Whether you want to dine in Singapore or swim in the Sea of Cortez, these are our top picks for November travel.
November in the United States means a barrage of post-Halloween candy sales, the beginning of holiday shopping season, and a veritable feast on Thanksgiving Day. But November doesn’t look the same everywhere. Whether you want to taste the street foods of Singapore or bask in the sunshine of the Mexican Riviera, here are 10 of the best places to travel in November.
November is great for: theater buffs
Catch the end of fall and the beginning of winter (as well as off-season prices) during a Beijing November, which is dry and a little chilly. Don’t worry, it’s easy to warm up with roasted chestnuts from the city’s street vendors—or in the cozy confines of a theater.
Beijing is the cultural heart of China, and when you mention theater, most people immediately think of Beijing (or Peking) Opera. This Chinese opera came to life in the 18th century and blends music, song, mime, dance, and acrobatics, with four specific roles—a male and female, a comedic role, and a painted face male, with the latter representing a specific personality.
Beijing Opera usually focuses on major historical events, with elaborate costumes and different colors of face paint representing the type of role (for example, a red-painted face represents courage while a white face represents cruelty). Head to the Liyuan Theatre for its Beijing Opera show. Appetizers of some of the genre’s best bits are served alongside traditional snacks and Chinese tea.
By November the fall season of the National Grand Theatre is in full swing. The building, otherwise known as Beijing National Center for the Performing Arts, is a spectacle of glass and steel, romantically reflected in an artificial lake. The facility showcases dance, traditional opera, and plays and features the best in homegrown and international talent.
November is great for: creatives, aspiring cowpokes
Tucson’s creative energy fuels an eclectic mix of museums, galleries, and artisan shops, but the abundance of sunshine and scenic desert beauty are the main draws. And November, with its average daytime highs in the 70s, is the ideal time to see both.
If you go early in the month, you can catch the All Souls Procession (November 2-4, 2018), which began nearly 30 years ago as a single performance piece by a local artist to memorialize her father and has transformed into an annual arts procession that winds through downtown Tucson. More than 150,000 participants and attendees come out for the evening event; the finale culminates in the burning of a giant urn holding wishes and offerings for those who have died.
To get out of downtown, though, there are plenty of ways to see Sonoran landscapes. One fun way is on horseback: stay at a dude ranch, take a sunset trail ride among the Saguaros, or just learn basic horsemanship. Hacienda del Sol was built as an elite boarding school for girls in 1929 and later became a glamorous getaway ranch for Hollywood stars like Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne. Today, it’s a luxury resort with in-room spa treatments and fine dining, but its stables are still open to the public for trail riding and lessons. The White Stallion Ranch is a family-run dude ranch perfect for guests who prioritize character over luxury, with horses for every rider. Most ranches have an age minimum, but offer full children’s programs for younger kids. Not ready to commit to cowboy life? Lessons and rides of all lengths are offered by operators around town, including Houston’s Horseback Riding, Saguaro Stables, and Tucson Mountain Stables.
Out-of-towners have to visit Tucson’s Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, too, which is part natural history museum, part zoo, part botanical gardens. Stroll nearly two miles of trails, observe mountain lions and Mexican gray wolves, and duck into a cave to see the extensive mineral collection.
November is great for: aquaphiles
The charms of Phuket, Thailand’s largest and most developed island, don’t get lost on anyone. There’s something for everyone among the brightly lit night markets and bustling beach roads packed with every kind of restaurant and resort imaginable. It’s also Thailand’s premier hub for snorkeling and scuba diving, and the best conditions start in November, when the seas are calmer. It’s as easy as renting fins, a mask, and a snorkel from a beach shop, but lots of hotels also have them on hand.
Even popular beaches such as Patong, Karon, and Kata have their share of coral reefs, but snorkelers favor Ao Sane, a rocky southwestern beach—it’s not as well-traveled so expect a low-key vibe with lots of room for marine exploration. At Paradise Beach, strong swimmers will need to swim out over 300 feet from shore, but they are rewarded with a coral reef. Off the southeastern coast is Racha Yai island, where rugged reefs and boat wrecks promise subterranean wonder. There are also plentiful dive shops and sites along Chalong Bay.
Chartering your own boat is another great way to get a feel for the underwater landscape. Navigate to the little islands of Coral Island, Khai Island, the Phi Phi Islands, or the scenic Ao Phang Nga and Sirinat National Parks. Once you’ve dropped anchor in the perfect location, you can jump off deck for a swim, snorkel, scuba dive, or even try your hand at deep sea fishing.
