Travel Agent

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Q:

What are the best warm-weather active escapes this winter?

I'm planning a weeklong vacation in early November, and am looking for a relatively nearby destination where I can find some good outdoor activities mixed with good culture. If you could give me a top 5 list that would be great.
–Josh
Washington DC

A:Unfortunately, November isn't the ideal time for outdoor activities here in the Northern Hemisphere, where the temperatures start dropping but there won't be enough snow on the ground to make cold weather fun. So I'm taking this into account in my Infallible, Seasonally Adjusted Top Five Cool Places for Josh to Go for Outdoor and Cultural Good Times.

1) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
You've got everything here: music, architecture, food, opera, museums, never-ending cultural celebrations, samba and Bossa Nova. Outdoor-wise, there's rock climbing on surrounding thumbs of granite like Sugarloaf Mountain, which juts more than 1,000 feet above the skyline, along with hiking, surfing, and playing on the ocean beaches. The guide service Rio Hiking leads hiking, biking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and rock climbing tours.

2) Tulum, Mexico
The culture along this southern stretch of powdered sugar sand on the Yucatan Peninsula below Cancun comes solely in the form of ancient ruins. The well-preserved Mayan fortress city of Tulum rests atop a four-story-tall cliff over the Caribbean and was inhabited until nearly a century after the Spanish Conquest. You can spend time exploring the impressive stone remains and then retire to one of the handful of boutique hotels fringing the shore nearby. Then hire a guide to help you explore the forested 1.3-million-acre Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, home to mangroves, tropical forest, 350 different bird species, howler monkeys, jaguars, and 23 other ancient architectural sites.

3) Marseille, France
France's second-biggest city, after Paris, occupies 60 miles of shoreline on the Mediterranean, and stays temperate year-round (in early November, the average high is in the mid 60s). Its history and ruins date back 8,000 years, it's got a famed opera house and top-notch restaurants, and has served as the inspiration for artists like Renoir and Cezanne. For recreation, don't bother with the beaches and instead put on your hiking boots and walk along the high, chalky walls of the Calanques, a series of breathtaking fjords between Marseille and Cassis.

4) Miami, Florida
Yes, Miami. You probably don't know that the art scene here is booming, but it is. The Museum of Contemporary Art, the Bass Museum of Art, and the Miami Art Museum all boast impressive, ever-expanding collections. Then there are the growing number of galleries in the Design District, and the sights, sounds, and tastes of South Beach. As for outdoor adventure, you've got the 35 miles of beach at your disposal for sailing, diving, fishing, kayaking, surfing, and windsurfing. Sailboards Miami rents windsurfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding equipment and provides lessons.

5) Austin, Texas
Sure, there's world-class rock climbing at nearby Enchanted Rock, and sailing on the 65-mile-long stringbean of water known as Lake Travis, but the true outdoorsy passion in Austin is road biking in the surrounding Hill Country. The Austin Cycling Association organizes group rides, and provides route descriptions on its web site. And when you're resting your weary legs each evening, you can bask in the city's one-of-a-kind music scene at one of the many clubs on Sixth Street.

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