a woman looking at colorful rugs in Mexico
Admiring the handmade rugs in Oaxaca Valley. | © Marco Bottigelli/ moment/ Getty Images
Admiring the handmade rugs in Oaxaca Valley. | © Marco Bottigelli/ moment/ Getty Images

Escape the Chill with These November Travel Ideas

Where to go if you’re feeling adventurous, and what to watch if you’re already hibernating.

Each month, Next Flight Out forecasts the coolest vacation ideas, can't miss experiences, and hottest seasonal destinations to help you plan your next getaway.

And so we find ourselves in the 11th month, squaring in on a frigid winter. But also, the holidays! Yes, there is much to celebrate this November, be it family, friends, those that came before us, and big ol’ turkeys—or mix it up with delicious Caribbean lobster. And whether you choose to seek out warmer pastures, embrace cold weather activities, or switch on a streaming service and pack on the calories for your impending hibernation, everything is fair game.

Gaze at lights in Thailand, light some diyas for Diwali, see some mind-blowing magic in New York, road trip to Native American Heritage sites, or create an Indigenous-focused itinerary in Oaxaca. Follow in the footsteps of Lizzy McGuire, fuel your adrenaline with a slacklining festival in Moab, or get into sour shenanigans in honor of National Pickle Day (November 14). Hey, we’re just trying to stave off the darkness over here.

Honor loved ones that have passed

Though Halloween and Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, often get conflated, the latter is a deeply poignant and joyful holiday celebrated in Mexico and throughout the diaspora to honor loved ones that have passed. November 1 and 2 are said to be the days when the dead come to join the living, to consume food, drinks like mezcal, and other offerings left for them on ofrendas. And though the day is family-focused and personal, there are plenty of celebrations to join. We’ve put together the best Day of the Dead affairs in the US, from the historic celebrations on Los Angeles’s Olvera Street—said to be the birthplace of the city—to the River Parade in San Antonio.

And if you find yourself in Mexico, we’ve rounded up a list of the best places to celebrate from Mexico City and Oaxaca, to coastal parties in Mazatlán, to Michoacán, which served as inspiration for many of the visuals in the movie Coco, to the incredible Pomuch, a quaint town in Campeche that practices Choo Ba’ak, a Mayan tradition which includes the exhuming and hand-cleaning bones of a person buried for at least three years. A beautiful tradition, but not for the faint of heart.

Bring your favorite television shows and movies to life

Have you checked out our super cool series, Location Scout? It’s like an immersive, behind-the-scenes guide to some of your favorite television and movie filming locations. Learn about the 2000s teen rom-coms that introduced a generation to international travel (Lizzy McGuire, we’re looking at you), read an ode to the vacation episodes on reality television (the best episodes, in our opinion), and learn what happens to a travel destination after it gets the Hollywood treatment.

Plus, check out the real-life locations in The Bear, the Provincetown of Bros, the secrets of NYC’s Horseshoe Bar as seen in Russian Doll, or the Upper West Side history playing out on Only Murders in the Building. Watch, visit, and repeat (but maybe stay on the outside of the Belnord, a.k.a. the Arconia from Only Murders, as it’s a private residence and all).

Create an Indigenous-focused itinerary in Oaxaca

Perhaps when you think about Oaxaca, your mind immediately goes to mezcal. And for good reason: The stuff’s delicious (and dangerous), and with its biodiversity of agave, this Mexican state produces the majority. But Oaxaca has much more to offer, from culinary and artistic traditions to, as our writer poetically puts it, “landscapes that transform from pristine, fine-sand beaches to craggy mountain ranges to vibrant city centers.”

And then there’s the people. Oaxaca is home to one of Mexico’s largest Indigenous communities, but as its population explodes, so has the cost of living. Should you decide to visit, we've hopefully made it easier to support local makers with our Indigenous-focused itinerary, from homey accommodations with an Oaxacan family to regional markets and restaurants to small towns and artist enclaves. Head down for the weeks surrounding Dia de Muertos—Oaxaca is the epicenter of the celebration in Mexico, buzzing for weeks and making it a trip to remember. Or not. Because that mezcal? It runs freely all year long.

