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An entertaining holiday

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GAME ON Looking for a family activity this Thanksgiving weekend? Host a game night. (Illustration:

Let’s be honest. Football, turkey, and visiting with family – not necessarily in that order – is close to what many of us visualize when we think “holidays.” But here’s the let’s-be-honest part: After a couple of days of togetherness, as wonderful as it (hopefully) is, everyone starts getting a little itchy. And then what?

You can resign to watching happy family time devolve, or you can have some ideas on hand to keep everyone engaged. In a good way.

Here’s our go-to list of engagement.

Play a game

Chris Powers, a graphic designer and fundraiser at The Jung Center, comes from a game-playing family. Every holiday and every get-together culminate in some kind of competition. This is a family who knows their games.

“Our favorite is [the dice game] Farkle,” Chris says. “Anybody can win. We love it.” Bonus: It’s supremely portable. They also like Left Center Right [LCR]. “Everyone puts in $3, and you roll the dice. The money then goes either to your left, in the center to the pot, or to your right. It gets very boisterous, maybe because money’s involved.” If playing for money sounds too serious, try using M&Ms.

“Also Spades,” Chris says. “Oh my gosh, it’s crazy! It can be never-ending, and everyone gets into it.”

Other family games to keep on the radar: Onze, a card game similar to gin, made more challenging with two decks of cards powering 11 hands instead of one; jigsaw puzzles, great because they can be picked up and left alone at whim – keep two running while family is in town to spur a competition; Taboo – the board game that gets loud as team members guess words on a card that can only be described without using the word itself or five other “taboo” words.

Host a movie night (or afternoon)

Galilea Escobedo, a junior at Lamar High School, says, “I love holiday movies!” Galilea’s family usually visits from Spain during the holidays – they’re no strangers to entertaining a crowd.

“I watch Frozen with my mom even outside of the holidays, because it just makes you feel good,” Galilea says. “And I love The Grinch – the one with the actors, not the cartoon – because it gets you in the holiday mood. The colors, the songs, everyone’s cheerful.”

Another favorite: The Holiday. “The one where they switch houses and they fall in love. It’s like the best movie ever. I wish that would happen to me!”

Galilea also suggests The Night Before as a movie to entertain older families (meaning it’s not appropriate for little kids). “The one with Seth Rogen,” she says. “It’s so funny.”

More ideas: Home Alone, Love Actually, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street (either the original 1947 version or the adorable 1994 remake).

Tune in

Admittedly, this one is girly. But Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life has gotten so much play that it’s worth mentioning.

“Netflix is dropping four, 90-minute episodes with all the original cast the day after Thanksgiving,” says pediatrician Lindy McGee. “It’ll be one big Gilmore Girls-watching marathon with my 13-year-old daughter! Normally we decorate for Christmas that day, but I think we’ll put it off one day this year.”

Gilmore Girls aired from 2000 until 2007 and eventually became available to a cultish fan base on Netflix. “Watching together has been a great way to talk about difficult topics with Elizabeth. Sometimes they have values that aren’t consistent with our family values, and they show consequences. But most of the time we’re just laughing together.”

Flee the nest

If you just have to get out (which we all will at some point), Kathryn Rabinow has some out-of-the-ordinary suggestions.

“Do weird and wonderful things when all the major places [museums, Discovery Green skating rink, movie theaters] are crowded,” the photographer and psychologist says. “Walk through the tunnels that connect [the downtown] office buildings, then buy some sweet Greek treats at the Phoenicia. Start a walk or bike ride on Buffalo Bayou at Shepherd and see how far you can go. It’s miles and miles into parts of Houston probably no one has ever been. Explore the campuses of local universities – St. Thomas, HBU, UH, Rice – and go into their art galleries. Visit the smaller museums – Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, The Printing Museum, the Bryan Museum [of Southwestern and Native American art and artifacts] in Galveston.”

And if all else fails, Kathryn suggests letting go of the turkey: “Check out the myriad of pizza and/or hamburger places here. Bring home samples from five or six different places and do taste tests.”

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