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

Bountiful Harvest float
Bountiful Harvest Float | George Sheldon/Shutterstock
Bountiful Harvest Float | George Sheldon/Shutterstock

We don’t want to blow your minds here but the country’s oldest Thanksgiving Day parade -- the Philadelphia one -- turns 100 years old. That means floats, dancers, and performers have been jaunting through the streets of Philly every November for a century. For this year’s 100th 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day Parade, expect more of the usual -- thousands of volunteers, dozens of marching bands, 16 floats, 15 giant balloons, and a 5-foot-tall cake -- but also some grand features like an appearance from actors, mascots, and reality TV stars.
Sure, you could cozy up on your couch and watch the action from your TV or laptop, but nothing beats checking out the action IRL -- it’s the 100th anniversary, after all! Don’t worry about the logistics, here’s everything you need to know.

What time does it start?

The parade kicks off on November 28 at 8:30am, and will feature hundreds of marchers, dozens of giant balloons (Big Bird, The Grinch, Shrek, Angry Birds), extravagant floats, including a giant 100th birthday cake float (complete with a five-foot cake made by Carlo’s Bakery), 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.

Thanksgiving Day Parade
Santa's Holiday Express | George Sheldon/Shutterstock

What is the parade route?

The 1.4-mile route starts at 19th 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.

Who are all these special guests, exactly?

In addition to the usual inflated characters, expect appearances from Grammy winner Macy Gray, actress Meg Donnelly, TV personality Carson Kressley, vocal quartet Il Divo, Kathy Sledge from Sister Sledge, singer Aloe Blacc, and the Cake Boss himself, Buddy Valastro. Good Morning America personality Ginger Zee, as well as 6abc alums Dave Roberts and Lisa Thomas-Laury, will also be in attendance. Plus, it wouldn’t be a Philly parade without some exuberance from Gritty and the Phillie Phanatic. This is a bit of a wildcard, but Cupid of “Cupid’s Shuffle” fame will be performing. Of course, you’ll be graced with 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. Dayton, Ohio’s Alter High School Lancerettes, the West Chester University Color Guard, Wilmington’s A. I. Dupont High School Marching Band, Southwest Philly’s Worldwide Unique Star Dance Studio, the cast of Broadway Philadelphia’s production of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, and the Pottstown Dance Theatre, among many others will show off their stuff. Finally, there are parade mainstays like Jerry Blavat to energize the crowd.

What are the best viewing spots?

At Eakins Oval, just in front of the art museum, there’ll be a parade watch zone, complete with free Dunkin’ coffee, a money machine, soft pretzels, face painting, 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 writer based in Philadelphia. She loves watching the parade from the warmth of her car on I-76.