America's Best Thanksgiving Day Parades

By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterNov. 7, 2012
By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterNov. 7, 2012, at 6:16 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

America's Best Thanksgiving Day Parades

You can almost smell the hot apple pie, the glazed sweet potatoes, and the browning bird in the oven. Ah, Turkey Day: With its bounty of offerings, who could resist taking part in this once-a-year celebration? But before you gobble down a scrumptious feast, get in the holiday spirit at one of the lively Thanksgiving Day parades taking place across the country. Brightly ornamented floats, melodious marching bands, and larger-than-life inflated cartoon characters are all part of this time-honored tradition. Here's where you can watch the festivities unfold and spread the holiday cheer.

On Turkey Day in the Windy City, crowds fill the city sidewalks to catch sight of Ronald McDonald and Santa Claus coming through town. From 8 to 11 a.m., Chi-town's urban blocks will fill with rhythmic drum lines and lively dance troupes. The McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade begins on State Street and progresses on to Congress Parkway and Randolph Street. To secure an enviable vantage point, grab a spot along State Street early to beat heavy crowds. (We also suggest arming yourself with a warm winter coat, as Chicago experiences frigid temps at this time of year.) To watch a live national broadcast of the event from home, switch on WGN America.

The longest-standing Thanksgiving Day parade in the country (with roots stretching back to 1920), the 6abc Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade boasts massive balloons and a long list of musical entertainers, dance groups, and marching bands. The parade's progression continues for 1.4 miles in downtown Philadelphia, starting at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard and finishing at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As you stand in the crowd, expect to see popular Disney and Sesame Street characters marching through the streets. If that doesn't make the kids' faces light up, watching Santa Claus and his elves sweep through the city will surely provide some enchantment. For the best views, nab a spot along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in Logan Circle, or at JFK Boulevard and 20th Street before 8:30 a.m. Those tuning in to the event at home can catch the parade on ABC from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Sharing the title of America's second-oldest Thanksgiving parade with Macy's in New York, America's Thanksgiving Parade has been filling Detroit's streets since 1924. Every year, thousands of spectators flock to Motor City to admire magnificent floats, talented marching bands, spirited dance groups, and festive clowns parade down Detroit's Woodward Avenue. Starting at 9 a.m., revelers will witness more than 75 parade units passing through the downtown area. Younger spectators should also keep their eyes peeled for Santa and his elves. If you're in the area but can't make it to the parade, you can catch the event broadcasted on local cable's WDIV.

Charlotte will celebrate its 65th annual holiday parade this year with local marching bands, beautifully adorned floats, and even local stars like Miss North Carolina and Miss South Carolina. The spirited Carrousel Parade not only provides spectators with plenty of entertainment, it also gives back to the community by granting scholarships to standout students and marching bands. The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. on November 22, starting at 10th Street and North Tryon and proceeding to Stonewall Street. This year, parade organizers expect to welcome approximately 100,000 onlookers, but if you can't be amongst them, you can tune into the parade on local station WBTV (CBS).

Houston's 63rd annual holiday parade, the H-E-B Holiday parade, entertains thousands of revelers in the Lone Star State with its ornate floats and beloved cartoon characters. On November 10, spectators can help put finishing touches on colorful floats at the parade warehouse before the event takes place. Fares for meet-and-greet participants between the ages of four and 17 cost $10 (kids age four and under can attend for free). If you would rather be present on Turkey Day, you'll want to get downtown by 8:30 a.m. to grab a spot before the festivities kick off at 9 a.m. The best viewing areas are along Congress & San Jacinto Street; from there, enjoy six magnificent floats, six humongous helium balloons, and thousands of marching band participants, musicians, cheerleaders, and clowns. Those of you planning to tune in at home will find the parade broadcasted on KHOU-TV in Houston and WFAA-TV in Dallas.

Unlike the other parades on this list, Plymouth's patriotic celebration takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Saturday, November 17, America's Hometown Parade participants will don costumes spanning from the 17th century to the 21st century, offering spectators a glimpse of our nation's heritage. As well as numerous educational exhibits and historical reenactments, attendees will see vintage American automobiles, military bands, and vibrant floats. The parade will start at 10:30 a.m. at Plymouth Center; for the best views, secure a spot along Plymouth's scenic waterfront. If you're based in the area but can't make it to the festivities, you can enjoy the parade from home, thanks to WCVB's local broadcast in Boston.

This festive parade has given spectators a reason to meet in good 'ole St. Louis for 28 years. Parade-goers can enjoy listening to spirited marching bands and feast their eyes on majestic floats. The Ameren Thanksgiving Day Parade's theme this year is "Holiday Magic in St. Louis," and revelers are sure to be enchanted as they gaze up at humongous, inflated versions of Garfield, Snowman, and Rudolph floating overhead. For a primo view, you'll want to stake out a spot on the Washington Avenue. The festivities start on Thursday, November 22, at 8:45 a.m., beginning at Washington Avenue and 4th Street and proceeding to downtown St. Louis. You can also watch the parade on local TV station KMOV.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—the biggest and brightest of all Turkey Day parades—draws more than 3.5 million revelers every year (and that's not counting the 50 million viewers who tune in at home). To celebrate the 86th anniversary of the parade, Macy's will feature 11 marching bands, 900 clowns, 1,600 cheerleaders and dancers, and a long lineup of celebrity entertainers. Macy's will also debut novelty balloons like Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles alongside beloved character balloons (in past years, Buzz Lightyear, Snoopy, and Kermit the Frog have been spotted making their way from 77th street and Central West Park to Herald Square). If you're planning to catch the event live in Manhattan on Thursday, November 22, head to 34th Street, 6th Avenue, Columbus Circle, or Central Park West for the best views. Also, be sure to find a place to watch well before the parade begins at 9 a.m. If you can't make it to New York City, you can still catch the spectacle from your living room, thanks to NBC's live broadcast.

Liz Weiss, Staff Writer

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of ...  Read more

Recommended

10 Amazing Montana Vacations

Breathtaking landscapes and year-round outdoor adventures will inspire you to visit Big Sky Country.

May 20, 2019

The 13 Best Savannah Tours

Experience real southern hospitality when visiting Savannah with these top tours.

John RodwanMay 16, 2019

The 15 Best Boston Tours

Get to know one of America's most historic cities with these tours.

Kim Foley MacKinnonMay 14, 2019

The 18 Best New Orleans Tours

With so much to see and do in New Orleans, these tours will help you maximize your time in the Big Easy.

Claire LawtonMay 10, 2019

The 7 Best Chicago Boat Tours

These low-key tours offer unique views of a city famed for its skyline.

Holly JohnsonMay 9, 2019

30 Cheap Weekend Getaways in the USA

From beach destinations to amusement parks, these vacations are perfect for an affordable and quick trip.

May 9, 2019

The 15 Best Chicago Tours

Foodies, boat enthusiasts and historians alike will appreciate any one of these tours of the Windy City.

John RodwanMay 8, 2019

16 Incredible Midwest Vacations

See which outstanding escapes showcase some of Middle America's top destinations.

April 29, 2019

The 21 Most Beautiful Waterfalls to See Around the World

Discover which stunning falls offer once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences.

April 25, 2019

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

April 18, 2019