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The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade has been an important holiday tradition for more than a century. As the nation’s oldest Thanksgiving parade, this spectacle sets the stage for all of the holiday celebrations throughout the city. And it’s a ton of fun!
The parade features a dizzying array of floats, soaring balloons, captivating musical acts, graceful dancers and cheerleaders, dynamic marching bands from around the regions and the country, and the presence of famous celebrities. It’s fun for children of all ages. We enjoy the parade and hope you enjoy our photos (and our tips for visiting).
Whether you are going to enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of your home or joining the crowds along the Ben Franklin Parkway, here’s your comprehensive guide to the 2023 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Parade.
Date and Time
The parade will be held on Thursday, November 23, 2023. The parade kick-off and television coverage begins at 8:30am ET. The parade begins moving at 9:00am. It takes between 2 ½ and 3 hours for the parade to wind its way through the streets.
If you are planning to go, people begin lining up and securing their spots on the route at sunrise. You’ll see people staking out their space with blankets and folding chairs well in advance.
The Thanksgiving Parade is always held on Thanksgiving Day. For planning, the future dates of the parade are:
Thursday, November 28, 2024
Thursday, November 27, 2025
Most people drive to the Thanksgiving Parade. If you are driving, take note of the numerous street closures throughout Center City, which usually start on Wednesday evening before the parade. Expect road closures between 18th and 22nd, and between Arch Street and Chestnut Street (including Market and JFK).
The best options for parking are the lots and garages at 15th and Vine, the corner of Broad and Race Streets, or the garages near the convention center. Note: Street parking is FREE on Thanksgiving throughout the city. The best places to look for street parking is north of the parade route in Fairmount (north of Callowhill St is a good area if you are trying to watch along the parkway).
Public transportation is another option. All modes of SEPTA run on Thanksgiving, although on a limited Sunday schedule. Theoretically, you can take the regional rail to Suburban Station or the Market-Frankford Line (MFL) to 15th Street Station. [Note: SEPTA delays on Thanksgiving are not uncommon, which we can verify from personal experience.]
The parade stages in the streets around 20th and JFK Boulevard, where the parade actually starts. It continues for 1.4 miles through the streets of the city.
From 20th and JFK, the parade heads east to 16th street, where it turns left for a brief stretch along the side of LOVE Park. Then it turns left onto the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where it continues up to the Art Museum.
Best Viewing Spots
One of the most popular spots to view the parade is at the Eakins Oval in front of the art museum. There’s a viewing zone, bleachers, and food and drink vendors. It can also be very crowded.
One of the most popular spots is along 16th Street and LOVE Park, where people stand five deep to get a view of the balloons and dancers.
If you don’t like crowds, the area at 20th and JFK at the beginning of the parade route tends to be less crowded. Also, the area around Logan Circle, Franklin Institute and the Parkway tends to have fewer people.
One of the worst spots is in front of the Comcast Center along JFK Boulevard. They put up barricades to make it difficult to see the parade and have their security guards telling people they can’t stand there. [Note: Comcast is the owner of NBC10, the local NBC station, which competes with the parade sponsor, 6abc, which is the local ABC affiliate.]
Every year, the parade features an array of entertainment options. You’ll find balloons featuring Disney characters (6abc, the parade sponsor, is owned by Disney). There’s cheerleaders and marching bands from local schools and some from around the country. And there’s local sports mascots from the Eagles, Phillies, Union, Flyers, and 76ers.
And there’s celebrities. In past years, there have been famous celebrities from Philly and notable A-listers. Past participants have included Quinta Brunson, Smokey Robinson, Carli Llyod, Carson Kressley, Debbie Gibson, Ruben Studdard, Amy Grant, C + C Music Factory, and Miss America.
And no Thanksgiving parade would be complete without the official arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The parade is broadcast locally beginning at 8:30am ET on WPVI/6abc, the local ABC affiliate. It is also streamed on the 6abc website and on the APPLE TV, GoogleTV, ROKU, and FireTV.
The Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade is the oldest thanksgiving parade in America and traces its launch back 1920. The parade was conceptualized and sponsored by the Gimbels Department Store, which organized floats, balloons and high school marching bands for the inaugural edition. The goal of the parade was to stimulate interest in the Christmas shopping season, which always started the day after Thanksgiving.
The parade was sponsored by Gimbels from 1920 until the store when out of business in 1986. The parade was then taken over by Boscov’s department stores and WPVI television (known locally as 6abc). After Boscov’s filed for bankruptcy in 2008, there have been a series on sponsors that have included IKEA and now the Boston-based Dunkin’ Donuts corporation.
The parade is steps from the Christmas Village in LOVE Park. After the parade, head into the park for festive food & drinks as well as shopping for seasonal handcrafts. This village is modeled after the famous German Christmas markets. Beyond LOVE Park, there are other Christmas activities that you can enjoy Thanksgiving weekend. Visit Dilworth Park next to City Hall for shopping and ice skating. Or head into Macy’s for the Christmas Light Show. Plus many more activities!