The holidays are fast approaching, and with them comes family traditions. Between baking cookies, decorating the house and classic holiday movies to watch, we tend to spend a lot of time indoors. Itching to get outside and connect with your family in nature? Here’s a list of ten fun outdoor holiday traditions to enjoy the beauty that nature brings to the holiday season.

1. Turkey Trot

Many cities across the United States hold a race or fun run around Thanksgiving. These fun events usually include something for the whole family, with options for runners, walkers and even kid races! Costumes are encouraged (who doesn’t want to dress their kids up as turkeys?!), and prizes are often given throughout the event for finishers and best costumes. Some families have also created their own “turkey trot” traditions closer to home or on a favorite trail.

We love doing a “turkey trot” (an organized run or just our family trotting around the neighborhood) the morning of Thanksgiving. – Christina from the Snohomish, WA, Branch

2. Outdoor Family Game Time

Growing up, my mother would always kick the kids (and my father if he was trying to “taste-test” the pies) outside while the turkey or ham was cooking on Thanksgiving and other holidays. We played soccer or touch football, or we’d have snowball fights if there was snow on the ground (I grew up in Colorado, so the weather was always unpredictable!). As I grew older, I always looked forward to these family “mini-tournaments,” and it’s one of the things I look forward to the most when we go home for the holidays.

3. #OptOutside for Black Friday

The #OptOutside movement was started by REI in 2015 as a way to move away from the crazy commercialism that occurs on the busiest shopping day of the year, and move toward finding the immense value of spending time outdoors. REI (along with a growing number of businesses) shut their doors on Black Friday and encourage their employees and customers to enjoy the outdoors as opposed to spending their day inside, waiting in lines or rushing from store to store. This mindset has grown into a tradition that many families have adopted, including many of our Hike it Baby families.

The last couple years, we chose to #optoutside for #greenfriday (Black Friday). We love this tradition so much and it’s a great way to burn off all those mashed potatoes and pie! – Vanessa from the San Diego Branch

10 Fun Outdoor Family Holiday Traditions by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it Baby

Opting Outside on Black Friday in Upstate New York

4. Outdoor Holiday Festivities

Holiday festivals and outdoor events seem to happen in abundance in the months of November and December. Many downtown areas hold “Festival of Lights” parades in which the holiday lights are illuminated for the first time during a big celebration. Many zoos have light shows as well, from the “Wildlights” festival at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA to the “Zoolights” Illumination at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida. Checking your local newspaper or social media outlets can keep you up-to-date on all the outdoor holiday festivities happening in your area.

Our local botanical garden does a million bulb walk every year that’s always a hit. Once December rolls around, the lights are drive-through only, but we love to get out in November when you can still walk them! – Melissa from the Hampton Roads, VA, Branch

5. Themed Hike

Themed hikes are fun to do with your local Hike it Baby Branch or with your own family!  Here are a few ideas we have done in my branch:

  • Jingle Bell Hike – Attach bells to the shoes and wrists of children (and yourself!), and parade up and down the trail, making a joyful sound as you go!
  • Candy Cane Hunt – Have someone hang candy canes on low-lying tree branches for kids to find as they walk along the trail (just make sure you adhere to the principles of “leave no trace” and remove any extra candy canes or trash before you head out!).
  • Hot Chocolate Urban Stroll – Who doesn’t love hot chocolate? Stop by your favorite coffee shop for some hot chocolate/cider (or bring some along in a thermos), and walk around, enjoying the holiday decorations and lights in a downtown area near you.

10 Fun Outdoor Family Holiday Traditions by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it Baby

6. Neighborhood Light Walk

What is one thing the holiday season tends to bring out in abundance (besides cheer, of course)? Lights! Taking a walk through your neighborhood or downtown area after sunset to enjoy the colorful and creative light displays is a tradition that many families share. Worried about bringing the kids out in the chilly night air? Dressing in layers and bringing along a favorite warm drink can keep the chill at bay. Hot cocoa/cider, anyone?

7. Stargazing Walk/Hike

Have you ever wondered why the sky appears clearer during colder months? Cold air holds less moisture, which is also why the air is much drier in the winter. Air that is dry is much less hazy compared to moist air, making it the optimal time to stargaze! The best days to stargaze are when the moon is new (totally dark), which will fall on November 23 and December 23 this year. You can bring along a star chart and see how many constellations you can spot along the way!

10 Fun Outdoor Family Holiday Traditions by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it Baby

8. Winter Solstice Hike

The Winter Solstice marks the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of night. It falls on December 21 if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, which also marks the first day of winter. What better way to celebrate the start of a new season than to get outside and experience it firsthand? Check out this article for other fun ways to celebrate the winter solstice along with some craft and book options.

9. Holiday Walk/Hike

Did you know that there are extra health benefits to walking before and/or after a big meal? Walking before a big meal can increase your metabolism and decreases the amount of fats and sugars that accumulate in the blood after a hefty meal. It can also decrease appetite, making you feel full faster, resulting in smaller portions of that yummy turkey, stuffing and pie consumed (and more leftover turkey sandwiches!).  Light or moderate walking following a large meal also increases your metabolism, helping you burn off those mashed potato and pie calories more quickly. You may want to hold off on the marathon right after a large meal though; your body is already exerting a lot of energy trying to digest the colossal mass of food you just consumed!

Last year we worked off our holiday dinner by doing an evening glow-stick walk/hike. It was super fun! –Melissa from the Capital Region Branch

10. New Year’s Day Hike

Many families opt for a hike or other outdoor activity (such as skiing or snowshoeing) on the first day of the year as a way to start the year off right. Growing up, my family would take long walks/hikes on January 1, planning out our “New Year’s Resolutions” and discussing how we plan to make the year a great one. What a wonderful way to kick-start the year!

We have celebrated New Year’s with a “First Day Hike” for the last couple years. I look forward to it immensely! – Ryan from the Central Florida Branch

10 Fun Outdoor Family Holiday Traditions by Rebecca Hosley for Hike it Baby

First Day Hike in the Adirondack Mountains

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Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to create a world where everyone can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of spending time outside. We are focused on creating opportunities and removing barriers to access so families with babies and young children can take their first steps outside. We believe all families have the right to connect with nature, benefit from spending time outdoors and be inspired to a lifelong love of nature. Since its grassroots inception in 2013, Hike it Baby is a growing community of 270,000 families and over 400 volunteer Branch Ambassadors. More information, as well as outdoor engagement events, can be found at, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.


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