Houston Thanksgiving Traditions

Sure, Thanksgiving in the United States has a few key staples like turkey, football and holiday lighting displays. But Houston has its own special traditions. Here's your guide to celebrating Thanksgiving in the Bayou City. 

  • 01 of 07

    Start off your holiday with a turkey trot.

    Turkey Trot
    ••• Bob Kelly / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Make up for a little Thanksgiving Day gluttony by kicking off the morning with a 5K or 10K race around Houston's Uptown/Galleria area. The TXU Energy Houston Turkey Trot is a Houston tradition dating back decades, and is proudly one of the largest foot races in the city with more than 15,000 people participating in 5K, 10K and wheelchair races, as well as a kids run.

    Participants are encouraged to raise money for their races, and all proceeds from the event benefit local Houston charities — making it a great way to jumpstart the Season of Giving. 

    Registration is available online or on-site Thanksgiving Day, though those interested in timed races must register prior to Race Day. 

  • 02 of 07

    Catch Houston's Thanksgiving Parade.

    H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade
    ••• Ed Uthman/Flickr

    The Houston Thanksgiving Day parade — now officially dubbed the H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade — began in 1949 and has taken place every year since. In addition to the traditional floats and marching bands, the H-E-B Thanksgiving Parade also features giant floating balloons and a vast array of Christmas cheer. 

    The parade starts at 9 a.m. at Smith Street and Lamar Street downtown and loops down Walker, Milam and Pease streets before ending back up at Smith Street and Dallas. The parade is free, but if you want premium views, you can purchase bleacher seating tickets for around $30 per person. Either way, spaces are limited, so your best bet is to arrive early. 

    Tip: As with most downtown events, parking can be a challenge. Avoid the high fees and headaches by going first to a park and ride and then taking the METRORail into downtown. You can get off at the Main Street Square station and walk the few blocks to the parade route. 

  • 03 of 07

    Get your turkey deep-fried.

    Deep-fried Turkey
    ••• LauriPatterson/Getty Images

    Sure oven-roasted turkey gets all the airtime in cinematic portrayals of a "traditional" Thanksgiving. But the South has its own traditions. For an authentic Houston Turkey Day, skip the oven and bust out the deep fryer.

    For those who have never had their turkey deep-fried before, the result is a perfectly browned and crispy skin that locks in juices. In Houston, it's also common for families to throw in a few cajun seasonings to their turkeys to add another layer of flavor. Bonus: Deep frying takes less time than roasting, meaning there's no need to wait hours and hours for the bird to be done. 

    Word of caution, however: deep-frying turkeys can be messy and dangerous if not done properly. Be sure to take steps to deep fry a turkey safely. For example, if possible, try to do the frying outside in an open space. Never toss a frozen bird into oil. And just like with a roasted turkey, be sure that the meat reaches the proper temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit) to avoid...MORE getting anyone sick. 

    If you don't want to attempt to deep fry a turkey at home, there are plenty inside the Houston area who will do it for you. Some of the best local spots to pre-order your deep-fried cajun turkey to-go include  Boudreaux's and BB's.  

  • 04 of 07

    Don't forget the tamales.

    Tamales
    ••• Elisa Cicinelli/Getty Images

    While perhaps more widely known as a Christmas staple in Texas, tamales are a must-have for many families on Thanksgiving Day as well. The Latin American dish is prepared by making a corn-based dough, or masa, mixed with delicious ingredients like meats, cheeses or vegetables, and then steaming it in a corn husk or banana leaf.

    If your family doesn't have a generations-old recipe, don't worry. Many Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants in the Houston-area are open to bulk orders in advance of the holiday. One of the best places to order them is from Berryhill. The Houston-based Mexican restaurant chain has locations throughout the city, including some suburbs, and offers a wide range of tamales stuffed with different meats like beef, pork or chicken, as well as vegetarian options, like bean or spinach. They typically need at least a 24-hour advanced notice for most orders but can sometimes accommodate shorter time frames if you're in a bind. 

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  • 05 of 07

    Throw in a pecan pie.

    Pecan Pie
    ••• Brett Stevens/Getty Images

    No offense to pumpkins, but here in Houston pecan pie is the preferred Thanksgiving Day dessert. Serve it with some delicious Blue Bell vanilla ice cream — from their creamery an hour outside of Houston, of course — and your meal is complete. 

    While many families choose to make their pies from scratch using long-standing recipes, a number of places have them available for purchase. Reasonable people can disagree on where to get the best pecan pie in the city, but few would doubt these are some of the top contenders:

    Tip: When picking up a Thanksgiving pie from any of the above, be prepared to stand in line. Wait times vary by time of day and proximity to the holiday, but expect to wait upwards of 30 minutes to an hour to get in the door. 

  • 06 of 07

    Get outside.

    Houston weather is typically very mild in November, with average temperatures ranging from 50-70 degrees. After dinner, take advantage of the gorgeous weather, and get outside.

    Despite being one of the largest cities in the country, Houston has many green spaces and outdoor areas to choose from that are great for getting in a little exercise to burn off those holiday calories. Take a walk on one of the many hike and bike trails, or check out a local dog park. Stroll around one of the city's prized parks, such as Memorial Park, Buffalo Bayou or Discovery Green. Or do some quality window shopping in anticipation of Black Friday by walking down Houston Heights' 19th Street vintage shops and storefronts, or along Washington Avenue.  

    After brutal summers where temperatures soar, the cool breezes of November make it irresistible for Houstonians to get outside and moving — regardless of the activity. 

  • 07 of 07

    ... And, of course, don't forget to turn on the game.

    Houston Texans
    ••• Ed Schipul/Flickr

    No Thanksgiving would be complete without watching a little football. The love of the game runs deep in Houston — it is Texas, after all — and three National Football League match-ups in one day is an extra special treat for avid fans. 

    After all, with a football game on, a deep-fried turkey leg in one hand and a hot plate of tamales in the other, it's hard not feel at least a little thankful.