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For a less hectic Black Friday, #OptOutside

Outdoors in the Highland Lakes

Robyn Richter checks the trees in Marble Falls' Johnson Park for birds during a recent outing. On Black Friday, November 29, some organizations are encouraging people to #OptOutside, even just taking a walk in the park between shopping excursions. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

If the mad rush of Black Friday doesn’t appeal to you, opt for a more peaceful outing November 29.

“All those things with Black Friday, it gets crazy,” said Lynette Holtz of Candlelight Ranch and a member of the Friends of Balcones National Wildlife Refuge. “A few years ago, REI started #OptOutside, you know, to encourage people to just get outside instead of rushing around and shopping.”

This is the fifth year for #OptOutside, and the idea has taken hold across the country.

“For a lot of people, they’re around family on Thanksgiving, so getting outside is a great family thing to do on Friday,” Holtz said. “It’s great for making memories and just spending time with family.”

Holz is leading a Friday hike at the refuge’s Doeskin Ranch, 10654 FM 1174 between Ranch Road 1431 and Bertram. It’s from 9:30 a.m.-noon. You can either take a relatively easy half-mile jaunt or a more challenging 2.2-mile hike to a plateau. It’s a great view, Holz promised.

Also on Friday, Pedernales Falls State Park, 2585 Park Road 6026 east of Johnson City, is holding its Thanksgiving Recovery Hike from 1-3 p.m.

Holz also likes Johnson Park in Marble Falls and Inks Lake State Park in Hoover’s Valley for an outdoor excursion.

You don’t have to participate in an organized event to celebrate #OptOutside. Take a short bird-spotting walk, recommended Kay Zagst, a Highland Lakes birding enthusiast. You can make it a contest among family or friends.

If you can’t tell an American robin from a kestrel, Zagst pointed out a couple of helpful apps: Merlin Bird ID and eBird. Enter the basic description of the bird, your general location, and a few other tidbits, and the app will narrow the possibilities.

“It’s a really fun way for kids to get interested in birds,” she said.

If you are shopping on Friday, consider taking a short break at a city park or on a playground with the kids, Holtz said. Or, try something new like disc golf. It’s free on a handful of Highland Lakes courses. You just need the discs.

“The thing is just get outside,” Holtz said. “There is so much research that shows that being outside is so beneficial for you. And, especially today, where kids spend so much time on screens, getting outdoors is pretty important. You can use Black Friday as an excuse to get them outside instead of indoors on their devices or even shopping.”

Other #OptOutside ideas are:

  • take a bike ride
  • play a game of football
  • go fishing
  • rake leaves into a big pile and then jump into them
  • go for a walk around your neighborhood and have kids count the different trees
  • try geocaching, which combines technology and outdoors
  • have a picnic

For even more ideas, check out the What to do Outdoors and Where to Play guides at