Cities with the Best Thanksgiving Parades

by Mahogany WaldonNovember 22, 2017

Nothing beats a parade on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving was given federal recognition in the U.S. in 1863 during a time when the nation was at war with itself. Divided between North and South, many American families were torn apart and left destitute. A holiday built on humble beginnings was the perfect solution for the turmoil the nation was facing.
A map of popular parades across the East Coast and Mid West.
With its focus being on gratitude and love for one’s neighbor, Thanksgiving has become symbolic of giving thanks and other holiday traditions. Throughout our school years, many of us became familiar with the origins of the holiday. One Thanksgiving tradition that still gets people going is annual Thanksgiving Day parades! Macy’s Department Store has been hosting its yearly parade since 1924 and its one of the most popular parades in the nation. has compiled a list of some lesser-known parades that go out with a bang!

McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Chicago, Illinois

This parade was created during the Great Depression by Chicago elected officials as a way to boost the city’s economy and spirit. The parade did just that! Considered Chicago’s “Grand Holiday Tradition,” this parade gained its first corporate sponsor in 1984. Many companies sponsor parades, and upon its sponsorship, the name of the parade was changed to “Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities Parade.” The parade features marching bands, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, equestrian teams, and of course, top-of-the-line helium balloons. The parade also makes waves for having its very own mascot, “Teddy Turkey.” This parade reaches millions and it’s nationally syndicated through WGNT networks.

America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Detroit, Michigan

This parade that was created in 1924 by a department store (J.L. Hudson Company) is the second oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the nation. Held annually in downtown Detroit, this tradition has been a staple in the Motor City for generations. In its earlier years, the J.L. Hudson company wanted to separate their parade from others in the country, and in doing so, they added designs from Europe. The parade features papier-mâché heads from Italy, a troupe of local and corporate officials dressed as clowns, and a Santa Claus that signifies the arrival of the Christmas season.

America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade, Plymouth, Massachusetts

This parade is held in the town in which the Thanksgiving folklore began. True to its name, this parade’s theme pays homage to different periods in America’s history from the Colonial and Revolutionary periods to the Civil War period and 20th and 21st-century military and automotive showcases. If you’re in the Plymouth area, the town also hosts a Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration in light of the parade that includes concerts and a street fair. The parade is usually held the week before Thanksgiving.

Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade, Charlotte, North Carolina

This parade, once known as Carolina’s Carrousel Parade, changed its name to its title sponsor Novant Health in 2013. Since 1947, the parade has been a spectacle of epic proportions in this grand Southern city. Traditionally, the parade was held in the afternoon and in the 60s, Carolina’s Carrousel, Inc. would sponsor students for scholarships that demonstrated academic excellence. The parade features balloons, marching bands, sports organizations, and more. It was created by local Charlotte business owners who wished to attract shoppers to the city. Today, the parade attracts around 100,000 people annually.

6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This Thanksgiving Day/Santa Claus parade is the oldest continuously held parade in the nation. The first parade was created by Gimble Department Store with the idea of attracting nationwide shoppers to its Toyland. Today, the parade features marching bands, floats, performances and balloons. In 2004 for its 85th anniversary, the parade took on a larger-than-life renovation with new balloons and floats and it also began featuring Disney characters and on-screen celebrities. In 2011, Dunkin Donuts became the parade’s corporate sponsor. loves a good parade. Check out some of our listings in one of these cities that host amazing annual Thanksgiving Day parades. Happy holidays!

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About The Author
Mahogany Waldon
Mahogany is a Content Marketing Coordinator for In her spare time, Mahogany enjoys reading, writing poetry, blogging, traveling, and loves a good southern idiom. Mahogany is also a certified Reiki practitioner and enjoys all things supernatural.