5 Virtual Ways to Have Safe and Geeky Fun Over the Thanksgiving Holiday

A Sasquatch statue dressed as a pilgrim with a face mask is spotted in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
A Sasquatch statue dressed as a pilgrim with a face mask is spotted in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Photo: Mark Makela (Getty Images)

For millions of people, Thanksgiving is going to look a little different this year. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, I’ve chosen to stay home instead of traveling for the holiday and interact with my family over video. But it doesn’t just have to be making an awkward toast to “These Strange Times” before sitting down to a smaller-than-normal meal—there are ways to get fun, creative, and nerdy virtually.

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Here are a few suggestions for geeky activities to do with family and friends during this Thanksgiving holiday (or through December, really). They are (mostly) family-friendly, meaning everyone from the smallest kid to the more senior of citizens can participate (with a little coaching in digital fluency, of course). If you have any other ones you’re trying out with your family and friends, be sure to leave them in the comments! I hope each and every one of you are having a safe and covid-free season.


Felicia Day guest-judges some treats in an episode of Netflix’s Nailed It!
Felicia Day guest-judges some treats in an episode of Netflix’s Nailed It!
Image: Netflix

Baking Competition

Anyone who read my sourdough interview will know that my sister Christine loves to bake, and it’s a habit that’s running in the family. One of my nephew Mateo’s favorite shows is Netflix’s Nailed It, and it’s inspired him to take up baking himself. They’ve participated in a couple Nailed It At Home competitions, which feature kits for cakes and treats from movies like Netflix’s animated feature Over the Moon. Sadly, there aren’t any open slots for December’s competition, so instead we’re gonna try doing a virtual baking competition between households this holiday season (since I’m a horrible baker, I figured my competitive skills will be on par with a 4-year-old child).

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The process is simple: You get your ingredients ready, turn on your web camera, and get to baking! As far as what to make, there are a lot of ways to go about doing this—especially for folks wanting to keep it nerdy. You can find a mutually interesting recipe online—like this one for French macarons, which can easily be turned into Baby Yoda’s favorite treats for a lot less than $50. Nerdy Nummies founder Rosanna Pansino also has a bunch of free recipes on her website with varying degrees of skill. You can also buy baking kits online! Poppikit has a bunch of great ones, including kits designed for kids...and people named Beth Elderkin. Still a bit too tough? Can’t go wrong with a gingerbread house.

That’s quite a family reunion.
That’s quite a family reunion.
Image: InnerSloth
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Family Game of Among Us

Among Us is the latest video game obsession, becoming a staple on Twitch over the past month or so. One of the reasons it’s so great is because not only can you play it from your mobile device...it’s also cross-platform! That means everybody has a chance to give it a try together. Any folks looking for a fun family activity can give it a try, figuring out who among them are really good at doing tasks, making murders happen, or lying their socks off.

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There are plenty of other fantastic games you can play virtually with family and friends (we’ve got some selections here), but don’t discount a good betrayal in space. Among Us is one to add to the pile this holiday season.

Get ‘Creative’ with Turkey Hand Art

It’s the tried-and-true Thanksgiving holiday crafts tradition, where you trace your hand and turn it into a turkey. If you’re looking to have a little arts and crafts time with your family members, you can’t go wrong with this project. But who said Turkey Hand Art had to be boring? My suggestion? Get a little weird with it. Turn your turkey into the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. Pretend it’s Baby Yoda’s first art project and give it a decidedly Star Wars look. Maybe draw it as an alien Face Hugger—though you might not be able to show that one to the kids. Not only will it make an activity that you stopped doing decades ago a bit more entertaining...you might get an extra chuckle out of the little ones. Kids love funny shit.

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The Red Titan from Ryan’s World balloon for the 94th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which will be driven by tractors instead of walked.
The Red Titan from Ryan’s World balloon for the 94th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which will be driven by tractors instead of walked.
Photo: Eugene Gologursky for Macy’s (Getty Images)

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Bingo

This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is going to be weird. Not only will there be no actual parade. The organizers are limiting the location to a few square blocks around the Macy’s department store but it’s going to be missing marching bands, kids, and so many other things that make it one of the holiday staples of the year. Since we’ll be watching from home, I thought it might be fun to organize some family or friends bingo sheets for all the normal (and abnormal) things you can expect from this year’s parade. Things like: a sadly deflating balloon, the awkwardly lip-synced musical number, or even a cameo from another NYC parade staple like the Coney Island USA Mermaid parade. It’s a fun and unique way to feel like you’re in the same room.

Virtual Escape Room

It doesn’t matter if you’re a gaming novice or expert: People love a good puzzle game. Luckily, there are a lot of escape groups that have been brought to the virtual world—some of which are even free! For folks wanting something that’s in-depth and organized, there are several companies like Mystery Escape Room that offer virtual packages for pretty reasonable rates (there’s a new one centered around the story of Scrooge that looks like fun). There are also some free digital escape rooms that have been made in Google Forms and other places, like the ones here and here.

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All you have to do is turn on your web camera and, through screen sharing, get working on solving the mystery. It’s something you can easily bring a large number of folks together to do since it’s about collaborating together instead of competing. That way if someone feels a little lost, the others can help them out. I’m not saying that would be me, but I’m not saying it wouldn’t be either.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

DISCUSSION

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lightninglouie

Quick reminder: MST3K’s annual Turkey Day Marathon is running all day today, on multiple venues. There’s even all-new interstitial material from Joel and the gang, if you’re not sure you can take Mitchell one more time.