mesa verde national park
Mesa Verde National Park | Don Mammoser/Shutterstock
Mesa Verde National Park | Don Mammoser/Shutterstock

Dig Deep with These November Travel Ideas

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

And so we find ourselves in the 11th month, squaring in on the slide towards 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.

Seek adventure on a tiny island, get creative in Denver, or keep Spooky Season alive in Philadelphia (the ghosts basically hang out there year-round). We’ve got filming locations to pretend you’re in the movies and trip ideas that pay homage to Native American Heritage Month. You could gaze at lights in Thailand, see some burlesque magic in New York, or get into shenanigans for National Pickle Day. Hey, we’re just trying to stave off the darkness over here.

Swap turkey for lobster in the British Virgin Islands

If you get lost in the BVI archipelago, you can always identify the island of Anegada (population 333) to situate yourself: While most of the BVI 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, AKA Anegada lobster, is some of the most sought after, delicious—and pricey—in the Caribbean. They’re held in such high regard that they have their own festival, held November 25 to 27, celebrating its 10th anniversary. Swap Thanksgiving turkey for dishes from 10 restaurants in a scavenger hunt-like setting to maximize seeing the island. (Think dishes like Lobster Fritters and Lobster Thermidor, plus a bar crawl to wash it all down.)

And though it’s the yachting capital of the world, there’s no need to bring your own ride. Ferries and charter boats run throughout the islands, all the better to hop over to eye-popping national parks that look like Joshua Tree on the ocean along with luxury hotels once the domain of a real-life pirate.

Find your inner adventurer in Bonaire

November is typically a month for stuffing yourself sedentary, but for those seeking a bit more action, the tiny southern Caribbean island of Bonaire beckons. The “B” in the ABC islands (the other two are Aruba and Curaçao), here, the goal is to avoid the indoors entirely. And maybe jump off a cliff or two.

The Dutch municipality is especially attractive for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts, fully surrounded by a protected marine national park and regarded as the shore diving capital of the world. For more terrestrial activity, 20% of the island is covered with another, gorgeous and diverse national park. Then there’s the caving, kite surfing, windsurfing, fishing, and anything else you can think of doing in or on the water. And if you’d rather just kick back and relax on a private beach, there’s that, too.

Or, you can always go fast on land. With its surplus of wind, Bonaire is the land sailing capital of the Caribbean. At Bonaire Landsailing Adventures, you can try out the New Zealand-designed Blokart. No experience is necessary, just be aware that you might have to slow down for an iguana or two crossing the track.

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 is the Mexican state that produces the majority. But Oaxaca also 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 its people. Oaxaca is home to one of Mexico’s largest Indigenous communities, but as its population explodes, so has the cost of living. Gentrification is causing many native Oaxacans to move out and make a life elsewhere, while those that remain have difficulty shining a light on their businesses and attracting the attention of English-speaking tourists.

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 Los Muertos—Oaxaca is the epicenter of the celebration in Mexico, buzzing for weeks and making it a trip to remember. Or not. Because that (dangerous) mezcal? It runs freely all year-long.

Road trip to a Native American heritage site

November’s 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. While you're there, stop by the online exhibition Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces, and learn why the title maybe isn’t as contradictory as it seems.

And if you happen to be in San Francisco November 4 through 12, check out the American Indian Film Festival, back IRL this year with films exploring all aspects of Indigenous culture. Like Good Fire, which follows the practice of the North Fork Mono Tribe using fire to restore Central Valley land, and My Indian Name, a documentary that examines how the stripping of traditional names has impacted Indigenous peoples.

Dive into your favorite television shows and movies

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 Provincetown of Bros, the secrets of NYC’s Horseshoe Bar as seen in Russian Doll, or the Upper West Side history prominent in Only Murders in the Building. Watch, visit, and repeat (but maybe stay on the outside of the Belnord, AKA the Arconia from Only Murders, it being a private residence and all).

Then brush up on your ‘90s video store nostalgia with a visit to the last Blockbuster on earth in Bend, Oregon, complete with all the popcorn ceilings and popcorn smells you remember. This month, you can compare it to the new series Blockbuster, streaming November 3, somewhat ironically, on Netflix. It’s about a fictional last Blockbuster, one where employees include Randall Park and Melissa Fumero. We’re sure they’re fine, but they’re no Sandi Harding, the beloved manager and beating heart of the real store in Oregon. (If you see her, tell her we miss her.)

Make a big dill out of National Pickle Day

Do you start drooling at the thought of a crunchy cornichon? Is a sandwich not a sandwich unless there’s a dill on the side? Then you should start making plans for National Pickle Day, this November 14. Or better yet, celebrate all month long.

Swing by the Pickle Barrel Museum in Grand Marais, Michigan for a photo-op. It was built in 1926 as a whimsical summer home for cartoonist William Donahey, and formerly sat on the shore of Sable Lake. Now it’s on a street corner for all to admire, and was even given a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

And if you’re anywhere near Ft. Worth, Texas, lucky you: There, the Best Maid Pickle Emporium is open for business. Get your locally made hot, sour, and spicy pickles; your dill chips, relish, and mustard; and all the pickle swag you can imagine. Try beer-infused pickles and sour pickle beer (which, frankly, sounds incredible). No word on whether they’re doing anything for National Pickle Day, but it can’t hurt to stop in and see.

