America's Best Thanksgiving Day Parades

Thanksgiving is a major holiday in the US, whether you're heading to a top Thanksgiving getaway destination or to Grandma's house.

In large cities across the country, Thanksgiving Day parades are a huge tradition. Huge crowds of people line the parade routes and millions more watch on TV at home. Many smaller cities and towns also host notable Thanksgiving parades. 

Thanksgiving weekend also kicks off the holiday season, and a highlight of each Thanksgiving Day parade is a grand finale appearance by Santa Claus.

  • 01 of 09
    MacysThanksgivingParade_FCC_AnthonyQuintano.jpg
    ••• Anthony Quintano/Flickr Creative Commons

    The annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the most famous Thanksgiving Day parade in the US and an iconic event, widely broadcast and viewed by millions in addition to the huge crowds lining its route. For the best viewing, be sure to get to the parade route early and stake out a vantage spot.

  • 02 of 09
    Thanksgiving Day Parade, Philadelphia - Photo courtesy of 6ABC/WPVI.
    ••• Photo courtesy of 6ABC/WPVI.

    Dating back to 1920, the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the US belongs to Philly. It started as the "Gimbel's Thanksgiving Day Parade," named for Gimbel's department stores. Nowadays Dunkin' Donuts is the sponsor, along with Philadelphia's Channel 6ABC. Look for giant balloons, floats, dance teams, celebrity entertainers, and Santa Claus.

  • 03 of 09
    Thanksgiving Parade - Chicago
    ••• McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade

    Chicago's parade started as a Christmas parade during the Great Depression, in 1934. The parade features a Tommy Turkey mascot, floats, marching bands, clowns; equestrian units; dance groups and sports teams; Ronald McDonald, and Santa Claus. Giant character balloons have been a highlight since 1998.

  • 04 of 09
    Thanksgiving Parade in Plymouth, Massachusetts
    ••• Michael Springer/Getty Images

    Taking place the weekend before Thanksgiving for Plymouth's annual Thanksgiving celebration, the site of the original Thanksgiving celebration hosts three days of activities include a parade, concerts, waterfront activities, and a food festival focused on the best dishes of New England. AOL named the Plymouth parade the number 1 Thanksgiving parade in the nation.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09
    Thanksgiving Parade - Charlotte
    ••• Novant Health Thanksgiving Parade

    Charlotte's annual Thanksgiving Day parade has been held every year since 1947. Originally called the "Charlotte Christmas Festival," and later the Belk Carolinas' Carrousel Parade, it's the fourth largest Thanksgiving Day parade in the United States, with over 100,000 people descending on Uptown to join in the fun.

  • 06 of 09
    America's Thanksgiving Parade - Detroit
    ••• Michigan Live

    Tied with Macy's for second-oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade in the US, Detroit's big event dates back to 1924 and has had several sponsors and names over the years. The parade takes place in downtown Detroit and has balloons, floats, clowns, bands and an appearance by Santa Claus. The pre-show features musical entertainment. Check the official website for opportunities to buy grandstand seats.

  • 07 of 09
    HEB Houston Holiday Parade
    ••• KHOU

    This is the largest and longest-running Thanksgiving Day parade in Texas. Since 1949, the HEB Holiday Parade has wowed those in attendance (and watching on television) with a myriad of floats, high-flying balloon characters, marching bands, dance teams, and live entertainment.

  • 08 of 09
    Thanksgiving Parade in St. Louis, Missouri
    ••• Ameren Thanksgiving Parade

    In the midwest, St. Louis's annual Ameren Missouri Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a holiday tradition for decades. On Thanksgiving morning, crowds bundle up and make their way to downtown St. Louis to see the dozens of marching bands, floats and more taking part in the parade. The parade starts at 8:45 a.m. at 7th and Market streets in downtown St. Louis. As always, Santa Claus will be there to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas at the end of the parade.

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  • 09 of 09
    Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal Orlando - Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando
    ••• Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.

    Families have multiple opportunities to see a re-creation of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at Universal Orlando Resort. This parade happens every evening at sunset from early December through January 1, with authentic giant balloons and floats from the famous parade in New York.​

    Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher