Chicago Thanksgiving Tips: When to Travel, Grocery Shop, Catch a Movie and More

The best time to travel, the worst time to grocery shop and more Thanksgiving questions answered by Google Maps and Google News Initiative

It's an age-old question for Thanksgiving Day drivers: When is the best time to leave the house to avoid traffic?

This and other Turkey Day quandaries are at the heart of, a Google Maps and Google News Initiative quest to help make the holiday a little less stressful. 

"Using data from 2018’s holiday season, we’re giving you a closer look at the places people visit during the holidays, when to visit them and the best times to get on (or stay off) the road in 2019," the pair behind the site wrote.

Here are a few top-level tips:

When to travel: "Avoid the afternoon travel plans and opt to get an early start on your day. The best time to leave Chicago and avoid traffic is Thanksgiving Day at 6 a.m. The worst time to leave is 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon."

When not to travel: "Day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday) at 4 p.m., when most people are on the move: If you have to leave on Wednesday, your best bet is to hit the road in the morning."

When to head home: "The Saturday after Thanksgiving: If you can leave the Saturday after Thanksgiving, your best bet is to hit the road at 4 p.m."

When to grocery shop: "Chicagoans should plan ahead if they want to avoid pre-Thanksgiving checkout lines. Grocery stores are least crowded on Tuesday at 9 p.m. and most likely to be packed at 4 p.m. on Wednesday."

When to buy your pumpkin pie: "Pick up your pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day at 7 a.m. when bakeries are least crowded. If you wait until later in the morning you’ll likely encounter a line: bakeries are most crowded on Thanksgiving at 11 a.m."

When to head to the liquor store: "The best time to make a beer run is on Tuesday at 10 p.m. You’ll encounter the most crowds on Wednesday at 5 p.m."

When to catch a movie at the theater: "The best time to catch a flick is on Wednesday at 11 a.m. when theaters are least crowded. The worst time is on Tuesday at 6 p.m."

When to shop: "The best time to start your holiday shopping is on Thursday at 7 a.m., when shopping centers are least crowded. The worst time is on Wednesday at 4 p.m."

When to Black Friday-shop: "On Black Friday, the best time to visit a shopping center is at 7 a.m. (least crowded). The worst time to visit a shopping center is at 3 p.m. (most crowded)."

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