A Guide to the Raleigh Christmas Parade
Monday, November 11, 2019, 9am by Michael Robson
Note: The 2020 Raleigh Christmas Parade was a virtual affair due to COVID-19. For safe, distance-friendly ideas to tackle with the family in 2020—light displays, drive-in movies and more—please see this updated page. Thanks, happy holidays and we hope to see you in downtown Raleigh next year for a better-than-ever Raleigh Christmas Parade!
There's no surer sign of the holiday season quickly approaching than the return of one of Raleigh, N.C.'s best (and biggest) annual traditions—the ABC11 Raleigh Christmas Parade! An event truly made for the whole family, the parade provides endless entertainment in downtown Raleigh for one Sat. morning each year. Here's everything you need to know—when, where and how—about the 2019 parade.
What is it?
The Raleigh Christmas Parade, the largest such parade between Atlanta and Washington, D.C., marches through downtown Raleigh for more than two hours, drawing nearly 65,000 visitors to the streets to see marching bands, dancers, classic cars, superheroes and Santa Claus (more than 115 entries are expected to peruse the route in 2019).
The 2019 version of one of Raleigh's favorite holiday traditions will be the 75th annual edition of the parade!
What day is it? What times does it start and end?
The Raleigh Christmas Parade will take place on Sat., Nov. 23. It will start at 9:30am and end around noon.
To get front-row seating/viewing, you likely want to arrive at 8:30am (or earlier!).
Who puts it on?
The Raleigh Christmas Parade is presented by Shop Local Raleigh, an organization committed to promoting and supporting locally-owned, independent businesses in Raleigh.
ABC11 is the media sponsor of the event and will broadcast the parade live from 9am to noon, with Clay Aiken and Amber Rupinta as hosts. A re-broadcast airs on Christmas morning.
Why does it take place before Thanksgiving?
History and tradition. The Raleigh Christmas Parade has been held the Sat. before Thanksgiving dating back to 1939 (the parade took a hiatus for a few years because of World War II). The parade has always been organized by local shops and merchants and provided exposure for local businesses right as holiday shopping season kicks into high gear.
An early parade date has its benefits—chances are good for sunny weather and gorgeous fall foliage at this time of year!
What is the route like? Where should you watch from?
The 1.4-mile parade route starts near the corner of Hillsborough St. and Glenwood Ave., cruises down Hillsborough St. for several blocks where it runs into the North Carolina State Capitol, then snakes its way onto Fayetteville St., makes a turn to pass directly in front of the Raleigh Convention Center and finally makes its way down Lenoir St. where it ends at the corner of Lenoir and McDowell Sts. Note: This is a new finishing location. View the route here.
Following the parade is a Christmas Village post-parade party at Lichtin Plaza in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, where you can see the giant balloon floats up close, drop off a letter for Santa, hear live musical performances and shop for local goodies. The party wraps up at 1:30pm.
All the viewing for the parade is street-side, meaning it's first-come, first-served for those who want to set up chairs in the front row for unimpeded views. If you do that, there are certainly no bad spots to watch from. Crowds are likely heaviest on Fayetteville St. just outside of the ABC11 studios (where some bleacher seating is typically available); crowds are likely thinnest near the start and end of the route.
The Alexander Square Parking Deck, located at 230 S. Wilmington St., offers elevated views as the parade swings by the Capitol but will likely fill up very, very early in the morning.
Where should you park?
Street parking is available for free in downtown Raleigh.
The parade map shows available parking decks, some of which may charge a fee.
What should you bring with you?
Chairs, blankets, warm clothes and some cash (you may be able to scoop some cotton candy, pastries or hot chocolate from a vendor or local shop).
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