6 Tips for a Fun (and Safe) Thanksgiving

Published on November 25, 2019

In 1619, in Charles City County, Virginia, the first Thanksgiving was held in the United States. Now 400 years later, we celebrate that day as the unofficial start of the holidays.

While Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Thursday and Friday, we want to remind you of all the great ways you can celebrate Thanksgiving week in Arlington. Whether you're traveling or staying locally, these tips will help ensure you have an enjoyable — and safe — Thanksgiving holiday.

1. Careful When Cooking

Did you know that unattended cooking is by far the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths? Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

Fortunately, the Arlington County Fire Department put together a page full of Holiday Cooking Safety tips, including what to do if you have a cooking fire.

Please, don't fry your turkey indoors:


Food handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems that lead to poultry-associated food-borne disease outbreaks in the United States. Follow these four food safety tips to help you safely prepare your next holiday turkey meal.

MORE: Holiday Food Safety Tips

And when the cooking is complete, remember, keep your pipes FOG free.

Fats, oils and grease — FOG — represent the most serious enemy of our sewer lines. When FOG is dumped down the drain, it forms large, thick grease balls that clog pipes. Clogged pipes can result in sewer backups and spills, create environmental problems, cause traffic tie-ups or even flood homes and businesses. Can it, cool it, and then throw it away.

USDA: Thanksgiving Toolkit to Prevent Foodborne Illness

2. Cheer on the Trotters

The Arlington Turkey Trot, now in its 14th year, may be sold out, but cheering on 4,000 of your friends and neighbors can still be a great way to work up an appetite. The 5k road race takes runners through Ashton Heights before finishing near Lyon Park Community Center. 

TRAFFIC ALERT: 14th Annual Turkey Trot 5K

3. Spread Holiday Cheer

For some in Arlington, the holidays represent a particularly difficult time of year. You can help provide comfort, food and some joy in many ways around the County.

Make the holiday season a little happier for some of Arlington's most vulnerable residents by taking part in the Department of Human Services' Secret Santa Program. Donated gift cards from area stores are distributed to more than 1,000 individuals in the community, helping children in foster care, families with low incomes, people with disabilities and seniors with low incomes, and teen parents.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center is a community-based non-profit that provides supplemental groceries to Arlington neighbors in need. Consider making a donation to its Hope Against Hunger Campaign — a gift of just $25 will sponsor a family with a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. You can also help AFAC keep its shelves stocked during the holidays by organizing a food collection through your office, apartment building or community groups. 


Help make the holidays bright for Arlington children in need by donating to the fifth annual Fill the Cruiser Holiday Toy Drive. ACPD is asking community members to donate new, unwrapped toys on Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, at The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City (a cruiser will be located in the food court next to the Christmas tree). Donations will then be distributed by the Police Department throughout the month of December.

4. #shopsmall

While Black Friday certainly is a great incentive to get deals and discounts, Arlington businesses once again encourage customers to try something a little different on Small Business Saturday. In Arlington, small business patrons can #shopsmall while entering for a chance to win prizes, find deals and discover unique local shops by participating in the shopping passport program coordinated by One More Page Books & More.

RELATED: 5 Days of Fun: Celebrate Thanksgiving in Arlington

Made In Arlington is a pop-up market at the Plaza Branch Library in Courthouse that's dedicated to unique things beautiful, wearable and edible, all from innovators and artisans in Arlington. It's open on Thursdays (11 a.m.-2 p.m.), until Dec. 19, and features special Lobby Vendors each Thursday (excluding Thanksgiving Day).

5. Click It or Ticket.

The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel periods of the year. As travelers get ready to hit the roads, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on a high-visibility Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign to work toward reducing the number of fatalities that occur when drivers and passengers fail to buckle up.


6. Stay Safe

Are you planning to leave town over the holidays? Take a moment to review some simple ways you can protect your home while you're away.

And don't forget about your pets — as much as you enjoy Aunt Judith's green bean casserole recipe, it probably shouldn't be shared with Fido. Make sure you're taking precautions to help keep your four-legged friends safe at the holidays.