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America's Best Thanksgiving Day Parades

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Complete with a jolly Santa Claus to signal the start of the holiday season, giant Thanksgiving Day parades in the USA have a legacy of nearly 100 years. The nation's leading parades are in New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, and Houston. If you can't attend one in person, gather around the television to catch the action featuring giant helium balloons, floats, and more.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Macy's Herald Square (finish)
151 W. 34th St.
New York, NY 10001

Now in its 91st year, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has long been recognized as the nation's official kickoff for the holiday season. Enjoyed by more than three million spectators and another 50 million via NBC's national television broadcast, this 8,000-person strong parade is a favorite for its giant character balloons, elaborate floats, celebrity appearances, and a waving Santa Claus with his reindeer bringing up the tail end.

Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade
Philadelphia Museum of Art (finish)
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Oldest one of its kind in the nation, Philadelphia hosts a Thanksgiving Day Parade that's been a tradition in the City of Brotherly Love since 1920. Kicking off at 8:30 a.m., Channel 6 ABC and Dunkin' Donuts are the title sponsors for the 98th annual event along a 1.4-mile route. It fills the city streets with marching bands, dance groups, show performers, professional singers, big balloons, festive floats, and a jolly Santa, too.

America's Thanksgiving Day Parade Detroit
The Parade Company
9500 Mt. Elliott, Studio A
Detroit, MI 48211

The three-mile, three-hour spectacle shares its 1924 founding year with New York City's parade. Equestrian units supplement the marchers, dancers, clowns, sky-high helium-filled balloons, larger-than-life floats and more in Detroit's traditional Thanksgiving Day parade. Historic Woodward Avenue is the place to be when the action begins at 10 a.m. Otherwise, stay warm and cozy at home watching the pizzazz that's broadcast to 75 million viewers via WDIV-TV, Local 4 and its syndicate stations.

Related:  Travel Guide To The 2017 Thanksgiving Day Parade Tips

McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade Chicago
Chicago Festival Association
1507 East 53rd St., Suite #102
Chicago, IL 60615

Chicago loves a parade. Not to be outdone, Chicago introduced its annual Thanksgiving Day parade back in 1934 for a bit of light-hearted fun as the nation suffered the Great Depression. Today's Honorary Grand Marshal is fictional character Ronald McDonald, who is joined by Teddy Turkey, Miss Illinois, celebrity guests, the nation's best marching bands, thousands of performers, giant inflatable balloons and naturally, Santa Claus. From 8 a.m., live from downtown Chicago, WGN-TV America streams and broadcasts the parade coast-to-coast to millions of households.

H-E-B Thanksgiving Day Parade Houston
Mayor's Office of Special Events
901 Bagby St.
Houston, TX 77002

One of Houston's signature civic events takes place along the streets of downtown and is free for all. The Apache Bells high-kicking team are among the talented troupes that literally kick off at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning starting at Smith and Lamar and ending at Smith and Dallas. Since Santa made his first appearance in the lineup in 1949, Houston has grown to be the nation's fourth largest city, and the mayor's office is behind this event all the way. Did you know? It takes 42,000 standard cubic feet of helium gas to get all the balloons filled and flying so the entire community can enjoy a family-friendly spectacle.

Related: 5 Must-Visit US Destinations For History Buffs

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