How to Attend Philly's Thanksgiving Day Parade Without Tearing Your Hair Out

Be sure to check out our guides to the Thanksgiving Parades in NYC and Chicago too.

So you want to be a part of history and attend the oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the country? Well, you’ve come to the right place. The 6abc Dunkin Donuts Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade covers 1.4 miles throughout the art museum area (with the official telecast area stationed right in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and is a sight worth seeing in person, even if it does get a little hectic. Bundle up and take advantage of free metered street parking -- here’s everything you need to know to survive (and thrive) at the parade.

What time does it start?

The parade kicks off on November 23 at 8:30am, and will feature 4,000 marchers, dozens of giant balloons -- like Bugs Bunny, the Penguins of Madagascar 2, and Thing 1 & Thing 2 -- extravagant floats like the Disney Friends Gazebo, and a host of special guests.

What is the parade route?

Starting at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, the route 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 American Idol alums Ruben Studdard, Justin Guarini, and Melinda Doolittle, as well as stars from the casts of productions of The Color PurpleAnnie, and Waitress, and top-notch choreography from the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Eagles Cheerleaders, and the Philadelphia Soulmates. And 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 Varsity Spirit All-American Cheerleaders, Jackson Liberty Marching Band, Central Bucks High School-West Choir, the All-Star Tap Dance Team, New Jersey Boy Choir, Garden State Girl Choir and hip-hop dance company Beat Addikts United will do their thing. Parade mainstays like Jerry Blavat will also energize the crowd.

What are the best viewing spots?

A.C. Moore is setting up a parade-watching zone at Eakin’s Oval, complete with a photo booth, more live entertainment, face painting, free Dunkin Donuts, and more. Other parade-watching hotspots include the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, Logan Circle, The Franklin Institute, The Academy of Natural Sciences, The Barnes Foundation, and the newly renovated 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.

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 cup of coffee and a bagel 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: Grab 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 draft latte cans to go.
  • Capriccio Cafe and Bar, 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway: If you’re looking for something a little heartier, grab 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.
  • Whole Foods, 2101 Pennsylvania Avenue: While all the restaurants in this massively new 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 couple ways of doing it. You can tune into WPVI on your TV at parade time to watch the broadcast from your living room, or, if you’re a millennial cord-cutter type who hasn’t yet purchased a digital antenna, you can watch the live stream online via 6abc’s website.

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Allie Volpe is a writer based in Philadelphia. She hasn't slept in days. Follow her on Twitter:@allieevolpe