MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

November girlfriend getaways

In the slow season, women head out to have fun with their friends.

Shoppers in Galena.

© Beth Gauper

Women like shopping in Galena year-round.

In November, women make a break for it.

As men sit in deer stands or watch football games on TV, women hit the road with their friends. They shop, visit spas, sip wine, take cooking classes and see musicals their husbands or boyfriends don't want to see.

For women, November is a great month. Not only do they have a good excuse to get away with their friends, but they can get a head start on shopping for Christmas.

There are art fairs and holiday markets everywhere. And festivities start early in such shopping meccas as Cedarburg, Wis., which starts its Festive Friday Eves on the eve of Wisconsin's firearms deer opener.

Broadway shows draw weekenders to Chicago and the Twin Cities. Galena is the perennial favorite for power shopping, but groups of girlfriends also sample wine, tour historic houses and take cooking classes.

Women who love the outdoors can join a snowshoe-making workshop or hike in the woods. Hiking won't be so fun after Minnesota's firearms deer season starts Nov. 7, but Wisconsin's doesn't start until Nov. 21. In Michigan, it's Nov. 15-30.

Below are some of the best things to do around the region in 2020. Many of the annual events are canceled; check in advance.

For the rest of the year, see 12 months of girlfriend getaways and  50 great girlfriend getaways.

Art fairs and crawls

In the arts district of Minneapolis, 250 artists team up for Art Attack Nov. 6-8, which includes live music, food trucks and demonstrations.

Madison's State Street.

© Beth Gauper

In Madison, State Street is full of interesting shops.

Madison always is a fun place to shop, in the quirky shops and museum stores along State Street and on more sophisticated Monroe Street. And in November,  big markets make shopping especially fruitful.

The Winter Art Fair Off the Square, featuring the work of 140 Wisconsin artists, is at Monona Terrace the second weekend. The Art & Gift Fair is at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on State Street the third weekend. Both are canceled in 2020.

For more, see Shopping in Madison.

The Autumn Festival: An Arts & Crafts Affair, with 500 artisans from 30 states, is at Canterbury Park in the Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee and at the Odeum Sports & Expo Center in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park.

The Wisconsin Holiday Market is at the American Club in Kohler; it tends to be heavier on crafts than fine arts.

For more, see Kohler's luxuries.

A reveler at Galena wine weekend.

© Galena CVB

A reveler enjoys Galena's Nouveau Wine Weekend.


In the popular chick town of Galena, Nouveau Wine Weekend includes tastings, music, vineyard tours and spa, shopping and lodging specials.

For more, see Galena getaway.

On Minnesota's scenic North Shore, Lutsen Resort offers a Fall Food & Wine Adventure Weekend and Bluefin Bay Resort offers Girls Gone North! with yoga, a guided hike and wine-tasting.

If you're worried about weather, look for a weekend where you never have to go outdoors. For weatherproof getaways, see Inn retreats.

Women's weekends

The village of Stockholm, on the Wisconsin side of Lake Pepin, often offers a Women's Weekend with progressive wine tastings, music and pie flights.

For more, see Destination: Stockholm.

In the Lake Michigan beach town of South Haven, Mich., there's a Women's Only Weekend. Events include a fun run/walk, music, trivia scavenger hunt, a cooking class and artisan workshops.

In Iowa's Amana Colonies, there's a Girls Getaway Weekend Nov. 6-8 in 2020.

Roller derbies

It's a hoot to watch teams of fun-loving women on roller skates dubbing themselves the Banger Sisters or the Kilmore Girls elbow their way around the rink.

The Minnesota RollerGirls play home bout at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in downtown St. Paul. 

A mosaic class in Mineral Point.

© Beth Gauper

A student works on a mosaic project in Mineral Point.

Art classes

In the adorable town of Mineral Point, half an hour west of Madison, Shake Rag Alley School of Arts and Crafts holds lots of weekend workshops, where you can paint and make glass beads, wreaths and pottery. 

Lodgings are right in the Shake Rag campus, some in stone buildings from the 1840s.

