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Statewide Bentonville Eureka Springs Fordyce Hot Springs Johnson Lake Village Little Rock Mount Magazine State Park Mountain View Pea Ridge Petit Jean State Park Springdale Stuttgart
Statewide Events 0

Thanksgiving Weekend Fun Family Activities

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Thanksgiving weekend is always a great time to get together with family and share that special meal, but it’s also nice to find activities that can get everyone out of the house and offer fun for the entire family. This Thanksgiving weekend in Arkansas, find an activity near you and enjoy the outing with your family and friends.

Museum of Native American History

Museum of Native American History (MONAH)

The Museum of Native American History in Bentonville is a fascinating look at the history and lives of the First Americans and is a space to amplify Native voices. On Saturday, Nov. 27 at 5:30 p.m. Cherokee language professor Lawrence Panther will give a presentation over Art of the Cherokee Language: Conjugations. You can register for the event for free. Sunday, Nov. 28, the museum store will open for its limited Museum Store Sunday series from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Holiday shoppers can pick up unique gifts for friends and family. MONAH is open Monday through Saturday, although tickets need to be reserved ahead of time at monah.us. Tickets are free but donations are encouraged.

 

World Championship Duck Calling Contest & Wings Over the Prairie Festival

Stuttgart has hosted the oldest festival in the state for 85 years. Held over Thanksgiving weekend, 2021 marks the 86th festival and will have something for everyone in the family. The festival will open its carnival and midway on Wednesday, Nov. 24 and on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25. The duck calling championships begin on Friday, Nov. 26 and include a variety of contests, from juniors to Arkansas contestants to the world championships. The festival also has tethered hot air balloon rides, arts and crafts, sporting and outdoor exhibits and much more. Visit stuttgart.org/duckfestival for the very full schedule of events to enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend.

Mid-America Science Museum

Photo: Mid-America Science Museum

Always a favorite for families, the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs will be open Nov. 26 and 27, just in time for an after Thanksgiving outing. In addition to the museum exhibits, Friday kicks off the museum’s Dino-Lites exhibit. On Friday and Saturday nights from Nov. 26 through Dec. 18, museum visitors can walk the lighted display of dinosaurs outside the museum from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. It’s a fun, different kind of holiday light tour anyone can enjoy. Grab tickets to the museum online at midamericamuseum.org.

A&M Railroad Holiday Express

If you’re interested in kicking off the Christmas season over Thanksgiving weekend, the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad is running its popular Holiday Express train rides on Nov. 27. Rides are available every hour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a special 7:30 p.m. ride that will view the Springdale Christmas parade. An hour train ride from Springdale to Johnson and back will include Christmas cookies and hot chocolate, caroling, and a visit from Santa. Reservations are highly encouraged and can be made at amtrainrides.com.

The Gobbler Turkey Trot

Photo: Go! Running LR

Exercise might be far from your mind on Thanksgiving Day, but the Gobbler Turkey Trot in Little Rock is an exceptional run for many reasons. First, the entry fee per family is a canned food donation, which goes to the Arkansas Food Bank. This makes the run accessible for entire families to run or walk together as a pre-Thanksgiving celebration. Choose between racing 3 miles, 4 miles or 6.5 miles. The Gobbler Turkey Trot promises a fun course and perhaps even a Santa sighting. Register to run and you’ll be entered to win prizes as well. The youngest runners can run in Tom’s Tiny Trot, for those ages 0-8 who might not be up for the full run. All proceeds from the Gobbler Turkey Trot goes to the Arkansas Food Bank. The 2019 run raised enough in food and cash donations to provide 12,000 meals. Let’s make 2021 even better, and get that Thanksgiving workout in early! Find out more and register at gorunning.com/gobbler-turkey-trot.

Arkansas State Parks

Arkansas has 52 state parks and getting outside is a wonderful way to spend part of Thanksgiving weekend. Petit Jean State Park is holding its 23rd Annual Mountain Rendezvous from Thursday to Saturday. On Thanksgiving Day, several parks will offer guided walks and hikes, like the Bear Hollow Overlooks hike at Mount Magazine. Lake DeGray State Park offers Eagle Watch cruises or Sunset Cruises, a great way to cap off Thanksgiving Day. Nov. 26 is Green Friday, a growing movement that encourages people to spend Black Friday outside instead of shopping.

Many parks will offer activities for Green Friday, such as the Green Friday Celebration at Hobbs State Park. Participants can visit informational booths, take guided hikes, and even bring bird feeders from home to be cleaned and returned while learning about winter bird identification and feeding tips. Turn your eyes to the sky for Evening Sky Basics at Mount Magazine, an introduction to stargazing held at twilight.

Want to do a little holiday shopping outside of traditional outlets? Check out the Ozark Folk Center’s Holidays Craft Show on Saturday, Nov. 27. Both artisans and guest crafters will be available with handcrafted items for purchase. Finish off the holiday weekend with a Lake Chicot Boat Tour on Sunday, Nov. 28. There are so many activities to choose from this holiday weekend. Visit arkansasstateparks.com to find the full event calendar and the closest parks to you, and choose your own adventure for Thanksgiving weekend.

Shop Small at Local Shops across Arkansas

Saturday, Nov. 27, is Shop Small Saturday, when shoppers can support their local small businesses as they kick off the holiday season. Many downtown organizations will have events organized around this Saturday. For example, Eureka Springs will have live music, giveaways, and gift specials from local shops all day. Check with your local downtown for special events, or simply pop into your favorite local shops, bakeries, bookstores and more on Saturday.

Christmas Tree Farms in Arkansas

After the turkey is eaten and that second piece of pie is gone, many families take Thanksgiving weekend to get ready for Christmas. Arkansas is fortunate to have many local Christmas Tree Farms where families can pick out the perfect tree to take home, enjoy hot chocolate and more. At Wonderland Tree Farm in Pea Ridge, families can enjoy a hayride, drink hot chocolate, send letters to Santa, and pick out a tree. Tidwell Tree Farm in Fordyce opens on Black Friday and will be open the rest of Thanksgiving weekend for those ready to cut their own Christmas tree. For a full list of Arkansas Christmas Tree farms and to find one near you, read Arkansas Christmas Tree Farms or visit Arkansas Christmas Tree Growers Association.

No matter how you spend Thanksgiving weekend this year, Arkansas has plenty of opportunities to spend it together in family-friendly activities across the state. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Kimberly S. Mitchell loves journeys, real or imagined. She has hiked the Inca Trail, walked into Panama on a rickety wooden bridge and once missed the last train of the night in Paris and walked several miles home (with friends). She believes magic can be found in life and books, loves to watch the stars appear, and still dreams of backpacking the world. Now she writes adventures to send her characters on journeys, too. Pen & Quin: International Agents of Intrigue - The Mystery of the Painted Book is her debut novel. Find out more at KSMitchell.com.

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