Make time for a late autumn getaway
Stars and Stripes November 3, 2023
Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and with it, the possibility of travel over a long weekend will present itself to many. Touring Europe in November, for the most part the off-season wherever one may go, holds appeal for its lack of crowds and lower-than-average prices on accommodation. Here are five ideas for a late autumn getaway, with or without the turkey dinner.
Visit a Christmas-themed event: Although most Christmas markets don’t start up until the last weekend of November, and this year’s Thankgiving comes on the second-earliest date it’s possible to fall upon, one could still visit a number of Christmas-themed events. The western-themed Pullman City in Eging am See in Bavaria hosts its annual German-American Christmas Market through Dec. 17. In addition to shopping opportunities, the so-called Magical Forest Christmas promises Christmas shows enlivened by country music, a singing Santa Claus, plush toy versions of Frosty, Rudolph and Santa dancing in the street and stands selling warming beverages and tasty treats.
Those yearning for a big-city vibe will find that Christmas has come early to many of Europe’s great capital cities. In London, Christmas at Kew offers the chance to stroll through a botanical garden all done up in lights; Christmas at the Botanics is Edinburgh, Scotland’s version of such. In Berlin, it’s already possible to slip and slide down the giant ramp set up as part of Winterwelt on Potsdamer Platz; with its fairy-tale structures lit up by hundreds of thousands of incandescent light bulbs, Christmas at Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark, makes one nostalgic for a past he or she may never have experienced.
In Germany, thrill seekers don’t have to wait until next summer to experience carnival rides. The winter edition of the thrice-annual fun fair known as the DOM in Hamburg glows merrily for the holidays, while the Weihnachts-Rummel on Landsberger Allee in Berlin offers adrenaline and atmosphere in one.
Ski, snowboard or snowshoe through Alpine glory: It’s unlikely to find decent snow cover in the valleys across much of the Alps at this point. That being said, a few resorts strive to have their slopes ready by the end of November. Resorts typically opening in time for the long Thanksgiving weekend include Ischgl, Kitzbühel and Obertauern in Austria; Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens in France; Cortina d’Ampezzo, Livigno and Madonna di Campiglio in Italy; and Arosa Lenzerheide, Davos and Kleine Scheidegg in Switzerland.
To coax skiers back to the slopes after a long, sunny summer, many resorts will throw huge parties or other events. On Nov. 25, Demi Lovato performs as the season’s opening act of the Top of the Mountain series of concerts in Ischgl, Austria; meanwhile, in Samnaun Switzerland, the star of its Winter Opening Concert will be Dabu Fantastic, a band known for singing in dialect.
Travel to a place connected to the original Thanksgiving: The city of Plymouth, on the southern coast of England, is the point from which on Sept. 16, 1620, the Mayflower set sail toward a young land full of promise. Upon the 400-year anniversary of this event, the story of this fateful voyage and its ramifications was brought into focus by an initiative known as Mayflower 400, which strove to tell the story from many different perspectives. A visit to the Mayflower Museum or even just a stroll along Plymouth’s narrow, crooked lanes is sure to spark introspection.
Slightly north of The Hague, the Dutch city of Leiden, Netherlands, can also boast of a connection to Thanksgiving and the Mayflower. Starting in 1609, roughly a hundred of those destined to be known as the Pilgrims made this city their home. Holland’s second largest city at the time, home to a booming textile industry and a famous university, granted a group of refugees from England permission to stay, noting “No honest persons will be refused free and unconstrained entry to the city to take up residence.” The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum is made up of just two rooms; therefore, visitor numbers are capped, making it wise to book entry tickets in advance.
Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant: If a turkey sub washed down with a glass of cranberry juice isn’t close enough to call it a holiday, one of the restaurants belonging to the Hard Rock Cafe franchise could be your saving grace. Many of its locations across the globe serve a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, often with some rocking live music thrown in. Just some of its locations that will be cooking up a storm on the day itself and maybe even into the weekend include Brussels, Belgium; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Florence, Italy. Note that not all Hard Rock Cafes serve what is for many Americans the most traditional meal of the year. There, as everywhere, reservations are never a bad idea.
Check out what’s happening locally: If your family will be celebrating with a home-cooked meal in the place you presently call home, perhaps consider a day trip somewhere nearby. The winter edition of the BBC Good Food Show takes place at the NEC in Birmingham, England, on Nov. 23-27. ST-ART is a contemporary art fair taking place at the Parc des Expositions in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 24-26. The Tollwood Winterfestival, an alternative, eco-conscious event featuring street theater, music, dance, shows for kids and more, takes place at Munich’s Thereseinwiese on Nov. 23-Dec. 31 (note that it will be closed on Nov. 26, which is Totensonntag, a Protestant religious holiday in remembrance of the faithful departed).