The end of the autumn shoulder season brings lower prices in many destinations, only to be interrupted by Thanksgiving kicking off the holiday season. Before things get hectic during the December holidays, consider taking a family trip this month.
Whether it's a theme park, a stay at a resort or just a day trip from home to a corn maze, there are some ways to make memories with your children on a November trip.
See the Panama Canal
The Atlantic and Pacific oceans are connected by the Panama Canal, a 48-mile long man-made waterway that cuts through Panama in Central America. Intrepid kids can watch container ships pass through one of the lock systems—Miraflores Locks is the most popular and there is a lovely Visitor Center to learn all about how the canal was built, its history and how it works.
November is the shoulder season, which means travel is more affordable and crowds are not as thick. Stay at The Westin Playa Bonita Panama, a waterfront property located 30 minutes from the locks and 20 minutes from Panama City. Book your November trip in advance and save up to 25 percent through the end of December.
When you're not swimming in the Westin's infinity-edge pool, explore Panama's Casco Viejo, Gamboa Rainforest Sloth Sanctuary and Wildlife Rescue Center, and take a day trip to San Blas Islands.
Here are suggestions for seeing Panama City and the Panama Canal on a budget.
All over the country, giant corn mazes are cropping up to the delight of families who flock to this quintessential fall experience. Wear comfy shoes and bring your sense of adventure.
Some corn mazes are cut in intricate patterns, visible only from observation towers or from the air. The Midwest's largest corn maze is located on the 33-acre Richardson Adventure Farm, located an hour north of Chicago. For the state's bicentennial, the maze was cut in the shape of the state and featured landmarks and state emblems.
Many corn mazes can be found on farms where there are many other things for kids to do like petting the farm animals, going on a hayride, and buying something sweet to take home from a farm stand.
Are the Northern Lights on your bucket list? You don't have to cruise to Alaska, fly to Scandinavia, or drive to Canada. You can stay put in the Lower 48 and head to the Great Lakes region for a spectacular light show.
While there are places you are more likely to see the lights, some of the northern states like Washington and Idaho have been known to surprise residents and visitors with an unexpected show of the beautiful lights.
Pennsylvania has an edge when it comes to viewing the Northern Lights. Cherry Springs State Park is a Dark Sky Reserve where you can stay overnight to view the lights display.
Santa Barbara's mild year-round temperatures make it a great escape when the mercury drops around the rest of the country. Families will find plenty to do and see, including going to the beach and the visiting the famous San Diego Zoo.
Kids of all ages can explore the hands-on marine exhibits at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Highlights include a leopard shark touch pool and a 1,500-gallon tidepool tank with sea anemones and sea stars.
There are many hotel options in Santa Barbara, some of which are especially suited to families. Hotels like the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort and the Brisas Del Mar are right on the beach.
Cooling temperatures mean it's time to pack the car and grab the kids for a weekend road trip to view fall foliage. From sea to shining sea, there are road trips that offer the colorful vistas that come but for a few short weeks a year.
A great way to see the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway during fall would be to rent an RV and spend the weekend. Check out Outdoorsy, the Airbnb for RV rentals, for cool family-friendly rigs.
In Maine, you can travel the back roads from Portland to see the fall foliage, stopping to shop at the LLBean outlet, go lobstering or take a fall foliage boat trip on a lake.
In California, head up to Apple Hill, not far from the capital of Sacramento, for apple picking, children's events and bring home an apple pie or gallon of cider.
Looking for a place to take the kids in November? You'd be hard-pressed to find a better place to visit than Jacksonville, Florida which offers a whole month of free admission for children at some of the city's most popular family attractions.
One of the favorite things to do in Jacksonville is to visit the Jacksonville Zoo. The zoo's spacious animal habitats are dotted throughout a botanical garden setting. There are restaurants, a train, and playgrounds, including a small water play park.
There are a range of hotel options in Jacksonville, including downtown hotels and beach getaways.
Whether you're a swashbuckler or a scallywag, consider charting a course in November for the Cayman Islands, which host 10 days of treasure-hunting and buccaneering during the annual Pirates Week National Festival.
In George Town, Grand Cayman’s capital, you can watch a fun pirate invasion, complete with two pirate ships. During Pirates Week, there are fireworks, costume contests, and a children's' fun fair.
There are many family-friendly hotel options in the Cayman Islands.
Looking for an affordable fall getaway in the Midwest? You'd be hard-pressed to beat Traverse City, in Michigan's "True North," which TripAdvisor.com named as one of America’s Top 10 Fall Foliage Destinations.
Families have an extra reason to visit from September through mid-December thanks to a city-wide fall promotion.
There are family-friendly hotel options in Traverse City.
As one of the longest weekends in the fall school calendar, Thanksgiving break offers a stellar opportunity for families to snag a break for four or five days.
In New York, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade will provide children with a once in a lifetime experience. Imagine seeing those huge helium balloons in person!
Plan ahead and bring the family to a special Thanksgiving feast at one of the many hotels and restaurants. And, there are sightseeing attractions open on Thanksgiving day, too. Places to go after you enjoy your turkey include the city's three major observatories: Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building and One World Observatory.
Celebrate Thanksgiving where the first historic gathering happened, in Plymouth, about 45-minute drive south of Boston. Any time of year, you can explore Plimoth Plantation and explore the Mayflower II.
November is special a very special time thanks to an annual extended Thanksgiving celebration that brings history to life.
The event brings three days of activities including an impressive parade, concerts, waterfront activities, and a food festival focused on the best dishes of New England. The parade is known as one of America’s only historically accurate chronological parades, representing each century from the 17th through the 21st. The participants wear accurate costumes and you'll see marching bands and re-enactment units from every period of American history.
You'll find family-friendly hotel options in Plymouth such as the Hampton Inn and Suites.
'Tis the season when top destinations and family resorts start decking their halls and making the season merry and bright. With some resorts starting holiday festivities in early to mid-November, many families will turn the season into an opportunity for a festive getaway.
In Orlando, Disneyworld's holiday celebrations start in November with special decorations, parades and evening lights spectaculars.
The magic of Christmas comes alive in The Polar Express, the beloved children's book, and a perennial favorite holiday movie. Dozens of Polar Express trains have popped up all over the country, offering families the opportunity to recreate the magical Polar Express experience through readings of the story, music from the movie soundtrack, cups of cocoa and, of course, meetings with Santa.
In Arizona, the Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express takes you on a journey from the nighttime wilderness of Williams, Arizona, to the enchanted beauty of “the North Pole” where Santa Claus and his reindeer are waiting. On the same trip, you can visit the nearby south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park and the red rocks of Sedona.
Be sure to book ahead, as these trains can sell out months in advance.