What You Need to Know About Attending Philly's Thanksgiving Day Parade

If there’s one thing Philly knows, it’s how to do a Thanksgiving Parade. This is a tradition that dates back nearly 100 years, making it the oldest parade of its kind anywhere in the country, don’t you know. This year’s 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade is an all-out affair with over 1,000 volunteers, 4,000 marchers, and 37,000 cubic feet of helium filling up all those balloons. You can watch the parade from the comfort (and warmth) of your own home, but for the true experience, you’ll want to head out and see the action firsthand. Feeling unprepared? Here’s everything you need to know.

Thank u, next float | CGTB20111124045/flickr

What time does it start?

The parade kicks off on November 22 at 8:30am, and will feature 4,000 marchers, dozens of giant balloons (Daniel Tiger, a T-Rex, a giant Tiffany gift box, et al), extravagant floats, and a host of special guests. Revelers seeking the best views will start lining the route in advance of the official start time — if that’s you, be sure to bring blankets and folding chairs.

What is the parade route?

The 1.4 mile route starts at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, then heads east on JFK to 16th Street, up 16th and on to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway all the way to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Thankful for good views | CGTB20111124107/flickr

Who are all these special guests, exactly?

In addition to the usual inflated characters, expect appearances from Miss America, Nia Franklin, and the city’s most buzzed-about celeb -- Gritty. Extra showbusiness sparkle is added by stars from the Walnut Street Theatre production of Matilda and the touring productions of the Grinch and Carole King musicals, plus you’ll be treated to top-notch choreography from the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Eagles Cheerleaders, and the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Thanksgiving Day Parade without a visit from the big man in red -- yes, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in attendance, too.

The standout performances don’t stop at the A-listers. The Rancocas Valley Regional High School Dance Team, University of Delaware Marching Band, Pottstown Dance Theater, the Bodies in Motion Dance School, and the Parade Youth Choir will do their thing, among many others. Finally, there are parade mainstays like Jerry Blavat to energize the crowd.

What are the best viewing spots?

American Heritage Credit Union is setting up a watching zone at Eakins Oval, complete with a photo booth, live entertainment, face painting, free Dunkin Donuts, and more. Other hotspots include the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, Logan Circle, The Franklin Institute, The Academy of Natural Sciences, The Barnes Foundation, Sister Cities Park, and LOVE Park. Be aware that road closures will prevent you from driving too close to the parade route, but it’s easily accessible on foot from City Hall and Suburban Station. On the plus side, if you are driving, metered street parking is free on Thanksgiving.

Where can I get some good food and warm up?

If you need a break from the morning chill, there are a number of spots to grab a coffee and a bagel (and a bathroom break) right off of the parade route:
  • Wawa, 1707 Arch Street: Perfect for grab-and-go goodies on your way to the main event or for a quick Shorti to hold you over until dinner.
  • Christmas Village, LOVE Park: pick up some mulled wine and German bratwurst (it’s never too early) during this market’s opening day. It opens at 11am!
  • La Colombe, 1414 S. Penn Square: Sip on specialty coffee or latte cans to go.
  • Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin, 1 S. 15th Street: Spiked hot chocolate and comfort food by the ice rink at City Hall.
  • Capriccio Cafe and Bar, 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway: If you’re looking for something a little heartier, snag a roast beef or breakfast sandwich here.
  • Con Murphy’s Irish Pub, 1700 Benjamin Franklin Parkway: Grab breakfast or come back later for Thanksgiving Dinner.
  • Assembly Rooftop Lounge, 1840 Benjamin Franklin Parkway: The ninth floor of the Logan Hotel offers some pretty nice views of the parade, plus brunch and cocktails.
  • Whole Foods, 2101 Pennsylvania Avenue: While all the restaurants in this massive Whole Foods will be closed, you can swing by after the parade for some last-minute shopping.

How can I watch live from home?

If, for some reason, you’re dead-set against attending the parade in person, A) shame on you, but B) there are a few ways of doing it. You can tune into WPVI on your TV to watch the broadcast from your living room, or, if you’re a millennial cord-cutter, you can watch the live stream online via the 6abc website.

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Allie Volpe is a contributor to Thrillist.