Thanksgiving parade
Nov 27, 2018

The Oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade in the United States

By Joanne Colella

Thanksgiving parade

If you live anywhere in the New York City region, it’s probably safe to assume that you are familiar with – and have most likely seen, either in person or on television – the beloved traditional kickoff to the holiday season: the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, famous for its endless line of marching bands, oversized floats, Broadway performances, and gigantic balloons. But did you know that the Macy’s event is tied with Detroit, Michigan as the second oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country? And what’s more, you may not realize that you are not that far from a front row seat at the granddaddy of them all and the oldest Thanksgiving Day extravaganza in the U.S. – the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Now dubbed as the 6abc Dunkin’Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade (having gone through a litany of sponsors through the years, each bringing with it a name change), the event has been a true Philadelphia tradition for millions of residents and visitors since 1920 – four years earlier than the NYC and Detroit parades. With massive floats, giant balloons, local performers, recording artists, choirs, dancers, marching bands, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more, the historic celebration takes over the city streets to usher Philly into the holiday season.

The 1.4-mile march begins at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, proceeds east on JFK to 16th Street, turns left, and travels to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where it again turns left. The parade then continues up the Parkway, around Logan Circle and up the south side lanes, before passing in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the parade is televised live and then ends. If Thanksgiving paradeyou’d like to try for a view from the front row, so to speak, two of the best places to claim a spot are at the parade’s finish line, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, or the south side of Eakins Oval, in front of the art museum. You can also camp out at locations along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, including Logan Circle. Bundle up, bring a blanket, and take along a lawn chair or ladder for the perfect perch for the parade, which runs from 8:30 am to 12 noon.

If you want to move around and have some fun as you wait for the procession to come by, you can also check out the A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts Parade Zone, an open-air festival in Eakins Oval where you’ll enjoy live entertainment, free coffee samples and giveaways, a photo booth, face painting, balloon sculptures, prize wheels, and more surprises and activities.

A noteworthy philanthropic part of the day is the annual holiday food drive collection that also takes place along the sidelines. For more than 25 years, the Boy Scouts have partnered with the local TV station to coordinate one of the largest food drives in the nation, collecting tens of thousands of pounds of donated food, including items that are collected by the scouts from spectators along the parade route and in drop boxes.

For details, suggestions, and updates, follow the Facebook page for 6abc Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade or go to http://dig.abclocal.go.com/wpvi/html/tdp17/index.html.

And whether you’re watching the oldest or the second oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade this year, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday, surrounded by all of your favorite and most beloved turkeys!