These Thanksgiving party ideas will help you drum up a great party and gather in friends/family together. The Thanksgiving holiday is a day of giving thanks for blessings – big and small, and of course – to feast!
Everywhere you turn during the Thanksgiving holiday you'll probably run into Fall/Autumn and Thanksgiving decorations. There are tons and it may get utterly confusing trying to choose. Save time and start your search at this great Thanksgiving Outlet where you'll find an awesome selection of the very best Thanksgiving and Fall/Autumn items.
Invitations - Thanksgiving Party Ideas
Your Thanksgiving invitations can be in all kinds of Thanksgiving-related shapes - cornucopia, pumpkin, autumn leaves, a turkey, a pilgrim’s hat, scarecrow face, etc. Here are some free printable invitations you can print and send out:
One of those nice Thanksgiving party ideas for invitations is to first gather all kinds of fall leaves from your yard, then – for each invitation – take one leaf and put it in the middle of a small card (white, orange, yellow, crème-colored, or any other light color) and using a fall/autumn-colored spray-paint, lightly spray the leaf and card; then when you remove the leaf, you’ll have a nice outline of a leaf in the front of the card. You can write all the party information inside the leaf.
You can add fall leaves sequins and confetti into the envelope for that last touch.For hand-delivered invitations, you can write all of the party information on miniature pumpkins. Or with raffia attach a small note to the stem of a pumpkin. You can also fold an origami paper ship (Mayflower Ship) and write all of the party information on sails, which you can tape or glue with sticks to the body of the ship.
Where the party information is written, you can encourage people to come dressed as pilgrims and Indians to get more into the Thanksgiving holiday atmosphere. You can also put all kinds of related costumes, pilgrim clothing, Pilgrim Hats, aprons, belts, large white collar shirts, Indian clothing, feather crowns, etc., into a big chest and have people dress up. Here are some homemade Thanksgiving-themed costumes to get inspiration from:
Decorations - Thanksgiving Party Ideas
The colors that fit best with the Thanksgiving theme are oranges, burgundies, crèmes, yellows, golden colors, greens, browns and/or black. You can go with all of these, or choose only a few together.
For tabletop Thanksgiving decorations, you can put a tray filled with bright red cranberries topped with little votive candles.
Napkins can be rolled up and tied with raffia; you can then tuck in a fallen leaf, cinnamon stick or acorn. Place-cards are always fun to have, especially if you have certain sitting preferences. You can take small Indian corn, put in the middle of each plate, and attach a small note with raffia around the corn. Use large autumn leaves as coasters for cups (oak leaves can be great for this as they are tough and durable). Another idea is to use miniature pumpkins instead of place cards – write each name with a permanent marker on each pumpkin.
Disperse as many Thanksgiving related objects as possible, turkeys (toys, stuffed animals, little turkey sculptures, etc.), flowers, pumpkins, squashes, nuts, Indian corn, gourds, apples, pomegranates, popcorn, and candy corn all around the party or dinner area and on tables. Go out for a walk in the woods and bring back natural items that look wonderful when decorating: pinecones, fall leaves, acorns, sticks, twigs, berries, cattails, wheat, branches, etc. You can also use bronze, copper and gold spray paint and dress up plain gourds, acorns, branches, leaves etc.
Check out these free printable Thanksgiving decorations to decorate your party area (can also be used as coloring pages guests can color in while waiting for everyone to arrive):
You can make a nice fall wreath on your own. Start out with a grapevine wreath as the base. These can be bought in many sizes or made by clipped vines (you’ll need to twist the vines together and lay them into a circular shaped container – as a trash can or bucket for several weeks). Once you have the base, lay leaves and garland onto the vine. It is best to use real leaves that have been treated and preserved (they will keep for many years and are available in many varieties and colors). It’s best to use silk garland, which is also available in many lengths and colors.
Then use wire or hot glue to attach leaves and garland to the wreath. Attach them at intervals of 5 inches and cut off the excess. You can add raffia, which can be weaved around the wreath. Also try adding more fall decorations, such as little scarecrow dolls, little birdhouses, dried and fresh flowers, berries, pinecones, clusters of wheat, etc. It’s nice to finish off with paper ribbon (usually sold in rolls), which can be weaved around or attached in certain places in bows.
The backyard or outside area can be decorated with a wagon and/or wheelbarrow filled with hay, pumpkins, etc. (it would be great to take people’s picture sitting on the wagon). There can be haystacks and bales everywhere to sit on. A scarecrow could be made and put in your yard.
