America's Largest Thanksgiving Parades

By John Misachi on November 24 2020 in Society

New York's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the busiest in the country. Photo credit: Alexiuz / Shutterstock.com.
  • Thanksgiving Day is an important holiday in the United States, marked by annual parades in cities across the country.
  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the biggest parade in the US, with millions of spectators both in person and on TV.
  • Plymouth, Massachusetts, is the birthplace of American Thanksgiving, and they celebrate with a yearly parade as well.

Thanksgiving Day is a special holiday in America that is observed on the fourth Thursday of every November. On this day, Americans give thanks for the blessings of the preceding year. Thanksgiving is never complete without a well-prepared turkey for dinner. Before Thanksgiving dinner, there is often a Thanksgiving parade. The parade marks the culmination of the holiday, often complete with giant balloons, marching bands, and festive floats. Here are the ten biggest Thanksgiving Day parades that are held annually.

10. Chicago, Illinois

Santa Claus at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, 2019. Image credit: Aaron of L.A. Photography/Shutterstock

The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade starts from the Congress Parkway, heading down State Street. The march starts at 8 am, and an elephant has led the way in past years. There are also familiar faces in the parade: floats and balloons with images of children’s favorite characters like Big Bird and the Cookie Monster. Dozens of clowns march in the parade too. The McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade is often broadcasted on national television for those who cannot join the live parade.

9. Detroit, Michigan

The annual Detroit Thanksgiving Parade, 2014. Image credit: atommader/Shutterstock

The Detroit Thanksgiving parade, known as "America's Thanksgiving Parade," kicks off from Woodward Avenue and proceeds towards Congress with spectators lining up to enjoy the colorful displays of art and talent. The parade is characterized by giant helium balloons and floats, but the crowd’s favorite are the “Big Heads,” which resemble walking bobbleheads that depict funny animals, cultural references, and even important people in the history of America. Spectators also have an opportunity to sign up for a pre-parade road race.

8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The annual Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade, 2016. Image credit: George Sheldon/Shutterstock

The 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Parade in Philadelphia markets itself as the oldest Thanksgiving Parade in America. Since 1920, Philadelphia has celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with an assortment of activities including festive floats, marching bands, and a host of other performances, including the choir. The march starts at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard and passes several parks and buildings which provide vantage points for spectators before concluding at the Philadelphian Museum of Art at around noon. The museum gives a view straight to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and is one of the best places to watch the parade.

7. Houston, Texas

The annual Houston Thanksgiving Parade, 2017. Image credit: Roberto Galan/Shutterstock

Houston’s Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Parade has been drawing thousands of spectators to the streets of Houston for over 60 years. The parade begins at 9 am on Thanksgiving morning on Smith and Lamar Street and marches around downtown Houston with live bands, cheerleaders, giant balloons, and decorated floats. Santa Claus may also make an early appearance during the parade. More than 400,000 spectators line the Southwestern city streets to enjoy the colorful performance. The march ends at Smith and Dallas Street. The parade has been voted among the top Thanksgiving Parades.

6. Charlotte, North Carolina

Close-up of a tuba player at the annual Charlotte Thanksgiving Parade. Image credit: digidreamgrafix/Shutterstock

Since 1947, Charlotte has celebrated the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day parade. Previously known as the Carrousel Parade, it is sponsored by a health company and attracts over 100,000 spectators. The march takes place along Tyron Street through Uptown Charlotte. The major attractions include impressive marching bands, festive floats, and balloons. The parade also includes a performance by known celebrities with dignitaries also joining the march. In 2013 Charlotte introduced the Segwalloon: ground-level balloons built over Segway scooters so characters can interact with the public. These were developed because light poles on the parade route would have interfered with larger, floating balloons.

5. Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore's annual Thanksgiving Parade is a procession of cars from the Classic Motor Museum. Image credit: Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Maryland has its annual Classic Motor Museum Thanksgiving Parade. The audience has the opportunity to take in a procession of antique cars as they drive down Talbot Street, finishing their drive at the Classic Motor Museum on Marengo Avenue for a Cars & Coffee session, with food and refreshments. 

4. St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, has an annual Thanksgiving Parade downtown. Image credit: f11photo/Shutterstock

The Ameren Thanksgiving Day Parade in St. Louis has been celebrated for over 30 years. During the parade, revellers have an opportunity to enjoy the sounds of marching bands as they marvel at the majestic floats of Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph floating overhead. Santa Claus also makes a yearly appearance at the parade, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas at the end of the parade. The march starts at Washington Avenue and 45th Street and proceeds to downtown St. Louis.

3. Plymouth, Massachusetts

A turkey float at the annual Plymouth Thanksgiving Parade. Image credit: Michael Sean OLeary/Shutterstock

The Thanksgiving holiday originated in Plymouth. As a result, the town celebrates the holiday with a massive parade known as America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade. The parade activities stretch over the weekend before the official Turkey Day, honoring the pilgrims and the earliest American settlers. The parade takes place along the waterfront area, kicking off around 10 am. It offers a sequential look at the history and heritage of America from the 17th century to the present. Musicians provide the soundtrack, while the military band also forms part of the entertainment. The event kicks off with a military flyover.

2. Seattle, Washington

Head to Westlake Center to get good views of the Thanksgiving Parade in Seattle. Image credit: Cascade Creatives/Shutterstock

The Seattle Thanksgiving Parade, known as the Seattle Macy’s Thanksgiving Holiday Parade, is not the same as the New York’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Seattle parade is particularly popular since it takes place a day after Thanksgiving in West Seattle. It features 25 inflated floats, hundreds of costumed characters, and several marching bands, among other performers. The march kicks off at 7th Avenue and Pine Street at about 9 am and it lasts about four hours. Revelers usually crowd the Westlake Center for the best view.

1. New York

The New York Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is the largest in the country. Image credit: a katz/Shutterstock

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the streets of New York is the largest Thanksgiving parade in America. More than 3 million spectators crowd the street to witness the various activities of the Thanksgiving parade while another over 40 million people across the country gather around their televisions to capture the magic of the parade. The parade is characterized by large balloons including Snoopy and Kermit the Frog. There are also festive floats and clowned characters that form the band. The parade starts at 77th Street and Central Park and marches through the Upper West Side before ending at 34th Street and 7th Avenue.

More in Society