The 15 Best Thanksgiving Day Parades in America!
By Ian Spiegel-Blum
Thanksgiving Day parades are one of the most important aspects of the holiday, along with a tummy full of food and giving thanks with your loved ones. Thankful spectators flock from all of the country to get a glimpse of these extravagant displays. Nothing quite kicks off the festivities of Thanksgiving like giant balloon characters, intricate floats, and talented marching bands. Here are the 15 very best Thanksgiving parades in the U.S.
Tied with Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, America's Thanksgiving Day Parade was started by the J.L. Hudson Company department store (while the latter was started by the Macy's department store). Floats, marching bands and balloons usher in the arrival of Santa Claus, which signifies the beginning of the Christmas season. It is televised around Detroit and online.
The 6abc Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade is the oldest parade in the country. The parade has gone through many different owners and names, originating as the Gimbel's Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsored by the now-defunct department store of the same name. Live music, in addition to balloons and floats, are a main feature, with high-school bands from across the country showing off their stuff. The parade also serves as a large-scale food drive, raising as much as 40,000 pounds of food.
Not to mistaken with America's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit, the America's Hometown Thanksgiving Day Parade in Plymouth celebrates the tradition where it all began. From their website: "The celebration of Thanksgiving becomes history-brought-to-life as pilgrims, Native Americans, soldiers, patriots, and pioneers proudly climb out of the history books and onto the streets of Plymouth." Floats are common, but instead of big cartoon characters, this parade focuses more on the history of the holiday. Events continue through the weekend with a food festival, crafter's village, and live entertainment.
For the past 67 years, the Houston Thanksgiving Day Parade takes to the streets on Thanksgiving morning to celebrate the season. "Sensational floats, high-flying balloons, marching bands, artistic entries and live entertainment" pepper the parade. The parade starts at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, so be sure to come out early.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey lead performers and elephants through the streets of Chicago to kick-off Thanksgiving Day in the McDonald's parade. One of only three nationally televised parades, families can gather around the TV to watch familiar characters fly the skies. Ronald McDonald is a staple in this one, as are many of his McDonald character friends.
According to a U.S. News and World Report, the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of America's best. The parade features 15 marching bands, eight balloons, 15 floats, and all kinds of other performances. It is traditionally known for awarding scholarships to high school band students.
Taking place the day after Thanksgiving on the other side of the country from the New York Macy's Day Parade, the My Macy's Parade features 25 floats, over 600 characters, marching bands and more. Enjoy a nice turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning and keep the party rolling the next day with this Seattle tradition.
In any picture of the Macy's Day Parade, you'll see spectators bundled up with scarfs, jackets, and gloves, braced against the oncoming winter cold. Not in Miami, where the WinterNational Parade warms things up. Taking place on Thanksgiving Morning at 10 a.m., this smaller scale parade hosts a wide variety of local performers. Get in the holiday spirit without the cold.
Come in person or watch the Emmy-winning live broadcast of the St. Louis Ameren Thanksgiving Day Parade as the performers march down Market Street in Downtown St. Louis. With over 130 parade units, "including musical floats and displays, giant helium balloon figures, animal units, restored antique cars and fire trucks, and marching bands," there's something for everyone. Make sure to see who is announced as the Honorary Grand Marshall, an annual tradition.
One of the newer Thanksgiving Day Parades, the Bayou classic has already drawn national attention for its unique blend of creole art and music with traditional Thanksgiving fare. The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a predominately African American community crew and service organization, plays a large role in making this parade stand out.
The Milwaukee Holiday Parade rings in the Thanksgiving festivities early, taking place the Saturday before Thanksgiving. One can expect the usual floats, bands, and helium balloons, but what makes this one stand out for their inclusion of local celebrities. The Johnson Controls Company, whose employees also volunteer for the Hunger Task Force's Food for Family program annually, presents the parade.
The Baltimore Parade is a local tradition, with all of the usual accruements for the occasion, including clowns, floats, horses, marching bands, and an appearance by Santa himself. But the parade is just the beginning: Baltimore hosts events throughout the week, including a "shopping extravaganza, turkey day celebrations, and holiday kick-off events."
The "largest parade west of the Hudson River," the Schenectady Daily Gazette Holiday Parade is among the best. With over 15,000 spectators, it's widely known as one of the largest nighttime parades in the Northeast. Each year has a different theme to keep things fresh. Take a trip to downtown Schenectady or watch it on public access this December.
Perhaps the most famous Thanksgiving Day Parade, three million spectators come out to watch the festivities in person with over 40 million more watching from home. The parade is tied with America's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit for second oldest in the nation. It starts each year at 9 a.m. and always features many of the most iconic characters from pop-culture, including Shrek, Kermit the Frog, and even Pikachu. When you say Thanksgiving Day Parade, this is the one that most easily comes to mind.
Just 30 miles away from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the UBS Parade takes place the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It's one of the largest parades in the country, routinely drawing 100,000 spectators, eager to see the giant balloon characters, floats, and award-winning marching bands. Volunteer positions are still available. Check out their website for details.