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 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 2018 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 2018).

The 2018 version of one of Raleigh's favorite holiday traditions will be the 74th annual edition of the parade.

Raleigh Christmas Parade


What day is it? What times does it start and end?

The Raleigh Christmas Parade will take place on Sat., Nov. 17. It will start at 9:40am and end around noon.

To get front-row seating/viewing, you likely want to arrive at 8:30am (or earlier!).

Raleigh Christmas Parade


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 10am to noon. A re-broadcast airs on Christmas morning.

Raleigh Christmas Parade


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!

Raleigh Christmas Parade


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. From there it's a five-block, straight shot into City Plaza where the parade ends in front of the Raleigh Marriott City Center. View the route here.

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.

Raleigh Christmas Parade


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. The Downtown Raleigh app, created by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, has real-time parking information available.

Raleigh Christmas Parade


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).

More questions about the parade or visiting Raleigh, N.C., in general? Shoot us a note on Twitter or Facebook—we're here to help!