It's hard not to be thankful when you're lucky enough to experience Miami in November.
As Thanksgiving approaches, the oppressive heat finally leaves, and we are blessed with glorious Florida fall weather – day after day of pleasantly warm, sunshiny days. It's perfect weather for outdoor parties, and we have six more months of the same ahead.
A light breeze blows through the palm trees, and we're still wearing shorts and sandals as we walk on the beach. We have much to be thankful for.
As much as Miami residents complain about problems such as traffic, humidity, and hurricanes, when Thanksgiving approaches, we can easily come up with a list of what we're grateful for about Miami.
Here are seven things about Miami for which you can give thanks at your big, outdoor Thanksgiving dinner:
The joke about Miami is that it is so close to the United States. This means that you will meet interesting people from all over the world here – not just Latin America and the Caribbean, but also Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Middle America. It's not just that Miami is a mini-United Nations, it's that Miami residents bring diverse experiences to the table. Your neighbor from Illinois may have lived in Aruba and Italy before landing in your backyard.
Your fellow Miamians are well-traveled. This is your big chance to grow a diverse social circle. Use it. Discuss Paris with someone who has lived there, not merely someone who read a book or went on a package tour. If you speak another language, any other language, you will probably find someone with whom you can practice.
And, a bonus: Many people in Miami are looking for new friends. When you move here, you are not coming to a place where people have been hanging out with the same people since high school and have closed their social circles. In Miami, nearly everyone is new, or was new not all that long ago.
Cinnamon rolls and fruit shakes
Winter is when you can drive down to Homestead and get fresh homemade cinnamon rolls and fruit shakes from Knaus Berry Farm. The establishment started as a roadside strawberry stand in the 1960s and is still run by the same family. It's a bakery, fruit store, U-pick farm and more, open only from November through mid-April. If you like to pick your own produce, there are also other U-pick places open during the winter (which is the vegetable growing season) in South Dade.
The other famous fruit and milkshake establishment, Robert Is Here, is open all year. It offers exotic fruit and fruit shakes, plus a splash pad, animal farm, picnic tables and sometimes live music. In a city where the only constant is change, it's always great to enjoy some of the things to do in Miami that have been around for decades.
Florida holiday kitsch
Christmas lights look so good in the Florida night that many people leave them up all year to illuminate palm trees, porches, outdoor gazebos, etc.
You may be dreaming of a white Christmas and thinking about chopping down a pine tree in the snow. In Miami, we are wrapping lights around the royal palms and wondering if the pink lawn flamingoes would look good in Santa hats (of course they would).
You can send holiday cards with Santa on the beach, buy ornaments featuring alligators and flamingoes and otherwise totally replace the traditional New England holiday background with something beachier.
The city even has a holiday theme park, Santa's Enchanted Forest, which is one Miami activity that is open only during the holiday season.
Many people may spend the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas going to the mall, but in Miami you can spend part of that time looking at art. Art Basel, the massive international art show, takes over parts of Miami in early December, drawing thousands of visitors and spawning art exhibits and other cultural events that fill a week.
In addition to Art Basel itself, there are satellite art fairs, cocktail parties, concerts, films and other events that coincide with what is now called Miami Art Week.
Outdoor concerts and movies
Fall and winter are when the city comes alive, and among the joys of the season are all the outdoor activities in Miami, like movies and concerts, many of which are free.
The New World Symphony broadcasts its concerts on a larger-than-life outdoor screen, and the performances are free to watch from lawn chairs and blankets. Once a week, the screen is used to broadcast free outdoor movies.
Jazz at MOCA is a monthly free outdoor jazz concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, and Viernes Culturales presents Latin bands on multiple stages. Both are the last Friday of the month.
Miami-Dade County does a free concert series, there is nightly music at Bayside Marketplace, Pinecrest Gardens does movie nights and many of the small cities within Miami-Dade also host outdoor concerts and movie nights.
Miami's beaches, boardwalks, and broadwalks
Sure, you can walk on the beach anytime. But in the fall and winter, walking on the beach is beyond glorious. Occasionally, you need a light jacket, but usually the weather is great for a brisk exercise walk or a more contemplative stroll. If you don't like to walk on sand, you can walk along the boardwalk in Miami Beach or the Broadwalk in Hollywood.
Before you move to Florida, you may not realize that a swamp can be beautiful. A few inches of elevation creates a new micro-habitat in Florida's Everglades, hosting different flora and fauna. Fall and winter are the best time to experience Everglades National Park.
In addition to the egrets and herons we see all the time, you may see anhingas, roseate spoonbills, flamingos, pelicans and other large wading birds, in additional to gulls and all the other swamp creatures. Take your camera and walk along the Anhinga Trail at the park's entrance or ride your bicycle through Shark Valley (once the hurricane damage is repaired and it reopens).