Top 5 Thanksgiving Parades

Get in the holiday spirit at these five fun Thanksgiving parades that are full of balloons, floats, marching bands and more.

By: Jennifer Plum Auvil
Balloon traveling through the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York, NY

Balloon traveling through the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York, NY

Before you sit down for a turkey feast with your nearest and dearest, get in the Thanksgiving holiday spirit at a Thanksgiving parade complete with giant character balloons, festive floats and marching bands. Here are our picks for the top 5 Thanksgiving parades around the country.

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (New York)

Snoopy and Macy's balloons floating above the crowd at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York

Snoopy and Macy's balloons floating above the crowd at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York

More than 3 million spectators gather on the streets of New York for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and another 44 million gather around their televisions across the country to capture the magic of the parade's oversized balloons including Snoopy and Kermit the Frog, festive floats, bands of merry clowns and costumed characters. The parade steps off at 77th Street and Central Park West at 9 a.m., but spectators start lining up for prime spots at daybreak to watch the parade march through the Upper West Side for 2.5 miles until it ends at 34th Street and 7th Avenue. Get a sneak peek at the balloons as they are inflated on the day before Thanksgiving from 3 to 10 p.m. on 77th and 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Ave.

McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago)

Ronald McDonald in a shoe float at the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago

Ronald McDonald in a shoe float at the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago

The McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago marches down State Street from Congress to Randolph beginning at 8 a.m. with the crew, including elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey leading the way. You can expect to see plenty of familiar faces on the ground and hovering high above the crowds with floats and helium balloons depicting children's favorite characters including Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Kermit and Ronald McDonald himself walking the route with dozens of other clowns in his wake. The parade is 1 of the 3 in the country with a national broadcast so you can stay in your pajamas and enjoy the smell of the turkey in the oven while the parade rollicks on.

America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade (Plymouth, Mass.)

PLYMOUTH, MA - NOVEMBER 20: Townspeople dressed as pilgrims ride on a float during the annual Thanksgiving Parade November 20, 2004 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The parade, part of a weekend of holiday festivities called "America's Hometown Celebration," commemorates the Plymouth Colony's first Thanksgiving feast of 1621. (Photo by Michael Springer/Getty Images)

Photo by: Michael Springer, Getty Images

Michael Springer, Getty Images

Celebrate Thanksgiving in the town where the holiday originated in Plymouth, MA, during America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade. The fun stretches out for the entire weekend before the official Turkey Day with festivities honoring the Pilgrims and America's earliest settlers. The parade marches along Plymouth's waterfront area starting at 10:30 a.m. and offers a chronological look at America's heritage from the 17th century to modern times. The soundtrack is provided by an array of musicians including bugle and drum corps and military bands, while vintage American cars and no-frills handmade floats parade through the streets. Arrive early to see the Military Flyover that kicks off the morning events.

America's Thanksgiving Parade (Detroit)

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 22: General view of America's Thanksgiving Day Parade at Woodward Avenue on November 22, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Paul Warner/Getty Images)

Photo by: Paul Warner, Getty Images

Paul Warner, Getty Images

America's Thanksgiving Parade enlivens downtown Detroit with a spectacle of sights and sounds early Thanksgiving morning. The parade steps off from Woodward Avenue at Mack at 9:20 a.m. and continues on to Congress while parade-goers line up to see the colorful displays of art and talent. There are giant helium balloons and decorated floats, but the favorite participants are the paper-mache artifacts known simply as the "Big Heads." The Big Head Corps look like walking bobbleheads along the parade route with costumes celebrating silly clowns, funny animals, world cultures and even some legends with representations of Diana Ross, Rosa Parks and even old-school Hollywood heartthrob Tom Selleck. If you want to stroll the parade route yourself, sign up for the pre-parade road race including the 1-mile Mashed Potato Mile, 5K Stuffing Strut or 10K Turkey Trot.

Annual H-E-B Holiday Parade (Houston)

Houston's H-E-B Holiday Parade in Houston

Houston's H-E-B Holiday Parade in Houston

Participants strike a pose in Houston's annual Thanksgiving celebration, which we’ve voted among the top Thanksgiving Day parades . Now 64 years strong, the parade gets a makeover in 2013, with renewed focus on everything from fashion, food and heroes; to culture, sports and talent.

Photo by: Sean Boyd/Houston Holiday Parade

Sean Boyd/Houston Holiday Parade

The Annual H-E-B Holiday Parade has been a Houston tradition for over 60 years. The parade begins at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning and marches around downtown Houston with marching bands, cheerleaders and decorated floats. Join the 400,000-plus spectators on the streets or spring for some of the limited tickets for grandstand bleacher seating alongside the TV zone where the parade's talented bands stop to perform for the guests and the video cameras broadcasting live throughout Texas.

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