Make your own cornucopia centerpiece. You’ll need a cone-shaped cornucopia basket, an assortment of fruits and vegetables (Indian corn, nuts, berries, small pumpkins, squashes, apples, possibly grapes, pears, etc.), raffia, dried fall leaves, wheat, raffia, and other natural fillers, as well as newspaper.
Creating your own cornucopia: Take the newspaper and fill it in your cornucopia basket (so that you won’t need to fill it completely with harvest items – the inside of the cornucopia is not seen). After the newspaper, add a thin layer of raffia and other natural fillers. Place the basket on covered table or tray. Then start filling the basket with the larger fruits and vegetables, and then add the smaller items so that it all spills out onto the table or tray. Then fill in the small spaces with small things like nuts, berries, leaves, etc. You can also use a Pilgrim’s Hat as a centerpiece as part of your Thanksgiving decorations.
It would be nice to group seasonal items on your porch, such as vines weaved around stair posts or fences, twig baskets, potted plants, pumpkins, etc. If you have a fence, you can put a mini pumpkin on each vertical post. It’s also nice to put little pumpkins on each step if you have an outside or inside staircase. You can also decorate with old pilgrim looking objects, such as rusty old farming tools, butter churn, washboard, barrels, etc.
Food and Drink - Thanksgiving Party Ideas
Every household has its own traditions and its own way of setting up the celebration. You might want a much more formal celebration, with elaborate table settings, your very best china, etc.; and you might be the type that doesn’t want to deal with dirty dishes, and rather buy Thanksgiving paper plates. All in all, it doesn’t matter either way, the most important thing is that friends and family take the time to share each other’s company and be thankful about life and it’s moments.
A nice thing to do before you dig into that turkey, is to take a moment for each person around the table to say a sentence starting with “Today, I’m grateful for . . .” It’s very nice to hear people’s thank-yous, especially children who can say the loveliest things.
Also check out these printable Thanksgiving place-cards and napkin-holders to put on tables:
Thanksgiving Party Ideas for Food
- Turkey (of course!!), which can be baked, roasted, smoked, grilled or even fried.
- Stuffing – the stuffing can either be cooked inside or outside the turkey.
- Indian Soup – chicken soup, thick broth with lots of healthy vegetables, carrots, potatoes, etc., corn and cheese.
- Cornbread muffins
- Biscuits/Dinner Rolls
- Cranberry sauce
- A veggie tray – this can include raw carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, red, green, and yellow peppers; all with a few veggie dips (ranch, blue cheese, etc.).
- Sweet Potatoes and squash
- Meat pies
- Hot dips with chips or breads — hot dips such as Spinach-Artichoke or Hot Crab dip with sourdough bread or pita bread will definitely delight your guests.
- Corn on the cob
- Mashed Potatoes
- Green beans or green bean casserole
- For kids, you can make sandwiches using favorite kid ingredients (peanut-butter and jelly, ham and cheese, honey and banana, bologna, etc.). Then with a large turkey cookie-cutter cut out turkey sandwich shapes.
Thanksgiving Party Ideas for Drinks
- Apple cider – it’s great to add cinnamon sticks into this for that special taste and aroma
- Hot chocolate – always a favorite!
- Pumpkin Puree – For this you need a 15-ounce can of solid pack pumpkin puree, one 12-ounce can of frozen apple juice concentrate, an eighth teaspoon of ground nutmeg, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon and two and a half cups of water. To make, remove the pumpkin from the can and freeze for an hour. Then, combine the slightly frozen pumpkin, frozen apple juice concentrate, nutmeg and cinnamon and blend until smooth. While blending, add water to fill the blender.
- Thanksgiving punch – combine a 32-ounce bottle of chilled apple juice, one 12-ounce can of frozen cranberry juice concentrate and one cup of orange juice into a large punch bowl. Stir well, until all has dissolved. Then stir in one and a half liters of ginger ale slowly. The final touch is taking an apple, thinly slicing it, and floating apple slices on top of the thanksgiving punch.
Tip: You can pour Cranberry and Apple juices into ice-cube trays.
Thanksgiving Party Ideas for Party Treats
- Candy corn
- Pumpkin cookies
- Carmel apples
- Cranberry critters – take a log of canned jellied cranberry sauce, and cut thin slices. With Thanksgiving shaped cookie-cutters, cut out shapes from the jellied cranberry sauce. You can do this with red Jell-O instead.
