10 alternatives to Black Friday at the mall

Believe it or not, we actually know people who complete all their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. For those overachievers — and for everyone else who would rather give their wallets a rest on the day after turkey — here are 10 ways to spend that precious Friday in one of the year’s few four-day weekends.

Dave Kynor/Strafford Nordic Center


  • Snow or shine, you can work off some of your Thanksgiving dinner at the 3d annual 5K Turkey Trot Trail Run/Walk at Vermont’s Strafford Nordic Center. When snow blanketed the grounds one year, participants fastened on skis and made it a casual ski race. The course crosses two farms, fields and woods, and includes at least one significant hill. (It’s considered fine form to walk that part.) There’s a Fun Run for kids (about a half-mile) before the Trot kicks off at 11 a.m. A potluck lunch after the run-walk is a chance to schmooze with other participants. Registration is available online or on the morning of the event.

  • 53 Rockbottom Road, Strafford, Vt., 802-765-4309,

Gore Place


  • Thanksgiving will be over, but there are more holidays to come. You might pick up some ideas for entertaining at Gore Place, a landmark Federal period mansion sometimes called the “Monticello of the North.” Governor Christopher Gore and his wife, Rebecca, were the Bay State’s power couple of the early 19th century, and their Waltham home is now a house museum. The Black Friday evening program, called “At Home With the Gores,” includes a detailed look at the mansion focusing on how the Gores celebrated holidays and entertained their friends.

  • 52 Gore St., Waltham, 781-894-2798,

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art


  • In addition to the regular Friday morning Gabrielle Healy Carroll Storytime Program (which features three to five picture books), the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has two plays in the works for Black Friday afternoon. Picture Book Theatre will present “Mister Seahorse,” the saga of a male seahorse who carries his mate’s eggs around the ocean floor, and “A House for Hermit Crab” with puppeteers and eight young dancers from Amherst Ballet in a saga of the difficulty of finding shelter. The stories and costumes are adapted, of course, from Carle’s books.

  • 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, 413-658-1100,

Cannon Mountain


  • Black Friday is the traditional opening day at Cannon Mountain, the Granite State’s highest ski summit at 4,080 feet. The mountain receives an annual snowfall of 160 inches, but even if the skies aren’t forthcoming, the snow guns will be pumping to cover the trails and the lifts will be running for skiers and boarders who just can’t wait for winter to officially arrive.

  • Franconia Notch State Park, 9 Franconia Notch, Franconia, N.H., 603-823-8800,

Brian Wittman/Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center


  • Holiday iconography makes Englishmen in buckle hats the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving holiday, but much of the grub for the 1621 feast came from Native Americans. The Pequots of Connecticut might not have been at the table, but their Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center provides the best picture available of the natural and cultural history of the eastern woodlands at the time of European contact. Dioramas and exhibits depict daily life in Native American settlements and camps. The five-level center is located near the Foxwoods Casino.

  • 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, Conn., 800-411-9671,

Don Treeger/Springfield Museums


  • Black Friday brings the sights and smells of Christmas to the Springfield Museums. A special exhibition of gingerbread houses (and other creations) opens that day, as judges study the spicy edible art shown in a gallery of winter and Christmas-themed backgrounds. Winning creations in “The Magic of Gingerbread” are announced that day. The annual Lighting of the Quadrangle Celebration brightens up the campus and the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden from 5 to 7 p.m. Carol-singing and a performance by the band from Springfield’s High School of Science and Technology launch the season in melodic fashion.

  • 21 Edwards St., Springfield, 413-263-6800,

Charles Bowman/Mass Audubon


  • Folks from off-island may know the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Martha’s Vineyard from its webcam featuring baby barn owls. But the 23d annual Fall Festival on the Friday after Thanksgiving kicks off at 9 a.m. with a real live guided bird walk with island bird specialist Robert Culbert. As the day progresses, count on hay rides, face painting, nature crafts, food, and string-band performances by the Vineyard’s own Flying Elbows. Maria Isaac of New England Reptile and Raptors will be displaying birds of prey and will offer three shows to allow you to get up close and personal with the turkey vultures, osprey, and various owls.

  • 100 Felix Neck Drive, Edgartown, 508-627-4850,

Worcester Art Museum


  • For true contemplation, spend the hour between noon and 1 p.m. at the Worcester Art Museum. Every Friday (Black Friday included), a docent or staff member leads visitors in quiet meditation. The museum selects a different gallery each week; ask at the information desk. After tips on meditating and an introduction to the artwork, visitors are left to their own mantras. “We try to create a Zen atmosphere, keeping the gallery as a quiet space,” says museum spokesperson Monica Elefterion. Drop in for a few minutes or stay for the duration. Bring your own pillow.

  • 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, 508-799-4406,

Billings Farm & Museum


  • Thanksgiving weekend at Billings Farm & Museum harks to the late-19th-century origins of this Vermont “scientific” farm with lots of traditional cooking and old-fashioned cider pressing. The educational program in the Victorian parlor about the evolution of American Thanksgiving traditions is made all the more palatable by a cup of hot cider and a freshly baked treat. Tour the farm on a wagon drawn by a team of draft horses.

  • Route 12, Woodstock, Vt., 802-457-2355,

Sharpe Hill Vineyard


  • The wines made at Sharpe Hill Vineyard in the village of Pomfret in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner present a host of good local drinking options for the holidays, including single varietal Cabernet Franc and St. Croix reds, two styles of chardonnay, and a wonderfully floral dessert wine of late-harvested Vignoles, a grape known for its tropical fruit overtones. Visit on Black Friday for a tasting, and if you reserve ahead, stay for an elegant contemporary American dinner at the winery restaurant.

  • 108 Wade Road, Pomfret, Conn., 860-974-3549,

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at
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