Top 10 Thanksgiving Parades

Communities pull out all the stops to celebrate the November holiday with family-oriented parades.

Besides giving thanks and stuffing ourselves silly, the November holiday offers a chance to watch some great parades. Of course, the Macy’s Day parade in New York City is the mother of all parades—I think I spent every Thanksgiving Day growing up glued in front of the television looking for the best floats, marching bands and Santa Claus. There are many other parades across the country and each has its own charm. Here’s a list of the best. Most occur on Thanksgiving; those that don’t are noted.

1. New York City

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, now in its 82nd year, has set the standard for Thanksgiving Day parades. The 2.5-mile parade through Manhattan draws about 3 million people, and another 44 million watch the parade on TV.

2. Chicago

The Chicago parade, at 75 years old, is hot on the heels of New York in terms of its age, yet it’s got all the requisite elements, plus a few extras, including Ronald McDonald (McDonald’s is the main sponsor). This year, the Budweiser Clydesdale horses will march along.

3. Philadelphia

Philadelphia claims to have the nation’s oldest parade, dating back to 1910. Beginning at noon, the parade features Sesame Street and Disney characters. You can hang out in Campbell’s Winter Wonderland Expo tent for entertainment if you get chilly.

4. Charlotte

The Thanksgiving parade in Charlotte, N.C., has been around since 1947 and draws in crowds from both North Carolina and South Carolina. Half a million people come to cheer on the Carrousel Queen and her court as well as the Carolina Clowns, who have participated in the parade for the past 50 years.


5. Detroit

Detroit calls its parade “America’s Thanksgiving Parade,” which began in 1924. A claim to fame is its giant papier-mâché head collection(some date back to the 1940s), purchased from artists in Viareggio, Italy. The 300-plus “Big Head Corp,” formed this year, should be spectacular for the march.

6. Plymouth

America’s Hometown Parade” in Plymouth, Mass., happens the Saturday before the big day, Nov. 22. The town claims it has one of America’s only historically accurate chronological parades, representing the 17th through the 21st centuries, starting of course with the Pilgrims. Music, historical reenactments and floats round out the day. Plymouth also hosts the Pilgrim's Progress Parade on Thanksgiving Day where people march to Burial Hill to honor the Pilgrims.

7. Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s 82nd annual parade also occurs the Saturday before Thanksgiving, with 20 bands, floats, 30-foot balloons and a special live Nativity float.

8. St. Louis

St. Louis promises more than 130 floats and displays in this year’s Thanksgiving Day parade. There are even cowboys in the line-up and a Santa pulled by reindeer closes out the day.

9. Houston

Houston picked a “Hooray for Hollywood” theme for its 59th annual parade, so look for celebrities and sports stars, along with 5,000 participants in marching bands, drill teams and floats.

10. Baltimore

Baltimore kicks off its holiday season on the Saturday before Thanksgiving with its parade. Highlights include marching bands, drum and bugle corps, equestrian units, clowns and floats.

Destinations: Plymouth, Baltimore, Detroit, Saint Louis, Charlotte, New York City, Philadelphia, Houston, Milwaukee, Chicago

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Sightseeing

User Comments

I used to take the kids to a Thanksgiving Day parade in Schenectady, NY, which advertised itself as the largest Thanksgiving Day parade west of the Hudson River.