a flow state. It can actually be the perfect thing to do with family, because you can just sit and talk while you put the pieces in their place. And there is no need to buy one- ask around and find one you can borrow and return.

Enjoy some Sports this Black Friday


43. Organize your Own Big Game

Tag Football. Capture the Flag. Even Kickball. Organize a game for your family or friends and have an awesome afternoon playing. Even if you are not sporty (like me), playing with your family can be really fun and character building. I kid; I don't mind being the butt of all sports jokes. I will get the last laugh when the NBA calls.

44. Watch Sports!

Look at them throw that ball in a pleasing direction! Ok, sports is not my thing, but if it is yours. you can't do much better than Thanksgiving weekend. Watch the game together and talk all about the sports ball and the sports stuff and so on.

45. Run a 5K

This is a thing people do. Burn off those crescent rolls, get outside, and have a great day if you like running. You can even do a charity run and feel super good about yourself!

46. Take an (Indoor) Swim

Everyone else will be talking about winter. Buck tradition, find a free swim, and have a swimming party instead!

Kick off the Holidays on Black Friday

 Kick off the Holidays

47. Start Your Holiday Celebrations

Listen to your favorite music. Get out your favorite decoration. Make a wreath or create your own advent calendar. You can still embrace the season without one ad or store. Do lots of the good parts instead.

48. Make all your Gifts for this Year

There are so many excellent ideas out there for homemade gifts, and maybe you are the kind of person who would really like to try them, but you just don't have the time. Here is the time. The gifts will be cheaper, mean more, and you will even learn something.

Need some ideas? I would check with that brilliant gal pinterest, but you could try- jams, scarves, christmas ornaments, pottery, bookmarks, baked treats, cross-stitches, candles, and more!

49. Put up Christmas or Hannukah Decorations

Yesss. Reward your restraint for waiting and get those decorations up. Make it a fun, festive loud day, or do it quietly and reverently. No shame anymore- celebrate your season!

50. Make Christmas Ornaments

For years, we gave away ornaments as gifts. I love this gift, mostly because I love a tree covered in janky but meaningful ornaments. I am suspicious of people who have trees that are too matchy matchy. I mean, good job at shopping at a Christmas store, but what feeling is behind this tree? Think of a symbol for your family or friendships and turn it into an ornament.

51. Make Wrapping Paper

Ok, I LOVE this idea. Roll out a ton of recycled kraft paper and decorate it for all of your holiday needs! If you have kids, get out paint and stamps and let them have it. For adults, you can find all sorts of cool inspiration on pinterest. Either way, this carries more meaning and fun than anything you buy at Target.

52. Put on Christmas Movies (or Succumb to the Hallmark Channel)

Yes, we all can act too cool for the Hallmark channel, but once one of those movies is on, you kind of stick around to see if these two super basic people end up together (spoiler alert- they do!).

You could also watch Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Nightmare Before Christmas on a loop all day. One year, we watched Mamma Mia on a loop for an entire day (and we LOVED it- you cannot fight Abba). Whatever holiday movies means to you, just dive on in and enjoy it!

53. Make your Cookies

Can you think of a more fun tradition? So simple, but you can twist it in so many ways. My cousins tend to do demented cookies, and we have made everything from the Mars Rover to the Eye of Sauron to Sponge Bob Square Pants. Share this cookie baking with family or lots of friends (I smell a party idea!) and you can enjoy a loud kitchen all day long.

Go Visit a Museum on Black Friday

Get Cultured

54. Enjoy a Concert

In my hometown, the city band throws their Pops Concert every year. It starts with a pretty varied selection of music and ends with Christmas music. It really feels like the start of the Christmas season. Check who is playing near where you are!

55. Go to a Play

Don't see any concerts? How about a show? See what is going on in theaters near you. Even if you have never heard of it before, you might be surprised!

56. Visit a Museum

Have you visited the museums nearby? This can be the perfect day to check out a place you have never been before OR to go back to your very favorite. You can also check out local sculpture or botanical gardens to a similar effect. I feel better about the universe and more checked in to my own brain every time I leave a museum. Pretty great way to spend the day!

57. Go to the Movies

Thanksgiving often sees a big movie release. Buy tickets beforehand and make a day of it! Check out less mainstream options too- a movie theater near us shows Casablanca on Black Friday- how cool is that!?

58. Go to an Event Near You

In this time of Facebook, you can find all sorts of things going on. Our local zoo AND sports stadium both do huge light shows that kick off around this time. I saw Harry Potter holiday dinners being thrown this weekend. This is a weird, wonderful world, and weird, awesome stuff is happening. Do some research and try something new.

59. Visit a Historical Site or Monument

Time to finally roll up your sleeves and appreciate some historical architecture. Or maybe a tour that takes place near you? Bonus points if it is on a segway.

60. Make Something

How often do we get to just stop and make the  thing we love making? How often do we try the thing we are itching to do? Maybe it's a quilt. Or a sculpture. Oragami. Why not take that time to finally get your brushes back out or take another whack at sewing (thank goodness for youtube)?

60 Fun Black Friday Activities that Aren't Just Shopping

Happy Black Friday! I hope whatever you end up doing, it makes your life a little bit happier. And that it isn't shopping, because Black Friday shopping is seriously the worst. Instead, save your shopping for small businesses near you! The more you can stay out of big stores and avoid big consumerism, the better the world will be.

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  1. My husband has to work on Friday, but we are definitely going to try to get the kids active and using up their energy! It is tough for them to be cooped up on Thanksgiving, and the weather has been so cold. It's a good chance for them to see their friends too.

  2. These are all such great ideas for all the time, not just friday :)

  3. I read this just in time- my kids were asking what we can do tomorrow. Our plan is to visit a children's museum that they haven't been to in a long time- they've been asking to go for forever. Family time is way better than spending money :)

  4. For Black Friday we didn’t do any shopping but we did some family activities. Went to look at some Christmas lights and played games.



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