Keep Spooky Season going in Philadelphia

Halloween might be over come November 1, but there are still murder mystery parties to attend, klown museums to visit, ghostly hotels, ghost towns, and even ghostly national parks to swing through. But the most supernatural city might be Philadelphia, where there’s so many lost souls and macabre lore that haunted tours are held year-round. For that, try Grim Philly, led by historians with a flair for storytelling. And don’t forget that Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary run straight through November 12.

And though there’s nothing paranormal about the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, their skull collection (for educational purposes, obviously) and specimens of medical oddities might just give you the chills. What’s more, they’ve declared 2022 the Year of the Dracula in honor of the 125th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel. Stop by for a coffin-shaped display with real vampire-killing tools and information about the vampiric signs in corpses that led to the myth’s creation. And though technically the #YearofDracula ends in 2023, events go through March of next year, so keep an eye out for those.

A tip: Both the Eastern State Penitentiary’s daytime tours and some Grim Philly tours are included in the offerings of the Philadelphia Go City app, so you can easily make a sightseeing trip of it.

Pack your hiking boots and set out for Bhutan

Have you heard? After an extended shutdown, the country of Bhutan is back open for business. And with it, the storied Trans-Bhutan trail. Gone into disuse 60 years ago, the 250-mile artery traversing east to west was once used as Buddhist pilgrimage route for religious leaders, a meeting place for leaders, and a battle trail for soldiers. It was also the area’s sole means of communication.

Today, it’s been reborn as a trail, one of the hardest in the world, they say, going past 400 cultural sites, over 18 reconstructed bridges, and up 10,000 restored steps. You’ll marvel at grand Dzongs, navigate narrow mountain passes, navigate rice paddies, and climb through thick wilderness. If you decide to do it all at once, it would take you 30 days, sleeping either in farmstays or camping in designated areas along the way. But more than likely, you’d be picking a chunk to explore. Either way, you’d be accompanied by a trained guide, a national requirement.

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 also over 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. Or you can just watch from the sidelines).

Celebrate the arts in Denver

The Mile High City might be synonymous with the outdoors, but this November, it’ll give visitors plenty of reasons to stay inside. The first city to legalize recreational cannabis knows a thing or two about escaping reality—and that includes the annual Denver Arts Week (November 4–12), which takes over galleries, museums, and performing arts venues with over 300 events. Over at the Denver Art Museum—whose buildings are exquisite in themselves—the Georgia O’Keefe, Photographer exhibit, showcasing a different artistic side of the modernist master, closes November 6.

Denver might also be first in the country when it comes to unique immersive experiences. From the trippy International Church of Cannabis—whose outer façade features the poppy work of Kenny Scharf—to the historic and haunted selfie museum, Marijuana Mansion (we’re sensing a theme here), to the massive and high-concept Convergence Station, the latest in the Meow Wolf repertoire, opened earlier this year, art here is not just observed, but experienced.

That creative drive even extends to food establishments. Keep an eye out for the much-loved Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita, she of the sopapillas and indoor cliff divers, which was purchased a year ago by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker (and also featured prominently in a South Park episode). It’s currently closed for renovations, but promises to soon reopen campier than ever. Until then, discover another bit of Denver history with The Bright Lights of Denver, a set of four, 30-minute podcasts produced by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which combines storytelling with true-crime and an optional citywide scavenger hunt.

Believe in magic in New York

In New York, they’re taking to the streets this month, kicking things off with the New York City Marathon on November 6. Grab a bagel and a coffee and pick a spot along the five-borough route to cheer on runners and clock any silly costumes. (And if you can’t make it in person, don’t worry—it’ll be broadcast on ABC affiliates and ESPN2).

If you can, stick around for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at the end of the month. Whether or not you celebrate the holiday, it’s always amusing to see gigantic—and sometimes unwieldy—cartoon characters floating their way through Gotham. (A warning to all parents or anyone else who’s had to endure the song on repeat: This year, there’s a new 18-foot Baby Shark balloon, complete with its own seascape, so plan accordingly.)

Also by the end of the month, Christmas decorations will have started to add glitter to the city’s many storefronts.Make sure to schedule a stroll down Fifth Avenue to take it all in. And to really capture the magic, pick up some tickets to the Rockettes at Radio City or Balanchine’s Nutcracker at Lincoln Center before those prices start to skyrocket.

Less into seasonal magic than actual magic? Stop by Don’t Blink, a conjuring shop which recently opened in midtown (it just so happens to be about a 15 minute walk to Tannen’s, the oldest magic shop in America). Then head to Bushwick and combine tricks with burlesque—and plenty of booze—at Company XIV’s new show, Cocktail Magique. Choreographed by the Juilliard-trained Austin McCormick, the XIV’s skin-baring, immensely popular Nutcracker Rouge is also running. So go ahead and collect them all.

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