Guide to Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City: Events and Activities

Thanksgiving season in Salt Lake City delivers plenty of fun activities for visitors and locals alike. To build an appetite for your Thanksgiving feast, get outside and take in the cold, fresh Utah air. With its neighboring Wasatch Mountain Range, the Salt Lake City area is a hot spot for recreational activities. Active families will have many choices. Participate in a turkey trot, run the Utah Human Race, or hit the nearby ski slopes. After dinner, unwind by checking 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 one of the state's largest runs. 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

Ditch the kitchen and take your kids to Hogle Zoo to watch zookeepers feed the animals a special Thanksgiving meal. See the animals stomp, play with, and dine on pumpkins and turkey-shaped piñatas. Then create free Thanksgiving crafts 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 Hogle 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 SLC metro area. This low-key, 5K race allows both strollers and dogs, caps entrants at 2,000, and has a participant category for kids. Stay after the race to enjoy awards and refreshments and to win prizes in the runner's raffle. 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

A day on the slopes makes a great family outing 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 four 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 lay fresh tracks (skiers only; no snowboarders).  

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Enjoy a Yoga Class

The cook might need a little downtime 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 busy 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, 10K, 5K and short fun run take place in Lehi, Utah. The race takes runners along the Jordan River in this town which was incorporated by Mormon pioneers back in 1852. Runners will start and finish at the campus of Mountain Applied Technology College in Lehi, 28 miles south of Salt Lake City. Make sure to register in advance of race day.

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Walk Through the Luminaria

At Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, take a short mile-long stroll 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 savor the seasonal space.

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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 Thanksgiving Day dinner, 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

The drive-through lighting displays of Christmas in Color 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. Giant candy canes, snowmen and lighted arches complete the scene.

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Run the Gobbler

Head to St. George for a family-friendly 10K, 5K or 1K 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 on Nov. 29, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. and continue until Dec. 31, 2019. 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. This is one of the best ways to see the famous Salt Lake City Temple Square buildings.

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