Why spend another Thanksgiving watching football on the sofa and eating the same old turkey when you could be using the long weekend to explore the world? Whether you want to experience the holiday in a different way or laze on a warm beach and forget about it altogether, late November can be a great time to get out of town and try something new.
By the last weekend in November, nearly all of the European Christmas markets are in full swing, but no country goes all out quite like Germany does. Accordingly, Munich has one of the largest in the world, with about 80 markets spread around a city wreathed in holiday lights and decorations. Wrap your hands around a warming cup of hot, spiced gluhwein at one of the many stalls on the Alexanderplatz before exploring the markets adjacent to the square before moving on to the stalls at Gendarmenmarkt.
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In late November, this relatively small city looks more like a wintry fairy-tale town than an international seat of power (Brussels is the capital of both Belgium and the European Union). Follow the crowds to the centrally located Winter Wonderland, complete with about 240 holiday “chalets” selling handicrafts, ornaments, and toothsome treats; a skating rink, large Ferris wheel and all kinds of entertainment round out the fun. Head to Rue de l'Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat to find Brussels’ most beloved attraction, Mannekin-Pis (“little man pee”), a bronze statue that gets hundreds of costume changes each year.
Summers can be furnace-like in Madrid, but Spain’s capital has relatively mild winter weather compared to other major European cities: November highs are typically in the 50s, which makes for comfortable weather to explore El Rastro, the city’s 400-year-old flea market, or stroll the grand square at the heart of the old city, Plaza Mayor. Treat yourself to a meal at the world’s oldest continuously running restaurant, Casa Botín, opened in 1725; Hemingway is said to have been particularly fond of the suckling pig here.
Getting here isn’t seamless, since there are no non-stop flights from the U.S., but Tuscany’s capital (and birthplace of the Renaissance) is nice because it isn’t particularly cold this time of year (highs hover in the mid to high 50s), though it can be rainy. Still, this is a great time to visit Florence because many of the attractions and museums you want to see are inside anyway — Michaelangeo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Palazzo Pitti, to name a few — and there’ll be fewer fellow tourists to jostle with. Late fall is also the season for opera, theater, and classical music concerts that are held in many of the city’s magnificent historic buildings and churches.
This isn’t the time of year to visit for Portugal's beach scene, but Lisbon enjoys the warmest weather of any other major European city in November, when temperatures in the high 60s or low 70s aren’t uncommon. Pack a good pair of walking shoes to explore the hilly cobblestone streets of the city’s Alfama district, and grand plazas in the Baixa district. If the weather is less than cooperative, console yourself with a glass of ginjinha (the local sour-cherry liqueur) and take in some Fado music.
In November, the daytime temperatures in Iceland’s capital aren’t likely to reach 40 degrees, but there’s plenty to do — inside and outdoors — to keep you warm. Reykjavik is known for is its abundant geothermal pools, so don’t pass up a chance for a hot soak; if you have your heart set on the famous Blue Lagoon, be sure to make reservations well in advance. At night, stay warm the way the locals do: at any of the numerous bars and nightclubs, where the action doesn’t start heating up until midnight.
San Miguel de Allende
Artists began flocking to this beautiful Mexican colonial city in the late 1930s, and it continues to draw expats and tourists charmed by the Mexican Baroque, Neoclassical, and Neo-Gothic architecture (most notably the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel), fine restaurants and galleries, classy boutique hotels and B&Bs. That’s not to ignore the pleasant weather: November highs are in the mid-70s. To get to San Miguel de Allende, arrange a ride with a shuttle service beforehand; don’t bother renting a car, there’s nowhere to park and the picturesque cobblestone streets weren’t made for automobiles anyway.
November marks the beginning of the dry season in Mexico, so you can be reasonably assured of less rain, lower humidity, and 80-degree days — all the better for exploring Tulum’s Mayan ruins, pristine beaches, and world-famous cenotes, or sinkholes. Like the rest of the Riviera Maya you can find your typical all-inclusive resort here, but for the best experience, book a stay in one of the bungalows in the beachside “hotel zone,” where the thatch-roofed cabanas lack phones and electricity is limited to a few hours a day.
This international city is everything and anything you want it to be: It’s at the same time cosmopolitan and down-to-earth, cultural yet outdoorsy. Late November will undoubtedly be chilly, but take a cue from Vancouverites and embrace it by strapping on a pair of skis at Grouse Mountain, with its breathtaking views of the city below, or a take a brisk walk along the shores of Stanley Park. Gastown is the city’s oldest neighborhood, and it’s also the most hip; browse its offbeat shops and hip design stores before grabbing dinner at one of the many outstanding restaurants.
You’re likely to experience a little bit of rain on any of the islands in November, but your chances of dry weather improve markedly if you choose destinations on the dry side of the islands, typically in the southern or western regions: Poipu (Kauai), Waikiki (Oahu), Kailua-Kona (the Big Island), and Lahaina or Wailea on Maui. Temperatures are excellent, averaging in the 80s, and there are more hotel deals to be had at this time of year than other seasons. This is a relatively quiet tourist time, so it’s just a matter of finding the island that appeals most to you. And if you have a hankering for some tradition on Thanksgiving Day, you’ll have no problem finding a roast turkey dinner or buffet, because most resort restaurants do offer them.
For the rest of the best places to go on the long Thanksgiving weekend, like the warm (and rain-free) beaches of Grand Cayman, visit Fodor's.