Explore a town where West meets West

For a town with a population just shy of 16,500, Pendleton, Oregon sure does make its mark. Not too many lil’ guys can claim their very own whisky, first of all. And you also may recognize the name from the eponymous apparel brand—in town, you can tour the woolen mill they use for their blankets, and buy textiles to keep your fingers and toes warm back home. But most of all, the town is also a unique window into the results of Manifest Destiny, beginning with the famous Pendleton Round-up (slogan: Let ‘er Buck), a spectacle of Western culture held every September that combines cowboy classics like bull riding and roping with Indian Relay Races and a tee-pee village with representatives from the region, including the nearby Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation.

On the Umatilla Reservation, the renowned Tamastslikt Cultural Institute tells the story of the Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Cayuse tribes. Nearby, the Crow's Shadow Institute of the Arts is the only professional print house on an Indian reservation, acting as a hub for Indigenous arts and providing opportunities for Native Americans through artistic development. Later, head to the century-old Hamley and Co. Steakhouse and Saddle Shops. Four years ago, when it was in financial straits, it became the property of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. So now, alongside your cowboy hats and saddles, you’ll see the work of Native American designers for sale, with housemade items making the mission of the town clear: Tags say shoppers are “supporting a Native American owned business, providing for its Tribes, and community members” and “preserving the legend of a brand deeply rooted in the history of the Old West.”

Road trip to a Native American Heritage Site

November is Native American Heritage month, and we’ve got plenty of travel scenarios perfect for exploring Indigenous culture closer to home. First off, hit the road to one of these stunning heritage sites. Some are natural landmarks, like Devils Tower in Wyoming, Antelope Canyon in Arizona, and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, with its preserved cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Others are built tributes, like the show-stopping 50-foot statue of a Native woman named Dignity. You’ll find her in South Dakota.

Explore the Native history and heritage of national parks, and stream events and films on the Native American Heritage Month site. And if you happen to be in San Francisco on November 3 through 11, check out the American Indian Film Festival, with films exploring all aspects of Indigenous culture.

Swap turkey for lobster in the British Virgin Islands

If you get lost in the BVI, you can always identify the island of Anegada (population 333) to situate yourself: While most of the archipelago is volcanic in origin, with mountains and boulders carving silhouettes against the sky, the topography of Anegada’s sprawling 13 square miles lies almost level, built up of limestone and coral.

But go underwater, and it’s a different story—a snorkeler’s delight with explosions of color and numerous nooks and crannies among its 300 shipwrecks, caves, and reefs. And then there’s the shellfish. The spiny lobster, a.k.a. Anegada lobster, is some of the most sought-after and delicious—not to mention priciest—in the Caribbean. They’re held in such high regard that they have their own festival, held November 24 to 26. Swap Thanksgiving turkey for dishes from 10 restaurants in a scavenger hunt-like setting to maximize your island time.

Fuel your adrenaline in Moab

You think you know outdoorsy people, and then you come to Moab. Here, adrenaline junkies gaze at the gorgeous red rock scenery like the rest of us, sure, but then they use it for everything from ATV off-roading to mountain biking to skydiving with gorgeous views. Oh, also hiking. And every Thanksgiving, they converge for slacklining and BASE jumping, as only those with no sense of fear can.

From November 19 through the 23, you’ll find them at the canyon known as the Fruit Bowl for the GGBY (Gobble Gobble Bitches, Yeah) Festival. And if you’ve always been curious, there are over 25 highlines this year for participants of all skill levels. Plus workshops, musical entertainment, and classes on everything from flow arts and aerial activities to waste management and sustainability. There’s also the motherlode of spacenets, a big spider web-like contraption where ropes are strung across poles making, well, a net for people to hang out on. And this one is a sight to behold. Called the Mothership, it’s hand-woven from 14,000 feet of cordage, covers 2,000 square feet, and hangs suspended 400 feet above the ground. Highliners and BASE jumpers both utilize it, but don’t worry—you can just watch from below.

