Discover the top Thanksgiving Day parades around the US
Enjoy a memorable Thanksgiving stay in these five cities that transform the annual holiday from routine to extraordinary. | By Veronica Stoddart | October 12, 2023
Celebrate Thanksgiving in any of these five cities hosting America’s most spectacular holiday parades — full of giant character balloons, massive floats and colorful marching bands — as well as a cornucopia of festive seasonal activities.
Thanksgiving in New York is undeniably special. As the signature event, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade attracts around three million spectators who enjoy the elaborate floats, Broadway theater performers and massive character balloons, making their way through Manhattan. New York Hilton Midtown is an ideal spot to experience the world’s largest parade, with a selection of rooms and suites with a perfect view of all the festivities. Make it a long weekend and catch the Black Friday deals at the city’s landmark department stores, or shop for unique artisanal gifts at the Winter Village at Bryant Park.
(Photo Credit: Macy's, Inc.)
Visit Chicago over Thanksgiving and witness more than 100 floats and performances — from equestrian riders and dance acts to fire twirlers and acrobats — in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade. More than 400,000 spectators gather downtown to watch Teddy the Turkey, the parade’s official mascot, lead the revelers past the city’s architectural showpieces. While here, make your Thanksgiving dinner special with a gourmet lunch cruise on the Chicago River. Prefer something more casual? Nosh on a bratwurst, a nod to the city’s German heritage, and shop for handmade gifts at Christkindlmarket, one of the country’s best German-style holiday markets.
(Photo Credit: Eric James Walsh)
Join Houstonians as they gather by the hundreds of thousands for the annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade. Admire 20 soaring balloons and 14 elaborate floats, plus high-stepping marching bands, drill teams and musical performances. The parade loops through more than 20 city blocks, so there are plenty of places to catch a glimpse of the show. For prime watching, consider purchasing a seat online for the grandstand seating area, where the bands put on special performances. Texas’ largest city is also the perfect place to get an early start on your winter holiday spirit. Be sure to explore the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights, a winter wonderland of decorations, shops, ice carvers and an outdoor ice rink.
(Photo Credit: Jim Mcingvale)
Work up an appetite with Detroit’s annual Turkey Trot, a 40-year tradition that’s celebrated as the largest Thanksgiving morning run. Often referred to as “the parade before the parade,” participants can run a 10k, 5k or 1-mile race, before heading to America’s Thanksgiving Parade in downtown, which features marching bands, dance teams and equestrian units. There are also a few unique crowd-pleasers, including the Big Head Corps, marching with giant paper-mache masks depicting celebrities, and the Distinguished Clown Corps — 2,000 clowns who distribute colored beads along with good cheer.
The City of Brotherly Love kicks off the holiday season with the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade, the country’s oldest dating to 1920. Get an eyeful of the colorful floats, choirs, tap dancers, oversized balloons and 19 marching bands — a number that makes this the most band-friendly parade in the country. The performers follow a 1.4-mile (2.3-kilometer) parade route before ending in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the best spots to watch the action. Stay at Motto by Hilton Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square and be a short seven-minute drive from the museum. You can also opt for the 30-minute walk or use the city’s bike sharing program to pedal your way to and from the parade.
Wherever you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, these five cities will delight with their memorable pomp and pageantry as they herald the start of the holiday season with showstopping parades.
(Hero Image Credit: Macy's, Inc.)
The former USA TODAY travel editor, Veronica Stoddart is an award-winning travel writer who has written for dozens of publications and websites, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, AARP The Magazine and frommers.com. She considers travel a force for good in the world.