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There’s no better way to welcome the holiday season than watching a nighttime Christmas parade. But, crowding into the downtown area of a major city with thousands of other people can be more frustrating than fun. Unfortunately, this is the case for many people attending the Parade of Lights in Fort Worth, Texas each year.
Don’t let this be you! Use these tips to enjoy Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights to the fullest with your family this year.
Get There Early
The Parade of Lights is held the weekend before Thanksgiving each year. For specific information on this year’s parade, see the parade’s official website.
(Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition of the parade will be broadcast on television and online only. There will not be a live audience.)
The parade doesn’t start until 6:00 pm, but don’t wait until the last minute to get downtown! Arrive early for a much better experience.
As the day wears on, more and more streets are shut down in preparation for the parade. This makes it harder to get around. Additionally, the later you wait, the more traffic you have to fight and the harder it becomes to find a place to park.
Instead, make a day of it. Head downtown around midafternoon. Find a great parking spot. Then savor an early dinner at one of the awesome downtown restaurants, do some holiday shopping, or have drinks with friends.
Get into the Christmas spirit by strolling through Sundance Square, take photos in front of the Christmas tree, and listen to the holiday music that fills the air. This is a great way to give an experience as an early Christmas gift to your family.
Traffic and Parking
Traffic and parking are the two biggest things that spoil people’s enjoyment of the Parade of Lights. But it doesn’t have to be difficult! You just have to know a few tricks, such as arriving early. Here’s some other tricks.
Know the Route
Another way to avoid traffic hassles is to know the parade route and street closures before heading downtown. The parade runs on a rectangular route through the very middle of downtown.
Gradually throughout the day, the streets are shut down, starting with the parade route and radiating out as the start of the parade gets closer. Knowing about the street closures makes navigating the area easier before and after the parade.
Enter from the Right Side
It is impossible to cross the parade route in a car on the day of the parade. So, decide which side of the parade route you want to park on before you get downtown and arrive from that side of town.
This way, you can avoid the frustration of not being able to get where you want to go by entering on the side you want to be on.
Stick to the Outer Edges
Lastly, park on the outer edge of downtown for an easier exit after the parade. Most people make the mistake of parking as close to the parade route as they can. Then when it is time to leave, they are stuck behind thousands of other cars.
Make leaving hassle-free by parking on the outer edge of downtown. You will have to walk further to the parade, but you will have a head start getting out at the end of the night.
A Place to Sit
Find a spot closer to the beginning of the parade route to minimize your wait. See a map of the route here. There are several seating options to choose from.
One option is to 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 it requires you to camp out several hours in advance in order to get a spot.
If you decide to sit on the curb, bring a blanket, and/or chairs. Claim your spot, then send part of your family to get food and drinks for everyone.
While it’s not terrible, I don’t like watching the parade from the curb. I hate jockeying for a good spot and waiting hours for the start. However, a lot of people do this every year. And, it’s free!
If you don’t want to camp out on the curb, consider reserved seating. Along the entire parade route, you will see rows of chairs three deep at street level.
The downside to reserved seating is that you have to pay for it. While these seats aren’t free, they are not terribly expensive. The most expensive ones are $35 per seat. You can buy these in advance, or at a booth downtown on the day of the parade. Buy them in advance for the best choice.
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.
All of the reserved seating is on the same level, so if you are in the second or third row, you will have to look over and around the people on the front row. But, these seats are located in better viewing areas than the free curb spots.
It is nice to be able to walk up to your seats minutes before the parade starts and have a chair to sit in. We prefer this to camping out for hours.
VIP or Premier Seating
The last option for seating is VIP or Premier seating. The last time we saw the parade, we watched from the VIP seating area, thanks to some sweet friends. We had so much fun!
The VIP section is at 2nd and Commerce, which is fairly close to the beginning of the parade route. The seats are 5 rows of bleachers above the chairs in reserve seating.
In addition to bleacher seating, the VIP tickets also include access to a special VIP tent with food, drinks, and cookies. The food is perfect for the event. The tent is right behind the bleachers, so it is easy to get to and from your seats for refills.
There are 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. It is by the Worthington and is towards the end of the parade route. This 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, which is great if it is 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, there will be a lot of people at the parade and many of them only venture downtown once a year. They have no idea where to go or what to do. So, pack your patience when you head downtown.
Also remember that when the parade is over, everyone is 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 police directions to make things smoother for everyone. When you try to go against police orders, you just make it more difficult for everyone.
Dress Warmer Than You Think
Before you go to the parade, check the weather and dress accordingly. However, remember that it’s always windier downtown than in other parts of the city.
So, dress warmer than you think you should. You will be glad you did! Take a blanket too. You can use it to sit on, cover up with it, or block the wind.
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!
These tips will help you enjoy the Fort Worth Parade of Lights! It is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season. For more tips on enjoying a stress-free holiday, see our tips for stress-free holiday travel with kids and how to make your holidays calmer. Happy travels!
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