March On! 9 Holiday Parades Worth Braving the Cold For

Read next

Think of the Nationals’ celebration parade Nov. 2 as a warm-up to upcoming holiday parades taking over area streets. Check out local marching bands, fun giant balloons and elaborate floats while awaiting for the jolly old man in red himself: Santa. All of the events take place smack-dab in areas with plenty of places to eat, drink, warm up—and be merry. Here are nine freeze-worthy reasons to bundle up and be a part of the crowd.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade

Not quite as big as the Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City, this is a close second, with marching bands, floats, oversize characters and balloons – and, of course, Santa. It starts at Ellsworth Dr. and Fenton St. and ends at Silver Spring Ave. In the heart of Silver Spring’s Arts and Entertainment District, there are more than 150 eateries to grab a bite at before or after the show. Event details. 

When: 10 a.m.-noon, Nov. 23
Where: 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring

Reston Holiday Parade

A tradition since 1991, this parade the day after Thanksgiving gets the holiday season going in this Northern Virginia suburb. Kids along the parade route get free jingle bells before it starts and the chance to take a picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus afterward. Mini train rides and street entertainment run until 4:30 p.m., a Christmas tree lighting happens at 6 p.m., and horse-drawn carriage rides are available from 6:30-10 p.m. Event details. 

When: 11 a.m., Nov. 29
Where: 11900 Market St., Reston, VA

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade

Decorate ornaments, make and eat s’mores, and warm up by the Camp Wharf fire pit while watching decked out boats sail by. An ice skating rink and the Waterfront Beer and Wine Garden will also be open, plus jolly old St. Nick will be on standby near the lighted Christmas tree, Instagram-ready. Boats start the parade at 7 p.m., fireworks go off at 8 and live music plays at the District Pier Stage from 8:15-9 p.m. Event details. 

When: 6-9 p.m., Dec. 7
Where: Wharf Street, SW

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

Get a preview of the Wharf’s show as dozens of boats glide along the Potomac River in all their decorated glory at this 20th annual event. Viewing spots include Founders Park (351 North Union St.), Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron St.), Waterfront Park (1 King Street), Shipyard/Harborside Park (1 Wilkes St.) and Ford’s Landing Park (99 Franklin St.), and dockside festivities run from 2-8 p.m. with music provided by 97.1. Event details. 

When: 5:30 p.m., Dec. 7
Old Town Alexandria Waterfront

Greater Manassas Christmas Parade

The theme of the 74th annual event is “Christmas Stories.” The two-hour parade will feature more than 100 units, including marching bands, floats and giant balloons. About 2,000 people participate and more than 300 volunteer to help get attendees in the holiday season spirit. Bring a new, unwrapped toy to support the Un-Trim-A-Tree project, which gives the toys to children in need in the Greater Manassas area. Event details. 

When: 10 a.m., Dec. 7
Reb Yank Dr. to Peabody St., Manassas, VA

49th Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade

This parade has a distinctive flair as units march decked out in tartans of Scottish clans and play bagpipes and drums. Scottish dancers will perform, Scottie dogs will make an appearance and, of course, Santa will also be there. This event is sponsored by the Campagna Center, a not-for-profit organization that helps 2,000 children and families daily with education and support for at-risk students. Event details. 

When: 11 a.m., Dec. 7
St. Asaph and Wolfe St. to Market Sq. in front of Alexandria’s City Hall

Leesburg Christmas and Holiday Parade

We all know it’s pretty likely you’ll either want to be or will be at the outlets in Leesburg doing some holiday shopping anyway, so you may as well check out this event. Or head to the Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. the Holiday Fine Arts and Crafts Show on Dec. 7 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Loosen up those shopping arms and legs by rocking out with Rudolph on Dec. 6 from 6:30-8 p.m. or at a Jingle Jam concert on Dec. 14 at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Event details. 

When: 6-8 p.m., Dec. 14
Ida Lee Dr. to Fairfax St., Leesburg, VA

Middleburg Christmas Parade

The parade is one part of a day full of holiday events. The parade meanders down Washington St. and features floats and other typical parade stuff, but the festivities kick off at 7:45 a.m. with Breakfast with Santa and Silent Auction at Middleburg Community Charter School. Other events include a silent auction, craft fair, a parade of mounted foxhunt riders and hounds and hot chocolate. Event details. 

When: 2 p.m., Dec. 7
Where: Washington St., Middleburg, VA

Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights

For something a little tamer than the other boat parades, head to Annapolis to see how folks have bedazzled their watercraft, decks and balconies with holiday spirit. Hang out to see who wins the awards for various decorating categories. Event details. 

When: 6-8 p.m., Dec. 14
Annapolis Harbor and Spa Creek above the Spa Creek Bridge, Annapolis, MD

—Stephanie Kanowitz


All Aboard! 10 Holiday Train Rides Near DC

The Ultimate DC Guide to Christmas Tree and Menorah Lightings

Rink Up! 13 of the Best Places to Ice Skate Outdoors