Parades Of NYC: What To See

Parades Of NYC: What To See

As a beacon of diversity, it’s no wonder that New York City hosts many parades throughout the year celebrating its diverse cultures and communities. Here is a list of the city’s most prominent parades:

Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade

The first major parade of the year in New York City is, aptly themed, a celebration of the beginning of a new year. Based on the ancient Chinese calendar dating back to the 14th century B.C., the Lunar New Year marks the start of the lunisolar calendar which occurs somewhere late January and early February.

Manhattan celebrates the event and Chinese culture in epic style with the Lunar New Year Parade and Festival in Chinatown. Colorful floats, marching bands, dancers, paraders in elaborate dragon costumes and other authentic regalia march South on Mott Street looping throughout Chinatown before winding up in Sara D. Roosevelt Park. It’s a party all of Chinatown revels in with great food, vendors, and other merriments to honor Chinese culture.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Manhattan’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is the country’s oldest heritage parade first taking place in 1762, and named in honor of Ireland’s patron saint. Irish military brigades in the colonial English army that were stationed in New York City, along with Irish immigrants, initially gathered to revel in their right to speak Ireland’s native tongue and “The Wearing Of The Green” – both of which were not allowed in British-ruled Ireland at the time.

Today, 2 million spectators line 5th Avenue from 44th St. to 86th St. to watch 150,000+ participants celebrate Irish culture and history. Politicians, citizens, Irish organizations, bands, military brigades, members of the NYPD and NYFD –  and, of course, bagpipers – proudly march in this grand tradition every year.

ticker tape parade

Easter Day Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival

5th Avenue is also where the annual Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival take place, from 49th to 57th Streets. This informal procession (more like a meandering) takes place on Easter Sunday every year, gaining national attention with the 1941 movie, “Easter Parade” in which Judy Garland and Fred Astaire famously sing the title song.

Although precessions around Easter time have been a part of Christian traditions, this annual event along 5th Avenue has no official religious affiliation or significance and began rather organically along this thorofare known for fashion, as a way for people to show off their extravagant Easter attire and hats.

Tartan Day Parade

The U.S. Senate officially designated April 6th as Tartan Day in 1998. Every year since then, Scottish-Americans adorned in traditional kilts proudly march to show their pride in the Tartan Day Parade.

Bagpipers, celebrities, bands, and other proud Scottish-Americans stride along 6th Avenue between 44th and 55th Streets annually on the Saturday nearest to Tartan Day. The parade acts as the centerpiece of Tartan Week in Manhattan, which features many events and festivals celebrating Scottish heritage and pride.

New York Dance Parade

With roots in diversity and social justice, the New York Dance Parade and Festival celebrates the unifying power and freedom of dance as a cultural and human expression. Every year, 10,000 dancers gather on the Saturday preceding Memorial Day to literally dance their way down Broadway (starting at 21st Street) before turning onto St. Mark’s Place all the way to Thompson Square Park.

From step dancing to tangos, it’s a spectacular show all along the parade route, culminating with DanceFest at Thompson Park featuring free dance lessons, performances, aerial routines, and a festive dance party.    

New York Gay Pride Parade

Manhattan’s Gay Pride Parade is an exuberant culmination of Pride Week celebrating the spirit of the LGBTQ community. Since its inaugural march in 1970, the parade’s mission has expanded from being an “annual civil rights demonstration” to raising AIDS awareness and honoring those in the LGBT community who have perished due to inequities, ignorance or brutality.

Millions line the streets of Manhattan to cheer on hundreds of parade groups, marching bands, performance artists, lively floats, outrageous costumes, personalities and more. Every June (at the close of Gay Pride Week) the parade proudly struts down 5th Ave starting at 36th Street and winds up in the West Village.

Puerto Rican Day Parade

For the past 60 years on the second Sunday in June, Manhattan has been host to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. As the “largest demonstration of cultural pride in the nation,” this annual event focuses on the heritage, culture, art, and family unity of the millions of Puerto Ricans living in America and Puerto Rico.

Hailed as one of the largest outdoor events in the country, the parade marches up 5th Avenue between 44th St. and 86th St. with millions of spectators in attendance. The event has been known to attract many celebrities, tens of thousands of marchers, colorful floats, great music, and celebrity Grand Marshalls.

gay pride parade

The German-American Steuben Parade

The German-American Steuben Parade takes place on the 3rd Saturday of September every year and is named after General Friedrick Wilhelm von Steuben, who served under General Washington. The parade celebrates German-American friendship, and the culture of all German-Americans, Austrian-Americans, and Swiss-Americans.

Marching along 5th Avenue from 64th St. to 86th St., the parade is a festive occasion with authentic cultural costumes, musical clubs, dancers, floats and sports clubs, featuring many groups that travel from Germany every year to join in the revelry. The parade wraps up in Central Park with its own version of Oktoberfest – great German beer, food, music, and an annual Masskrugstemmen (stein-holding) competition.

The Columbus Day Parade

Columbus Day in New York City honors not only Italian-American culture and heritage but the “struggles and triumphs of immigrants who helped build the United States.” A large part of the day’s celebrations center around the Columbus Day Parade which runs on 5th Avenue from 47th to 72nd Street, with performances taking place between 67th and 69th Streets.

Italian-American politicians, celebrities, citizens, musicians, international groups and more join in the parade every year. Past Grand Marshals have included Frank Sinatra, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Sophia Loren, Tony Bennett, Lidia Bastianich, Mario Cuomo and Regis Philbin.

The Village Halloween Parade

For a Halloween celebration of creativity and artistic expression, head down to 6th Avenue from Spring St. to 21st  to experience The Village Halloween Parade. What started in 1974 as a stroll from puppeteer Ralph Lee’s home with his family to his friend’s house has turned into one of the most elaborate and spectacular Halloween parades in the country, even being named “The Best Event in the World” by Festivals International in 2016.

All in costume are welcome to join in the fun. The procession features magnificent Giant Puppets and Special Costumed Performances, floats, puppets, dancers, performance artists, bands, and costumed New Yorkers of all ages – some 50,000 participants in all. Stick around for the adults-only official after party.  

dog in halloween costume

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Perhaps the most well-known parade in New York City – and the country –  is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with 3.5 million in attendance, and 50 million more watching on television.

Famous for its massive helium balloons, spectacular floats, marching bands, Broadway show and Rockettes performances, and a special appearance from Santa himself, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is part of many Americans’ Thanksgiving traditions.

The three-hour-long, 2 ½ – mile parade route starts on the Upper West Side of Central Park at 77th St., and ends right in front of Macy’s flagship store on 6th Avenue and 34th Street.

The NYC Veteran’s Day Parade

Since 1919, New York City has honored both living and deceased servicemen and women with the NYC Veteran’s Day Parade. With 50,000 participants including veterans of all eras, active officers, ROTC battalions, families of veterans, military and vintage vehicles, and armed service members, it is the largest Veteran’s Day parade in the country.

The parade begins with a traditional opening ceremony of laying a wreath at the Eternal Light monument, (located at Madison Square Park), and marches up 5th Avenue in front of a half million spectators from 26th to 52nd Street.

Join the Parade!

Whether you are a participant or a spectator, there’s nothing quite like experiencing a Manhattan parade up close and personal. Make one part of your next visit to the city for an experience you’ll never forget.

Look for next week’s blog, “Holiday Shows: From Ballet to The Rockettes.”