Tired of doing the same old thing year after year during Thanksgiving? Can’t take another edition of your mother-in-law’s burnt turkey? Too busy or kitchen illiterate? Hate doing dishes for three hours straight? Want to explore what else to do or eat while maintaining the spirit of this Holiday –and your waistline? Or perhaps you just want to spend time giving back to the community this season? Don´t fret, however you spend Thanksgiving in LA, we’ve got you covered. And of course, we also got something for all shopoholics, discount divas, and fashion queens.

First things first, let´s talk about some shopping ideas. You will be thrilled to know that Los Angeles is the Mecca for shopping malls. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), shopping centers have existed in some form for more than 1,000 years as ancient market squares, bazaars and seaport commercial districts. Today, shopping malls have everything you need, packaged neatly into one destination. From luxury to big box retailers, LA’s shopping malls cater to everyone’s wallets. Glendale Galleria, The Americana at Brand and Citadel Outlets are among popular destinations that invite us to go on shopping sprees –you wish you did forget your credit card at home sometimes, didn’t you? Also, this year Macy’s, Jc Penney, and Kohl’s have announced they will open on Thanksgiving. In the past Walmart, Target, and Kmart have also opened on “Turkey Day”.

Consumer beware: Shopping on Thanksgiving may well be very stressful. Stores will be crowded and people can get quite aggressive fighting for limited items –do yourself a favor and avoid turning your shopping experience into a circus!

An inevitable note about Black Friday… Black Friday is known for its rock-bottom sales, Santa Claus and the kick off to the much-anticipated holiday season. This year will be no different. As families enjoy their delicious turkeys and polish off the last of the pumpkin pie, Black Friday will already be starting. Los Angeles is a leader in Black Friday trends, and this Friday, Nov. 29 will not disappoint shoppers with unheard-of early openings, unique activities and giveaways that will make you drool. Most malls will open at 6AM or 8AM as opposed to their normal 9AM or 10AM time. Some open at 12 midnight….. scary, isn´t it? Personally, we think Black Friday is the worse day to go shopping. Let´s face it, It’s a crazy day. Bargains usually stay on all the way till Christmas, so really no need to brave the crowds (unless you want to and feel more connected to the collective soul by partaking in it). In any case, happy shopping, mall rats!

Let´s move on. Now that we got the shopping out of the way, let´s cover some culinary territory. Thanksgiving in Los Angeles isn’t complete without the centerpiece turkey (though pies and booze don’t hurt). Don’t let anyone call you slacker for not cooking. Instead, our beloved super-food-obsessed American holiday, is the perfect opportunity to explore a new restaurant and cuisine, or perhaps indulge in an old favorite. (Added bonus: No traffic!) With cuisines ranging from Mediterranean to Italian and Chinese to Polish, LA offers a cornucopia of delights that for sure it will strike your fancy. And best of all? No endless piles of dishes to wash.

If you are looking for a different Thanksgiving setting, you can enjoy your Thanksgiving meal amongst fish and sea otters this year at the Aquarium of the Pacific (100 Aquarium Way, at Shoreline Drive). Feast on a traditional Thanksgiving buffet in the Aquarium’s Café Scuba and then explore the views of more than 11,000 animals from the Pacific.

It could also happen that you don´t want to eat out and still would like to enjoy your Thanksgiving at home without having to deal with all the pesky cooking and cleaning. Skip the hassle of preparing your own bird and pick up these main staples, from heritage and vegan turkeys to fowls for lovers of dark meat or white and the best birds for DIY-ers. If you’re thinking of grabbing your Thanksgiving feast out, for an all-American feast of turkey and all the trimmings, some well-known places that offer take-out are Farmshop, Akasha, Huckleberry, Joan’s on Third, Sweet Butter Kitchen, Bouchon Beverly Hills.

But what if you are planning on spending the day with your family at an amusement Park? Relax, you can still  enjoy a Thanksgiving buffet at Mrs. Knotts’ Fried Chicken Restaurant Knott’s Berry Farm; a ticket to Knott’s is not needed to dine there, as it is outside of the park. But, if you wanted to also go to Knott’s amusement park, it is open on Thanksgiving Day and so is Disney Land, however you might not be able to find a Thanksgiving menu there –some young (and not so young) folks would still prefer their nachos and cheese or chicken nuggets anyway.

