Raleigh Christmas Parade (2022): All you Need to Know Guide + Video

The sleigh bells are ringing and it’s time to grab a warm morning drink and head to the streets of downtown Raleigh for the 78th ABC11 Raleigh Christmas Parade (2022) presented by Shop Local Raleigh.

Giant float of a bear at a Christmas parade in Raleigh, NC

2021 was the year we finally experienced the Raleigh Christmas Parade for the first time after living in Raleigh on and off since 2004.

I guess that’s telling you we didn’t think the Christmas Parade would be worth it. Parades aren’t really an Australian thing, so it wasn’t front of mind for us. We have Christmas Carols (totally different to your caroling kind) which we love and really miss about Christmas in Australia. 

women carrying red flags riding on horses covered in Christmas wreaths

And after experiencing Christmas in New York, and Christmas in New Orleans, we just didn’t think it would be good. Thanks to this site dedicated to sharing Raleigh with y’all, last year we went. And…we really enjoyed it!

What is the Raleigh Christmas Parade?

Group of military personel on a parade float

The Raleigh Christmas Parade is one of the city’s favorite holiday traditions, especially for families to experience together across generations.

We were surprised and impressed by the scale of the parade, and have since learned that Raleigh has the largest Christmas Parade between Washington DC and Atlanta. It is attended by over 60,000 visitors each year and the largest single-day event in Raleigh. 

School marching band from Shaw University
Shaw University marching band

You’ll need a few hours to see the entire parade as it winds its way for 1.4 miles around the downtown Raleigh Streets.

Let’s share all you need to know about the Raleigh, North Carolina Christmas Parade so you too have a memorable experience!

What can you see in the parade?

Parade float of a giant gingerbread cookie

The parade has about 115 entries made up of a variety of marching bands, specialty vehicles and car clubs, professional floats, horseback riders, and helium balloon characters. 

For some it’s an opportunity to be on display and recognized. It took me a few minutes to realize that every group coming past was advertising something, many of them for a very good cause, like hospitals and the military! And it’s a way we can all show appreciation and enjoy the decorated floats, dances, and elaborate costumes. 

Parade float of children supporting a hospital
WakeMed Children’s Hospital float

The parade has always been organized by local shops and merchants and provided exposure for local businesses right as the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear.

Santa and Mrs Clause on a float in a Christ Parade in Raleigh
Santa and Mrs. Claus

And at the end of the parade, you’ll find a beaming Santa and Mrs. Claus, which will warm the hearts of the kiddies and get them excited for the Holiday Season.

Watch our Video: Raleigh Christmas Parade (2021)

When is the Raleigh Christmas Parade?

Old model Ford car in a parade

Surprisingly, the parade is held each year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving! This year it will be Saturday, November 19, 2022. 

It’s actually a great way to kick off the Holiday Season, which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year and includes festivals such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Stormtrooper costumed character in a city parade

And if you can’t attend the parade in person, you can watch from home starting at 9:30 AM by tuning in to channel 11, watching online at ABC11.com, or stream the event with the ABC11 app.

Here is the schedule for the Parade:

  • 9:30 AM: Special Pre-Show on ABC11
  • 9:40 AM: Parade Kicks Off Street-Side in Downtown Raleigh
  • 10:00 AM: Live Parade Coverage on ABC11

Expect the parade to last for about 2.5 to 3 hours.

What is the Parade Route?

Men on tractors in a parade

Here is the parade route for you:

  • Begins on Hillsborough Street at the intersection of St. Mary’s Street
  • Proceeds East on Hillsborough Street to the State Capitol Building
  • Turns right onto Salisbury Street
  • Turns left onto Morgan Street
  • Turns right onto Fayetteville Street
  • Proceeds all the way down Fayetteville
  • Turns right at Lenoir Street where it finishes

See this map of the parade route.

Where can I get a good view of the parade?

School marching band in a parade
Enloe High School marching band

The best views are reserved for those who get there really early. Many people will start coming in and getting a spot around 7:30am.

As it’s spread out over a mile, you should be able to find somewhere to settle in with good views. The start and end of the route usually has thinner crowds. 

Last year, we arrived at around 8:30am and, while we were a couple of rows back on Fayetteville Street, our views were still pretty decent. Most people in front will have their own camp chairs or blankets which opens up your viewing (if you are ok standing).

