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The Deadest Downtowns In The U.S.

Yelp is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week — but your neighborhood might not be.

Ever experience the phenomenon of being inside a bustling neighborhood during the day, then as night falls, so do the gates outside businesses as they shut down and commuters head far away? They’re often downtowns full of commercial activity during the workday but without much going on late night or on weekends.

To quantify this effect, we turned to Yelp’s search data. Each search tells a story. Collectively, the timestamps on searches in a neighborhood tell a different story. We divided up the calendar into two buckets: non-holiday weekdays and all other days, which are days off for most workers. We then divided the workday clock into two buckets as well: the hours from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., when many searchers are likely to be working, and the rest of the day, which is more likely associated with nights out (or very early mornings). Then we found the ratio of work-hour searches to searches done during all other times for neighborhoods around the country. We compared the neighborhood ratios to the average ratio for each city to control for any disparate urban patterns in Yelp usage. We also set a minimum level of Yelp activity in the neighborhood. Then we ranked each neighborhood from highest to lowest work-hours:rest-of-hours Yelp search activity ratio.

The leaderboard is studded with major cities’ financial centers that can sometimes feel deserted at night, including Boston’s, San Francisco’s and San Jose’s.

At the other end of the scale are neighborhoods where a much greater share of Yelp search activity comes outside typical work hours. Some earned their spot on this end of the list with wild nightlife, like Manhattan’s Alphabet City. Others, though, are there primarily because they have almost no commercial activity during workdays: for example, Alphabet City’s neighbor, Stuyvesant Town.

Top ten:
Vernon, Los Angeles
Financial District, Boston
Financial District, San Francisco
South of Market, San Francisco
Downtown San Jose, San Jose
Chicago Loop, Chicago
Cow Hollow, San Francisco
Sorrento Valley, San Diego
Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
Uptown, Oakland

Bottom ten:
Alphabet City, Manhattan, NY
North Beach, Seattle
Sea Cliff, San Francisco
Central Southwest, Houston
Alki, Seattle
Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan, NY
Edgewood, Atlanta
Lakeshore, San Francisco
Park View, Washington, DC
South Acres/Crestmont Park, Houston

Do you live in a dead downtown? If so, consider popping over to one of these nighttime hotspots after work instead.

Are you a journalist or researcher who’d like to learn more about this data or get your hands on Yelp data of your own? Please contact me at carl@yelp.com