Photograph by Daniel Dreifuss, Demotix/Corbis
The Philadelphia Mummers Parade
The costumed revelers of this unique New Year’s Day tradition have paraded the streets of Philadelphia since the 1800s and trace their roots back to even older European traditions. Elaborately costumed dancers, drillers, and musicians entertain onlookers en route to City Hall, where judges select the best Fancies, Wenches, Comics, and String Bands.
Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
There's not a snowflake in sight during this South Florida celebration, when more than a hundred “boat floats,” lighted and decorated by their quirky crews for the December season, make their way down the New River before an estimated one million spectators. The 40-year-old parade has more recently spawned a full-on festival of fun-in-the-sun events.
The Rose Parade
If the famous football game is the “Grandaddy of Them All,” then the Rose Parade must be the great-grandaddy: Walkers in the flower-filled event first took to the streets of Pasadena in 1890. Today's parade is bigger and better than ever and rings in each new year with a celebrity Grand Marshall, elaborate floats, and a complement of the nation’s very best marching bands.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
New York, New York
Each Thanksgiving morning the canyon-like streets of Manhattan are filled with floating cartoon characters and teeming with celebrants honoring the start of the holiday shopping season—kicked off with an appearance by Santa himself. The parade has been held since 1924 and is a must for shopping-minded visitors.
Fourth of July Midnight Parade
Can't wait for your local Independence Day parade? Get a jump on the rest of the U.S.A. by attending the holiday’s first parade, which takes place in the Smoky Mountain town of Gatlinburg. The parade gears up during the moments before midnight on July 3 and steps off promptly at 12 a.m. on the Fourth. The town pays special tribute to America's armed forces, so soldiers and military vehicles are well represented.
St. Patrick's Day Parade
St. Patrick’s Day is a red-letter one for parade lovers, with large events taking place from Savannah to Chicago. But America's best might take place in Boston, which has as many Irish inhabitants as just about anywhere this side of the Emerald Isle. A trip to the parade's “Southie” heartland is a pilgrimage of sorts for America's Irish.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans doesn't have a Mardi Gras parade—New Orleans has a whole host of Mardi Gras parades! Different “krewes,” from Alla to Zulu, strut their stuff all over the city for the two weeks or so leading up to Fat Tuesday. Take in a few and let the good times roll—because Lent is a long season.
The Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Most parades are fair-weather affairs. Not so in this northern state capital, which responded to a 19th-century newspaper writer's complaint that the city was unlivable in winter by staging a celebratory carnival—now the nation's oldest and largest such winter event. A torchlight parade through the city streets highlights the January/February celebration.
Chinese New Year Parade
San Francisco, California
San Francisco's Chinese community has hosted this street celebration since the 1860s and welcomes all to experience the largest celebration of Asian culture staged outside the Asian continent. Floats, firecrackers, dazzling costumes, and dragons take to the city's streets each winter—a spectacle watched by some three million people around the world.
Sure, you can't see an inaugural every year—but this is one parade that's well worth the wait. Seeing a new President and Vice President parade down Pennsylvania Avenue from the U.S Capitol to the White House—accompanied by bands, honor guards, and all manner of pomp and circumstance—is something each American should experience at least once.
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