With Thanksgiving just a day away, you are likely planning your long holiday weekend that we hope is filled with a lot of great food and quality time with the ones you love. We know that gatherings have to look different this year, and if you’re someone who typically got up extra early (or stayed up all night) to participate in Black Friday Shopping, that too has had to change drastically to protect the health of our communities. With all of these new regulations, we cannot think of a better year for your family to start an #OptOutside tradition!

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What is #OptOutside?

In 2015, REI decided not to participate in the madness of Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, and instead decided to promote using the day after Thanksgiving as a day to explore the outdoors – to #optoutside (REI).

How to *Safely* Participate

Well, that’s easy! Find a way – any way – to get outside and enjoy nature, either alone or with a group. REI has created guidelines to follow in order to participate in outdoor recreation this year, both safely and responsibly. They provide the following recommendations:

  1. Know Before You Go: Check the status of the place you want to visit to ensure that it is open and to map out your hiking route.
  2. Plan Ahead: Facilities (i.e., restrooms) are likely closed. Prepare for your trip by packing a lunch, plenty of water, hand sanitizer, etc.
  3. Explore Locally: It is recommended that you limit long-distance travel during this time, and who wants to risk getting caught in a Minnesota snowstorm while far from home?! Instead, visit local parks that you love to explore!
  4. Practice Physical Distancing: Limit your group size to your immediate family or quarantine group and be prepared to respect the space of other explorers by practicing social distancing.

(Source: REI)


Local Options

Once you settle on enjoying nature after Thanksgiving this year, the biggest decision to make is where to go! We are so fortunate to live in a state that has 75 stunning State Parks to visit, and when most Minnesotans have a park within 30-miles of their home, visiting one near to you is a great option for your #OptOutside adventure (DNR). Even better, the Friday after Thanksgiving is one of only four days of the year when you can visit the parks for FREE!

Here is a list of the State Parks that are great options to visit for members of the Greater Mankato Area community:


If visiting a State Park isn’t something you want to do, you can always just take a walk and explore your own neighborhood. Whatever you decide to do, we hope you enjoy it and stay safe and healthy!