The holidays celebrate tradition, among other things, and when it comes to holiday travel like the long Thanksgiving weekend, for example, consider mixing it up. For instance, if your family typically makes its way to the matriarch's or patriarch's house for a delicious and memorable feast, maybe a family vacation somewhere different could be an interesting change. The time around Thanksgiving is often underutilized to travel for non-holiday reasons, making it the perfect time to get out and experience new places.
Whether you’d prefer to stay in the U.S. or use your holiday time to get your passport stamped, there are vacations perfect for travel during that season. Go solo, take on an adventure with a new love, or bring the whole family with you—these getaways are too good to pass up.
For the best roundup of ideas to do, see, and eat in a new destination, skim a city or region's local lifestyle magazine, or alternative weekly newspaper, in addition to consulting guidebooks like Lonely Planet, Frommer's, or Fodor's.
While summer is traditionally a busy time to visit Europe, the time around Thanksgiving is usually a little lighter, making it an ideal time to take in the famous baths (like the Széchenyi Baths, one of the largest and most popular in Europe, Lonely Planet reports) and ornate architecture in Budapest, Hungary. While you’re there, try some hearty Hungarian fare, like beef goulash, which is a perfect dish for the colder months. November also marks the start of winter holiday markets, so even if you decide to ditch your family for Thanksgiving, you can make it up to them with a one-of-a-kind present.
If you’re already in the South, consider a family road trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Sample the city’s famous barbecue—)Southern Living magazine counts Central BBQ, and Charlie Vergos Rendezvous as some of its best—)and take in some blues music. If you have no shame about partaking in tourist activities, book a Beale Street walking tour to learn about one of the most famous live music capitals (and get your steps in).
Quebec City, Canada
If you're a francophile but don't feel like trekking all the way to France for a weekend, consider visiting Quebec City in Canada. It's located in predominantly French-speaking Québec province (it's one of 10), in the country's eastern parts. Dine on French cuisine in a European-inspired city. According to the online reservation site OpenTable, some of its most notable restaurants include Le Tournebroche and Restaurant 1640. Since it's not too far from the U.S.'s northeastern tip, you can easily turn the trip into a family Thanksgiving weekend getaway. Those located further away can still make this trip work and will do well to plan ahead to maximize the weekend away.
Thanksgiving in Phoenix is ideal if you want to take in the beauty of the high desert without triple-digit temperatures. If you’re traveling from a snowy environment, it could feel warm enough to swim in one of the area hotel’s picturesque palm tree-lined swimming pools or splurge on a spa day. Phoenix has a growing art scene—such as the Heard Museum, focused on Indigenous cultural objects and contemporary art, or Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum to experience new media installations—and ample architectural points of interest (including midcentury modern to buildings inspired by artist Georgia O'Keeffe), so you can pack in a little culture, too.
There’s no denying it—Florence is a cultural hotspot. While it’s usually flooded with tourists in the summer, visiting during the end of November will give you a little more elbow room when you're tying to see Michelangelo’s David or spend time at the Uffizi Gallery. Another perk? The cooler temps will make eating hearty Italian fare all the more enjoyable.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Like a few other destinations on this list, Cape Cod is more of a summer spot since its main appeal, aside from the delicious seafood, is the beach. Though it can be a bit tricky to get to if you don't live in Massachusetts, it's definitely worth it. Any of the Cape's charming towns would make a picturesque backdrop for a weekend spent with family and friends. For example, travel guidebook publisher Frommer's recommends Hyannis for museums and restaurants, Chatham for tiny town vibes, or Provincetown, a historically welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community.
While Thanksgiving typically marks a transition from the warm colors of fall to the dreariness of winter, a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, will add a little color back to your life—especially if you take a stroll through the city's signature mosaic-like sidewalks. Finish a meal by hunting down a famous Portuguese dessert known as "pastel de nata," a custard pastry that will make you want to move to Portugal. Crowds gather outside uber-popular Pastéis de Belém in nearby Belem (take the train there!) for these tasty treats, otherwise Manteigaria in Lisbon's Time Out Market is just as delicious. Don't skimp on a stroll along the Tejo (also known as the Tagus) river, either.
If you’re ready to get away from fall and hit the slopes, Whistler’s hills will be ready. Since Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, you won’t have to worry as much about crowds taking advantage of the holiday in November. Even if you aren’t super into winter sports, Whistler is a charming mountain town full of shops and places to take in the scenery while you sip something warm. You can even sip an espresso and shop (clothing, products, and accessories from socially responsible brands) at the same time at Camp Lifestyle & Coffee Co, or pop into Fanatyk for ski gear. For prime Instagram photos, seek out viewings of Black Tusk, climb aboard the Peak 2 Peak gondola (complete with see-through floor), or cross one of Whistler's suspension bridges.