Holidays Begin in Grand Rapids With the Art Van Santa Parade
The Christmas season and all of its hoopla needs an official kickoff, right? Christmas music is festive and Black Friday sales certainly get us thinking about gifts, but there is nothing like a big event to ring in the season. Enter the Grand Rapids Santa Parade.
I cannot wait to experience the parade this year – we love Christmas and we love parades, so it’s a clear win-win for us. Not to mention, I’m a sucker for tradition, and this year marks the parade’s 100th year! It’s sure to be a celebration to be remembered by all.
Ho, Ho, Ho… More Grand Rapids Holiday Fun!
Grand Rapids Santa Parade is a Longstanding Tradition
The Grand Rapids Santa Parade (currently organized by the Grand Rapids Jaycees and sponsored by ArtVan and other community organizations) has been a local tradition since 1919!
The parade is always held on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving in downtown Grand Rapids and serves to kickoff the holiday season in West Michigan.
Parade goers can expect a feast for the eyes with floats, giant balloons, marching bands, and of course, the real Santa Claus.
2019 Grand Rapids Santa Parade Details + Map
Saturday, November 23, 2019
Parade Day is Saturday, November 23. The theme of the 2019 Art Van Santa Parade is “100 Years of Memories.” Expect this Centennial celebration to include floats, costumes, and music celebrating this milestone. The parade begins at 9:00 AM and WOOD-TV 8 will also broadcast the parade live.
In addition to the iconic Santa float, spectators will also see balloons, fire engines, cool vehicles, animals and more.
Wondering where to catch the spectacle? Here’s the parade map from the Santa Parade organization. They hope to include it on their website soon.
Tips for the Best Grand Rapids Santa Parade Experience
Now that you know where to catch the parade and when to go, here are the things you’ll want to prepare for to ensure a festive, magical time.
Just like at the North Pole, you need to dress for the weather. Bundle up. Wear layers. Bring scarves, mittens, hats and bed your wagons with blankets. Warm boots and socks are a great touch, as well as hand and toe warmers. Nothing kills holiday spirit faster than a freezing child.
There are many parking ramps in downtown Grand Rapids close to the action. The Monroe Center parking lot (above Leo’s) has an hour of free parking. We’ve got the scoop on parking in downtown Grand Rapids if you’d like more info.
Bring a Bag
Some people in the parade toss candy and, while it’s nothing like what you score at Halloween, it’s nice to have a place to stash it.
Bring a Chair or Blanket
Bring chairs or a blanket to sit on and wrap up with – it’s a long parade.
Where to Watch the Grand Rapids Santa Parade
If you want less a crowded view, station yourself near the BOB, which is near the end of the parade route. If you want candy, sit near the front of the parade as they sometimes run out of candy.
Your Chance to Take a Photo with Santa
Meet Saint Nick directly after the parade and take your photo with him! This free event (sponsored by ITC) will be held in the lobby of the building at 250 Monroe. “We’re moving Santa indoors for a more pleasant experience for all,” says Sarah Fales, a parade organizer.
Have you been to the Grand Rapids Santa Parade? Any tips to share? Please leave a comment below!