4 Thanksgiving Parades Worth Traveling For

By | November 14, 2016 |

For many families, watching a parade on Thanksgiving morning is as synonymous with the holiday as eating turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. While many people enjoy curling up on the couch in their pajamas to see the floats go by on TV, taking kids to see a big parade in person is a life experience not to be missed.

From character balloons floating through the skies to energetic song and dance numbers, these four Thanksgiving parades are worth the travel.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — New York City

Courtesy of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Courtesy of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The biggest one of all, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, should be on every parade lover’s bucket list. Celebrating its 90th year, the spectacle features star-studded music and dance performances, marching bands galore, and of course, Santa Claus. But the giant cartoon character balloons floating by Manhattan’s skyscrapers are the highlight for kids and kids at heart. Plus, expect performances from the Broadway casts of Holiday InnHairspray Live! and Cats.

Kid-friendly Tip: After the parade, take the kids to Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and other landmark department stores to see their inventive holiday window displays.

6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade — Philadelphia

Courtesy Jenny Willden

Courtesy Jenny Willden

Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving parade began in 1920, making it the oldest in the country. The route travels past crowds lining Benjamin Franklin Parkway before ending at a Philadelphia landmark—the Philadelphia Art Museum and its iconic Rocky Steps. Now known as the 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, the event goes big with character balloons like The Grinch and My Little Pony, lavish floats, cheerleaders and marching bands. The parade wraps with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Afterwards, you can shop for treats and gifts at the city’s Christmas Village.

Kid-friendly Tip: Keep kids toasty by visiting parade sponsor Dunkin’ Donuts’ stand for free hot chocolate and beanies designed to fit kids’ heads.

America’s Hometown Parade — Plymouth, Mass.

Courtesy of America's Hometown Parade

Courtesy of America’s Hometown Parade

There’s no better place to celebrate the concept of Thanksgiving than the site of the first such holiday: Plymouth, Massachusetts (a short drive south of the Boston area). Held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, America’s Hometown Parade is one of the country’s few parades telling the history of the U.S. in chronological order. See history unfold as floats and actors depict reenactments of American events from the 17th-century pilgrims thru today. The parade also honors and celebrates the armed forces with performances by the Drum and Bugle Corps and military bands.

Kid-friendly Tip: After the parade, take a virtual trip back through four centuries of American history in a historic village, where educational exhibits, games, and historical figures make learning fun for kids.

America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — Detroit

Courtesy of America's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Courtesy of America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Held in downtown Detroit, America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade shares the honor with New York City of being the second oldest such event. Along with familiar character balloons, marching bands, Santa Claus and clowns, the parade also offers the special treat of watching 150 unique papier-mâché heads called “Big Heads” march. Modeled after celebrities, local heroes and animals, the Big Heads have been a tradition since the parade’s 1924 inception.

Kid-friendly Tip: Come early for the family-friendly Turkey Trot 5K and Michigan Mashed Potato Mile Run before the parade.

Plan for a Full Day

Whether your children are stroller-sized or teens, you will want to make sure they are prepped for spending the day among big crowds, standing for long periods of time and doing extra walking. Be sure to pack weather-appropriate clothing and plenty of snacks. If you can, stay in a hotel near the parade route, in case someone needs to rest, warm up or take a bathroom break. While attending these events with kids might take some extra preparation, it truly is a worthwhile experience the entire family will remember for years to come.


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