There are plenty of reasons you might find yourself in need of a hot meal, a stiff drink and something entertaining to do on Thanksgiving Day.
The fried turkey you were attempting to make in the backyard for the wife and kids, guided solely by YouTube tutorials, went up in flames.
Your mom is breaking new records on the amount of times she has asked about when you plan on getting married and giving her grandchildren, knowing full well you are currently single.
Or maybe you just find yourself thousands of miles from your family, a new face in an unfamiliar town, and you don’t want to spend it at home in front of the television, eating microwave turkey with your cats Oogie Boogie and Jack Skellington.
Whatever the reason, Tucson can provide.
While many local businesses are closed for the holiday, you can still find places to unwind, fill your belly and maybe make a friend or two in the process.
Nothing compares to going to see a movie on Thanksgiving.
It can complement the family experience, taking the kids, partner, in-laws and cousins to the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster after a hearty holiday meal.
It can also serve as the ultimate form of escapism for those who don’t necessarily dig on family gatherings, but still have the day off and want to get out of the house.
Just about all of the national movie theater chain locations in town, including the Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18 at 5455 S. Calle Santa Cruz, Century 20 El Con at 3601 E. Broadway and Galaxy Theatres at 100 S. Houghton Road, will be open for business. As will Tucson’s own independent art house cinema, The Loft, at 3233 E. Speedway.
Open since 2014 and billed as Tucson’s first dine-in theater, in the same vein as Austin's Alamo Drafthouse, RoadHouse has made a significant rebound from the early days of the pandemic, said Scott Cassell, director of operations.
Staffing is back to near-normal levels. Major movies are being released by studios again. And, perhaps most importantly, the customers have returned.
“There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Cassell said.
Cassell expects a decent holiday turnout with the new “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” recently out, and Thanksgiving week premieres of Disney’s “Encanto,” “Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City,” and “House of Gucci,” a biographical crime drama based on the fall of the Gucci family, starring Adam Driver, Jared Leto and Lady Gaga.
The theater enters the holiday season with a new chef and sous chef and an expansive menu that includes sandwiches, salads, pizzas, burgers and desserts, in addition to a full beer, wine and cocktail selection.
Get your tickets and pick your seats ahead of time at roadhousecinemas.com.
Whether you are walking to burn off some Thanksgiving calories or taking a hike to clear your head, nothing says open more than the wide open spaces along the parks and trails that surround the city.
Catalina State Park, 11570 N. Oracle Road, has several trails to choose from, from the 1-mile birding trail to the difficult 11-mile Sutherland Trail, which takes you on a difficult climb into the Coronado National Forest. We recommend the former.
The visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $7 per vehicle of up to four people. Find a list of its trails here.
Saguaro National Park West, 2700 N. Kinney Road, and Saguaro National Park East, 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, and their trail offerings will be open for hiking on Thanksgiving Day, but the visitor centers will be closed. Those javelina window stickers and saguaro emblazoned coffee cup purchases will have to wait for another day. More info can be found here.
In years past, former Arizona Daily Star outdoor reporter Doug Kreutz has recommended the Linda Vista Trail, located east of North Oracle Road on Linda Vista Boulevard as a suitable Thanksgiving weekend hike.
Kreutz described the trail as “easygoing” with “only a bit of uphill here and there” and lush Sonoran desert vegetation on display. You can read more about it on the AllTrails website.
Another Kreutz recommendation: The David Yetman Trail, located at the base of Gates Pass, west of the Tucson Mountains.
Named for former Pima County supervisor David Yetman, the trail is 5.4 miles one way and about 11 miles round trip and takes you through what Kreutz described as a “moderate ramble through a comely expanse of Tucson Mountain Park.” Read more about the trail here.
The time for reserving a full Thanksgiving meal with all of the fixings at one of the many local restaurants offering full dinners this year may have already come and gone.
But there are still options available to you beyond the city’s Denny’s, IHOPs and other chain locations, if you decide last-minute not to cook at home.
Those willing to trade in their turkey and cranberry sauce for some tandoori chicken and lamb curry can opt for Sher-e-Punjab, 853 E. Grant Road, which will be offering its full menu from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
At $24.95, the buffet price at Saffron is a little higher on Thanksgiving, but only because there will be expanded offerings, including more vegetarian options, non-vegetarian options and desserts, said manager Laura Cluff — things like gulab jamun, pastry dumplings made with fresh milk and sweet honey, and gajar halwa, carrot pudding.
Cluff said Saffron staying open on Thanksgiving has become a tradition.
“We try to stay open for the holiday,” she said. “We have some regulars and we want to make sure they have a place to go if they want it.”
Enjoy the subtle sting of Sichuan peppers against your tongue? Jun Dynasty Chinese Restaurant at 2933 E. Grant Road, will be open for business, as will several other regional Chinese restaurants in Tucson, including Brother’s Noodles, 5605 E. Speedway and Fatman Kitchen, 2610 N. First Ave.
There’s also Arizona Beer House, 150 S. Kolb Road, which plans on opening at 4 p.m. and will host two food trucks, Vinny’s Food Trailer, offering New York-style subs, and Cookie Addicts through the evening.
For many Tucson bars, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving tends to be the busiest around the holiday. Some close up on Thanksgiving proper. Others soldier on.
If you think you need a drink or two before your family arrives on the big day, you can head over to The Buffet Bar and Crockpot, 538 E. Ninth St., which is slated to be open its regular hours, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Pam Santangelo and Kevin Breutzmann, owners of The Shelter Cocktail Lounge, at 5144 E. Grant Road, for the last 23 years, will open at 6 p.m. to give folks a chance to spend time with their families, Santangelo said.
But once 6 p.m. rolls around, and people are finished with family time, “they want to go out,” Santangelo said. “We are more than happy to provide a place for them to go. It is a very good business.”
Santangelo said she isn’t sure what to expect this Thanksgiving with COVID still out there and the bar still building back its clientele after being closed from March 2020 until late April 2021 because of the pandemic.
But many of their longtime customers have been showing up to support the Shelter in recent months, she said, ordering drinks amid the vintage kitsch found throughout the bar.
“I know we’ll be busy, I just don’t know how busy,” Santangelo said. “You can never predict in this business.”
Santangelo said The Shelter has been offering killer drink deals to encourage more customers to walk through the door.
“Kevin will make up drinks and price them so reasonable, you can’t help but order one,” Santangelo said. “People have been really responsive.”
Among some of the many other bars set to open on Thanksgiving: Danny’s Baboquivari Lounge, 2910 E. Fort Lowell (opening at 8 p.m.); Che’s Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Ave. (opening at 7 p.m.); The Wooden Nickel Tavern, 1908 S. Country Club Road (opening at 6 p.m.); The Mint, 3540 E. Grant Road (opening at 10 a.m.); and Chicago Bar, 5954 E. Speedway (opening after 5 p.m.).