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Fort Worth, Texas welcomes the start of the Christmas season with it’s Parade of Lights. This festive display of lights takes place on the streets of downtown Fort Worth each year. The parade is a popular event that is attended by thousands of people annually. We have watched the Parade of Lights several times throughout the years. Due to our familiarity with downtown Fort Worth, we have been able to navigate the masses at the parade without much trouble. But for a lot of people, seeing the parade brings with it a huge amount of frustration. Here are some tips to help you enjoy Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights without all the annoyances.
Get There Early
In the past, the parade took place on the Friday after Thanksgiving. However, since 2015, it has been held the weekend before Thanksgiving instead. The 2017 Parade of Lights will be on Sunday, November 19, 2017.
While the parade doesn’t start until 6:00 pm, you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to get downtown. Your experience will go much smoother if you arrive early. As the day wears on, more and more streets in the area are shut down in preparation for the parade. Additionally, the later you wait, the more traffic you will have to fight to get in and the fewer places you will find to park.
Instead, make a day of it. Head downtown closer to 2:00 or 3:00 pm. Once you have found a great parking spot, you can savor an early dinner at one of the awesome downtown restaurants and get a head start on your holiday shopping by visiting one of the many downtown stores. You can also get into the Christmas spirit by strolling through Sundance Square, taking photos in front of the Christmas tree, and listening to the holiday music that fills the air.
Traffic and Parking
Speaking of traffic and parking, it doesn’t have to be difficult! The traffic and parking are two of the main things that spoil people’s enjoyment of the Parade of Lights. But there are a few things you can do to eliminate these irritations. First of all, beat the crowd by arriving early.
Second, be aware of the parade route and street closures before heading downtown. The parade runs on a rectangular route through the very middle of downtown. Slowly, throughout the day, the streets will be shut down starting with the parade route and radiating out as the start of the parade gets closer. Keeping these things in mind as you start looking for a place to park will help you to better navigate the area.
Third, before getting into downtown, decide which side of the parade route you want to park on and arrive from that side of town. It is impossible to cross the parade route in a car on the day of the parade. So, you will be forced to park on the side of downtown that you enter on. Think about this before getting there to avoid the frustration of not being able to get where you want to go. We learned this lesson the hard way several years ago!
Fourth, consider parking on the outer edge of downtown for an easier path to exit after the parade. Most people tend to park as close to the parade route as they can get. The problem with this is that when it is time to leave, you will be stuck behind thousands of other cars. To avoid this and make leaving hassle-free, find a parking spot closer to the outer edge of downtown. This will mean you have to walk further to the parade, but you will have a lead on getting out at the end of the night.
A Place to Sit
To minimize the wait for the start of the parade and to get a head start on traffic out, find a spot to sit closer to the beginning of the parade route. You can find the map of the route here. When deciding exactly where to sit, you have several options.
Grab a spot on the curb
One option for seating is to simply grab a place to sit on the curb. The good thing about this option is that it is totally free. The bad part is that you will need to camp out several hours in advance in order to get a spot. If you decide to do this, bring a blanket, and/or chairs. After you’ve claimed your spot, you can always send part of the family to get food and drinks for everyone. We have done this on a couple of occasions. While it’s not terrible, it’s not my favorite way to watch the parade. However, a lot of people do this every year. And, like I said, it’s free!
If you don’t want to spend hours saving a good spot on the curb, think about reserved seating. Along the entire parade route, you will see chairs set up. They are set three rows deep at street level. You have to pay for these seats. The price varies depending on where along the route the seats are. The front row seats are a little more expensive than the second and third rows. While these seats aren’t free, they are not terribly expensive. The most you will spend is $35 per seat. You can buy these in advance, or at a booth downtown on the day of the parade. For the best seats, I recommend buying them in advance.
All of the reserved seating is on the same level, which means that if you are in the second or third row, you will have to look over and around the people on the front row. These seats are located in better viewing areas than the available free curb spots you can get. A couple years ago, we bought reserved seats right before the parade started. We ended up on the third row in an area towards the end of the parade route. While it wasn’t the best viewing, it was nice to be able to walk up to our seats minutes before the parade started and have a chair to sit in. We prefer this to camping out for hours.
VIP or Premier Seating
This year, thanks to our sweet friends Todd and Wendy Collinsworth, we got to experience the Parade of Lights from the VIP seating area. This was so much fun! The VIP section was set up at 2nd and Commerce, which was fairly close to the beginning of the parade route. The seats were bleacher style with 5 rows on the curb above the chairs in the street. We had a great view from the top row. Additionally, we had access to a special VIP tent with food, drinks, and cookies from Riscky’s BBQ. The food was delicious and was perfect for the event. The tent was right behind the bleachers, so it was easy to get to from our seats for refills. There were also port-a-potties right there for the VIP section to use as well. This was, by far, the best way to watch the parade!
The Premier Seating is hosted by the Worthington Hotel by Marriott. That seating is by the Worthington and is towards the end of the parade route. It is also bleacher seating with good views. The Premier seats also include a pre-parade reception with food and drinks provided by the hotel’s restaurant. The reception is located in the skybridge of the hotel. You can also watch the parade from the reception area of the skybridge. This would be great if it was cold outside! It gives you a birdseye view of parade. The cost of the premier seats are $85 per person. These seats also include a champagne toast at the start of the parade. What could be better than that!
Pack Your Patience
Remember when attending the parade that there will be a lot of people in attendance. Many of these people only venture downtown for the parade, meaning that they have no idea where to go or what to do. Pack your patience when you head downtown so that these inexperienced people won’t get to you! Also remember that when the parade is over, everyone will be trying to leave at the same time. It will take some time to get out of downtown. The Fort Worth Police do a great job on traffic control to get the crowd on their way as fast as possible. Follow their directions to make things smoother for everyone. When you try to go against police orders, you just make more difficult for everyone.
Dress Warmer Than You Think You Should
Before you go to the parade, it is a good idea to check the weather and dress accordingly. However, please remember that it is always windier downtown than it is in other parts of the city. This means that it is generally chillier than it will be at your house or hotel. This is because of the way the wind rushes between the tall buildings downtown. So, dress warmer than you think you should. You will be glad you did! You may also want to take a blanket with you. This can be used to sit on or cover up with if necessary.
Enjoy the Parade of Lights
Lastly, enjoy watching the Parade of Lights with your friends and family. It is a special time in a special place. Have a great time and make wonderful memories! I hope these tips have helped you to enjoy the Fort Worth Parade of Lights to its fullest! Happy travels!