Grand Rapids Santa Parade is a Local 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 the 1800’s.

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, Santa Claus.

2018 Santa Parade Details

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Parade Day is Saturday, November 17. The theme of the 2018 Art Van Santa Parade is “Sounds of the Season.” Expect floats, costumes, music, and performers to be based on popular and classic holiday songs. The parade begins at 8:50 AM and WOOD-TV 8 will also broadcast the parade live beginning at 9:00 AM.

In addition to the iconic Santa float, spectators will also see balloons, vehicles including fire engines, and animals.

santa float jaycee grand rapids parade


Santa Parade Tips

You can see the route at the bottom of the Santa Parade homepage.

Bundle Up

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 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 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 will take place in front of the PNC Bank across from Rosa Parks Circle.

After the Parade

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM Santa’s Workshop at the GR LIBRARY – Main branch (111 Library St NE)

After the Santa Claus Parade, stop by the library to warm up with some holiday cheer. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be stopping by after the parade to meet all the good little girls and boys in Grand Rapids.

Listen to stories with Mrs. Claus while you warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. Create a holiday craft and help light the Library Tree! Visit with Santa and tell him your holiday wishes. Holiday crafts and hands-on fun for all ages! Storytime with Mrs. Claus is at 10:30 AM and Santa visits at 11:00 AM. Free and open to the public.

Have you been to the Grand Rapids Santa Parade? Any tips to share? Please leave a comment below!

Grand Rapids Santa Parade Parent's Guide tall

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