Old fashioned cars in a Christmas parade
Our view of the parade on Fayetteville Street

We situated ourselves near the Sheraton Raleigh in City Plaza on Fayetteville street so we could have easy access to use their restrooms (hot tip).

Fayetteville St is at the end of the parade, so many love that city kind of ambiance and view. Crowds are usually heaviest outside of the ABC11 studios where they have bleachers set up and their live coverage team. 

Lady and man on a float in a parade

If you like a little more open air viewing, Hillsborough Street may be more to your liking. You can also get a good view of the capital from there. 

And if you are not an early bird, Fayetteville Street may be better as the floats won’t get to your area until about 20-30 minutes after it starts.

History of the Christmas Parade in Raleigh

Marching band in a parade

The Raleigh Christmas Parade began in 1939 as the country was coming out of the Recession. Not long after, it was put on hold for several years during WWII before resuming in 1945.

It soon became a beloved family tradition for those living in Wake County and even further across North Carolina. Parade costumes and themes evolved with each decade to showcase life in Raleigh. And Parade Marshalls have often been popular starts of each era.

Baseball mascot in a parade
Carolina Mudcats baseball mascot

WRAL_TV first broadcasted the parade in 1974 in black and white. ABC11 is now the official broadcast partner and they air it to more than 250,000 people watching from home.

In 2011, a record 80,000 people attended the parade because Scotty McCreery, an American Idol winner from Garner appeared. 

The Greater Raleigh Merchants Association has had the honor of organizing the Raleigh Christmas Parade since 1944!

Is The Raleigh Christmas Parade Worth It?

Motor bike with a giant teddy bear in a parade

Yes! We think it is worth it. I’m not sure we’ll do it every year – depends how cold it is and our kids continued interest (currently 15 & 11).

But we enjoyed this experience as a family. It’s a unique cultural experience for Raleigh and a way for the community to gather and spread good cheer.

Boy in a high school marching band in a parade

I think after experiencing the isolating torture of the pandemic, the Raleigh Christmas parade is a simple way to experience joy and community.

We love that it kick-starts the Holiday Season, which in America lasts for a long time! The only thing left to do once the parade is over, is to go home and put up those trees!

Actually, keep reading, as down below we share a few ideas on what to do after the parade in Raleigh. No need to rush home.

FAQs

Where can I park?

As it’s on the weekend, street parking will be free. But, as 60,000 people are headed into the city, it will be hard to find. Also, the parade route streets will be closed. City owned parking decks are available free of charge the morning of the parade (check until what time in case you want to do something in the city after!) Road closures end at 2pm so you could move your car to the free parking then. Since Raleigh is quite a walkable city, I recommend parking a few blocks away from the parade route in some of the neighborhoods and walking in.

What if I need the restroom during the parade?

Thank goodness porta-potties will be placed throughout the parade footprint. There are also nearby businesses that will have restrooms available. Purchase a cup of coffee or pastry to share your support and gratitude. And see our tip above about positioning ourselves near a hotel lobby.

What can I bring to the parade

Keep an eye on the weather, as last year we arrived in warm coats, gloves, and hats as it was freezing! November is unpredictable so you may even get warm weather. 

You can bring chairs or blankets to sit on, a picnic if you wish, and of course, your camera, patience, and good spirits.

Will there be food and drink available

There are no food trucks or vendors along the parade route. However many of the local restaurants and stores will be open. Last year, there was coffee (horrible) available in the Sheraton Hotel. The line for one of our local coffee shops, The Morning Times, wrapped right around onto Fayetteville St, hence the horrible coffee option instead.

What can I do after the parade?

Police on horse back

Since the parade is in Downtown Raleigh, this is the perfect opportunity to extend the day with your family and friends and have more holiday fun together. 

Hotels Near the Raleigh Christmas Parade

overview of a hotel building
Residence Inn

If you visit Raleigh from out of town for the parade, accommodation could book up quickly for this popular event, especially in Downtown Raleigh.

It will be the best place to stay with easy walking distance to the event and nearby Raleigh restaurants and other things to do.

Here are a couple of our favorite hotels in downtown Raleigh:

If you are visiting from out of town and have a few extra days, here are some guides to help you plan out your days exploring Raleigh:

Do you plan on attending the Christmas parade in Raleigh? Share in the comments below which parade float or act you are most looking forward to seeing? And ask any questions you have?

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