Money. Work. School. Family Drama. Distance. Child-rearing. Pets. Illness. There are countless reasons why people cannot get together with their friends and family for Thanksgiving Day. So, if you’re wondering how you can possibly spend the holiday without your loved ones, never fear, you can make the best of it anyway. Even if you are on your own, there are tons of things to do on Thanksgiving Day alone.

Plate of Thanksgiving cookies.

“Thanksgiving Tray” by Flying Pig Party Productions is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

If you choose the right combination of fun things to do on Thanksgiving, you might find that Thanksgiving without family and friends is a nice reprieve from the many demands of the holidays. You can always get back to traditions next year, of course, or continue with your newfound ones made using this guide.

No Family on Thanksgiving? No Problem!

You had better believe it. There’s a wide array of fun things to do on Thanksgiving when you have no family or friends around. Here’s a handful of ideas to help you get started.

1. Cook Your Own Feast of Favorite Foods

When cooking for a crowd, you likely lovingly consider what everyone wants, or you might even stick to the traditional spread to avoid rocking the boat. When there’s no family on Thanksgiving, you can throw those considerations out the window and cook what you love.

Would you rather have fish and chips than turkey and mashed potatoes? Not a problem. Want pizza for dinner? Absolutely. The sky is the limit in what you can make. Don’t forget all your favorite snacks, appetizers, and desserts, too. And if you make too much? That’s fine. It’ll stay good in the fridge for at least a few days.

2. Work in a Soup Kitchen or Deliver Meals

If you prefer to spend your Thanksgiving helping others, you can still do that while going it alone. Just sign up to volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen or at a non-profit that delivers food to people without housing.

Delivering meals during Thanksgiving.

“Sailor delivers Meals-on-Wheels to elderly and homebound residents.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

You could even whip up your own meals and deliver them to people in need across your community. Just remember to keep a few alternatives on hand for those who might not be able to eat peanuts, wheat, or other major allergens.

3. Create a Digital Cooking Contest

Be honest, what’s a better way to spend the day than whipping up your online friends into a frenzy with a digital cooking contest? You can spread the news through the community groups on your favorite social media platforms or call a few people in your contact list.

Either way, let them know what’s going down. You can create a turkey out of anything other than a turkey. You can sculpt one out of mashed potatoes, create a turkey-shaped cake, or even build a Jello bird to rival all Jello birds. The most creative turkey gets a full year’s bragging rights and the chance to share their own contest when the next opportunity arises.

4. Go Wild with Cardboard Cutouts, BigHeads, and Murals

When you just need to have your home filled with all your favorite people and animals, you can turn to cardboard cutouts to get the job done. By ordering a life-size cardboard cutout or perhaps a few BigHeads or murals for the wall, you’ll have all your favorites by your side through Thanksgiving and beyond.

Life-size cutouts are perfect for creating full-size versions of friends and family, or even your favorite TV show or video game characters. And BigHeads are great if you want a few beautiful faces of the people you miss through the holiday. Either way, hop on a Zoom call and show off your décor to get everyone hyped for next year’s celebrations.

5. Start Black Friday Shopping

Right as Thanksgiving Day winds down, Black Friday strikes in full force. These days, retailers know that in the hours after dinner is served, everyone starts pouring over the ads to create their plan of attack. With that, they put even more advertisements online, allowing you to see where to best put your dollars.

So, don’t hesitate to start browsing early and finish all your holiday shopping in one fell swoop. If you take advantage of online deals, you might not even need to leave your house to do so.

6. Rest, Relax, and Recuperate

If all these ideas sound like hard work, you might just sorely need some time to rest, relax, and recuperate. Life is certainly busy these days, and there’s nothing wrong with taking some much-needed time for yourself.

Draw that bath without guilt, take a book to bed, or just curl up on the couch and watch TV to your heart’s content without thinking about the outside world for a moment. You’ll definitely feel much more refreshed after spending an entire day lounging around and relaxing your mind, body, and spirit.

If you want more from the holiday, keep dreaming up awesome things to do with all your free time. You might be surprised at how easy it is to pick up and go when you only have to consider what you want at the moment.

