I bet I’m not the only one with this family memory: Mom cooking up great smells in the kitchen preparing for a family dinner on Thanksgiving morning while you sit in front of the TV in your PJ’s watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
It’s been a tradition in our house for as long as I can remember and it’s something that has been on my bucket list for just as long! But, with small kids and many miles between me and NYC, it’s just not in the cards for our family in the near future. Luckily for us Houstonians, all is not lost!
Houston’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, now called The Annual Holiday Parade, is a 63-year-old holiday tradition in Houston. It showcases large floats featuring live entertainment, giant helium-filled balloons, thousands of musicians in marching bands, drill teams, dancers, cheerleaders and clowns to more than 400,000 parade-goers who line the streets of downtown Houston.
Seeing how I am a lover of parades and we are junkies for anything new, our family decided to venture down to Houston last Thanksgiving morning to see what our hometown parade was all about.
I will admit, it’s a fun experience, but not without its challenges! Here’s a bit of advice:
The parade starts at 9, so make sure you get to the city with plenty of time to park and find yourself a viewing spot along the street. For us, parking was easy to find for a small fee. Make sure you study the parade route (www.ifest.org/2012-holiday-parade-route) so you can plan where to park without much of a walk while still giving yourselves an easy departure.
Once parked, we basically followed the crowd and scoped out what we thought was a good spot to sit – unfolded the chairs, laid out the blanket, handed out the snacks and waited. It was a little tight and there were a couple of people in front of us who were standing just behind a rope we thought had been placed up to keep the crowds back. I was a decent spot considering the crowd and we were happy.
About 5 minutes before the parade was to start, a police officer made his way down the street and removed the rope that was keeping the first line of spectators at bay. When that happened, everyone flooded forward to the street and we were left pretty far behind the sidewalk with about 3 layers of people between us. So, the lesson here is – stake out a spot, but don’t get too comfy in it just yet. Mingle around a bit and wait for the “barrier” to be released so you can move forward and get a nice spot close to the street and the action.
So, we learned our lesson there, but it didn’t hamper the spirit! It was a brisk day so we packed our hot chocolate and coffee, got the kids on the shoulders and enjoyed what we could. Because there are so many floats and helium balloons, there was plenty to see and listen to and enjoy and it definitely got us into the Holiday spirit.
Remember I mentioned coffee and hot chocolate . . . about 45 minutes or so later, we all started to feel the effects of our warm little treats. My husband went on a mission to find the nearest port-o-potty and even tracked down an officer or two before we realized all of the restrooms were on the opposite side of the street which meant crossing the parade route now in full-effect. If we had made it across, it was still quite a trek from there, so it started to become quite clear we didn’t have many options.
So, our parade experience ended with us all packing at the speed of light, racing down the street to the car and hunting frantically for the nearest McDonald’s.
When I asked the boys if they wanted to do the parade again this year, the only thing they remembered was how bad they had to go to the restroom and that they got to have french fries for the ride home from McDonald's. But, what I remember was a fun morning spent outside with the family and thousands of other Texans enjoying some rare, brisk air, excitement of the season, goose bumps from the wonderful high school bands from all over our area and a Papa Smurf balloon that seemed to touch the tallest skyscraper.
If you are up for an adventure this Thanksgiving, I would recommend heading down for the parade – just make sure you are near a potty and you are dressed warm. If not, stay in your jammies on the couch and watch it on TV, I guarantee you’ll have fun either way!
For more information on the parade, visit the website at: http://www.ifest.org/2012-parade-info/.