Roanoke Outside’s Thanksgiving Guide to the Great Outdoors

Outdoor adventures for the family over the holidays

Gather ’round, turkey lovers and adventure aficionados! Thanksgiving is upon us, and while some may be contemplating the perfect stuffing recipe or strategically planning their post-feast nap, we’re here to suggest an alternative to the traditional food coma experience (and an excuse to get Uncle Rick out of the house). This Thanksgiving Break, leave the turkey baster behind and opt outside to show your out-of-town visitors that the real feast is in the great outdoors. We’ve cooked up a list of family-friendly spots and activities throughout our Top Adventure Town and beyond to keep your whole crew of settlers (and yourself) entertained all week long.


Female mountain biker riding through the forest with a fellow cycling a few yards behind.

Mountain biking in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Carvins Cove in Roanoke, Virginia.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest some riding! As a Silver-Level Ride Center, there is no shortage of mountain biking trails to hit up! Some quick suggestions for our mountain biking friends are Waid Park, Douthat State Park, Carvins Cove, and Explore Park. Looking for pavement? Check out the greenway system! We’ve got miles of paved trails with businesses along the way to grab a coffee or snack. We’ve pulled together a great guide of all ways to bike in the Roanoke Region here.

Drumstick Dash

Runners racing off the starting line at the Drumstick Dash in Roanoke, VA.

The Drumstick Dash in Roanoke, VA

Are you one of those families that does a 5K on Thanksgiving morning or are you normal? (For the record, the Roanoke Outside Family drumstick dashes, so we’re not here to judge). This activity is great for the whole family, including well behaved, leashed dogs! The Drumstick Dash benefits the Rescue Mission of Roanoke and helps provide 200,000+ meals a year to families in need. Move your feet so others can eat!


winter hike stay warm roanoke

Hiker overlooking the mountains at Grayson Highlands State Park.

One of the greatest features in the Roanoke Region is the ample access to hiking trails. With the Appalachian Trail in our backyard, you can choose from 1000 miles of trails within an hour radius. We’ve got a whole list of trails that covers you from A to V (Alleghany to Vinton, of course)!

Note about McAfee Knob: If you choose to hike McAfee Knob, the parking lot at the trailhead gets crowded very quickly. We suggest taking the McAfee Knob Shuttle instead!

Ice Skating

ice skating roanoke

Elmwood on Ice in Elmwood Park in Roanoke, VA.

Friday, November 24 is opening day for WDBJ’s Elmwood on Ice! This little outdoor rink packs big fun for all ages! You can bring your own skates or rent some for only $2. If you prefer to do your skating on a larger rink (gotta have room for those triple axles, right?), we suggest a visit to Berglund Center in downtown Roanoke or Lancerlot in Vinton. Check their calendars for public skating times!

Disc Golfing

Mayflower Hills best Disc Golf Course

Disc Golf at Mayflower Hills course in Roanoke County

You could sit on the couch and catch up with family, OR you chat it up while playing a round of disc golf! The region has some great courses at Highland Park in the City of Roanoke, Mayflower Hills in Roanoke County, Waid Park in Franklin County, and Greenfield DGC in Botetourt County.


Young girl bouldering on an indoor bouldering wall in Roanoke, Virginia

River Rock Climbing Gym in Roanoke, VA

Before it’s time to pack up and say your goodbye’s, take your guests to River Rock Climbing gym for some pre-road trip exercise. Even if you aren’t belay certified, you can still get your climb on. River Rock has a large bouldering wall (perfect for tiring out the kiddos) and eight auto-belay devices. Afterward, head next door to the Wasena City Taproom for food and drinks.

Small Business Saturday

Or any day you’re here, shop local and support our region’s outdoor infrastructure! Did you lose a disc on your disc golf outing? Grab a replacement (or holiday gift) at Blade Gaming. We also highly recommend checking out the new outdoor gear shop in Franklin County, Rock Outdoors (their grand opening is Friday, November 24). If you’re looking for a sustainable option, Roanoke Mountain Adventures offers used outdoor gear for purchase, and here’s a complete list of all our small-business friends. We recommend you hit them up not only for great gear and equipment, but also local recommendations for trails, fishing spots, and more!

When the full weekend of outdoor shenanigans comes to an end, take a moment to pat yourselves on the back – not just for surviving Aunt Mildred’s questionable turkey recipe but for turning your guests into fearless explorers just like the community members we know and love. As your out-of-town visitors bid farewell, they’ll not only carry back leftovers in their to-go containers, but also a heart full of gratitude for a Thanksgiving Break unlike any other. Be sure to share your outdoor adventures with us by tagging Roanoke Outside on social media, and sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter for all-things-outside in the Roanoke Region.