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Best Thanksgiving Day Parades in the U.S.

U.S Thanksgiving Parades
Photo by PilotBrent from Pixabay

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On Thanksgiving morning, kids, both young and old all over the United States, gather in front of their televisions to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, “oohing and aahing” at the floats and bigger-than-life-size balloons from Snoopy to Spider-Man. The excitement is palpable, and it’s a tradition that connects generations, reminding them of the simple joys and shared moments that marks the start of the holiday season. 

Whether you’re a kid or just a kid at heart, Thanksgiving Day parades in any size or shape, are a reminder that we all love a good, old-fashioned dose of holiday joy and togetherness. From the smallest towns to the busiest cities, Thanksgiving is a day when people come together, connecting with the heart of the community and making memories. With that in mind, if you prefer a real-life parade experience, as opposed to just watching one on television, join us on our tour of some of the “not-so-well-known” Best Thanksgiving Day Parades across the United States.

Wild Dunes Resort Thanksgiving Day Golf Cart Parade

The Wild Dunes Resort Thanksgiving Day Golf Cart Parade in Charleston, SC is arguably the zaniest way to kick off your holiday feast. Forget about fancy floats, here, it’s all about turbocharged golf carts dressed to the nines. You’ve got turkey-themed carts, cranberry sauce mobiles, and even a gravy boat that’s hitting top speed! It’s like a vehicular fashion show gone wild. Families gather to cheer on their favorite quirky creations, making bets on which cart will “stuff” the competition as they make one-and-a-half passes through the resort core on Palmetto Drive between The Village and the Sweetgrass Pavilion. It’s a parade like no other, where laughter is the main dish, and the only thing you need to bring is your sense of humor.

Novant Health Thanksgiving Eve Parade

Obviously, the Novant Health Thanksgiving Eve Parade in Uptown Charlotte, NC is looking to get a leg up on the rest of the country’s Thanksgiving parades by having theirs the night before. This award-winning, biggest Thanksgiving parade in the Southeast, looks to light up the night along Tryon Street, where you can bring your own chair to secure your spot, or purchase VIP seating. Performances by local dance groups, high school and community marching bands, and Battle of the Bands participants, along with original floats, giant balloons, food, and more, provide the perfect recipe to start your holiday season. 

Sun Bowl Parade

The Sun Bowl Parade is the Thanksgiving Day extravaganza in El Paso bringing together West Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico under one sun-soaked umbrella. It’s a community fiesta where service clubs, businesses, and everyday folks come out to play. The parade struts its stuff on a three-mile stretch along Montana Avenue, with more than one hundred groups putting on the show. You can see everything from floats and horses, to clowns and marching bands. And, you get to pick your parade-watching style, whether it’s lining the avenue for a curbside view, or buying a comfy reserved seat. It’s a slice of Southwestern fun in the great state of Texas, where the whole community joins in, making it a memorable day under the sun.

H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade

Houston jingles its way into the holiday season, and it brings the whole neighborhood with one of the oldest Thanksgiving Day parades in the country, and its signature start to the holiday season, the H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade! Starting on Smith Avenue in downtown Houston, the route covers more than 20 city blocks, featuring one-of-a-kind floats, marching bands, and those amazing high-flying balloons. This parade also packs a sleigh of holiday cheer with the arrival of the jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus. And let’s not forget about Tom Turkey, he’s strutting his stuff too. So, grab your holiday spirit and join the festive crowd to experience a Christmas card coming to life right in the heart of Houston!

The WinterNational Thanksgiving Day Parade

The WinterNational Thanksgiving Day Parade in North Miami is where even the palm trees wear party hats! Think turkey-themed floats, salsa-dancing turkeys, a parade grand marshal who’s probably a dolphin in disguise, and enough confetti to make you think it’s snowing. It’s definitely not your grandma’s Thanksgiving parade, it’s more of a party of feathers, fun, flip-flops, and conga line marching bands. Instead of candy canes, you  might even have some coconuts thrown your way! So, bring your sunscreen and your maracas, because Miami’s Thanksgiving parade is one that says, “gobble, gobble,” as you mambo your way into the holiday season!

While you are in Florida you will not want to miss these Best Holiday Parades In Florida.

Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Parade

The Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Parade is the jazzy, soulful lead-in to Thanksgiving, that hits the streets of New Orleans with all the flair you’d expect from the Big Easy. Starting at the Superdome, it makes its way to the French Quarter, where the streets come alive with the sounds of brass bands, the smells of Creole cuisine, and the sights of floats that are more decorated than a Mardi Gras costume. It’s a feast for the senses and the perfect way to start your holiday season and, if you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of a jazz legend or two.

Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade

The oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country, the 6abc/Dunkin’ Donuts Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade takes the turkey day tradition to a whole new level. The city streets transform into a maze of decked-out floats, sky-scraper sized balloons, a chorus line of musicians, dancers, and marching bands, live performances, and special guest appearances, including, of course, Santa Claus. Stretching from JFK Boulevard to the “Rocky-made-famous” Art Museum steps, it’s a holiday extravaganza, Philly style, minus the cheesesteaks, that officially ushers in the holiday season!

America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration

Ranked #1 Thanksgiving parade in the entire nation, America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration is a journey through time in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Starting in the 17th century with the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Rock, it tells the story of our country’s evolution century by century. As one of America’s only historically accurate, chronological parades, you become part of history as you see beautifully decorated floats showcasing historic events, honoring national anniversaries, and celebrating every era of this nation’s history. It’s only fitting for this parade to start at Plymouth Rock, the place of America’s birth.

Downtown Thanksgiving Parade Spectacular

Home to the only balloon parade in the state, the Downtown Thanksgiving Parade Spectacular in Stamford, Connecticut is the crown jewel of Thanksgiving celebrations, complete with live music that gets your toes tapping from a lineup of local marching bands. But the real stars of the parade are the colossal helium-filled balloons of childhood favorites like Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, and the iconic Mr. Potato Head. It’s not just a parade, it’s a balloon bonanza that’s grown from a small, hometown gathering, to the largest event of its kind in the entire country. Looking for something to do the night before the parade? You can score an exclusive sneak peek at the balloon magic during the Giant Balloon Inflation Party. 

Ameren Thanks-For-Giving Parade

With more than 100 participants in a merry mix of musical floats, dance groups, drumlines, marching bands from the local region, giant helium balloons, restored antique cars and fire trucks stretching along Market Street in St Louis, the Ameren Thanks-For-Giving Parade is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. And what’s a parade without the man in red himself? Santa Claus wraps up the parade in style, arriving in his sleigh, reindeer and all, to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, marking the official start of the holiday season in St Louis. And while the city is known for its “blues,” the Thanks-For-Giving Parade brings nothing but joy and holiday cheer.

Thanksgiving Parades: Celebrations of America’s Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving is a reminder to pause and appreciate the blessings taken for granted, and to dust off the cozy sweaters, round up the family, and get ready for some at-home quality time. What better prelude to a festive feast of turkey and all of the trimmings, than gathering with the community for a Thanksgiving parade? It’s the perfect blend of togetherness and fun, a way to celebrate Thanksgiving while creating special moments with loved ones. It’s that wide-eyed wonder of the kid in all of us that makes these parades a slice of pure Americana, an amazing spectacle that brings generations together, and a sweet reminder of what Thanksgiving is all about.


**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Events are subject to change. Please check the events webpage for updates and schedules.

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