- Fruit-shaped candies, cereal or fruit snacks
Tip: One of the coolest Thanksgiving party ideas is to put some of these party treats in an upside-down pilgrim hat...
Thanksgiving Party Ideas for Desserts and Sweets
- Pumpkin Pie! You can bake a large one or create little mini ones using ready-made mini pie shells.
- Pecan Pie, Cherry Pie, Apple crumb pie – all pies are also Thanksgiving favorites.
- Thanksgiving sugar cookies – This is where kids can decorate their own Thanksgiving cookies. Have a separate table with lots of sugar cookies to cut out and Thanksgiving cookie cutters, such as turkeys, pumpkins, pilgrim hats, scarecrows, etc. Provide with different color sprinkles and frosting, candy corn, etc.
- Cookie Place cards – You can bake little rectangular sugar cookies and with colored frosting or gel write names of party guests on them; decorate as you wish and put each one on each plate.
Homemade Cakes - Thanksgiving Party Ideas
Check out the coolest homemade Thanksgiving cakes submitted by visitors of our site (with step-by-step instructions):
Favors and Thank-You Bags - Thanksgiving Party Ideas
One of the most important Thanksgiving party ideas is to give out Thank-You-Just-Because bags after the Thanksgiving celebration has ended and people are beginning to leave.
For the bags themselves you can take brown paper lunch sacks, cut the tops in a zigzag way (you don’t have to do this, but it can give the bag a little more character). Then, in between the spaces of the zigzag, staple on tissue leaves in autumn colors. You can also attach raffia (knotted into little bows). Then with a green or brown marker, you can write each person’s name on the bag or a big “THANK YOU” as well. Here free printable Thanksgiving Favorbags to print out:
Inside the Thank You bag you can put all kinds of Thanksgiving items, little candy pumpkins, candy corn, Thanksgiving cookies you can wrap with cellophane, little Turkey erasers, pencils, candles, notepads, etc. Here are some free printable Thanksgiving Favor Boxes to print out:
Games and Activities - Thanksgiving Party Ideas
It’s always fun to play games and activities that fit the Thanksgiving theme. We've placed a select few below and, make sure you click over to the Thanksgiving party games section for many Thanksgiving party ideas for games.
- Pumpkin in a pair: Divide the group into pairs (this game is best for teens and adults) and give each pair a small mini pumpkin. The pair then needs to put the mini pumpkin in between their foreheads. Be the leader, or choose a leader (this is the person who will be giving out commands). The leader gives commands like “Squat!” “Jump” “Four steps to the right!” “Four steps to the left!” etc. The pairs need to fulfill these commands without the pumpkin dropping. Whoever achieves this longest, are the winners.
- Gobble, Gobble, Cook Me!: This is a Thanksgiving adaptation of Duck, Duck, Goose. Players sit on the ground in a large circle. One player is chosen as the turkey. The turkey must then select a cook who will try to catch him and roast him for Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey walks around the circle, patting each player lightly on the head and calling each player either "Gobble" or "Cook me!" As long as the turkey says, "Gobble," he or she is safe. When the turkey calls "Cook me!," however, the player tagged must jump up and chase the turkey around the circle. If the cook catches the turkey, the turkey must go sit in the center of the circle (the roasting pot). If the turkey sits in the cook's spot before the cook tags him, the turkey is safe, and the cook becomes the next turkey.
- Turkey Calling Contest: Host a turkey-calling contest, complete with lots of squawking, pecking, wattle shaking and flapping. Give each person a prize with a fun distinction: "cutest turkey", "loudest turkey", "most authentic", "most likely to be spared", etc.
- Word Find: Take a Thanksgiving related word such as: Thanksgiving, Mayflower, Cornucopia, etc. and find as many little words as possible within before the timer runs out.
You'll find many more visitor-submitted games on the Thanksgiving Party Ideas and Games page, including Ring the Pumpkin, Pass the Corn, Gratitude Grab Bag, Turkey Hide & Seek, Mayflower Memory Game, and a whole bunch more.
There are also lots of crafts you can make with your children to keep them busy and while they create Thanksgiving themed crafts that can also be used for decorating. We've written a whole page with lots of Thanksgiving craft ideas to consider, start on this Thanksgiving Crafts page.
We've also put together these general Thanksgiving info sections to inspire you even more: