Thanksgiving 2021 Guide for Chicago Families

Have a great Thanksgiving with these kid-friendly ideas.

For some of us, Thanksgiving might be the first time in a while that we’re getting together with our extended family. Planning a holiday can be exciting, but also stressful, for parents. Not to mention, you have to keep the kids busy since they’re on break.

Take a look at our Thanksgiving guide below to help make your planning a little bit easier. We’ve rounded up our favorite Thanksgiving break activities, ways to give back and how to prepare for at-home celebrations. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving break activities

Photo Credit: Matt Zuro

Your kids have a few extra days off and you might want to take advantage of the free time in Chicagoland. Here are some Thanksgiving break activities to try. 

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade plans to return on Nov. 25. More details to come, but the parade takes place on Thanksgiving morning on State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph Street. Find more local events during Thanksgiving break on our calendar.

Enjoy holiday activities

Welcome back the holiday season! Many of your Chicagoland holiday attractions are already open for families to enjoy. Find our complete list of local holiday activities, including holiday lights, Santa visits and more.

Go shopping

This year’s holiday shopping motto: shop early and shop local. With the supply chain issues and shipping delays, you can get ahead on your holiday shopping during Small Business Saturday. Plus, find the best toys under $50 for kids in our 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Visit a museum

Museums are open during Thanksgiving break with plenty of new exhibits for families. Our favorites include City on Fire: Chicago 1871 at Chicago History Museum, Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement at Illinois Holocaust Museum, and Christmas Around the World and Holiday of Lights at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Giving back

Photo Credit: Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly

Focus on gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. It’s important to teach our children values on giving back to our community and helping others. We have some ideas on where to start.

Ways to share your thankfulness

From mindful yoga to a thankfulness chain, here are a few games and ideas to do as a family to jump-start your thankfulness and appreciation as Thanksgiving approaches.

Chicagoland charities to support children in need

Our children might understand that there are kids around their age that need help. Your family can learn more and support a children’s charity that directly assists local families and children. We also suggest checking out Thrive, a non-profit founded by Midwest mom Gina Gabel. With just $10 per month, you can feed a child for a year, in Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Family volunteering opportunities in Chicagoland

November is a popular time where families reach out to help others. We have a list of local organizations that offer options for adults to participate with their kids.

At-home activities

This Thanksgiving, more families are coming together for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some ways to have a great time while at home.

Thanksgiving meal tips and tricks

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the food, of course. We asked Chicago chefs to give us some tips and tricks for preparing the turkey, mashed potatoes, desserts and more. Here’s an appetizer to add to your Thanksgiving menu — Cranberry Brie Bites.

Holiday mocktail recipes

Every holiday is worth celebrating with the clinking of glasses. We’ve rounded up our favorite holiday mocktail recipes that both kids and parents will enjoy. For a Thanksgiving cocktail just for parents, check out this Fresh Fruit Harvest Sangria from Sugar with Spice.

Thanksgiving books for kids

Add some holiday books to your at-home library. Don’t forget, November is Native American Heritage Month, and we have some great #OwnVoices Native American children’s books to add to your collection, too.

Pumpkin Tic-Tac-Toe

Looking for fun Thanksgiving game to keep kids entertained? Use mini pumpkins to play a game of tic-tac-toe. What a great idea from Project Kid!


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