Image: Macy's Day Parade
Jeff Christensen  /  AP file
Had enough of annoying Uncle Phil? Many cities offer parades and other fun events over the Thanksgiving holiday.
By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 11/22/2006 8:41:56 PM ET 2006-11-23T01:41:56

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. We hop in the car or head to the airport, we travel across town or across the country, and we spend hours or days overeating, watching football, and sharing confined spaces with people we love, but don’t necessarily like.

Hey, it could be worse. They could have come to your house.

Chances are, though, you traveleved over this Thanksgiving holiday, and a little break from the family festivities can do wonders for everybody’s mood and mental health. Absence, even for just a few hours, really can make the heart grow fonder.

Fortunately, cities around the country will fill the bill with a wealth of festivals, special events, and seasonal activities. Add in some of the best parades of the year, and there’s no reason to endure an unhappy holiday.

When you’ve had too much turkey, too much football or too much of annoying Uncle Phil, here are six cities that offer relief for Thanksgiving travelers.

New York
The 80th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks things off at 9 a.m. on Thursday with 10 marching bands, several hundred clowns, and nearly 50 floats and balloons, depicting everyone from Big Bird to SpongeBob SquarePants. With 2.5 million people lining the parade route (Central Park West to Herald Square), plan on being curbside by 7 a.m.

The festive atmosphere continues Friday with the opening of the Holiday Market at Union Square, where you can find toys, clothing, and handicrafts from more than 100 artisans and vendors. And if you’re around on Monday evening, swing by the 7th annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square, a neighborhood festival with food tastings, in-store activities, and live entertainment.

Miami
The WinterNational Thanksgiving Day Parade (10 a.m. on Thursday) only covers eight blocks in North Miami, but it packs in plenty of fun with 70 floats and marching bands. A concurrent festival runs through the weekend, complete with carnival rides, food booths, and entertainment.

The holiday weekend is also the backdrop for White Party Week, a six-day event (November 22–27) dedicated to raising funds for local HIV/AIDS services. Attracting up to 15,000 people, the party makes its way from the beach to local nightclubs to a gala finale at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Houston
The nation’s fourth-biggest city celebrates the season with the H-E-B Holiday Parade, which circles downtown on Thanksgiving morning. Led by a giant turkey float, participants will include Houston Texan cheerleaders, the cast of the Broadway show “Swing,” and cartoon characters galore.

Afterward, consider visiting one of the city’s many museums. Current exhibits include the surreal works of Paul Klee at The Menil Collection, the wickedly witty illustrations of Edward Gorey at the Museum of Printing History, and a 110-piece showcase of landscapes of the American West at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. All run through January 2007.

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Chicago
The city’s 73rd annual Thanksgiving Parade steps off on State Street at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. In addition to dozens of floats and balloons, the parade features a variety of specialty acts from ethnic dancers to acrobatic tumblers to the ever-popular Precision Lawn Chair Marching Dads.

In fact, fancy footwork is on display throughout the city. The 12th annual Dance Chicago festival (November 4–December 3) offers jazz fusion performances November 24–26 and a dance slam competition on November 27. Meanwhile, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project presents Sheketak, the Israeli answer to Stomp, November 24–25.

Detroit
Officially known as America’s Thanksgiving Parade, Detroit’s turkey-day festivities roll out at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday with a 1.5-mile procession down Woodward Avenue. Up to 1 million spectators are expected to line the route as 75 floats, balloons, marching bands and specialty acts pass by.

True parade aficionados can get an even closer look at many of the floats Friday–Sunday, when they’ll be on display at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, just north of downtown. Bring the kids for carnival rides, face painting, and a visit from a certain red-suited fellow who’ll be promoting another, here-before-you-know-it holiday.

Los Angeles
Speaking of you-know-who, it’s only fitting to wrap this up with the Hollywood Christmas Parade, which despite its Noel-inspired name, takes place Sunday at 5 p.m. Making its way along Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, the parade is an only-in-L.A. cavalcade of screen stars, cartoon characters, and red-suited marchers.

While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the 11th annual Griffith Park Light Festival, which runs November 22–December 24. Featuring nearly two-dozen lighted displays, the route along Crystal Springs Drive draws more than 300,000 visitors each year. Most come by car, creating nightly traffic jams, but walking the route lets you enjoy the view at your leisure.

Who knows, you may work up an appetite for a few more turkey leftovers.

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