Since 1863, when President Lincoln proclaimed it a federal holiday, Thanksgiving has marked the official beginning of the holiday season. Many traditions have developed around the day over the decades from the standard turkey dinner with family, food drives to help the underserved, and of course, football. The day is also known for the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, held annually since 1924 and televised on NBC since 1952. While New York City’s parade may be the most famous, we rounded up five other favorites from across the United States!
1. Philadelphia, PA
Founded in 1920, the 1.4-mile 6ABC Dunkin Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia is actually the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country. Like others, it features the usual balloons, floats, and marching bands, but Philadelphia’s holiday celebration is best known for its live performances and celebrities. (This year, members of the World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s Soccer Team will be in attendance.) This year’s parade is particularly family-friendly, featuring performers from Disney on Ice’s Frozen (yes, that includes Anna and Elsa). Be sure to explore the official website and check out a map of the best places to watch from. Those wishing to stay close to the action should try the Hyatt at the Belluevue Hotel or the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel, both of which are well-priced and conveniently located along the parade route.
2. Detroit, MI
Like the Macy’s Parade in New York City, Detroit’s annual America’s Thanksgiving Parade was founded in 1924 and has been delighting residents and visitors ever since. The parade precedes the annual football game by the Lions (who host the Philadelphia Eagles this year) and features balloons, floats, and the unique Big Head Corps: walking bobbleheads dressed in costumes of animals, clowns, and celebrities. Spectators can even stroll the parade route themselves prior to the main event at the annual Turkey Trot. Visitors to the Motor City should consider a stay at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit or the Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Riverfront, both of which are located in the heart of downtown, just steps from the parade route.
3. Houston, TX
Travelers hoping to spend Turkey Day in a warmer locale should look to Houston’s H-E-B Holiday Parade, now in its 66th year. Marching bands, cheerleaders, and elaborate floats are met by 200,000 spectators for a raucous and lively celebration. Spectator access along the parade route is free, although those wishing to can purchase tickets to sit in the grandstands (feel free to bring lawn chairs and blankets to settle in). Santa Claus is scheduled to make an appearance this year, so this parade is a great option for families. Book a room at the Hyatt Regency Houston or the Hilton Americas – Houston for conveniently-located, competitively-priced comfort.
4. Chicago, IL
One of only three Thanksgiving parades in the U.S. to be nationally broadcast, Chicago’s McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade is now in its 81st year. The 2015 parade will feature marching bands from all over Illinois, elaborate equestrian performances, and a show by Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Those planning to visit the Windy City for the extravaganza should try staying in the Silversmith Hotel or the Hilton Garden Inn, conveniently located in the heart of downtown Chicago.
5. Plymouth, MA
Want as authentic a Thanksgiving experience as it gets? Go back to where it all began in Plymouth. Known as America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade, the town’s festivities actually take place the weekend before the holiday. The parade starts at the waterfront and features historical set pieces based on a chronological history of the United States: the colonial period, the Revolutionary Way, the Civil War, Western pioneers, automatives from the 20th and 21st centuries, and a closing float featuring Santa Claus. Musicians include bugle and drum corps, with multiple ceremonies honoring the Pilgrims and Native Americans who celebrated the very first Thanksgiving in 1621. Visitors should stay right on the waterfront, near the action, at the Hilton Garden Inn Plymouth or the Radisson Hotel Plymouth, both competitively priced and comfortably luxurious.