Perhaps more than any other day of the year, Thanksgiving as celebrated by immigrants and their families shines a bright light on their assimilation process. On this most American of holidays, part of that process involves what to eat. Some families forego the turkey for other traditional holiday foods – tamales, roast pork, kebab, duck, you name it. There are inter-generational battles, with the second and third generations pushing for turkey while the elders would prefer something else. And this is when cross-cultural creativity kicks in, as in “hmm, I’ve got this big, bland-tasting bird to cook. How can I spice it up?” That’s prompted restaurants and delis in some of Los Angeles’ immigrant enclaves to come up with something delicious and truly American: a Thanksgiving turkey dinner adapted to the tastes of their own cultures. For example, customers can order a Mexican Oaxacan-style turkey dinner with all the fixings (don’t count on gravy, there’s chocolatey black mole instead), or a crispy-skinned Chinese-style turkey prepared in a manner similar to Chinese roasted duck.

Thanksgiving also presents and opportunity to give to those who may be less fortunate (and hungrier) by taking advantage of the city’s many volunteer opportunities. Downtown LA’s Midnight Mission is one of the best-run organizations in Los Angeles to feed the needy. Along with regular meal services and food donation drives, the Mission holds special Thanksgiving and Christmas events.

Other events where you can volunteer and give back to the community are:

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Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Tailgate. A Thanksgiving tailgate party? Relive your college years at the new, three-story Pink Taco at 8225 Sunset Blvd., the night before the big day. Play beer pong while listening to a live performance by the Black Crystal Wolf Kids at the restaurant’s rowdy top floor. Proceeds from the event will benefit the American Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

Thanksgiving Day Run & Food Drive. Get your metabolism revved before the feast—and give back to the community—at this 5K run/walk and 1 mile kids run. The Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge hosts this annual benefit at Memorial Park, open to runners, walkers, kids and even pets (on a leash), with live music and games to boot. All participants must register and bring a non-perishable food item to be donated to families in need. Not much of a runner? Volunteer slots are open as well.

Westside Thanksgiving. This heartwarming event taking place at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium truly gives back to the community on Thanksgiving. Volunteers serve up a free traditional turkey dinner not only to the homeless but also to many students, singles, seniors and low-income families. Participants can volunteer by donating food, money or time, helping to serve food or hand out clothing and blankets.

Burbank Community YMCA Turkey Trot. Wake up early (yes, on a holiday) for Burbank YMCA’s (321 E Magnolia Blvd) Turkey Trot, a 5K/10K run/walk. The event draws around 2,500 participants who choose to run, jog, walk or push strollers. The Y is also hosting a costume contest (although we’re not sure what kind of costumes really scream Thanksgiving—expect to find some turkeys running, er, trotting around). Proceeds go to the organization’s membership assistance program, which offers free and affordable access to the YMCA’s services for those in need.

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Dana Point Turkey Trot. Many charities host 5k runs for Thanksgiving, but the Dana Point Turkey Trot at Dana Point Harbor (24921 Dana Point Harbor Drive) is one of the most massive and competitive. Regardless of experience level, everyone is welcome to participate in the run. And the setting couldn’t be more perfect—run by sweeping views of the beach, cliffs and coves of Dana Point. Choose from the 10k, 5k, or a Mission Hospital-sponsored Gobble Wobble 1k kids race. fun by dressing up for the morning’s Thanksgiving costume contest. Proceeds from the day will benefit The Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group.

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Laugh Factory’s 33rd Annual Free Thanksgiving Feast. This uniquely LA event marries comedy and cranberry sauce at four free dinners and comedy shows. Laugh Factory at 8001 W Sunset Boulevard stars Dane Cook, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Nealon, Tim Allen and such as Tom Arnold are scheduled to serve food to guests and treat them to live performances after each of the four meals served that day. The free dinner and show is open to the underprivileged, homeless and lonely—as well as people who just don’t have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving.

Whatever you would like to make out of your Thanksgiving Holiday, just be safe!

By: Jose Luis Garcia