New Google Maps Data Shows When We Travel, Shop, Eat, and Drink on Thanksgiving

Apparently ham shops, tattoo parlors, liquor stores, hookah bars and buffets are in high demand throughout the holiday. Also, traffic is worse later in the week. Duh. 

by Sam Blum
A Thanksgiving dinner

Humans are forgetful and don’t particularly like spending an inordinate amount of time with their families, according to some very telling Google Maps data published today on the company’s blog.

We can learn that Americans enjoy getting liquored-up on Thanksgiving, and that traffic jams hit highs on certain days in some cities, but more or less remain the same around the country.

Americans are forgetful and enjoy a stiff drink.

Before families assemble at the dinner table for the most gluttonous meal of the year, they invariably search for a place to buy the actual food they intend to consume.


For the third year running, “ham shop” and “pie shop” were the number #1 and #2 trending search items the day before Thanksgiving. It’s an interesting search term, given that standalone ham and pie shops connote a kind of cutesy boutique business. Perhaps people are looking for the sort of specialty hams and pies you might find at a shop instead of the ones at the nearest supermarket.

Did you forget to bring the turkey? 

Kristin Andrus /Flickr Creative Commons

The nearest liquor store also represents a prescient concern for Americans, because a stiff drink is the best antidote to dry, boring, or awkward conversation. Google notes that the term “liquor store” pinged across Maps as the #3 search term on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2014.

Traffic sucks across the country, but is a little different in some cities.

Wednesday is the migraine-inducing harbinger of Thanksgiving, because that’s when many take to the highways and drive to their respective celebrations. But in Boston, the ultimate traffic cluster erupts on Tuesday. Meanwhile the streets of Honolulu, Providence, and San Francisco are suffocated with cars as early as Saturday.

Google recommends traveling early on Tuesday. Let’s see how that changes things.


Everyone wants a buffet on Thanksgiving Day.

Weirdly, people aren’t asking Google for recipe suggestions or for the best games to play beside a fireplace on Thanksgiving Day, but for the nearest buffet.

Nationally, “Buffet” was the #1 search term plugged into Google Maps on Thanksgiving day, probably because people don’t want to clean dishes or talk to anyone else.