In the eyes of many, New York City may be the place to spend the Thanksgiving holiday, particularly because it’s home to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
But a new report from the personal-finance website WalletHub ranks San Francisco as the top U.S. spot to celebrate Turkey Day. New York didn’t even crack the top 10 of the cities the site surveyed, landing instead in position No. 37.
Among the other places that beat out the Big Apple are San Jose, Calif. (No. 2); Scottsdale, Ariz. (No. 4); Virginia Beach, Va. (No. 10); Orlando, Fla. (No. 15); Birmingham, Ala. (No. 21); Pittsburgh, Pa. (No. 25); and Lincoln, Neb. (No. 35).
WalletHub said it based its rankings on 18 key metrics, ranging from “the cost of Thanksgiving dinner and share of delayed flights to volunteer opportunities per capita and forecasted precipitation.”
Needless to say, some New Yorkers beg to differ with the WalletHub findings.
“What has San Francisco got? Is there a parade?” asked Francine Cohen, a longtime resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood. Cohen added that she has spent many a Thanksgiving Eve watching the balloons for the Macy’s parade being inflated for the big event.
In fact, there is no major San Francisco Thanksgiving parade. The city did hold a balloon-filled event in the 1950s, but the tradition lasted only a few years.
Meanwhile, at least 2 million people attend the Macy’s parade in New York City and another 50 million watch it on television. It’s no exaggeration to say the Big Apple comes to life on the November holiday.
“‘What has San Francisco got? Is there a parade?’ ”
New York restaurants small and large see business boom over the holiday. Glenn Rolnick, a chef who runs Carmine’s, an Italian dining spot with two Manhattan locations, as well as Virgil’s Real Barbecue in Times Square, says he serves Thanksgiving meals to at least 5,000 people all told at his establishments.
“You see the happiness and joy,” Rolnick said of the Thanksgiving vibe in the city.
The holiday week is also one of the busiest of the year on Broadway, with shows grossing more than $37 million last year.
So how does WalletHub explain its New York ranking?
“The high cost of Thanksgiving dinner and accommodations, as well as the potential safety concerns and weather forecasts, played a role in [the city’s] lower placement,” said WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe.
And it’s true that New York can get pricey during the holiday, with some restaurants charging more than $100 per person for a Thanksgiving meal, while high-end hotels can easily cost more than $1,000 per night. And by late November, the weather can be chilly: Five years ago, paradegoers had to suffer through temperatures that dipped down to 19 degrees.
At the same time, New York isn’t as unsafe as visitors may think. While the Big Apple has seen crime rates increase in recent years, it still didn’t land on a recent list of the 100 most dangerous cities in America.
There are also deals to be had in the city for those on a holiday budget: At Dallas BBQ, a popular New York City chain, a full Thanksgiving meal runs $18.99.
Meanwhile, San Francisco isn’t necessarily a cheap place to visit or live. The city ranks among the 10 most expensive in the world. And it has been plagued by crime issues and homelessness in recent years.
Nevertheless, Joe D’Alessandro, the San Francisco Travel Association’s outgoing president and chief, sang the city’s praises as a Thanksgiving destination.
“San Francisco’s mild weather makes November one of the best times of the year to visit. Combined with the city’s recognition as America’s No. 1 city for the arts, the incredibly diverse culinary scene and access to outdoor adventure, a Thanksgiving holiday in San Francisco has something to offer every type of traveler,” he said in a statement to MarketWatch.
Officials with New York City’s tourism office declined to comment.
John Fraser, a veteran New York City chef who runs La Marchande and other establishments, said Thanksgiving is his third-busiest day of the year, after Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve. He added that New Yorkers and visitors to the city know how to do the holiday right, as evidenced by the “ton of Champagne” they order at his restaurants.
And what does he think of San Francisco’s high ranking, at least according to WalletHub? “Let them have their fake win,” Fraser said.