Get lit in Thailand

If you’ve been considering a trip to Thailand, there’s no better time than November. Hop the islands if that’s your style (we get it—for many of us, November is cold), but afterwards, consider heading north. Mountainous Chiang Mai was once a major cultural center, and still retains ancient architecture from its founding seven centuries ago. The seat of the Lanna Kingdom, there are more than 300 temples to explore, plus Doi Inthanon National Park, home to waterfalls, trails, and the highest mountain in Thailand.

And in November, it’s home to not one, but two lunar festivals of lights, which culminate November 8 through 10. They are truly a sight to behold. During Loy Krathong, candlelit banana leaf and flower baskets, or krathong, are released to float down the river, while on Yi Peng, lanterns are raised to the sky in a luminous union of water and air. Anyone can participate, with vendors selling provisions on the streets (though, if you’re looking to reduce environmental impact, you’d probably want to go with a krathong over a lantern).

See things other than a football game in Kansas City

Man, Kansas City is so hot right now, right? We really couldn’t tell you why. Is it the new, shiny airport terminal they just unveiled? All their incredible BBQ? The super fun J. Rieger Co. Distillery with an adult slide inside it? The very cool Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with its powerful stories, the prestigious Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art with its very impractical Claes Oldenburg shuttlecocks, or the Kansas City Current’s highly anticipated soccer stadium, the first ever built solely for a women’s professional team, opening next year?

Maybe it’s the new iteration of the Kansas City Club building, now Hotel Kansas City, a gorgeous throwback featuring The Town Company, an in-house restaurant led by executive chef Johnny Leach (Town, Del Posto, Momofuku) that partners with local vendors to churn out some of the best food in town. Or the late-night haunt Nitehawk, stashed in the hotel’s basement. Maybe it’s Union Station, a storied space once frequented by Al Capone and the historic site of the Kansas City Massacre. (Today, it’s a much tamer go-to for events, especially around Christmas time.) Or the Kansas City Zoo & Aquarium’s GloWild evening lantern festival, a one-mile route of glowing sculptures, on through the end of December. Nope, we couldn’t tell you. But Kansas City does sound like a lot of fun, right?

Believe in magic in New York

In New York, they’re taking to the streets, kicking things off with the New York City Marathon on November 5. Grab a bagel and a coffee and pick a spot along the five-borough route to cheer on participants. Make it a New York month and stick around for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Whether or not you celebrate the holiday, the gigantic—and sometimes unwieldy—cartoon characters floating their way through Gotham are always amusing.

By the end of the month, Christmas decorations will have started to add glitter to the city’s storefronts. To really capture the holiday magic, pick up some tickets to the Rockettes at Radio City or Balanchine’s Nutcracker at Lincoln Center before those prices start to skyrocket.

But if you’re less into seasonal magic than actual magic, you're in luck. The city is witnessing a prestidigitation renaissance these days. Stop by Don’t Blink, a conjuring shop in midtown that happens to be about a 15 minute walk to Tannen’s, the oldest magic shop in America. Head to Bushwick and combine tricks with burlesque—and plenty of booze—at Company XIV’s Cocktail Magique. Pair cocktails with sleight of hand at Great Jones Distilling Co.’s fantastic Magic: Distilled, mix your wizardry with immersive entertainment at Speakeasy Magick at the McKittrick Hotel (home of Sleep No More), or dress to the nines for Steve Cohen’s Chamber Magic at Lotte New York Palace, which recently celebrated 600 shows. Cohen does this one trick where he asks you to think of your favorite drink and then he somehow pours it out of a kettle. If you can figure out how he does it, please let us know—we have some ideas about how to put it to use.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer. She will gladly swap turkey for lobster, any time of year.