November is great for: beach bums and hiking hounds
November on the Big Island of Hawaii is just the ticket for relaxing before a busy holiday season. As with any Hawaiian island, Kona is a beach-goer’s dream, with unique spots to sunbathe and float (including one of only two green sand beaches in the United States, Papakolea beach). Visitors can night-snorkel with manta rays, surf Kailua-Kona hot spots, and try ancient Polynesian healing traditions at spas, such as a lomi-lomi massage and volcanic mud wraps.
Since the September reopening of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visitors can witness how the landscape has changed after the summer’s eruption (more info is available onsite at the Kilauea Visitor Center). By November, hiking enthusiasts will be able to do the 11.5-mile Summit Trail of Mauna Kea, the Pacific Rim’s highest mountain. Bring winter gear and watch for altitude sickness: The top stands at 13,796 feet—above 40 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. The dry, clear air makes it one of the planet’s finest spots for stargazing, and observatories crown its peak (book ahead to tour the Subaru Telescope).
November is great for: archaeology enthusiasts
Cairo is a living monument for history lovers. In November the heat drops to a comfortable level, and winter tourism season hasn’t yet begun. Start at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (also called the Egyptian Museum or the Museum of Cairo), which houses one of the world’s top collections of ancient artifacts and provides a great overview of the country’s dynamic past.
Housed in a pink-hued building in Central Cairo since 1902, the impressive, 100,000-piece-strong archive of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities features everything from the contents of King Tutankhamun’s tomb to an array of mummies, jewelry, pottery, and tools of ancient Egyptian daily life.
In Old Cairo, the Babylon Fortress is a Roman-era defensive enclosure that now houses the Coptic Museum, several churches, and a convent, and is an excellent way to start your archaeological explorations.
Most iconic, of course, is the Pyramid Complex at Giza, a suburb set about eight miles from the city center, in the flats of the Western Desert. The vast complex is home to several notable sites, including the three peaks that form the signature Great Pyramids, the massive Great Sphinx sculpture, and the tomb of Queen Khentkaus I, one of the few female rulers to have her own burial complex. In addition to top-level photo ops, visitors can examine the pyramids up close and even enter some of the smaller structures.
About 15 miles south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile River, explore the ruins of ancient Memphis, the capital of the Old Kingdom and considered the world’s first imperial city.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
November is great for: hepcats, dancing queens
Known for introducing tango into the world, Buenos Aires also offers modern art museums, vibrant street murals, some of the most beautiful theaters in South America, and a late-night club scene that only ends when the sun rises.
Almost any day of the week throughout the calendar year, there’s some sort of festival happening in Buenos Aires, whether it be music, food, culture, or art. In November, jazz musicians from around the world convene in the cosmopolitan capital for the Buenos Aires International Jazz Festival (this year, its 10th birthday, runs November 14-19). If jazz isn’t your style, check out Buenos Aires Celebra (Buenos Aires Celebrates). On weekends, the festival shuts down traffic on the eastern side of Avenida de Mayo, taking over a section of the boulevard for different events dedicated to a nationality or cultural group—think Irish step dancing, Spanish paella, or Bolivian music, depending on that month’s theme.
For a local tango experience, skip the tourist-oriented tango shows and find a milonga, or tango club, held at different venues around town almost every evening of the week. At a milonga like La Catedral or El Beso, you can watch real-life dancers of all ages—some in fishnets and stiletto heels, others in jeans—practice their craft. Rojo Tango, the seductive tango show at the Faena Hotel, is excellent, so long as you don’t mind the high price tag.
If you’re looking to learn, La Catedral offers group classes for beginners. Otherwise, pay a nominal entrance fee, order a coffee or a glass of wine, and watch the action on the dance floor. Just remember: if you’re asked to dance, it’s only polite to accept, whether or not you know what you’re doing.
New York City
November is great for: performance junkies
NYC’s November weather may demand scarves, hats, and jackets, but it’s worth donning all of the above to stroll through the city admiring the lavish shop window dressings changing for the holiday. Besides, some of the best the city has to offer in November is indoors: at the theater.
The neon lights most definitely shine bright on Broadway—and on off-Broadway, and off-off-Broadway, too. What’s the difference? Location and the number of seats, basically. Going to the theater is a New York City rite of passage, and so is hitting the TKTS Discount Booths at Times Square for discounted same-day tickets to hot shows (note that the Brooklyn and South Street Seaport locations are less crowded).
