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Thanksgiving Day isn’t just about that scrumptious feast with turkey and all the trimmings, cranberries, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, it’s also associated with spectacular parades. If you’re thinking about doing something a bit different for this special day of thanks this year, why not visit a city that offers a great way to get into the holiday spirit with melodious marching bands, brightly ornamented floats and more? These destinations are a perfect family holiday getaway, but of course, if you’re lucky enough to live near one of these fabulous cities you won’t even have to travel very far to watch the festivities unfold up close and in person.
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Starting with one of the oldest and biggest in the country, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City draws some millions of revelers each year, in addition to over 50 million viewers watching from home. This time-honored tradition is an annual parade made up of giant balloons, floats, cheerleaders, marching bands, clowns, Broadway show performances and lots of celebrities. If you want to catch this unforgettable live event, be sure to arrive well before it starts at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The best viewing spots are at Central Park West, Columbus Circle, 6th Avenue and 34th Street. The parade will travel down Central Park West from 77th Street to Columbus Circle along Central Park South to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 34th Street and along 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square. Prefer to watch it in the comfort of your room? Stay in one of these NYC hotels with prime parade viewing.
On Thanksgiving Day in the Windy City, you’ll find crowds lining the sidewalks to catch a glimpse of gigantic floats coming through town. The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade is a three-hour-long spectacle that kicks off at 8 a.m. on State Street, progressing on to Congress Parkway and Randolph Street. It features massive helium balloons, remarkable floats, award-winning marching bands, talented equestrian units, unique performance groups, local and national celebrities as well as rhythmic drum lines and lively dance troupes. The best vantage point is along State Street but get there early to beat the crowds and be sure to bundle up in warm winter clothing.
Nearly 100 years old, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is the longest-standing in the country and a true Philly tradition. The streets are filled with ginormous floats and massive balloons along with local performers from choirs, dance groups, marching bands and more. Santa himself will also arrive in grand fashion to usher in the holiday season. Expect to see plenty of popular Disney and Sesame Street characters marching through the streets as well. The parade’s progression stretches for 1.4 miles in downtown Philadelphia, starting at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, concluding at the base of the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art. Enjoy the best views along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in Logan Circle, or at JFK Boulevard and 20th Street before 8:30 a.m.
Detroit features another one of the country’s oldest Thanksgiving parades, having taken place every year since 1924. Known as America’s Thanksgiving Parade, thousands of spectators flock here every year to enjoy the talented marching bands, dance troupes, magnificent floats and crazy clowns parading down Woodward Avenue. Starting at 9 a.m., more than 75 parade units will pass through the downtown area, including Santa and his elves.
Don’t miss Houston’s annual Thanksgiving parade, which features Houston Texans’ cheerleaders as well as other cheerleaders from throughout the region, ornate floats, beloved cartoon characters, musicians, gigantic helium balloons, clowns and thousands of marching band participants, parading through downtown streets. The best viewing is along Congress & San Jacinto Street, but be sure to get downtown well before 9:30 in the morning to grab a spot. Festivities kick off at 10 a.m.
Charlotte celebrates the annual holiday with the biggest Thanksgiving parade in the southeast, featuring beautifully adorned floats, local celebs and lots of marching bands. The parade attracts more than 100,000 attendees along with another 2 million viewers at home. The spirited parade not only offers revelers lots of great entertainment, but it also gives back to the community through scholarships to standout students and marching bands. The parade will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day at 10th Street and North Tryon, proceeding to Stonewall Street.
This holiday celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts typically takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving. Participants will don costumes spanning from the 17th century to the 21st century, giving spectators a glimpse of our country’s heritage. It becomes history-brought-to-life with pilgrims, Native Americans, soldiers, patriots, and pioneers proudly climbing out of the history books and onto the streets of Plymouth. Opening ceremonies feature a chronological walk through the history of our great nation via custom-built floats, equestrian groups, fife and drum as well as renowned drum corps. For the best views, arrive early and secure a spot along the scenic waterfront.
Ameren’s Thanksgiving Day Celebration in St. Louis is a fantastic place to celebrate with the family. Revelers can expect to enjoy listening to the sounds of marching bands and watching plenty of majestic floats, including the humongous versions of Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, and Garfield floating overhead. Santa Claus will also make an appearance to wish everyone a Merry Christmas at the end of the parade. The festivities begin on Thanksgiving Day at 10 a.m., starting at Washington Avenue and 45th Street, proceeding to downtown St. Louis. For a prime view, arrive early and stake out a spot along Washington Avenue.
New Orleans is one city that really knows how to celebrate. On Game Day, the Grambling Marching Tigers and the Southern Human Jukebox lead the annual Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is a spectacle that features floats, marching bands, military units, alumni groups, motorized units and elements of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, New Orleans’ oldest predominantly African-American Mardi Gras parading organization.
The Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular takes place the Sunday before Thanksgiving each year so as to not directly compete with the massive Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, just 30 miles away. This annual holiday parade is one of the largest of its kind in the country, drawing more than 100,000 from throughout the surrounding region and nearby states. It features massive balloons like Shrek, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Mr. Potato Head and Animal, along with marching bands and dancing troupes from throughout the state and beyond.
All the Macy’s day parade fun but without the cold weather, this sunny Florida holiday event is fun for the entire family. Head to Universal and join the Minions and Santa Claus to see favorite characters such as Shrek and Madagascar. The parade is just one event in the park’s exciting line up of holiday festivities, from the festive lighting and decor in Diagon Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the Who-liday Spectacular and Grinch and Friends Character Breakfast at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.