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Best Parades in the World and Where to Find Them

I love a parade! The beat of the drum from the marching bands, the elaborately costumed performers, the colorful floats, and little kids sitting on their father’s shoulders so they can see. Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, I always wanted to see one of the big parades in New York City. Although I never got to see one while living there, my husband and I happened to be at the right place at the right time and caught the Columbus Day Parade one year. With holiday season starting, I started thinking about the best parades in the world. I have called out to fellow travelers to find the best Mardi Gras parades, best St. Patrick’s Day parades, and best Christmas parades, among others. In addition to these famous parades around the world, I have included some lesser known events.

Madeira Island Flower Parade (Portugal)– Best Parades for Flowers

Best parades for flowers in Madeira. People decked out in flower costumes.

Edyta from SayYesToMadeira.com.

The parade I always recommend to other travelers is the Madeira Island Flower Parade. The parade, called Cortejo Alegórico, is the main event of a 3-weeks long Flower Festival. The festival, Festa da Flor, takes place in Funchal, the island’s main city.

Usually, this colorful and fun parade takes place on a May Sunday afternoon. That’s when beautifully dressed performers – kids & adults – parade through the city presenting their carefully prepared flower costumes, floats and choreographies. If you love flowers and dance, definitely put the Flower Festival on your Madeira buckets lists.

Here are three tips for visiting the parade. They close off the city’s main avenue on the day of the parade, so stay in Funchal’s Old Town area. It is located within walking distance from the parade’s route. Second, purchase special tribune tickets if you do not like standing for longer periods. Last but not least – do not forget to bring a hat, sunglasses and a sunscreen.

The vibe of the Cortejo Alegórico is great. The parade definitely deserves the title of one of the most beautiful parades, not only in Portugal, but in the entire world.

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Carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia

Best parades for carnival in the town of Cartegena.

By Adam McConnaughhay from CartagenaExplorer.com

If you’re looking for one of the best lesser known parades around the world, consider the Carnival of Barranquilla.  On the Caribbean coast, Barranquilla takes a backseat as a destination to other places in Colombia like the beaches of Cartagena.  Its Carnival is lesser known than those in Rio and Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  However, don’t let that disqualify it from being considered one of the funnest parades.  In fact, people often compared to the Rio Carnival in quality.

The festivities begin unofficially as early as just after the New Year. A number of pre-Carnival events, culminating in La Guacherna, take place the Friday before the start of Carnival proper.  Carnival starts officially on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday when they hold the Batalla de Flores (Rose Parade).  This is the largest and most important parade.  Colombia’s beauty queens participate in the parade on elaborate floats. It’s common to see floats go by with famous singers performing as well.

That is of course in addition to tons of great street performers with neat costumes that embody the culture of Colombia’s Caribbean.  Be on the lookout especially for the emblematic marimonda, with its characteristic goofy costume and long nose that may represent another body part and whose origin was a way to poke fun at the ruling elite.

There are more parades on both Sunday and Monday. And there are always a variety of concerts around town as well as many informal get togethers and partying in the street all over in the evening.  If you’d like to get a better view of the parades, try to get there a bit early and buy tickets to the bleachers known as palcos.  Also, be ready to be sprayed with lots of foam!

Disneyland- Best Parades for Kids

Mickey and Minnie in the Disneyland Christmas parade, one of the best parades at Disney.

Contributed by Debbie Fettback from WorldAdventurists.com.

One of the most magical parades to experience is a Disneyland parade in California, USA. With parades running year-round and changing seasonally, you are in for a surprise with each parade. The parades are very popular, so plan ahead. Each parade usually features a mixture of classic and new Disney characters with incredible imagery. The boundaries for the parades are between It’s a Small World and Main Street.

Two hours before the parade, you can start reserving your seat. If you are visiting Disneyland with a large group, leave a few people to save the area while the others take turns enjoying some attractions nearby. Pack a picnic, or buy some treats to help you pass the time while you wait for the parade to start.

One of the best spots to view the parade is near It’s A Small World, as it is usually less crowded. If you are at the Disney fire station 20 minutes before the parade begins, cast members will drop the rope and you may end up with a front-row spot. Another great option is near Alice in Wonderland, where there is only seating on one side of the path, so the performers will have more time to interact with your side.

The Perfect Travel Insurance

Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, Dublin

best parades for St. patrick's day in Dublin, people dressed in costumes

Pamela  The Directionally Challenged Traveler

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is a bucket list parade experience unlike any other celebration around the world. Over half a million people flock to Ireland’s capital for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration (which actually lasts a full week!) Be sure to pack enough green for at least a week. If you’re wearing green, the leprechauns can’t see you – and the locals will pinch if you’re not wearing it!

