The best places to go for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of America’s most beloved holidays, giving families a chance to share a meal together and reflect on all the things for which they are grateful. The first Thanksgiving dates back to Plymouth, MA in 1621, and each U.S. president declared a yearly celebration of the holiday until Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Thanksgiving into law permanently in 1941.

But even though Thanksgiving is centered on family and gratefulness, it’s still become a highly commercialized holiday. That’s apparent from the fact that the next day is Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. A survey by the National Retail Federation also found that 34 million people planned to shop on Thanksgiving day in 2018. Luckily, though, it doesn’t cost too much to make a Thanksgiving feast for your family – around $50 on average for 10 people.

To help Americans find the best places to go for Thanksgiving without breaking the bank, WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities based on 20 key metrics. Our data set ranges from cost of Thanksgiving dinner and share of delayed flights to volunteer opportunities per capita and forecasted precipitation. Read on for the winners, additional insight from a panel of experts, and a full description of our methodology.

For fun and interesting facts about Turkey Day, check out WalletHub’s Thanksgiving Fun Facts Infographic.


Source: WalletHub


Best Cities for Thanksgiving

For a comprehensive list of the best cities according to affordability, accessibility, and weather visit WalletHub here: 

Ask the Experts

Thanksgiving is one of the most important U.S. holidays, but it requires a lot of planning and budgeting to go smoothly. For more insight on the holiday, WalletHub turned to a panel of experts. You can click on the experts below to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:

  • What money-saving tips do you have for people planning to travel for the Thanksgiving Holiday?
  • When evaluating the best cities for Thanksgiving celebrations, what are the top five indicators?
  • What tips do you have for celebrating Thanksgiving on a budget?
  • What are some of the big money wasters on Thanksgiving?
  • Has the Thanksgiving Holiday become too commercialized in the past years?


In order to determine the best places to go for Thanksgiving, WalletHub compared 100 of the most populated U.S. cities across five key dimensions: 1) Thanksgiving Celebrations & Traditions, 2) Affordability, 3) Safety & Accessibility, 4) Giving Thanks and 5) Thanksgiving Weather Forecast.

We evaluated those dimensions using 20 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for a Thanksgiving celebration. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we calculated the population size using the square root of the population in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.

Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded cities in the surrounding metro area.

Thanksgiving Celebrations & Traditions – Total Points: 25

  • Thanksgiving Events per Capita: Double Weight (~8.33 Points)
    Note: Events include: parades, festivals, parties, galas and performances.
  • Turkey Trots per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
    Note: A turkey trot is a running race that usually occurs on or around Thanksgiving Day all over the United States. This tradition started as a means to combat the over “stuffed” feeling many Americans feel after gorging on a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
  • Pumpkin Patches per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Google Search Interest for Thanksgiving Celebrations: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the real intent of the population to find information during the month of November about “Thanksgiving activities”, “Thanksgiving dinner”, “Thanksgiving traditions”, “Thanksgiving holiday”, and “Thanksgiving parade”.
  • Holiday Decoration Shops per Capita*: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

Affordability – Total Points: 25

Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner: Triple Weight (~15.00 Points)
Prevalence of Affordable Restaurants with Ratings of 4.5+ Stars: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
Lowest Price for Three-Star Hotel Room for a Thanksgiving Holiday: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)

Safety & Accessibility – Total Points: 20

  • Crime Rate: Double Weight (~5.00 Points)
  • Perception of Safety (Safety walking alone during daylight/night): Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: These data are based on perceptions of visitors of Numbeo website in the past 3 years. If the value is 0, it means it is perceived as very low, and if the value is 100, it means it is perceived as very high.
  • Pedestrian Fatalities per Capita: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • DUI-Related Fatalities in Motor Vehicle Crashes around Thanksgiving per Capita: Double Weight (~5.00 Points)
  • Share of Delayed Flights near Thanksgiving Holiday: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Traffic Congestion: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)

Giving Thanks – Total Points: 15

  • Volunteer Opportunities per Capita: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the number of volunteer opportunities per 100,000 residents aged 16 years and older.
  • Volunteer Hours per Capita: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the number of volunteer hours per 100,000 residents aged 16 years and older.
  • Charity Organizations per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
  • Share of Income Donated to Charity: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)

Thanksgiving Weather Forecast – Total Points: 15

  • Thanksgiving Temperature vs. Average Temperature: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
  • Forecasted Thanksgiving Precipitation: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)

Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Corporation for National and Community Service, Google Ads, Eventbrite, Active Network, Yelp, Kayak, Numbeo, VolunteerMatch, Charity Navigator, Chronicle of Philanthropy and AccuWeather. 

This article first appeared