Held around the world, Christmas and New Year's parades are traditional events that are sometimes over the top, but always festive. Here's where to go to watch floats, bands and much more to celebrate the holidays.
The parade in Pasadena is famous, massive, lengthy (with a 5.5-mile route) and most of all, dripping with tradition. The 128th Rose Parade, also known as the Tournament of Roses, fills the streets of this Los Angeles-area city on January 2, hours before the Rose Bowl football game that matches local favorite USC against Penn State. Colorful doesn't even begin to describe the parade, which features 25 marching bands, 20 equestrian units and 41 floats festooned with some 500,000 roses (about one for each spectator).
An estimated half-million spectators crowd London's streets for its annual New Year's Day Parade. Along the route, which winds past Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, are 8,000 parade participants, including a Berlin dance company, the Royal Airs Drum & Bugle Corps, Jurassic World dinosaurs and floats sponsored by various London boroughs. Visiting London is less expensive now than it's been in decades, so building a trip around the parade is newly affordable.
The names of award categories at the 10,000-participant Mummers Parade should give you an idea of the satirical tone of this zany, 116-year-old New Year's Day tradition: Comics, String Bands, Wench Brigades, Fancies and Fancy Brigades. The Fancy Brigades serve double duty by marching in the morning parade along Broad Street from City Hill and then performing for two ticketed theatre shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the afternoon. The “mummers," who practice for the parade all year, are colorful, silly and utterly unique.
The Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade on December 27 features America's biggest procession of gigantic helium balloons along San Diego's downtown waterfront route, which is lined with 100,000-plus spectators. The nationally telecast parade also shows off floats, bands and drill teams. It's preceded by a big 5K run on the parade route and followed by a Battle of the Bands and the National Funding Holiday Bowl (Washington State vs. Minnesota).
The Allstate Sugar Bowl New Year's Eve Parade is the perfect excuse for being in the French Quarter to celebrate the dawn of 2017. The 3:30 p.m. parade concludes just in time to enjoy dinner in the Quarter followed by the countdown to midnight at the bars. The parade, which will showcase bands and Mardi Gras-style floats that end at the Sugar Bowl Fan Fest, kicks off two days of festivities leading up to the Sugar Bowl, pitting Auburn against Oklahoma.
Got kids? The perfect parade for families is Disneyland's traditional Christmas Fantasy Parade. It's short and sweet, lasting 40 minutes, but stars all of the Disney characters and creatures that cause a young child's eyes to widen with wonder. Riding floats along the parade route that stretches the length of Disneyland are Mickey, Minnie and the gang, plus prancing reindeer, dancing gingerbread cookies, and of course, Santa. It happens twice daily through January 8, and is just one of several holiday-related events in America's original theme park.