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Fort Worth, Texas ushers in the Christmas season each year with it’s Parade of Lights. This festive display takes place downtown and is a popular event that is attended by thousands of people annually. We have watched the Parade of Lights several times throughout the years. It is a great family-friendly way to celebrate the season. But, for a lot of people, seeing the parade comes with a huge amount of frustration. I want your family to experience the parade without all of the annoyances. So, here are some tips to help you enjoy Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights to the fullest.
Get There Early
In the past, the parade took place the Friday after Thanksgiving. However, since 2015, it has been held the weekend before Thanksgiving. To see when this year’s Parade of Lights is, see the parade’s official website. As of now, the parade is scheduled to go on in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The parade doesn’t start until 6:00 pm, but 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 downtown streets are shut down in preparation for the parade. Additionally, the later you wait, the more traffic you have to fight and the harder it will be to find a place to park.
Instead, make a day of it. Head downtown around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. Find a great parking spot, then savor an early dinner at one of the awesome downtown restaurants. Do some holiday shopping at some of the many downtown stores. 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
Speaking of traffic and parking, these 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. The first trick to avoiding these irritations is to beat the crowd by arriving early.
Know the Route
The second tip for avoiding traffic hassles is to 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. Keep these things in mind as you look for a parking spot. This will make navigating the area easier before and after the parade.
Enter from the Right Side
To avoid parking frustrations, decide which side of the parade route you want to park on before you get downtown 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. 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, consider parking on the outer edge of downtown for an easier exit after the parade. Most people tend to park as close to the parade route as they can. The problem with this is that when it is time to leave, you will be stuck behind thousands of other cars. To make leaving hassle-free, find a parking spot closer to the outer edge of downtown. You will 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, 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. While it’s not terrible, this is not my favorite way to watch the parade. I just don’t like having to jockey for a good spot and wait hours for it to start. However, a lot of people do this every year. And, like I said, it’s free!
If you don’t want to waste time saving a 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. The downside to these seats is that you have to pay for them. 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 though. And 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 year we saw the parade, we got to experience the Parade of Lights from the VIP seating area, thanks to our sweet friends Todd and Wendy Collinsworth. 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 bleachers with 5 rows above the chairs in reserve seating. 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 perfect for the event. The tent was right behind the bleachers, so it was easy to get to and 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 is a great option 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 when attending the parade that there will be a lot of people in attendance. Many of them only venture downtown for the parade, meaning that 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 their 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 You Should
Before you go to the parade, check the weather and dress accordingly. However, remember that it’s always windier downtown than it is in other parts of the city. This is because the wind rushes between the tall buildings. So, dress warmer than you think you should. You will be glad you did! You may also want to take a blanket. You can use it 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 help you enjoy the Fort Worth Parade of Lights! It really 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 take the road less traveled. Happy travels!
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