Non-Traditional Things to Do on Thanksgiving Day Alone

If you don’t feel like sticking to traditions, you can use these non-traditional things to do on Thanksgiving instead. Straying from tradition for one year is no big deal. And who knows, you might even find something that’ll liven up the regular celebrations that you can introduce to your family and friends next year.

1. Get Outdoors

The great outdoors always serves as a wonderful place to reflect on the year and express your gratitude for everything you hold dear. You can hang out at a neighborhood greenspace or take a peaceful hike through state or national parklands.

Fall colors during Thanksgiving.

“with fall colors” by ai3310X is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Remember to dress in layers and bring all the right gear for a safe trip. Also, tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone, so they can call for help if you aren’t back by the given time.

2. Travel

If you want to really get away, then plan to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. You can go wherever your heart desires and your budget supports. So, reflect on which places you want to see most, or throw caution to the wind and fling a dart at a map.

Don’t forget to get your tickets and accommodations sorted as early as possible to avoid missing out. It also doesn’t hurt to have a couple of backup locations selected in case you need to go with plan B instead.

3. Write Letters

When you miss your family members and friends, it’s easy to pick up the phone or hop on social media to check in. While those methods are quick and convenient, they lack the personal touch that only a letter can bring. Plus, you can’t tuck fun drawings, stickers, and other goodies into a digital message or phone call.

So, dust off that stationary and get out the stamps because it’s letter-writing time. Just make sure that you have everyone’s addresses before you start, or you’ll be making some phone calls after all.

4. Learn Something New

Many days, the hours are so full of activities that it’s hard to finish all your tasks, much less try to learn something new. You might find yourself putting off learning how to crochet, play an instrument, or do a handstand.

Now you don’t have to since Thanksgiving Day is wide open and awaiting whatever you dream up. You can finally get past that initial hurdle of learning the basics with a whole day dedicated to the process. From there, picking up the activity again and continuing building your skill set will be much easier.

5. Adopt a New Pet

Shelters are teeming with pets in need of homes throughout the year, but it gets significantly worse during the holiday season. Thanksgiving is when the shelters start to see dogs, cats, and even bunnies coming through the doors in droves.

If you were already considering getting a pet, then perhaps Thanksgiving is the day to do it. You’ll feel thankful to have a newfound friend by your side, while your pet will be happy to have a new home.

6. Be Productive

If all else fails, turning Thanksgiving Day into a productive one doesn’t hurt. Break out the work tasks, clean up your home, or organize all your stuff to get ahead of your obligations. You could even catch up on some much-needed sleep for a few hours before starting all that work.

No matter what you choose to focus on, you’ll undoubtedly walk away feeling accomplished. Your efforts will allow you to feel like you’ve gotten ahead on the Monday after the long holiday weekend. You might even have much less to do through the rest of the next week as a result — and who doesn’t love that?

Although you surely have plenty of ideas on what to do for Thanksgiving without family and friends, you don’t have to stop there. You can keep dreaming up ideas and jotting them down to try on your solo holiday. If you have any friends or family who’re also going it alone this year, don’t forget to share all your awesome ideas with them as well.

Thanksgiving with Cardboard Cutouts

With so many things to do alone on Thanksgiving, it might feel difficult to return to your traditional celebrations next year. The good news is that you don’t have to if you’d rather create new traditions and continue your solo holiday adventures.

If your friends and family balk at the idea, send them a cardboard cutout as a placeholder until you are ready to return! You can ship the cutouts all across the U.S. and Canada, making it easy to decorate your home — or your friends’ and families’ dwellings in an instant. If you’re ready to make that dream a reality, get in touch with Cardboard Cutout Standees to get started.


  • Jason Frank

    Jason Frank is the Co-Founder and Vice President at Cardboard Cutout Standees. After 25 years of selling factory automation he started the company with one of his college roommates. The company has grown to one of the largest providers of large format custom printed products in the United States. Along with the namesake cardboard cutout standees, they also provide BigHeads, Point of Purchase Displays, Wall Murals, and Wall Decals to a diverse client base across the US and Canada. When not focused on the business, you usually find Jason either on the road biking or our in the woods and fields of western Wisconsin.

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