(photo credit: downtownpittsburgh.com)

The Thanksgiving holiday season is more than cooking, recipes and football games. There are also charity walks and runs, parades and celebrating the season with family and friends. Opportunities to volunteer at food banks, ministries and homeless shelters make the holidays special, and the diverse Pittsburgh region complements the Thanksgiving celebrations and neighborhood customs perfectly. These are the best ways for families to celebrate the season this year.

PNC YMCA Turkey Trot
PNC Park
115 Federal St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Date: Nov. 22 – 8:30 a.m.
Click here for fees and information

If you’re looking for an invigorating fitness experience to begin the Thanksgiving season, get involved with the annual Turkey Trot, and walk or run in downtown Pittsburgh. The race is divided into categories for awards, but there is an opportunity to volunteer at registration or water breaks along the way. The race offers a chance to participate on a competitive basis or just enjoy a fun walk through the sights, sounds and splendor of Pittsburgh. Family and friends need to register for the event and pick up information material for the race. Participants may obtain an active membership for a discount on all sponsored races to save money on activities, running gear and training.

My Macy’s Holiday Parade
My Macy’s Holiday Committee (WPXI)
4145 Evergreen Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15214
(412) 237-1191

Date: Nov. 24 – 9 a.m.

Families come together in downtown Pittsburgh each year to celebrate the holiday season and observe eight high school bands, dance teams, local celebrities, unique floats, musical selections, a cast of cartoon characters and 80 specialty units. The parade route offers spectators an opportunity to view the performances at several locations in the downtown area. Enjoy the antics of clowns and performers on all types of vehicles while the children of all ages receive treats or balloons as they eagerly await Santa. Performers and media stars display their talents on floats and on the streets with musical selections, novelty acts, dance arrangements and daring peddling maneuvers.

2012 Stick With it Fitness Turkey Trot
North Park
303 Pierce Mill Road
Allison Park, PA 15101

Date: Nov. 22 – 9 a.m.
Click here for details and registration

If you’re looking for a leisurely walk or run over a paved loop at North Park, then this untimed, non-competitive run is for your family. The park offers a glorious scenic adventure, and the seasonal colors make for a fantastic experience to walk with family and friends to benefit the Autism Speaks program. The course is well marked with arrows and the volunteers will direct the runners as they go.

Duquesne Light Light-Up Night
925 Liberty Ave., 4th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 566-4190

Date: Nov. 16 – 5p.m to 10 p.m.; Nov. 17 – evening

Light-Up Night is a tradition that marks the beginning of the holiday season with a dynamic display of lights in the buildings and stores in downtown Pittsburgh. For many years, families have enjoyed the festivities, the official lighting of the well-decorated Christmas tree, and the holiday displays at Macy’s department store. Enjoy musical selections at locations through the event, stop to view ice sculptures, or take an ice skating venture at PPG Place. Other events include Broadway musical and legendary performances on an assortment of stages, and Nov. 17, a carriage ride by candlelight and music from high school bands promises to delight the whole family. Family fun activities are located in Market Square and Fifth Avenue Place. The event will end with a highly anticipated fireworks display that is led by Santa.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
1 N. Linden St.
Duquesne, PA 15110
(412) 460-3663

The Thanksgiving holiday is an outstanding time to volunteer in the Pittsburgh region and donate money and services to help people in need. There are a series of events for children to work at farms to harvest fruits and vegetables, unload trucks and aid senior citizens with groceries. The Fall Food Share programs are sponsored by local radio outlets, scout programs and local Giant Eagle stores. Many organizations that support the Food Bank and Move For Hunger will distribute food goods to collection boxes at the Food Bank. The Pittsburgh Steelers have donated their time to provide turkeys to families in the Pittsburgh area.

Related: Family Guide To Holiday Volunteering

Gateway Clipper Fleet
350 W. Station Square Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 355-7980

Date: Nov. 22 – 3 p.m.to 5:30 p.m.
Price: $40 adults/$16 ages 3 to 12

Jump aboard at the Station Square Dock for a Thanksgiving feast while cruising on the famous Three Rivers. Settle in for a delicious buffet that includes all of the trimmings and lively entertainment. Families may enjoy the food and observe the Pittsburgh skyline while learning about the history and culture of the region. Reservations may be made online for the buffet, but get the package deal to make this an all-around complete Thanksgiving experience.

Related: Favorite Spots To take Visitors

Gerry Cernicky is a retired health and physical education teacher with 36 years of experience. He is a former teacher of the year and a sports writer for the Vandergrift News. He delivers podcasts, and maintains a website and blog. He currently resides in Pittsburgh. His work can be found at Examiner.com.