Believe it or not, the holidays are just around the corner, and for many families, the official start of the holiday season is Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving is a day for family and friends, an attitude of gratitude, turkey and stuffing, and of course, a parade. From the fantastic spectacle of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route that winds through New York City, to Waikiki’s parade honoring the heroes and fallen of Pearl Harbor, there is likely an amazing Thanksgiving day parade near you.
The most popular, and the most recognized, Thanksgiving Day parade on this list puts 3 million New Yorkers and visitors shoulder-to-shoulder to watch huge balloons float overhead while the nation’s best marching bands serenade them along the parade route. For 94 years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has called New York City home.
In 2018, over 8,000 people will participate in the parade—some clearly in view, and others working diligently behind the scenes providing logistical support. Of course, the overhead balloons and the marching bands are accompanied down the 2.5-mile Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route by dancers, floats, clowns, celebrities, and Santa Claus.
Time: 9:00 am – noon.
Parade route: The parade route starts at 77th Street and Central Park West to Central Park South, and then to 6th Avenue, finally arriving at Macy’s Herald Square.
Best viewing tips: Arrive early—like 5:00 am to 6:00 am. Favorite watching areas include Central Park West and Central Park South. The YAI National Institute can assist spectators with special needs (in advance) by calling 212-273-6186.
Televised: Yes-nationwide on NBC.
Philadelphia is home to the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States. For nearly 100 years, locals and visitors have lined the streets along the 1.4-mile parade route to watch choirs, marching bands, and dance groups strut their stuff. Local performers are mixed in with the grand floats, balloons, and nationally recognized entertainers.
Of course, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus make an appearance to help kick off the holiday season. Be sure to save enough time to visit The Parade Zone where the entertainment continues—enjoy more music, have your face painted, and get your pictures taken in themed photo stations.
Time: 8:30 am – noon.
Parade route: March begins at 20th and JFK Boulevard, to 16th street, and then follows to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It continues around Logan Circle at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Best viewing tips: The prime viewing area for the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the parade route ends.
Televised: Yes-locally on 6ABC.
Chicago’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1934 in hopes that it would lift the spirit of Chicago residents during the Great Depression. Today, the holiday tradition continues with a grand parade of equestrian units, floats, balloons, performers, and, of course, marching bands.
An estimated 500,000 people line Uncle Dan’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route. Get there early as the parade starts sharply at 8 am. VIP tickets in the Television Zone Grandstand are available for purchase in advance.
Time: 8:00 am to 11:00 am.
Parade route: State Street from Congress to Randolph.
Best viewing tips: Locals know that the best spots are front row on State Street. According to insiders, the corner of State Street and Washington is also a great spot to watch, if you get there early enough.
Televised: Yes-Nationally on WGN America
Since 1947, Charlotte has hosted a magical Thanksgiving day parade through the heart of downtown. This year, 100,000 spectators or more are expected as the City of Charlotte celebrates their 250th anniversary. After the parade, enjoy the Charlotte Christmas Village, a German-inspired market that will host Santa Claus. If you’ve been nice, he’ll even pose for some pictures with you.
Time: 9:00 am.
Parade route: South on Tryon Street from 9th Street to Stonewall Street.
Best viewing tips: The performance area for 2018 will be in front of the Duke Energy building. VIP seating is available for purchase.
Televised: Yes-locally on WBTV.
In its 34th year, the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade features musical floats, animal units, marching bands, restored antique fire trucks and cars, and of course, Santa Claus. The parade route passes several plazas and parks until it arrives at Jefferson National Memorial Park. There is an accessible viewing area, close to the end of the route at Market Street and South 8th Street.
Time: 8:45 am.
Parade Route: 20th Street and Market Street and proceed towards Broadway in downtown St. Louis.
Best viewing tips: The parade route is long, and generally you can find a great spot if you arrive an hour early.
Televised: Yes, locally on KMOV-TV.
A newcomer on the list of great Thanksgiving parades, New Orleans produces a parade like only New Orleans can. As part of the annual Bayou Classic weekend that includes the best-of-the-best battle of the bands and football game, the parade starts in the afternoon from the Superdome.
In typical New Orleans style, music is the center of this parade, with numerous marching bands, military units, performers, and colorful floats. The Bayou Classic lasts the entire weekend, so be sure to check out the other events while you are in town.
Time: 3:30 pm – 6:00 pm.
Parade route: Starts at the Superdome and goes all the way to the French Market.
Best viewing tips: It’s New Orleans—could there be a bad spot along the route?
Televised: Yes, locally on KMOV-TV.
For 69 years, Houston has produced a Thanksgiving Day parade with a definite Texas twist. Marching bands from around the state, floats, balloons, cheerleaders, and other special performers keep the spectators entertained. Walk to your spot along the parade route early to join in the citywide singalong of “Lean on Me.”
Time: 9:00 am – 11:00 am.
Parade route: 20th Street and Market Street and proceed towards Broadway in downtown.
Best viewing areas: Insiders say that Smith to Walker, Walker to Milam, and Pease to Louisiana are the best areas to watch the parade.
Televised: Yes, locally on KHOU Channel 11, and syndicated on several stations throughout Texas.
The holiday season in Plymouth, Massachusetts kicks off the Friday before Thanksgiving and lasts until Sunday afternoon. The founders of the parade claim that this is America’s only historically accurate parade with floats and performers giving spectators a chronological glimpse into America’s heritage from the 17th century to today. Military bands, bugle and drum corps, handmade floats, and a military flyover are the essence of the parade.
In addition to the annual Thanksgiving parade, the weekend is packed with events, including concerts, a food festival, and a special event, Illuminate Thanksgiving. Illuminate 2018 takes place later in the day on Saturday and focuses on young people. A procession of lights ends at the waterfront as young people from around the state put on a can’t miss program of gratitude and giving.
Date: Saturday, November 17.
Time: 11:00 am.
Parade route: Starts at the National Pilgrim Memorial Meetinghouse.
Best viewing areas: Plymouth is a charming, small town. Anywhere along the parade route should provide you with a great view.
Televised: No, but it may be live-streamed, check with local TV stations.
The Hollywood Christmas Parade takes place on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. This star-studded parade features marching bands, equestrian units, balloons, floats, and a wide range of performers. Tickets are available in the bandstand if you don’t want to fight the crowds.
Date: Sunday, November 25.
Time: 6:00 pm.
Parade route: Starts at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive, travels east to Vine, south on Vine to Sunset, and west on Sunset back to Orange.
Best viewing tips: Get there early to find a great spot. The parade organizers recommend taking public transportation as many streets and parking will be blocked for the parade.
If you are in Hawaii, skip the crazy Black Friday sales and attend the Waikiki Holiday Parade. This annual parade remembers and honors the fallen heroes and survivors of Pearl Harbor. The 1.5-mile-long parade route features Hawaiian bands and performers, marching bands from the mainland, military units, and floats—all with a definitive Hawaiian flare. This evening parade is lit by torches, adding to its mystique and reverence. But make no mistake, this is a celebratory affair just steps from the famous Waikiki Beach.
Date: November 24.
Start time: 7:00 pm.
Parade route: Starts at Fort DeRussy Park and ends at Queen Kapiolani Park.
Best viewing tips: The parade passes several parks along the way, making viewing accessible for all.