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Five Must-See Historic Thanksgiving Parades You’ll Thank Us For!

Thanksgiving Parade Marching Band
Written by Going Places

This blog post was updated on January 27, 2022.

Football, family, friends, and a whole lot of dishes and dressings are what make Thanksgiving Day across the country. And as most of the population settles in for a day of eating, tossing around the old pigskin, and gatherings with family, the day would not be complete without a little parading and promenading. Parades and Thanksgiving go hand in hand, many with a history stretching back decades. Here are five Thanksgiving parades with a dash of history thrown into the gravy.

6abc’s Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade (Philadelphia, PA)

Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade

[Above image “CGTB20111124138” by Center Grove High School Bands on Flickr – licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

If you’re planning on taking cheap flights in November to Philadelphia, you can find great hotel rates for your stay and even volunteer for the parade! This Philadelphia promenade is the oldest in the country and is also referred to as the Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade began in 1920 when the Gimbel Brothers Department Store wanted to put on a parade for the residents and children of the city. The nation’s oldest parade takes place every Thanksgiving and features massive floats, balloons, and local performers.

America’s Thanksgiving Parade (Detroit, MI)

Department store J.L. Hudson’s in Detroit wanted a piece of the Thanksgiving Day parade pie too, borrowing from Gimbel Brothers Department Store in Philadelphia. In 1924, America’s Thanksgiving Parade was launched in Detroit, making it a tie with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York for the second oldest in the nation. Put on by The Parade Company and Gardner-White, the parade begins at Woodward Avenue and Kirby and ends at Woodward Avenue and Congress in Downtown Detroit. One of the main features of this Thanksgiving parade is its unique performances and colorful costumes.

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (New York, NY)

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

[Above image “Thanksgiving Day Parade” by martha_chapa95 on Flickr – licensed under CC by 2.0]

The big cheese of Thanksgiving Day parades needs no introduction. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City has been a tradition since 1924. The first parade was called Macy’s Christmas Parade. It was the work of Macy’s employees and featured animals from the Central Park Zoo. The
parade was such a hit that Macy’s declared it would be back each year. By 1927, Macy’s would debut its signature inflatable balloons. Today’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an over-the-top event of giant balloons, one-of-a-kind floats, and performances. More than 3.5 million people gather in New York to watch and 50 million more tune in at home.

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade (Chicago, IL)

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade Teddy Turkey

[Above image “DSC_0167” by Randy Escalada on Flickr – licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

It has been a tradition in Chicago not for years, but rather decades to host a Thanksgiving Day parade. The first was called Christmas Caravan in the 1930s. It was aimed at lifting the spirits of the city
during the Great Depression. Today it has become a full-scale holiday celebration with giant balloons, floats, and marching bands. The Chicago Thanksgiving Parade route follows historic State Street in Downtown Chicago. Travelers should be sure to spot the parade’s mascot, Teddy Turkey.

America’s Hometown Parade (Plymouth, MA)

Thanksgiving Parade Plymouth, Massachusetts

[Above image “Plymouth, Massachusetts” by Larry Lamsa on Flickr – licensed under CC by 2.0]

America’s Hometown Parade in Plymouth, Massachusetts boasts a different kind of historical Thanksgiving parade, even though it’s not as older as some other famous U.S parades. The event is touted as “America’s only historically accurate chronological parade”. If you go, you’ll see decorated floats and re-enactment units that go through U.S. history from the 17th century to the present day. Since Plymouth played a role in the pilgrim’s settlement, the town comes alive for the event, all while maintaining historical accuracy.

Which Thanksgiving parade is your favorite to watch? Tell us in the comments below!

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