For some people, the start of the “most wonderful time of the year” means inexplicably wanting to stand outside big box stores at 5 a.m., risking the possibility of being trampled by strangers. All for a few hundred dollars off a superfluous third smart TV.
Black Friday madness strikes post-Thanksgiving each year. Maybe it's all that turkey, or maybe family dynamics set a weird tone, but people seem to lose their cool.
Life doesn't have to be this way. We believe the holiday season should be full of cheerful moments that are Made to Keep. That's why we've found 10 alternative things to do on Black Friday. Steer clear of the herds, consider getting out of town, and use this list as inspiration to help the year end on a high note.
Here are 10 things we'd rather be doing on Black Friday.
1. We'd rather be … listening to jazz and sipping wine in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
Not all Black Friday shopping is stressful. In Carmel-by-the-Sea, it's downright pleasant. Take Carmel Plaza: you can still find good Black Friday deals on thoughtful gifts, but this shopping center makes it a relaxed affair. The Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars will be playing in the courtyard on Black Friday, and there are three wine tasting rooms on site. Keep the wine flowing at tasting rooms around town, including De Tierra Winery Tasting Room and Holman Ranch Tasting Room.
2. We'd rather be … enjoying holiday lights in Atlanta, GA
Christmas seems to come earlier every year, but the hard-and-fast rule has always been that it's 100% acceptable to go into full Christmas mode the day after Thanksgiving. Atlanta knows what's up and puts on quite the show during the holiday season, with light displays all over the city. Standout spots include the Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens, which was voted one of National Geographic's Top 10 Light Displays in the world; Stone Mountain Christmas, which features carolers and the Snow Angel's Christmas Parade; and Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
3. We'd rather be … supporting small businesses in Austin, TX
This time of year is all about helping out your fellow humans, and that includes supporting small businesses over major corporations. That's the philosophy behind Small Business Saturday—one of the best Black Friday alternatives—and one Austin holds close to the heart. The city is filled with independent boutiques and local businesses that will help you get a jump on your holiday shopping. You can also grab a bite of regional flavors or toast the season at a local watering hole. South Congress is a sure bet for plenty of quirky shops, including Parts & Labour, a great place to get Texas-made crafts and gifts. Bouldin Creek Café is the oldest restaurant in the neighborhood, and it features a lot of art from the community. 2nd Street District is another gathering place for small businesses. Here you'll find gems like Toy Joy, a super-fun toy store that's perfect for scoring holiday gifts for all ages. Wander to nearby South First Street area for pieces from local artists at Art for the People gallery and artisan market.
4. We'd rather be … giving back in New York, NY
When it comes to supporting others, you may be asking, "What can I do instead of shopping?" We suggest embodying the spirit of Giving Tuesday, which was started by the 92nd Street Y in NYC. It's observed the Tuesday following Black Friday, and it serves as an antidote to the self-serving shopping frenzy. It's also the perfect time for volunteering at an organization like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine or donating to Housing Works, which supports very human causes like fighting hunger and funding healthcare and HIV/AIDS prevention.
5. We'd rather be … observing Buy Nothing Day in Denver, CO
Created as the anti-Black Friday, Buy Nothing Day gives you the excuse you need to escape the consumer jungle, head to the mountains, and immerse yourself in nature's winter bounty. There are few places more fitting to get in the winter spirit than Denver. The season started early this year at Winter Park Resort, so get your winter sports on! If you prefer a slower pace, take one or more of the many winter hikes in the area. Many hikes are accessible year-round and offer sparkling views of ice-draped trees and blankets of snow.
6. We'd rather be … celebrating the birth of Louisa May Alcott in Concord, MA
What better way to honor the non-commercial values of America than by exploring the hometown of a beloved literary figure? Born Nov. 29, 1832, Louisa May Alcott embraced family and character in her work, and she just happened to live in a delightful place to visit. Spend Thanksgiving day at Concord's Colonial Inn, where they serve a full holiday dinner. The next day, see Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House, the basis for the March home in Little Women. It's open extended hours (10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) the day after Thanksgiving. While in town, you can also go to the Concord Museum and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
7. We'd rather be … running on the iconic 30A in Rosemary Beach, FL
Thanksgiving Day races (often called turkey trots) are a popular tradition, and Rosemary Beach's flat and fun course offers some beachy scenery for the journey. Choose between 10K, 5K and Fun Run options, then reward yourself with Thanksgiving at the Pearl. Once you've had your Thanksgiving fill, head to Alys Beach to ring in the holiday season at Alys in Winter Wonderland. You can decorate cookies with Santa and watch a Christmas tree come to life during A Very Merry Tree Lighting Ceremony and Christmas Concert. Live music, food, and drinks help make the season bright on Black Friday.
8. We'd rather be … ice skating and gallery gazing in Sun Valley, ID
The incredible views at Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink make this a very special place to skate. It's one of the few year-round outdoor ice rinks, and it hosts ice shows in the summer; open skating sessions and lessons are available all year. Winter sports aren't the only reason to come to town, though. The art scene is thriving, and Nov. 29 brings a special giving edition of the Sun Valley Gallery Walk. Donate canned and non-perishable foods while view painting, photography, glass, sculpture, video, and installation art at member galleries of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.
9. We'd rather be … getting in the holiday spirit in Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia knows a thing or two about holiday cheer, and it's on display anywhere you look. Be there for the 25-year celebration of the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest that includes a fairytale winter landscape, ice skating rink, holiday lights, fire pits, warming cabins, a kids lodge and arcade, and a chalet-inspired lodge with food and beverages. Starting on November 29, the Morris Arboretum Holiday Garden Railway features model trains and scenes decorated for the holidays. Philly Pops does Uptown Christmas Dec. 1, featuring Tituss Burgess, Mandy Gonzalez, and Luis Figueroa. Stop by the Macy's Christmas Light Show for a colorful, twinkly event, accompanied by festive tunes played on the Wanamaker Grand Organ.
10. We'd rather be … taking in small-town charm in Laurel, MS
The best way to get away from the big-box madness is to go to a place where they don't exist. For that, you'll have to hit small-town America, which houses some of the best alternatives to Black Friday. Laurel is everything you could want in a small town—charming, quaint, attractive, friendly, and surrounded by natural beauty. Grab something sweet at Sweet Somethings Bakery and enjoy some beers at Slowboat Brewing Company. Peruse American Art at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, including a beautiful collection of Native American basketry. If you're in town during Small Business Saturday, do yourself a favor and visit Laurel Main Street, a quintessential small-town thoroughfare.
'Tis the season for food, family, and the spirit of giving. You may want to get ahead of your holiday shopping and find the best deals, but you don't have to suffer to save. Let the day after Thanksgiving usher in the holidays without all the shopping madness. Support small businesses in relaxed atmospheres, head into nature, join a turkey trot, or sing some carols during tree lightings—there's no shortage of ways to spend Black Friday right.