Guide to Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City: Events and Activities

To be especially hungry for your Thanksgiving feast, get outside and take in the cold, fresh Utah air. Since the Salt Lake City area, with its neighboring Wasatch Mountain Range, is a hotspot for recreational activities, active families will have many choices. Participate in a turkey trot or hit the nearby ski slopes. And after dinner, to unwind, check out some holiday lighting displays to make your holiday trip to Salt Lake City both inspiring and unforgettable.

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Run the Utah Human Race

Utah Human Race

Utah Food Bank

Ramp up your metabolism for a big Thanksgiving Day spread by burning a few calories for a good cause (while keeping your waistline in check, too). Utah Food Bank's Utah Human Race encourages people to "run with an attitude of gratitude" on Thanksgiving morning. For a quick jaunt, enter the 5K race; or go big and participate in the 10K. With approximately 5,500 participants, this is the state's largest run. Register online and then head to Draper for an early morning start.

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Feast With the Beasts at Hogle Zoo

Hogle Zoo
Hogle Zoo

Leave the cook(s) at home and take your kids to Hogle Zoo to watch zookeepers feed the animals a special Thanksgiving meal. Watch the animals stomp, play with, and dine on pumpkins and turkey-shaped piñatas. Then create free Thanksgiving crafts at the Fresh Market booth and ogle over the giant pumpkins donated by members of the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Association. Top it off with a brisk walk through the zoo to work out any kinks before the Thanksgiving festivities begin. Watch the Zoo Facebook page for this year's details.

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Run the Cottonwood Heights Thanksgiving Day 5K

While Thanksgiving Day "turkey trot" races aren't hard to come by in northern Utah, the one at Cottonwood Heights claims to be the longest "running" Thanksgiving event in the metro area. This low-key, 5K race allows both strollers and dogs, has a 2000 entrant cap, and a participant category for kids. Stay after the race to enjoy awards and refreshments and to win prizes in the runner's raffle. And make sure to register by the deadline and pick up your packet the day before the race.

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Go Skiing and Snowboarding at Local Resorts

The Aerial Tram cable car at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort
VeggieGarden/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Nationwide, many families enjoy a day on the slopes before sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal. And, if Mother Nature cooperates, most Utah ski resorts will be open with plenty of snow.

Take a short day trip to Park City Mountain Resort or enjoy a drive up to Big or Little Cottonwood Canyons to ski or snowboard at Solitude Mountain Resort, Snowbird, or Brighton.

Most resorts offer dining options, as well, including Thanksgiving dinner at three of the Snowbird's onsite restaurants (perfect for those who don't want to cook). A less-crowded option is Alta, an exclusive place to get freshies (skiers only; no snowboarders).  

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Enjoy a Yoga Class

The cook might need a little "time out" while the turkey is in the oven. Luckily, many yoga studios in and around Salt Lake offer morning Thanksgiving classes themed around gratitude and detoxifying. A little bending, stretching, and breathing sets the stage of calmness before the crazy family vibe ignites.

Or, use a yoga class to decompress after a running race or morning ski, then hit the hot tub before the big feed.

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Run the Thankful Half Marathon

The Thankful Half Marathon and 5K and short fun run take place in Lehi, Utah. The race takes runners along the Jordan River in this town which was settled by Mormon pioneers back in 1850. Runners will start and finish at the campus of Mountain Applied Technology College in Lehi, 28 miles south of Salt Lake City. 

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Walk Through the Luminaria

At Thanksgiving Point in Lehi enjoy a short mile walk through a magical holiday world at Ashton Gardens. 6,500 lights blanket the large hill and are programmed to create a moving display of blooming poinsettias, flying reindeer, and symbols of the season. And on top of the 40-foot hill, stand in awe of the lighted 120-foot tree.

There is a Nativity scene, a garden with glowing lanterns, and quiet music in a space with monumental bronze figures depicting scenes of Jesus Christ from the New Testament.

Grab some hot chocolate and sweets from the gift boutique and watch the children enjoy the special activities.

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Wear a Costume and Run

This costume run starts at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning at Thanksgiving Point, 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way in Lehi. Runners are encouraged to dress in traditional or contemporary pilgrim gear (no need to be accurate) or creative Thanksgiving costumes as they make their way through the course filled with pilgrim scenes. Finishers feast on apple cider and pumpkin bars. 

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See the Festival of Lights

After dinner, on Thanksgiving Day, check out the Spanish Fork Festival of Lights. The city of Spanish Fork illuminates Canyon View Park, at 3300 E. Powerhouse Road, on Thanksgiving night. The cost to see the display is $8 per car.

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Drive Through Christmas in Color

These drive-through lighting displays in Provo will keep the family entranced during this mile-long experience located at a beautiful lake. You'll be driving through acres of more than 1.5 million lights synchronized to holiday music you’ll hear on your car radio. There are giant candy canes, snowmen, lighted arches and more.

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Run the Gobbler

Head to St. George for a family-friendly 10K, 5K or Kids' Run. This Thanksgiving Day morning race usually has beautiful weather so you can enjoy some family entertainment at the park. The event opens at 7:00 a.m. with races starting at 8 a.m., and prizes and awards right after you finish.

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Marvel at the Temple Square Lights

The day after Thanksgiving is the time to see the lighting of Temple Square's amazing lighting display. The Christmas lights at Temple Square in Downtown Salt Lake City are unveiled at 5:30 p.m. and continue until January 2. This amazing holiday spectacle is a must-see when in Salt Lake City.

You'll find special events such as the lighting of lanterns, Nativity scenes, carolers and choirs, as well as the opportunity to walk through the magical light displays bringing color to the winter evenings and early mornings. It's one of the best ways to see the famous Salt Lake City Temple Square buildings

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