My foursome hiked on a trail in Jay Cooke State Park earlier this month and encountered not a soul. An hour in, we sat on a trailside bench, ate our lunch, watched a train chug over a tall trestle bridge and listened to a rattling call that may have emanated from a sandhill crane. Then we tucked away our leftovers and carried on in the brisk air. Until we got within a quarter-mile of the visitor center, where other people followed the trail over a historic swinging suspension bridge, we were alone in the woods with its creatures.

It was mid-November, and leaves had fallen from the trees along the St. Louis River, opening up great views of the waterway spilling over ancient stone.

The quiet, the views and the sense of solitude were all rewards of touring the park in the offseason.

A few weeks have passed, and I am now in New Orleans. A few nights ago, I headed to Cure, a hotbed of craft cocktails, and had my pick of seats. That kind of ease is unheard of during Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Jazz Fest, when crowds pour into popular nightspots — and send hotel rates soaring. Another late-November and early-December perk in this city: The heat, humidity and rain that drenches the city during that popular event are gone, replaced by a mellow warmth.

It reminds me of another November trip to Venice, Italy. It seemed that just me, my travel partner and the Venetians strolled the stone bridges and narrow lanes then.

Lower prices and easy-to-get reservations are nice, but the main reason to travel when others stay at home? You can see a place more clearly when it’s not overcrowded — like seeing the St. Louis River when the trees are bare.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.