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as the roads start lining with crowds between 9 and 10am, but the parade doesn’t start until noon. For the best views of the parade, secure your spot in one of four grandstands along the route. The St. Patrick’s Day Festival Ireland Facebook page usually posts the tickets in September for the following March. 

While you’ll see plenty of green and Guinness around the city, you won’t find it in the parade. The parade is built on heritage, history, and the arts. The Irish are very mythical and artistic – both of which are on full display. Some displays were about the history of Ireland and St. Patrick while others were more mythical storytelling.

The St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is a surprising yet captivating display of Irish pride and should be on any parade lovers bucket list! 

Chinese New Year In Paris

chinese dragons in the best parades for chinese new year in paris

by Elisa from World in Paris

The Chinese New Year parade in Paris is something to see. It takes place in the 13 th district of Paris, where the most significant Chinese community in Paris lives.

The date of this spectacular parade is not always the same, basically because the Chinese New Year date changes every year. However, you can expect it to be sometime between the end of January and the beginning of February, and the parade is usually on the weekend after this date.

The parade is big, with numerous people taking part in it and wearing the best dresses. There are some vehicles too. Expect some music, juggling, papier-mâché dragons and other beasts.

The Chinese New Year Parade is one of the main events in winter in Paris (after the Christmas holidays). To see the parade it is recommended to arrive early to take a good spot. It is a popular event in Paris for locals, and a great ‘playground’ for professional photographers and amateurs.

The Pfifferdaj Parade, Ribeauvillé, France

costumed people in the best parade in Ribleaux France

by Corinne Vail of Reflections Enroute

The Pfifferdaj or Minstrel’s festival and parade in Ribeauvillé, France is one of the most fun, loud, creative, and bizarre parades I’ve ever watched. Completely different than a parade in the U.S., this parade has some very adult themes.  The parade is always on the first Sunday of September, when the weather is just starting to turn into fall. The temperature is just right for being outside all weekend. We suggest you spend the entire weekend there if you can find accommodations, which book up fast. There are plenty of hotels right along the parade route. This means that you don’t have to wander far for a good view. If you are not staying in town, prepare to get there around 9:00 in the morning.

You’ll be charged an entry fee of about 8 Euros. Then you can wander the main street of the town to find your best spot. Before the parade begins, you can wander around and see the actors getting into their makeup. Everyone is in a welcoming mood. Most do not mind you snapping photo after photo. The colors and designs are unbelievable. The parade lasts a few hours. It’s full of stories, huge floats that you won’t think will fit through the narrow town, chanting, dancing, and bands from all over the regions close to Ribeauvillé, both French and German.  It’s tons of fun. As an added bonus the town well spouts wine on Sunday evening. This is a parade to plan your entire Europe trip around around. Don’t miss it!

Naked Bike Ride, London- Best Parades for Seeing Naked Folks

best parades for seeing naked people: naked bike ride in London. People ride through the streets naked except for their shoes.

Clotilde from A princess travelling with twins

London can be overwhelming with its offer of so many engaging attractions, incredible places to visit, and numerous events to take part in, but if you are in the city on the 2nd Saturday of June, be sure to check out the World Naked Bike London parade itinerary. This parade, which started in 2004, is held every year during cycling week (it only stopped in 2020 because of the pandemic). It is a peaceful parade, aimed at raising awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and against the addiction to cars.

In 2004, the focus of the first parade was to get more rights for cyclists, this goal 17 years later fits perfectly into the larger Climate change hot topic to support the reduction of car use and oil dependency.
The parade takes place naked to promote freedom and body positivity, but above all to attract the attention of the media, necessary to spread the message and involve more people every year. If you feel uncomfortable, do not worry as body paint and underwear are accepted. If after the parade you are looking for a bit of tranquility,  then check your map and surely you are not far from one of the hidden gems of London where to find some rest.

Best Parades in Tokyo: Three Shrine Festival

By Sydney from A World in Reach

Sanja Matsuri, or the Three Shrine Festival, is one of the largest and most exciting Shinto Festivals in Tokyo, Japan. The festival takes place from the third Friday to the third Saturday in May. It commemorates the three founders of Senso-ji Temple. One of the main features of the festival are its parades revolving around portable shrines.

