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7 of the Best Holiday Parades in the West

Destinations, Family & Pet Travel, Featured
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Halloween is over – I can tell because now when I walk into my grocery store I’m bombarded by glowing lawn creatures, cinnamon-scented broomsticks and shelves of candy wrapped in red and green. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa or Chung Ch’ui, the October to January holiday season is packed full of fun festivities. What better way to celebrate the beginning of the season than a parade?

Here are seven of the best holiday parades in the western United States:

1. Christmas Ship Parade

Location: Portland, Oregon

When: Every night from December 7th through December 21st, and a special performance on December 1st.

In the U.S., we don’t have to travel very far to find a fun holiday parade celebrating the season. But how many parades feature sixty lighted boats traveling down a picturesque river? For the 58th year, Portland’s Christmas Ship Parade will float down the Columbia and Williamette Rivers this December. There is a “special performance” scheduled for December 1st, but don’t worry if you miss it because the parade of boats will occur nightly between December 7th and December 21st. Take a look at the list of viewing location (link) for hotels, restaurants, and scenic view points offering great vantage points.

2. America’s Children’s Holiday Parade

Location: Oakland, California

When: Saturday, December 1st, 2012 at 2 PM

For the 12th year, cartoon and storybook stars will float down the streets of Oakland while more than 100,000 attendees look on. The parade began in 2000 when the City’s Chamber of Commerce and the nationally-recognized Children’s Hospital and Research Center joined together to celebrate the rebirth of the city. Top marching bands, creative floats, musical performance groups and Santa Claus will all strut down the streets amidst the giant helium balloons. The parade has grown significantly in its first decade, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators to Oakland’s streets and receiving television coverage in more than twenty-one markets around the world.

Yes, it is right in the middle of naptime this year. Some might ask why a children’s parade would occur when most kids under age five should be sleeping. Good question! If you aren’t able to make it to the parade in-person, the event will be broadcast throughout North America on PBS television affiliates, around the world on American Forces Network, and on KTVU-FOX 2, KICU-IND., KQED-PBS, KTEH-PBS, Comcast Cable and Peralta TV in the San Francisco Bay Area. The parade begins at Broadway and 11th Street and ends at 20th and Harrison Avenue.

3. Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade

Location: Calistoga, California

When: Saturday, December 1st, 2012 at 7 – 8 PM

After a day of wine tasting and “taking the waters” at Calistoga’s Hot Springs, treat yourself to a unique holiday celebration. Every year, this Napa Valley town brings in the holiday season with a nod to the area’s agricultural roots. The Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade is a fun, quirky event that you won’t find spread all across the web. But it is definitely worth attending and if you have young kids it may be their favorite parade yet. All types of farm equipment, including tractors, make their way down the town’s main drag adorned in lights. The lights aren’t meticulously placed and the big grape trucks may still have dirt on them, but who would want it any other way?

4. Port of San Diego Big Bay Balloon Parade

Location: San Diego, California

When: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 10 AM

This event pairs all of the parade essentials (world-class marching bands, amazing floats and enormous helium-filled creatures) with the beautiful bayside backdrop of San Diego’s waterfront. The parade route begins near the County Administration Building on Harbor Drive and runs south on Harbor. To make it an all day event, you can join the Bumble Bee Foods 5K before the parade or check out the Family Festival with free kid-friendly games and entertainment. If you can’t join the hundreds of thousands of spectators, the parade will be broadcast locally on Cox Channel 4 on national television.

5. Electric Light Parade

Location: Ogden, Utah

When: Saturday, November 24th, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Santa arrives in Ogden, Utah every year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Each year, the city’s Holiday Electric Light Parade fills the city streets from Washington Blvd from 22nd Street to 26th Street – ending at “Christmas Village”, an elaborate, lighted replica of Santa’s village at the North Pole. At the end of a stream of elaborate floats and extremely talented performers, Santa himself rides in on his sleigh and flips the switch to illuminate Christmas Village. If you can’t make it to the parade but plan to be in Utah in December, the Village stays illuminated until the day after Christmas (December 26th).

6. 9NEWS Parade of Lights

Location: Denver, Colorado

When: Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 8 PM and Saturday, December 1st, 2012, at 6 PM

For nearly forty years, Denver’s Parade of Lights has kicked-off Colorado’s holiday season. Thousands of people and millions of lights travel the two-mile route from the City and County Building through downtown Denver. The event is free and popular – attracting almost 300,000 live attendees and another 175,000 television spectators.

7. Ford Holiday River Parade

Location: San Antonio, TX

When: Friday, November 23rd, 2012 at 7 – 8 PM

The Ford Holiday River Parade kicks off San Antonio’s holiday festivities on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year, approximately 25 decorated and lighted river barges will proceed down the city’s River Walk – whose bridges and trees are wrapped with more than 1.4 million LED lights.

Given the geography of the area, only a limited number of tickets are available. Ticket prices range from $10 to $25, children under 3 are free. A ticket guarantees you a seat along the river walk during the boat procession and allows you access to the River Walk area between 4 and 10 PM.