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How to Survive Spending Thanksgiving Alone in Houston

Maybe your family members live too far away for you to visit this year. Maybe your friends abruptly decided to flee the country after the results of last week's election. Maybe trying to navigate Thanksgiving air travel just seemed like too much work. For whatever reason, with the big holiday now less than a week away, it's now inevitable: You're going to be alone on Thanksgiving.

While that prospect may be either depressing or liberating – depending on how many arguments over politics you expect to erupt at the Thanksgiving table – that's no reason to spend the entire day obsessing over football games or binge-watching Netflix. (Though if you want to spend hours parked on your couch, we highly recommend checking out the annual National Dog Show, both for cute dogs and for the handlers who disturbingly resemble their canine charges.) We've come up with a few suggestions about what to do if you're alone this year, both around Houston and beyond it.

Volunteer
This might be one of the more obvious activities, but if you're alone on Thanksgiving, you likely have no excuse not to give your time to a local charity. Many food banks and services don't have volunteering opportunities available on Thanksgiving – for example, Houston Food Bank doesn't offer Thanksgiving shifts, though you can work off your turkey by volunteering on Friday – so your best bet is likely to volunteer for a shift at the City Wide Club of Clubs' “Annual Thanksgiving Big Super Feast,” where thousands of Houstonians receive hot meals as well as essentials such as clothing, household goods and even medical exams. However, according to the City Wide Club of Clubs website, the feast's morning shift is already full, so make sure to sign up online for the afternoon shift as soon as possible.

Start that novel
November marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, an online creative writing project that encourages participants to write 50,000 words worth of a novel between November 1 and November 30. Sure, if you start a novel on November 24, it might be a little tough to finish a book of that size within six days – but you can at least try to get a jump start on that work of fiction you've had simmering in the back of your mind. Plus, at least for the last few days of the month, the NaNoWriMo online forums offer both advice on your novel and chances to gripe with fellow writers.

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Take a daylong road trip
Escape the city with a day trip to Brazos Bend State Park, which is only a little more than 50 miles from Houston and will be open on Thanksgiving. You can set up a picnic version of a Thanksgiving dinner, or take a few hikes to relish the peacefulness of not being surrounded by loud family members demanding to be fed. Or if you're not so into nature, you could take advantage of the great American tradition of bizarre roadside attractions and visit some of Texas's strangest landmarks, from Seguin's statue of “The World's Largest Pecan” to the giant mosaic of the Virgen de Guadalupe that adorns the side of San Antonio's The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (complete with a towering, 3-D votive candle).

Test out a social dining app
Now that you can easily rent cars and even homes from strangers you meet online, it's not so surprising that there are even apps that let you rent out someone's table. Social dining apps, like Feastly and EatWith, let you browse a variety of menus online, pay to reserve a spot at a chef's table and then go to a meal with strangers. You can still eat a Thanksgiving feast and make friends with fellow Thanksgiving loners.

Take in some public art
While most Houston art museums and galleries might be closed on Thanksgiving, you can still see the city's myriad works of public art, from Jaume Plensa's kneeling men of Tolerance along Buffalo Bayou to Sharon Engelstein's bulbous Dillidiidae sculptures in Hermann Park. If you need to temporarily escape reality – or just the many games of family football likely to be played in Houston's outdoor spaces – the Museum District's relaxing Rothko Chapel will remain open. And though the James Turrell Skyspace “Twilight Ephiphany” at Rice University will be closed, you can enjoy Turrell's transformation of the sky into a work of art at around 6 a.m. on Friday morning, just before the weekend's real American holiday gets started: Black Friday.

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