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Best Places for Thanksgiving Celebrations Methodology

Here at Sperling’s BestPlaces, we rely on quantifiable information to construct our studies, and in this study we will find the ten large cities in the United States where residents are doing the best job of celebrating Thanksgiving.

Key Findings

Akron, Ohio is the Best Place for Thanksgiving, with West Palm Beach, Florida and Columbus, Ohio close behind.

Akron scores especially high in the number of people at Thanksgiving gathering, and the number of dishes to be served, according to an exclusive poll commissioned for the study.

West Palm Beach recorded of the highest scores for the percentage of travelers traveling to spend Thanksgiving in that city, and Columbus had particularly high turkey consumption.

National and Regional trends

Celebrating Thanksgiving in the Midwest is bigger than the rest of the county, with more people and more dishes being served. The holiday is most likely to be smallest in the West, with the fewest people at the gathering and fewer dishes. The Northeast and South were similar in their patterns, with the Northeast reporting slightly larger gatherings.

Just having a celebration with food and family was most likely in the Northeast, while it was also likely to include friends and football in the Midwest and South. The West was most likely to celebrate in other, less traditional ways.

Top Ten Places for Thanksgiving

Rank Metro name States Population
1 Akron OH 704,300
2 West Palm Beach-Boca Raton FL 1,250,800
3 Columbus OH 1,701,300
4 Fort Worth-Arlington TX 1,913,600
5 Las Vegas-Paradise NV 1,667,200
6 Rochester NY 1,043,300
7 Salt Lake City UT 1,023,400
8 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI 3,138,300
9 Philadelphia PA 3,888,200
10 Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills MI 2,481,900

Region U.S. Northeast Midwest South West
Just Me 9.0% 8.3% 8.0% 8.3% 11.1%
Two of us 11.2% 9.9% 9.0% 11.7% 12.7%
3 or 4 18.3% 19.3% 16.8% 17.7% 19.7%
5 to 8 28.5% 29.2% 27.3% 30.0% 26.5%
9 or more at the gathering 33.0% 33.2% 38.8% 32.3% 30.0%

Region U.S. Northeast Midwest South West
2 dishes served 14.7% 13.6% 13.0% 14.1% 17.4%
3 or 4 21.2% 21.5% 19.1% 20.3% 24.1%
5 to 8 46.1% 46.2% 47.6% 46.4% 44.4%
9 or more dishes 18.0% 18.6% 20.2% 19.2% 14.2%

Region U.S. Northeast Midwest South West
Food and family 50.7% 54.2% 47.9% 49.6% 52.0%
Food family friends & football 24.0% 23.6% 25.4% 25.1% 21.5%
All of the above and more 19.5% 18.0% 22.1% 19.4% 18.9%
Other 5.8% 4.3% 4.6% 5.9% 7.5%

Scoring Details for the Top Ten Places

#1 - Akron, OH
Number of people 7.63
Number of dishes 6.44
Pct Holiday Flights 3.78
Pepto index 100
Turkey index 105

#2 - West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
Number of people 7.50
Number of dishes 6.58
Pct Holiday Flights 4.14
Pepto index 129
Turkey index 90

#3 - Columbus, OH
Number of people 7.09
Number of dishes 5.99
Pct Holiday Flights 3.49
Pepto index 100
Turkey index 109

#4 - Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
Number of people 6.52
Number of dishes 6.36
Pct Holiday Flights 3.54
Pepto index 100
Turkey index 110

#5 - Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
Number of people 6.40
Number of dishes 6.11
Pct Holiday Flights 3.48
Pepto index 137
Turkey index 111

#6 - Rochester, NY
Number of people 7.52
Number of dishes 6.27
Pct Holiday Flights 3.30
Pepto index 100
Turkey index 106

#7 - Salt Lake City, UT
Number of people 7.00
Number of dishes 6.17
Pct Holiday Flights 3.31
Pepto index 117
Turkey index 107

#8 - Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI
Number of people 6.85
Number of dishes 5.84
Pct Holiday Flights 3.36
Pepto index 100
Turkey index 110

#9 - Philadelphia, PA
Number of people 6.85
Number of dishes 5.61
Pct Holiday Flights 3.47
Pepto index 100
Turkey index 104

#10 - Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI
Number of people 6.38
Number of dishes 5.66
Pct Holiday Flights 3.49
Pepto index 100
Turkey index 110


Our metrics for this study include:

  • Custom survey detailing Thanksgiving events
  • Airline flights for the Thanksgiving holiday
  • Turkey consumption
  • Pepto Bismol market index

Custom Survey

We conducted a survey on our web site, www.bestplaces.net, to ask visitors about how they will be spending Thanksgiving.

BestPlaces.net is a free site which has been critically acclaimed as great resource for people researching information about cities and neighborhoods in the United States. The typical traffic is over a million visitors monthly.

During the week of October 11-14, 2010, we implemented a pop-up survey asking visitors the following three questions –

1. How many people will be attending your Thanksgiving gathering?
2. How many dishes will you be serving?
3. How do you plan to celebrate?

We also asked for their zip code to identify their location. (A full text of the web poll is provided at the end of this document.)

To eliminate possible “ballot stuffing”, we set a cookie in each visitor’s browser after the question was first answered. When the visitor next visited our site, the existence of the cookie was checked and if found, the question page was not displayed.

We collected 4,800 responses. Using the respondent’s zip code, we were able to identify their state, county, city and metropolitan area.

For scoring purposes, we calculated the average number of people attending the holiday gatherings for each city, and the average number of dishes to be served.

Airline Flights

We wanted to measure which cities had the most people traveling to it for the Thanksgiving holidays.

To do this, we compared the number of flights arriving in each city before or on the Thanksgiving holiday, with the number of flights destined for that city during the entire year. The cities with the highest percentage of incoming flights in the days before the holiday were the cities with the most people traveling to it for Thanksgiving. By using a ratio of holiday flights to total annual flights, we were to control for the size of the total cities’ air traffic.

Using the TranStats “On-time Performance” database from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, we analyzed the data for all airline flights in the United States during the years of 2009 and 2008. There were 13,460,000 flights during the two years.

Using the field for “Destination City”, we counted only those flights which ended at a particular city. If we had counted all “Arriving Flights”, we would also count those flights which were primarily connecting with other flights, and overcount the flights for those airports which are major connecting hubs.

We queried the data for the dates of the holiday period, from the start through the of the actual holiday. We used the dates of each holiday period, as defined by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In 2008, the Thanksgiving holiday period started on 11/21 and Thanksgiving was on 11/27. In 2009, the Thanksgiving holiday period started on 11/20 and Thanksgiving was on 11/26.

Turkey consumption

We determined those places with a higher or lower consumption of turkey, data from a market research company specializing in supplying data to the grocery industry.

We licensed 2010 “STI: Spending Patterns” from Synergos PopStats, and analyzed it to create a Turkey Consumption index which measured the purchasing of the turkey for each city in our study.

Pepto Bismol Index

We used a BDI (Brand Development Index) for Pepto Bismol in major metro areas, providing the company, Pepto Bismol.

Best Places for Thanksgiving Study

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