For more, see Slinging cement in Mineral Point.

Shopping and a free concert

Less than an hour south of the Twin Cities, the college town of Northfield has an adorable downtown full of unique, locally owned shops.

Spend the day browsing, then take in a free concert at St. Olaf College, whose music program is world-renowned.

For more, see Scrappy Northfield.

For other good places to shop, see Great shopping towns.

Wine tasting

Wine trails around the region, including the Mississippi River Valley and Michigan's Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas, offer festive November events that involve sampling, touring and treats.

For more, see On the wine trail.

A bread-baking class in Grand Marais.

© North House Folk School

In Grand Marais, Minn., the North House Folk School offers classes in bread baking and building your own pizza oven.

Cooking classes

There's wine, there's laughing, and then you get to eat. What could be better?

Many cooking classes are in places that are fun to visit anyway Lake Geneva, Chicago, Door County, Minnesota's North Shore.

Book early, because they fill fast. At the Lake Geneva Cooking School, learn technique at the My Life in France With Julia Child dinner, $85, and Holiday Appetizer Party,  $75, as well as Saturday dinners with the theme Paris, Napa Valley, Americana and Tuscany, $95.

For more, see Now they're cooking.

And if you just want to eat, go on a food tour they're always a lot of fun.

For more, see Tours for foodies.

Folk schools

The North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minn., is one of many folk schools that offer classes in all kinds of artisanry.

In 2020, its classes include Long-Exposure Photography with Bryan Hansel Nov. 6-7, $150, and Felt Your Feet: Slippers or Boot Liners, Nov. 14-15, $150. Book as soon as possible; classes fill quickly. 

There are many other folk schools in the region. For more, see Schools of know-how.

A theater in Chicago.

© Beth Gauper

Chicago's theater district has a big selection of touring Broadway shows.

Theater and dance

In Minneapolis' downtown theater district, check for concerts.

For more, see A jolly holiday in Minneapolis.

The Marcus Center in Milwaukee hosts Broadway hits and concerts, as do the theaters in Chicago's Loop theater district.

Chicago is a classic girlfriend destination, with lots to do. For more, see Chicago stories.

In Madison, the Overture Center hosts music, opera and theater.


Women love horses, so this is a good time to take a trail ride and see the last of the fall color, too. Five miles west of Oregon in northwest Illinois, White Pines Ranch offers an Adults Only Weekend Nov. 5-7 in 2021. Register by Oct. 1.

If you have the patience, make classic wood snowshoes for yourself or as a gift, while staying at a camper cabin in the middle of nature.

Horseback riding in autumn.

© Beth Gauper

Late fall is a great time for a trail ride.

On Minnesota's North Shore, Gooseberry Falls State Park offers an Urban Snowshoe Lacing Workshop, $100. 

Near the Twin Cities, Afton State Park offers a Snowshoe or Chair Lacing Workshop, $150. The park rents four camper cabins.

On the east shore of Lake Michigan, Ludington State Park offers a snowshoe-making class, $180. The park rents three mini-cabins.

For more, see Choosing snowshoes and A roof in the woods.

Holiday festivities

Cedarburg, a postcard-perfect village 20 minutes north of Milwaukee, is a favorite destination for girlfriend getaways.

At Cedar Creek Settlement, a restored 1864 woolen mill, Festive Friday Eves start Nov. 20, featuring dancing, live music, puppet shows, appearances by Father Christmas, cookies and cider and luminarias.

For more, see Jolly Cedarburg.

Hanging out

Most women like bed-and-breakfasts, but most have rooms with only one bed. But the Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association web site makes it easy to find the inns that  have two beds: Plug "Bed: Two beds in room'' into its amenity search, and you'll get dozens of choices.

But you'll find a better deal in the north woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota, which will be recovering from the fall-color rush. Many lodges, especially the bigger ones, drop their rates by up to half.

And larger gangs of girlfriends can rent a cottage, condo or house.

For more, see Renting a vacation house or A cottage of one's own.

Last updated on February 7, 2021