Thanksgiving doesn’t really mean much for expats. It’s not a holiday that we have memories from childhood of (unless you grew up in the US).
Unlike New Year’s Day or Christmas, in some cases, Thanksgiving can turn out to just be two days off work that feel like you’re on your own. The shops are closed, apart from the Black Friday sales, and most of your friends are gorging on turkey with their families.
How can you take advantage of that long weekend without resorting to burrowing into a blanket fort and binge watching TV? I’ve got some ideas for you.
P.S. I wrote a similar post last year, that has a lot of great ideas in it. But I like to keep things up-to-date, so I decided to create a new list this year.
UNTHANKSGIVING DAY CRUISE
If you’re an early bird and don’t like to waste the day, why not try Unthanksgiving on Alcatraz Island. It’s also known as the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering and looks back on the occupation of the island by the “Indians of All Tribes” back in 1969.
It’s the only way you’ll get to Alcatraz on Thanksgiving Day, and will teach you all about the two-year occupation of the island. Boats start leaving for the island at 4.15am and everyone must be on the last boat back at 8.45am.
Buy tickets in advance from the Alcatraz website.
ON YOUR BIKE
Ever since I moved here I’ve wanted to rent a bike and ride up Embarcadero and over the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito.
But I’m not what you’d call a confident cyclist, or navigator, so I’ve never actually done it yet. Thanksgiving would be the perfect time though.
Think about it, there’s much less traffic on the road in the city and you probably won’t have to deal with as many crowds as usual. You might need to bring a picnic lunch with you just in case though!
There are many bike rental and tour companies in San Francisco. Blazing Saddles will be open from 8am on Thanksgiving though.
MUSEUMS & GARDENS
They’re not for everyone, but museum-lovers might like to know that some will be open on Thanksgiving Day.
Here’s a little list, along with their hours for Thursday, November 23.
- Aquarium of the Bay: 10am to 5pm
- Beat Museum: 11am to 7pm
- Botanical Gardens: 7.30am to 5pm (free admission day)
- California Academy of Sciences: 11am to 3pm
- Contemporary Jewish Museum: 11am to 5pm
- Golden Gate Bridge: 5am to 6:30pm (for pedestrians/cyclists)
- Japanese Tea Garden: 9am to 4:45pm
- Muir Woods: 8am to 5pm
- San Francisco Zoo: 10am to 4pm
A couple of people who can’t make flights “back home” for the holiday weekend are hosting “Friendsgivings”.
They’re gathering people in a similar situation and doing a Thanksgiving for them. If you’ve got a bunch of expat mates, you could organise the same.
If you’re all from the same country, get everyone to make a dish from home to share. Or you could do the same from everyone’s different country and see how it pans out.
For those who like to feel like they’re helping the world become a better place, think about volunteering for Bridgewatch on Thanksgiving Day.
The Golden Gate bridge is a well-known suicide spot, and it is patrolled by police and Bridgewatch volunteers for that reason.
You can volunteer from either 10am to 2pm or from 2pm to 6pm on Thanksgiving Day on the bridge. Smiling and chatting to anyone who seems down and engaging people who are walking alone and displaying signs of depression.
Sign up here to volunteer.
ST FRANCIS HOLIDAY DISPLAY
Have you been watching The Great British Bake Off or did you see Halloween Wars on TV? Then you need to get down to the Westin St Francis to see the St Francis Holiday display.
The hotel’s executive pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdre bake, ice and build a land fit for the Christmas season and display it in the lobby.
It’s all unveiled on Thanksgiving Day and will include a Sugar Castle (which is apparently very popular) and the St Francis Enchanted Castle.