The country's oldest Thanksgiving Day parade and an iconic holiday season starter, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade winds through town on Thursday, November 28. (Photos by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
Everyone loves a parade, and with the kickoff of the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country, the holiday season swings into jubilant high gear.
Celebrate the age-old event as it brings festive floats, giant balloons and local performers from local choirs, dance groups and marching bands beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 28.
Read on for our guide to the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The 1.4-mile 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade is the oldest in the country and a true Philadelphia tradition.
The city streets make way for massive floats and giant balloons, plus local performers from choirs, dance groups, marching bands and more. And Santa himself arrives in grand fashion, ushering Philadelphia into the holiday season.
Now in its 94th year, the annual Thanksgiving Day parade promises another visual and celebratory feast. So bundle up, grab the kids or a group of friends and head out for an early holiday treat.
The parade kicks off at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, from there it makes its way to Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Logan Circle.
• From it’s starting point, the parade proceeds east on JFK Boulevard to 16th Street.
• It turns north onto 16th Street until it reaches the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
• The parade bears left, going northwest on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for three blocks until reaching Logan Circle.
• The procession loops around the southern part of Logan Circle and then continues on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway until it reaches Eakins Oval.
• The parade proceeds along the south portion of Eakins Oval finishing in front of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Floats, Balloons & Special Guests
Giant balloons, festive floats, lively dancers, costumed characters, celebrities and marching bands (17 of them!) will parade through the city as the streets are lined with thousands of onlookers. It’s going to be another rocking, confetti-filled celebration.
The eye-catching highlight of the Thanksgiving Day Parade are the festive floats and massive balloons. The decorative floats come in all shapes and sizes including the patriotic Dunkin’ Donuts opening float, the Campbell’s Thanksgiving Harvest float, Verizon’s colorful Under the Sea float.
Some balloons to look out for include: My Little Pony, “Plex” from Yo Gabba Gabba, Strawberry Shortcake, Clifford the Big Red Dog and beloved Dr. Suess characters the Cat in the Hat, Horton, the Lorax and the Grinch.
A grand total of 29 special guests will join the parade festivities this year, including such national stars as Cedric the Entertainer and Debbie Gibson, as well as hometown heroes like the Phillies’ Ryan Howard and radio personality Jerry Blavat.
Of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on a grandly decorated float to welcome the holiday season, too!
More than two dozen floats and balloons will welcome the holidays and awe the crowds during the Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
Where to Watch
• Philadelphia Museum of Art Steps: One of the best places to watch the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade is at the parade’s finish at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
• Winter Wonderland Expo Tent at Eakins Oval: Warm up in the Campbell’s Winter Wonderland Expo Tent on the south side of Eakins Oval with some hot cocoa and look out for special guests and giveaways.
• Logan Circle: Stake out a spot at Logan Circle on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a great view.
• Love Park: As the parade loops east from its start at 20th and JFK, Love Park will give you a great view of the floats and characters, especially if you situate yourself on an elevated portion of the park above the fountain.
For more on the parade, see below.
• Capriccio at Cafe Cret: Get a double shot of culture at Cafe Cret, one of the city’s oldest European-style outdoor cafes, situated right on the Parkway.
• Sister Cities Park: Sister Cities Park is Center City District’s newest public park, with ample green space and benches.
• Barnes Foundation: Take advantage of the lovely courtyard outside the Barnes Foundation for a place to catch the parade action.
• The Franklin Institute: The grand steps of The Franklin Institute and the sidewalk down below it will be perfect parade-watching vantage points.
• Embassy Suites Philadelphia: Located seven blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art straight down the Parkway, the Embassy Suites hotel offers a fantastic view of the fireworks. Staycation perhaps?
• The Windsor Suites: The hotel’s rooftop sundeck, or private balconies in select suites, make for good parade-watching spots.
• Benjamin Franklin Parkway: Anywhere along the Parkway will afford you up-close views of the parade. Get there early to reserve a spot!
• Want to get mobile with your parade-watching? Head to the start at 20th and JFK Boulevard, then take a shortcut on foot heading north on 20th Street five blocks to the Parkway and catch the parade again as it goes by.
For an interactive map of the top viewing locations, see below or check right here.
The steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art offer an ideal viewing spot for the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, the country's oldest and an iconic holiday season kick-off. (Photo by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)
Getting There & Staying Over
For those who don’t live within walking distance of the parade route, bear in mind that parking in the city is free on Thanksgiving, and SEPTA will be running. For a list of parking garages, check out Visit Philly’s Parking Guide.
Or, you could just stay downtown on Wednesday night so you can wake up and be right next to the parade.
Hotel rates at Center City hotels start at just $79 on Wednesday night(!). Say downtown on Thursday night, too, and you’ll be perfectly positioned to kick off the holiday shopping season on Friday in Center City Philadelphia with a visit to the Macy’s Holiday Light Show, the Love Park Christmas Village and more.
If you won’t be in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day, or aren’t planning to attend the parade in person, 6abc.com will be streaming the parade broadcast live, as well as the Adam Joseph Parade Fan Cam. 6ABC TV coverage of the parade begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at noon.
Here’s a helpful interactive map of the parade route, below.
Happy Thanksgiving, Philly!
The 2013 Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade
When: Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 28, begins at 8:30 a.m and ends around noon
Where: Begins at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard and ends at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
More info: www.abclocal.go.com