There’s nothing more American than celebrating heroes.
On Memorial Day, Veterans Day and the Fourth of July, Americans gather in cities big and small to throw parades honoring people who have sacrificed for freedom. From charming local affairs to massive events with hundreds of thousands of spectators, these patriotic parades make great ways for travelers to revel in the best of Americana.
If your group enjoys flag-waving salutes and festive outdoor celebrations, consider integrating one of these patriotic parades into your travel plans.
Bristol Fourth of July
Bristol, Rhode Island
The Revolutionary War had only been over for two years when a church in Bristol, Rhode Island, held its first “Patriotic Exercises” to honor and celebrate the war’s veterans in 1785. That began a tradition that has continued ever since, making Bristol Fourth of July the longest-running Independence Day celebration in the country. The highlight is the Military, Civic and Firemen’s Parade that follows a two-and-a-half-mile route downtown. The parade features marchers, bands and floats and is attended by as many as 50,000 spectators. Other events surrounding the holiday include a concert series, a drum-and-bugle-corps competition and vintage baseball games.
Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony
Memorial Day is all about remembering men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, and there may be no more poignant place to do so than Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 1863, a massive Civil War battle raged through the city’s streets and surrounding countryside, and the address that Abraham Lincoln gave at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery became one of the most famous speeches in history. On Memorial Day, a commission of local veterans holds a parade and ceremony. Though the parade isn’t large, it is one of the oldest Memorial Day parades in the country, having celebrated its 150th anniversary last year.
National Independence Day Parade
Washington is a popular destination for patriotic travelers year-round, but the city’s celebrations around the Fourth of July take things to the next level. Hundreds of thousands of spectators attend the National Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue. The parade is hosted by the National Park service and features a wide array of participants, including invited marching bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military units, giant balloons, horses and a variety of national dignitaries and celebrity participants. Groups that come for the parade can also enjoy concerts throughout the city, as well as the free Smithsonian Folklife Festival.