It’s pretty cool not knowing what show you’re seeing until you get to the TKTS Booth. Ticket offerings change daily, so you won’t catch every show, but arrive early anyway so you don’t miss your shot at a wide selection. Your options will include Tony Award–winning plays, first-run musicals, longstanding theater classics like Wicked, and revivals of classic dramas, often featuring famous actors like Denzel Washington or Cate Blanchett getting in touch with their thespian sides.
And perhaps the greatest New York City show of all: Every November, massive floats roll along Manhattan’s streets for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
November is great for: snow devotees
After exploring Oslo, it’s easy to understand why it’s recently been one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. This capital offers a thriving cultural scene and friendly locals with an eye towards innovation. Come November, Oslo residents are ready to embrace winter: When snow falls, they bundle up, grab their gear and skis, and head out to enjoy winter sports. A bonus? Train service to ski resorts.
Oslo Winter Park at Tryvann offers 18 slopes (including cross-country skiing trails) and is about 30 minutes via train from the city center. Slopes are lit up until 10 p.m. every day, so it’s not uncommon for locals to hit the slopes for a few hours after work. There also are runs for beginners and kids.
Farther afield, Varingskollen is almost an hour by train. It’s a smaller resort with only six slopes but boasts a good terrain fun park with rails and jumps popular for boarders. Considered the best ski resort closest to Oslo, Norefjell is another popular spot, 90 minutes from the center of town. With 25 groomed runs, it’s great for families and all levels.
Another fun winter activity is sledding. The city itself has many hills to slide down, but the best spot is at Korketrekkeren (the “corkscrew”), which you can access by public transportation. You can rent sleds, helmets, and goggles on site. The run drops from 836 feet and will take you about 10 minutes from top to bottom. Expect some speed: It’s a blast.
Los Cabos, Mexico
November is great for: merfolk in training
Located at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are two towns that together comprise “Los Cabos,” an eternally popular vacation destination for sun seekers. Los Cabos are both studded with upscale resorts where oversized rooms, fine dining experiences, and exceptional service are de rigueur. In the first half of November, tourism hasn’t gotten to full swing yet and the weather is sunny, making for ideal days to spend at the beach.
In addition to snorkeling and scuba diving, travelers can also book stand-up paddleboarding and surfing lessons. Medano Beach, close to downtown Cabo, is one of the area’s most popular beaches. You’ll find water skiers, jet skiers, parasailers, and kayakers heading out to Land’s End—this beach has it all, with plenty of operators close by to get you set up. Los Cabos is also a good place to realize your dream of learning to sail by taking lessons in the Sea of Cortéz. Weeklong liveaboard trips with outfitters like Nautilus Sailing will result in certification to charter and captain sailboats anywhere you go on your next vacation.
If you’ve gotten your fill of sunshine, head to the movies if you’re in town during the Los Cabos International Film Festival (November 7-11, 2018). The annual event, replete with viewings and galas, highlights new films from around the world, including Hollywood awards contenders.
November is good for: food lovers
November is shoulder season in the southeast Asian country of Singapore, which has year-round weather that is humid, warm, and—between November and January—a bit rainy. Also consistent? The deliciousness of its food.
It’s not hype; some of Singapore’s best food can be found at the city’s steamy, bustling hawker food centers, as the cast of Crazy Rich Asians can attest. Visitors are pleasantly surprised by the number of choices on hand, most of which are a fusion of Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, and Malaysian cultures. Even some of the city’s hawker stalls have won Michelin Bib Gourmand status, which is awarded to establishments that sell good food at a reasonable price.
For breakfast, start with chwee kueh, a formed rice cake topped with preserved radish and chili sauce. Try oh-luak, which is basically an oyster omelet, or chai tao kway—often called carrot cake (but not the U.S. kind), this dish consists of eggs, preserved radish, and radish cake flour. Another breakfast favorite is nasi lemak (fish and coconut rice cooked with a pandan leaf).
Chicken Rice (boiled chicken and rice with a ginger and garlic sauce) is well-loved, and one of the best places to sample this dish is Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre, orcheck out Michelin Bib Gourmand winner Lia Fam’s stall in Chinatown. Other regional favorites include dum briyani (a marinated meat, vegetable, and rice dish) at Tekka Centre in Little India, where this November you can see Deepavali (Diwali) celebrations.
For some only-in-Singapore foods to brave, try the frog porridge at Lion City Frog Porridge—frog is boiled in porridge then cooked in soy sauce flavored with ginger, dried chili, and spring onions. Also look for barbecued stingray, curried fish head soup, and curry laksa (noodles cooked in coconut milk with bean curd puffs and fish). Fun fact: Singapore imports more than 90 percent of its food.