Written by Danielle Taylor | Header photo courtesy of Donnell’s Gift Shop

With the weekend after Thanksgiving being one of the most commercial times of the year, it’s surprising that two major corporations have co-opted that Friday and Saturday for something other than big-box doorbuster sales. However, in the spirit of the season, REI, a nationwide outdoor retailer, has closed its doors every Black Friday since 2015 to encourage its employees and customers to Opt Outside, and American Express has promoted Small Business Saturday since 2010 in an effort to support community entrepreneurs. The Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region has endless opportunities for you to take part in both of these traditions and spend memorable time together with your loved ones as the holiday season begins.

The idea behind Opt Outside is simple: Instead of waking up before the crack of dawn to take advantage of Black Friday sales at the major chains, take the day to go for a hike, explore a park, enjoy a bike ride, or just take the dog on a long walk with the family and friends you’ve gathered with for the Thanksgiving holiday. If you choose to spend this time together in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, you’ll find more than a million acres of woodland to explore here as well as hundreds of miles of trails. Check out tons of intriguing outdoor destinations and adventures you can find across the region.

On Small Business Saturday, take your Christmas list and visit some local shops, such as antique stores, art studios, craft markets, candy stores, gift and souvenir shops, specialty retailers, country general stores, and more. Several local businesses are hosting special events that day, including Stello Foods, Pine Springs Pottery, and The Winery at Wilcox. To simplify your shopping, consider going to the Holiday Extravaganza at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, the Yuletide Memories Winter Festival in Ridgway, or Mistletoe Madness in Punxsutawney, all of which will have multiple retailers with a range of goods for sale under one roof. Also, check out the area’s many wineries, breweries, and distilleries to find high-quality libations that will keep you or that person on your list warm through the winter.

If you’re not exactly sure what your loved ones will like, many stores offer gift certificates so the people you’re buying for can choose their own presents. You won’t miss the crowds and mayhem at the major chains that weekend, and you’ll enjoy the personalized service and one-of-a-kind discoveries you’ll find at these local businesses.

To plan a Thanksgiving weekend getaway in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, start by checking out the wide variety of lodging options here, many of which are owned and run by individual business owners and have plenty of unique charm. Don’t miss these winter lodging specials throughout the region, either for Thanksgiving weekend or a vacation later in the season, perhaps a romantic weekend with your significant other or a mid-winter getaway with the kids. Lodging packages make great gifts!

Learn more and find other interesting places to explore in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to or calling (814) 849-5197.

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