Before our annual bingeing on football and food, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may dominate the streets of Manhattan and television sets nationwide, but it’s not the only big-ballooned party in America.
We’ve rounded up parades across the country that emulate the granddaddy staged in New York yet offer a few novelties that may entice you to check them out instead.
McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade — Chicago
At this Chicago parade you can catch the free-wheelin’ acrobatic skills of The Cirques Experience Wheel Jam. (Photo: McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade/Facebook)
Time: 8-11 a.m. CST
This parade is sure to rock, especially with Grand Marshal Dee Snider (of heavy metal band Twisted Sister and The Celebrity Apprentice fame) kicking things off. Traveling down Chicago’s famed State Street from Randolph to Congress, the parade will feature giant balloons, floats, and marching bands joined by acts such as the Original Harlem Globetrotters, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, the Joffrey Ballet, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, and the Jesse White Tumbling Team. In its 81st year, this parade is one of a few with a national broadcast, so watch it live in your jammies on WGN America.
6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade — Philadelphia
Fun floats of cartoon characters are a big hit with kids and adults alike. (Photo: 6ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade/Facebook)
Time: 8:30 a.m.-noon EST
The oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country — take that, New York — this parade travels 1.4 miles down Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Gigantic balloons this year include beloved Dr. Seuss characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Horton, the Lorax, and the Grinch. Also expect cameos from Anna and Elsa from Disney on Ice presents Frozen and former NSync member Lance Bass. Little girls and young moms should love that combination.
Winternational Thanksgiving Parade — North Miami
The holiday beat must go on, rain or shine! (Photo: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Time: 10 a.m. EST
With temperatures in the upper 70s, the Miami Metro area might seem like an odd place to ring in the holiday season. But this parade celebrates its 40th anniversary with a menagerie of bands, dance groups, and professional floats. Add to this the parade mascot: The melting snowman I.C. Snowden will ring in the start of cooler weather in southern Florida. We wonder if Olaf might join him this year.
Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade — Charlotte
The Charlotte Thanksgiving parade is the only place to see the unique “Segwaloons.” (Photo: Charlotte Center City)
Time: 9:30 a.m. EST
Formerly known as the Carolinas’ Carrousel Parade, this annual event in uptown Charlotte is the fourth-largest Thanksgiving parade in America. Attracting about 100,000 spectators each year, it will feature marching bands, floats, musical performances, and “Segwaloons” — a cross between a Segway and a balloon.
Annual H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade — Houston
Everything’s bigger in Texas, even the holiday cheer. (Photo: City of Houston)
Time: 9 a.m. CST
It’s been a tradition for 65 years, y’all. Spanning 20 city blocks, the parade loops through downtown Houston with colorful floats, giant balloons, bands, and dancers. Plus, this year sassy inline-skate dancer Juan Carlos from America’s Got Talent joins the action. Reality TV stars Bill Klein and Dr. Jennifer Arnold, of the TLC show The Little Couple, serve as grand marshals.
The creepy-but-lovable Big Heads have been a Detroit parade tradition since 2008. (Photo: Paul Warner/Getty Images)
Time: 9:20 a.m. EST
In its 88th year, this parade through the Motor City is best known for its Big Head Corps. — it’s a slightly creepy collection of nearly 300 giant papier-mâché heads that bob alongside the colorful floats, balloons, and marching bands winding down Woodward Avenue. Many of the heads date back to the 1940s and hail from the carnival-loving town of Viareggio, Italy. Since then, area artists have added to the original collection with heads modeled after Henry Ford, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Tom Selleck — all famous Detroiters.
Parade of the Hills — Phoenix
Elfvis may be one of the lesser known holiday characters, but he sure keeps things rocking down in Arizona. (Photo: Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce)
Time: 9-11 a.m. MST
It doesn’t include megaballoons or Broadway performances, but this parade has one thing that New York’s does not: a 560-foot jet fountain. Taking place in Fountain Hills, a town less than an hour from Phoenix and Scottsdale, this is the only Thanksgiving parade in Arizona. So for avid parade-goers and Arizona transplants homesick for big-city hoopla, this is it. The parade features a few dozen floats, classic cars, Girl Scout troops, local marching bands, and more.
My Macy’s Holiday Parade — Seattle
Going to a parade on Black Friday is a much better option than going shopping. (Photo: AP Photo/Dan DeLong)
Time: Friday, Nov. 28, at 9 a.m. PST
Think New York City is the only place with a Macy’s-sponsored parade? Think again. On the opposite coast, Seattle hosts its version — the day after Thanksgiving. More than 600 costumed characters, 25 floats, and Santa Claus himself will entertain Emerald City spectators. For the best view, try to grab a curbside seat at Westlake Center — and pray for no rain.
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