11 Ways to #OptOutside Close to Home this Black Friday


11 Ways to #OptOutside Close to Home this Black Friday

REI’s #OptOutside initiative, piloted in 2015, originated from a desire for its 12,000 employees to enjoy the much needed rest, reconnection, and renewal we all benefit from during the holiday season. As per Adweek, Senior Vice President of REI Ben Steele explained, "Obviously at face value it seems crazy, but it was all about giving our people the day off and inviting others to join us.” The campaign has inspired a ripple effect, with retail businesses, outfitters, and restaurants following suit. The hashtag has been trending on social media since, and inspired the sensibility that we can readily detach from consumerism. It also suggests that we can think of outdoor experiences as a continuum throughout the year, and not as season specific.

However, Thanksgiving is not always the ideal week for a big parks trip. Visiting family or friends informs destination choices, and it can also be an expensive time of year to schedule a major trip. Many stay close to home, saving big trips for other times of the year. We have put together a list of ideas for outside time even when you are on very familiar terrain, and when you might not have a national park, forest, or public land in your backyard.  Some are great family activities, and some work well for small group or solo time.


1. Birdwatch.

Photo by Derek Wright.

Photo by Derek Wright.

The Audubon Society has several free guides available as cell phone apps, and on their site The Birdist’s Rule # 10 is to “Know What Birds Are Doing Each Month.” In October and November, “Rarity season heats up as fall migration cools off. Migrating birds will sometimes make mistakes: getting blown off course by a storm or simply flying off in the wrong direction. Sometimes species found on one coast will show up on the other. And sometimes—some incredible times—birds from other continents will show up in the United States. Birders hunt for these wayward birds with zeal, crunching through the dying grass and falling leaves until it’s too frigid to go out. Though you’re never guaranteed to find anything unusual, late-fall birding is a blast.”

2. Download Maps and Try Orienteering.

You will need a compass, and a map. U.S. Geological Survey maps are available for purchase and or download here. Orienteering USA also has a great site for newbies.

3. Stargaze.

We like the One-Minute Astronomer’s Guide to the Night Sky and Basic Astronomy, and the NASA Night Sky Network Education and Outreach Resources publishes monthly Universe Discovery Guides that you can download in PDF form, with sky features and follow up activities.

4. Structure a Scavenger Hunt.

Build lists of items found in nature for teams and/or youngsters to search for. Especially with kids, consider shapes, textures, color and size when crafting a satisfying list, like a heart shaped leaf, a rock with a coarse or smooth texture or two tones of color…

5. Practice Your Outdoor Photography.

Photo by Derek Wright.

Photo by Derek Wright.

By tomorrow you can read Parks and Points contributor Jim Jones’ list of basics, but in the meantime, this is a good list for practicing iPhone photography, and we also like Contrastly’s tips for staging outdoor portraits.

6. Build and launch a kite.

We purchased a postcard kite on our recent trip to South Carolina to tour Fort Sumter, a great souvenir that encourages you to get right back outside. This link at instructables.com offers some inspiration for kite-making, as do the short series of videos on this page from KiteCompany.

7. Practice a Beginner’s Yoga Sequence.

Why wait on this particular New Year’s resolution; there are many guides to yoga poses for beginner’s online, and if the weather is indeed balmy, yoga is a great, restorative choice for some quality time outside. Iyengar Yoga Source sells a 28 pose guide for $10, and this post from Yoga Journal focuses on yoga poses well suited to the outdoors. This post from Women’s Health also shares some great general tips for getting started.

Photo by Amy Beth Wright.

Photo by Amy Beth Wright.

8. Coasteering.

Coasteering originated in Wales and has increasingly gained popularity in the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, and some parts of the U.S. It is a mixture of hiking, walking, rock climbing, diving, swimming and, in some cases, cliff jumping, to explore a rocky coastline — essentially, navigation of the coast without the use of a water vessel. While the diving and jumping might not be for everyone, we take inspiration from the notion of clambering a rocky coastline, and have enjoyed this in Victoria, Canada, Acadia National Park, and Channel Islands National Park. Conceptually, this feels like an adaptable activity for all intensity levels if you are lucky to live proximal to a rocky shore.

9. Play Games!

When it feels like springtime during in November, consider revisiting badminton, volleyball, croquet, touch football, softball, and baseball. Other ideas include devising an outdoor obstacle course, corn hole, four square, lawn twister, giant Jenga (with cut 2 x 4 pieces of wood or wood blocks), yard dominoes, outdoor Pictionary (affix a giant chalkboard to a fence or patio gate), Capture the Flag, glow in the dark bowling (put glow sticks into ten bottles of water, to play at night!), yard Yahtzee (involves crafting 4 x 4 dice), a hula hoop competition, create a mini-golf course, Frisbee Tic-Tac-Toe (make a grid using painter’s tape and a white shower curtain or blanket, stake to ground).

10. Organize an Off-Season Olympics Competition.

Although its an off year for the Olympics, this is a great activity for a large crowd. Any of the activities in the above games category can be organized to be points earning, as well as track and field events like long jump, high jump, discus (Frisbee) throw, relays, hurdles, and short and middle distance sprints.

11. Visit a state park.

We would be remiss not to share Lifehacker’s great round-up of state parks offering free admission on Black Friday. And, do consider that city and county parks are likely open!