The parades begin on the Friday and continues through the weekend, with the most important events happening on Sunday. The three shrines are paraded through the streets surrounding Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa Shrine, all being followed by participants dressed in elaborate costumes and dancing to traditional music. During the festival, the surrounding area is abuzz with locals and tourists taking part in the festivities. You’ll find food stalls selling Japanese street food favorites around the festival grounds.

Senso-ji and Asakusa Shrine are already worth a spot on your Tokyo bucket list. However, experiencing them during Sanja Matsuri makes for a really special visit.

Best Parades for Mardi Gras: New Orleans

Recommended by Kerry Hanson from VeggTravel

Anyone who enjoys the colors, joy and liveliness of parades will surely have the Mardi Gras Carnival, New Orleans on their bucket list. People celebrate Mardi Gras in the two weeks preceding Shrove Tuesday (known as Fat Tuesday). This provides two whole weeks of parades that take over the entire city of New Orleans. The main streets, who host the biggest krewes, even have some celebrity float riders. Then there are the smaller parades that are more attuned to community spirit of local people in their own neighborhoods.

Mardi Gras is great for people of all ages. People travel from all over the world to experience this amazing parade. The colorful costumes, talented bands and performers, and the excited roars from the crowds as they catch handfuls of Mardi Gras beads are memories that will last a lifetime. If Mardi Gras isn’t one of the best parades around the world, I don’t know what is!

Biggest Parade in the World: Carnival, Rio

By Victoria at Guide Your Travel

Carnival in Rio is an incredible experience. It is considered the largest carnival in the world. With more than two million people on the streets every day this is a must-see event for anyone visiting Brazil. The carnival takes place every year in February and consists of several parades where samba schools perform and carry floats through the streets of Rio as well as large stadiums.

Keep in mind that the city will be absolutely packed during this time and you’ll need to book as far in advance as possible to still get a good deal. The streets will be packed with tourists and locals coming to enjoy the parades. If you’re planning on using public transport factor in plenty of time to get to places especially in the metro. Everything moves a little bit slower in Rio during carnival so be patient. Also remember that tickets can be very expensive depending on which exact parade you go to. The main ones can cost upwards of US $2000 per person although more affordable ones cost between US $30 and $100.

Best Thanksgiving Day Parades: Macy’s

Submitted by Bernadette of Live a Relaxed Life

For almost 100 years the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been part of the American holiday. It claims to be the biggest parade in the world that features huge balloons, marching bands, and floats with pop stars and special guests.

If you happen to be in New York City, going to the parade is a nice activity to do on Thanksgiving Day. Though you will have to line up pretty early to secure a spot on the parade route. The starting point is 77th Street in the Upper West Side and continues south until it reaches the Macy’s store at 34th Street Herald Square.  

For those that don’t want to brave the cold November morning, you can see them blowning up the balloons the day before. The balloons are laid out outside the Natural History Museum and slowly inflated. Visitors have to follow a path to see the balloons and it is left on display until the parade starts. 

NYC Village Halloween Parade

Submitted by Kelly of Travel New York Now

If you have a Halloween costume, you can march in the Village Halloween Parade. Since October 31st, 1975 lovers of Halloween, costumes, and people watching have gathered to celebrate the spooky holiday. Each year the event takes place in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. It is considered the biggest Halloween parade in the world with thousands participating and many more lining the streets to watch the revelry. It is also one of the main Halloween night activities of the city. 

Puppeteer Ralph Lee started the parade, and since then each parade has always featured puppets. The puppets are made especially for each parade and animated by hundreds of volunteers. Each year there is a theme so no two parades are the same. There are also floats and marching bands that give the event a street-party feel. 

For Halloween-lovers, this is a must-see and should be part of their bucket list of things to do!

Rose Parade

Submitted by Bernadette of Explorer Chick

Flower lovers will delight in the annual Rose Parade that is held in Pasadena, California. Since 1890 the Rose Parade has shown the world how even in the dead of winter flowers are still in bloom in Southern California. 

On January 1st the parade is part of a day-long event that includes a college football game, the Rose Bowl. It starts on South Orange Grove Boulevard and winds its way through Pasadena. It ends at the Post-Parade area where it stays on display for crowds to visit until the next day. 

They cover over 40 floats (give or take a few) in flowers and natural materials such as seeds, leaves, or bark. No empty spaces are allowed! 

Aside from flowers, horses have always been part of the New Years Day tradition. In the beginning, they pulled carriages but today the equestrian teams march in the parade along with marching bands and other guests. 

There is a theme each year and it is magical to watch the flower-covered floats (that sometimes have moving parts!) march down the road.


I hope reading about these parades and travel tips have inspired you to travel abroad or take a few road trips to see one of them.

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