Whether it’s the smell of gingerbread in the air or the sound of the high school band, holidays just aren’t the holidays without a jaunt to see a local parade. Clydesdales march in rhythm, candy canes are tossed to waiting hands and Santa waves jollily as the final float passes by. From small-town put-ons to large televised events, holiday parades capture the Christmas spirit and usher in the season.
Here are several spirit-filled holiday parades still to come before New Year’s.
1. Be Dazzled in Minneapolis
If you want to see a parade amid a truly Christmas-y scene, Minneapolis’ Target Holidazzle Parade is the ticket. There’s not likely to be any rain on this parade, but there’s a good chance of snow -- just don’t forget the hat and gloves!
Running on Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., this nighttime parade features illuminated floats (akin to the old Disney light parade), as well as marching bands, celebrities and, of course, Santa bringing up the rear.
Some 300,000 people have attended the event during its holiday run since 1992. The parade marches from Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis from 12th Street to 4th Street. While you’re in town, take in Macy’s Santaland elf village, get your photo snapped with Santa, enjoy treats from Mrs. Claus and more.
2. Celebrate the Season at Sea
Not every Christmas parade happens on land. Coastal towns across the U.S. celebrate the season at the shore. Newport Beach, Calif., hosts one of the largest such celebrations, with more than 100 boats parading across Newport Harbour in the Newport Beach Parade.
Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m. and continuing through Dec. 22, vessels ranging from kayaks and canoes to million-dollar yachts decorated with Christmas scenes and accompanied by holiday music sail nearly 15 miles across the water. The longest running Christmas Boat Parade in America, now in its 105th year, this holiday tradition attracts nearly 1 million locals and visitors from around the world.
3. A Portland Tradition
Another nautical tradition is the Portland Christmas Ship Parade, which runs through Friday. One of the area’s most famous local events for almost 60 years, it features privately owned vessels from across Oregon that tour different areas through a period of three weeks, and will end Friday in the Portland-Vancouver area.
Each of the more than 60 ships, ranging from 14 to 65 feet, is covered in bright lights and holiday décor -- some are even adorned with giant Christmas trees -- to greet passersby as they sail along their route. Watch the boats from a number of spots, including local parks, bridges, along the river shore, restaurants and even aboard the Portland Spirit yacht.
4. Get Merry with Mickey
While you can’t attend this one in person (at least not this year, as it’s already been taped), you can watch it on TV on Christmas Day. Disney’s annual Christmas Day Parade, now in its 30th year, is a tradition at our house – and at many across the nation. Featuring some of the company’s most beloved characters, as well as a gaggle of celebrities, including many a teen heartthrob, kids of all ages can enjoy.
Hosted this year by Neil Patrick Harris and Nick Cannon – one based in Florida and one in California – the parade marches down Main Street U.S.A. at Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim. The 2013 procession features characters from Disney’s latest movie, “Frozen,” as well as “Monsters University.” Classic characters including Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, plenty of Disney princesses and the characters from “Toy Story” and “Peter Pan” will join in the fun. Participating celebrities include Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, Jordin Sparks, Jason Derulo and the cast of “Teen Beach Movie.”
The parade airs on ABC at 10 a.m. ET on Christmas Day.
5. Go Wild in Philly
In a Philly tradition as popular as the cheesesteak, the Mummer’s Parade has been ringing in the New Year for 114 years in the City of Brotherly Love. “Mummers” are men and women of all ages who are members of more than 40 organized clubs that participate in the parade. Not so far removed from Brazil’s Carnival, but toned down to Philly size and originating from Roman roots, the Mummer’s Parade features all manner of lavish costumes, wild performances and some 10,000 participants strutting through the city’s main streets.
The parade is divided into divisions: the Comics and Wench Brigades satirize issues, institutions and people; the Fancies dress head to toe in glamorously royal outfits; the String Bands play banjoes, saxophones, drums and more; and the Fancy Brigades perform choreographed theatrical extravaganzas.
The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. ET on New Year’s Day and continues until 6 p.m. What a colorful, fanciful and memorable way to start your 2014!
Whether you head to your local town’s annual procession or decide to create a new holiday tradition by visiting the sites of some of these spectacularly unique displays, don’t let the season pass without a parade.
Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based travel writer. You can find her at www.GotoTravelGal.com or on Twitter at @GotoTravelGal.