Today is Thanksgiving  – a favored holiday for many Americans, particularly those who enjoy stuffing their faces among family and friends. For instance, my husband, Dan, and I will soon be headed to my father's house, where, besides roasted turkey, pecan pie, and other Thanksgiving staples, we'll be happily noshing on our own humble contributions: stuffed mushrooms, Cajun seafood dip, and a pumpkin dark chocolate tart.
Of course, Thanksgiving isn't the only well-known day occurring this week. Unabashed consumers are especially looking forward to Black Friday  and Cyber Monday , two modern marketing holidays heavily promoted by oodles of stores, from Best Buy to Walmart. But, amid the pre-Christmas, capitalistic overload, don't forget about Small Business Saturday  on November 24th, a day dedicated to “shopping small” nationwide. Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday was intended to enhance the exposure for small businesses during one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. For last year's event, more than 100 million people supposedly emerged to patronize small, independently-owned businesses across the nation, from art galleries to cigar shops to coffeehouses, and with any luck, the numbers will be higher this year. After all, it's never a bad thing to support small businesses, which often provide local goods and services, invigorate the economy, and keep communities thriving – as evidenced by this colorful infographic . Of course, the friendly conversations and helpful travel tips you often encounter in a small, local business are also worth venturing inside.
As you'll notice on the website, a slew of small establishments are participating in this year's Small Business Saturday, including two of my favorite places in northern Michigan: American Spoon Foods  (230 E. Front St., Traverse City) and Cherry Republic  (6026 S. Lake St., Glen Arbor), both of which offer locally produced goods, from pumpkin seed salsa to chocolate-covered cherries. Yum-my! But, of course, it doesn't matter if a particular joint isn't an official part of the program. The point is to shop at, dine in, or patronize any small business, wherever you happen to be this Saturday – whether you're visiting your hometown or exploring a new city for the first time.
Beyond savoring all-American vittles and taking advantage of special shopping days, though, Thanksgiving week is also a time of gratitude and charity. So, be sure to embrace Giving Tuesday  on November 27th, the national day for giving back to causes all around the world. Of course, America's uncertain economy might make it difficult for you to make a donation to your favorite cause this year, but fortunately, I just heard about an alternative that might still enable you to help. Each time you search the Internet via Goodsearch.com , use Goodshop.com  to shop at one of more than 2,500 participating stores, or dine at more than 10,000 Gooddining.com  restaurants around the country, a small donation (or percentage of the purchase price) will be applied to your favorite school, charity, or cause. Apparently, more than 108,000 local and national nonprofit organizations have used these three websites to raise millions of dollars toward their varied causes, from education to animal welfare, but naturally, help is always needed.
No matter how you plan to spend this holiday week, though, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below, contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com, or connect with me on Facebook  and Twitter .
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of the Cherry Republic  courtesy of Daniel Martone / Text © 2012 Laura Martone