What to know before you go to the Thanksgiving Day Parade

With all the marching bands, gigantic helium balloons and elaborate floats, the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade in downtown Chicago can be quite a spectacle. But braving the crowds-and the cold-takes some planning when you have young kids in tow.


  • 8:30 – 11 a.m. Nov. 26
  • Along State Street from Congress Parkway to Randolph Street
  • Free

Dan Mulka, of the festival association, offers tips before you head to the parade.

  • Always dress warm. It’s a lot better to take off layers of clothing than wish you had an extra sweatshirt. The number one item to have at the parade? Gloves for each member of the family.
  • The parade starts on Congress, going north. You get to see some neat things if you watch the parade from the first part of the route-like the giant 70-foot inflatable balloons going underneath the L tracks on Van Buren.
  • The parade ends at Randolph and the block between Madison and Washington usually fills up quickly. (The block between Washington and Randolph is VIP seating-packages available at www.chicagofestivals.org) If you’re going to shoot for the end of the parade route (north end), plan on showing up early to get the best spots.
  • Keep in mind, if it’s just too cold or too early for you to get the kids bundled up and out the door, you can always curl up on the couch and watch the parade broadcast live on Channel 9.
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