Parades are one of the best summertime traditions, but they can also be stressful when you have kids. Sure, I have fond childhood memories of getting dressed up in my annual flag shirt to wave at first responders and marching bands, but I’m guessing the experience was far less enjoyable for my parents. After all, they had to wrangle myself and my siblings while we fought and complained the whole time about the heat, the mosquitos and having to pee every ten minutes.
These days, I treat parades like I would any other event: I go into it with low expectations and prepare as much as possible. Make your parade experience less stressful and more fun by following our tried-and-true tips.
Know what to expect
Research the parade ahead of time to find the best viewing spots. Routes can change on a yearly basis, so you may want to check even if you plan on attending a parade you’ve been going to for years. If you’re driving, figure out which streets are going to be blocked off and where the best parking areas are to avoid having to walk too far. And speaking of walking, umbrella strollers are a godsend when kid’s feet inevitably start to get tired half a block in.
Since Midwest weather can unpredictable, make sure to check and recheck the forecast beforehand. Avoid lugging around a big tote and instead, throw travel sized bug spray and sunscreen in your purse or diaper bag. Make sure everyone has a water bottle if it’s humid outside and have older kids help carry food, drinks, blankets and folding chairs. You can’t avoid random meltdowns, but things will go much smoother if you’ve got the right supplies on hand.
This may seem like common sense, but can’t be emphasized enough when you have little ones: getting a good viewing spot is essential to keeping kids entertained during the parade. If candy is being thrown or handed out, you’ll want to be right up front to avoid missing out on the treats and your firetruck obsessed toddler will want every chance to see their favorite heroes in person. Even better if you can find a spot near the parade route to grab lunch or a snack while waiting for the show to begin.
Go all out with the theme
Part of the fun of holidays is getting dressed up in the theme of the day. For Memorial Day and Fourth of July, get kids into the spirit by breaking out your best red, white and blue clothing. Target and the dollar store have plenty of patriotic merch, like sunglasses, beads and American flags. If you’re feeling really ambitious, face paint is always fun, but keep in mind how much cheek scrubbing you’ll be doing at the end of the day.
Parades equal crowds, which equals plenty of traffic. Once you’ve seen the highlights of the show and things seem to be winding down, make a swift exit. Yes, your kids might complain, but it’s better than being stuck in a line of cars on the way home with exhausted toddlers that have passed their limit.