What is better than a six-story balloon creature floating down a crowded city street to the tune of Jingle Bells? How about sixteen of them? From a small town procession of vehicles and school bands to a massive caravan of cartoon characters watched by millions around the world, holiday parades are an American institution. If you’re having trouble deciding which ones you should attend this holiday season here are seven not-to-be-missed parades in the eastern United States:
Location: Peoria, Illinois
When: Friday, November 23rd at 10:15 AM
The city of Peoria claims to have the longest running Santa Claus parade in the United States, beginning in 1887. This year, for the 125th time, a procession of costumed characters and decorated floats will cruise the streets of downtown Peoria. Festivities begin at 10:15 AM on Monroe Street in front of the Peoria Central Firehouse.
Location: Orlando, Florida
When: On select nights from November 9th to December 21st, 2012, from 7 PM to 11 PM
Once upon a time, there was a phenomenally-popular Orlando theme park that magically transformed its well-known electric lights parade into a festive holiday celebration, complete with a snowstorm finale. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade is held on select nights throughout November and December as part of the Magic Kingdom’s Christmas celebration, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Spectators line the streets, enjoying complimentary cookies and hot cocoa, while they watch Disney’s famous characters dance Santa Claus toward the illuminated Cinderella’s Castle. Tickets to the Christmas party are separate from general park admission and tend to sell out quickly.
Location: New York, New York
When: Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 at 9 AM
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a quintessential component of many Americans turkey-day celebration, attended by three million spectators and watched on television by fifty million people around the world. Held at 9 AM on Thanksgiving morning, the Macy’s Parade marks the beginning of the holiday season. This year the giant balloons, extravagant floats and world-class performers will navigate a new course through New York City’s streets (beginning at 77th Street and Central Park West, taking 6th Street and concluding at Macy’s Herald Square). While there are many options for public viewing, it’s recommended you get there early as spots fill up quickly (tip: usually the beginning fills up before the middle of the route). If you’ll be in the Big Apple the day before you can watch them inflate all sixteen giant helium balloons. Warning: that fills up early too!
Location: Alexandria, Virginia
When: Saturday, December 1st, 2012 from 4 PM to 7 PM
If you’ll be in the nation’s capital or greater metro area this December, this parade is a must-see. Alexandria’s Holiday Boat Parade of Lights features fifty powerboats, sailboats and the District’s fireboat, the John Glenn, which sporadically shoots water seventy feet into the air. Festivities begin on land at 4 PM while the boats begin to parade at 6 PM. Old Town Alexandria’s marina is a prime viewing spot—at the end of the parade Santa arrives by boat and disembarks at the marina to take photos with the children.
Location: Plymouth, Massachussetts
When: Saturday, November 17th/sup>, 2012 at 10:30 AM
It is very fitting that the home of Plymouth Rock hosts “America’s only historically accurate chronological Thanksgiving parade.” Plymouth’s Thanksgiving parade takes us through U.S. history, beginning in the 17th century. Decorated floats are accompanied by nationally-recognized Drum and Bugle Corps, and marching military bands. Festivities are completed by a U.S. Navy Flyby.
Location: Aitkin, Minnesota
When: Friday, November 23rd, 2012 at 1 PM
I haven’t attended this one, but it may still be my favorite. The World Famous Fish House Parade promotes “goofiness.” To mark the beginning of winter, ice fishing huts are carried on trailers and trucks throughout downtown Aitkin on their way to the 365 frozen lakes surrounding the city. Let your imagination fill in the remaining details.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: January 1st, 2013 from 10 AM to 7 PM
What exactly is a mummer? A pantomime performer or disguised merrymaker, according to Merriam-Webster. Think Mardi Gras and Carnival but dressed for colder weather. If your New Year’s Eve celebrations don’t completely wipe you out, head to Philadelphia for some interesting and unique New Year’s Day festivities. The Mummers Parade is the oldest folk parade in the country, tracing its roots back to before the city was founded. This is a daylong event, so no need to get out of bed early!