Five Unconventional Ways To Celebrate Thanksgiving In Pittsburgh

Nov 20, 2015

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude. And family. And gluttony. And falling asleep on the couch in front of a football game.

But before you carve the turkey and eat “just a slice” of five different kinds of pie, there are lots of opportunities to break out of your Thanksgiving routine and do something a little different this year.

  #1: Give Back

It would be impossible to list all the volunteer and donation opportunities in the Pittsburgh region this time of year, but here are a couple that might pique your interest.

North Hills Community Outreach has been running its Thanksgiving on Every Table program for about 25 years. Last year they provided a full Thanksgiving dinner for 600 families in northern Allegheny County, including stuffing, gravy, vegetables, pumpkin pie mix, cranberry sauce and a gift certificate to purchase a turkey.

Communications Director Jennifer Kissel said people can donate a full dinner or individual items at any of NHCO’s five office locations.

“You can bring them in as an individual, or sometimes we have local civic or school groups or congregations that do full collection for us,” she said.

The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh is hosting events all across the region at ten of its locations, providing dinner for residents and local families and activities for kids.

Learn more about YMCA volunteer opportunities at its website. Other volunteer opportunities are at

  #2: Go Vegan

From the people who brought you VegFest comes VegFEAST, an all vegan Thanksgiving celebration on Saturday, Nov. 21. Organizer Leila Sleiman said the event features “everything but the turkey,” including a “veggie roast,” mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and lots of desserts.

Proceeds benefit the activist group Justice for Animals and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

No animation required.
Credit Rex Theater

  #3: Get Political

Braddock Mayor and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate John Fetterman will host Friendsgiving at the Rex Theater on the South Side the night before Thanksgiving. It’s essentially a rock concert and campaign fundraiser; the event’s Facebook page makes no mention of turkey, cranberry sauce, pilgrims or being thankful.

In case you forgot, Fetterman is a dyed-in-the-wool progressive.

“Whether it’s income equality, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s a $15 minimum wage, whether it’s immigration reform, whether it’s marijuana legalization … (or) women’s reproductive rights,” he said.

#4: Breathe Deep

Starting off the day with a little exercise might make you feel a lot better about all the food you’re about to put in your face, so if the Turkey Trot isn’t really your thing, head over to BYS Yoga on the South Side for some morning meditation.

Studio director Kristi Rogers said BYS has been offering the Thanksgiving morning class for a few years now. She said like most yoga studios, they used to be closed on every major holiday, but she found that students still wanted to practice on those days, especially if they were seeing family later in the day. 

  There’s no set price for the donation-based class and proceeds will benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Rogers said yoga and gratitude go hand in hand; one of the purposes of a yoga practice is to create mindfulness.

“When you are grateful you are drawn into the moment,” she said. “You’re less focused on problems -- anything negative that’s going on in your life -- and it allows you to refocus in a positive way.” 

#5: Set Sail

Don’t feel like cooking on Thanksgiving? Want to take your family on a tour of the city while you eat? Spend Thanksgiving on the Gateway Clipper for a “carefree and delicious dinner” featuring all the favorites: roasted turkey, candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy and pumpkin pie.

It’s unclear whether couches and televised football games will be provided to facilitate the traditional after-dinner nap.