American Celebrations to Get The Party Started

These quintessential American celebrations are all that and more.

NEW YORK’S THANKSGIVING PARADE

When: Nov. 22, 2018

The Basics: New York’s best parade, and a classic American celebration, kicks off the holidays with colossal balloons, bands and celebrities. Wave hello to Santa Claus from a warm restaurant seat.

Don’t Miss: The lavish store window displays in midtown Manhattan, or the ornately decorated Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

The Tip: Visit the parade website before the event to learn more about this year’s lineup, including fun facts about each of the balloons.

TOURNAMENT OF ROSES PARADE

When: Dec 29, 2018-Jan 2, 2019

The Basics: Ring in the New Year at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. Before the festivities begin, enjoy brunch on the iconic Queen Mary and tour the exhibits and grounds of The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. In Pasadena, watch as last minute touches are made to the magnificent floats. Then kick off the holiday with a festive New Year’s Eve dessert and champagne reception. On New Year’s Day, head to your reserved grandstand seats at the Rose Parade.

Don’t Miss: Tour Hollywood and visit Warner Brother’s Studio.

The Tip: California is famous for its year-round mild weather, but morning temperatures in January can still be a bit chilly. Pack a jacket for parade day.

MARDI GRAS NEW ORLEANS

When: Mar 5, 2019

The Basics: The most lavish daytime parades—the first of which came in 1872—of this centuries-old celebration march on Fat Tuesday proper. Fabulously costumed Krewes ride floats, dance to bands and toss trinkets to the crowds, and you can cheer from the grandstand. Indulge with a jazz brunch at The Court of Two Sisters.

Don’t Miss: Finding the figurine in a king cake.

The Tip: Don’t feel like you have to be in Carnival mode all day. Take a break from the festivities for a guided tour and discover another side of New Orleans.

WASHINGTON, D.C., CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

When: April 12-16, 2018

The Basics: Think pink: In spring, Washington, D.C., comes to life as the cherry blossoms bloom. Among classic American celebrations is the cherry blossom parade. Catch bands, balloons, floats and clowns from a reserved grandstand seat as the festival parade marches past the landmarks of Constitution Avenue.

Don’t Miss: The dazzlingly beautiful view of blossoms at the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial.

The Tip: It’s not just the trees that are festive this time of year. Many D.C. restaurants and bars add celebratory drinks and dishes crafted with cherries to their menus in the festival’s honor.

FIESTA SAN ANTONIO

When: April 19-29, 2018

The Basics: The highlight is the Battle of Flowers Parade, begun in 1891 to honor heroes of the Alamo. The parade is produced entirely by women. Catch it from a grandstand seat.

Don’t Miss: A Night in Old San Antonio, a historic preservation festival dating back to 1924 that features more than 250 food and drink booths and a dozen stages.

The Tip: When you visit the Alamo, be sure to make time to stroll through its fabulous gardens.

NEW ORLEANS JAZZ HERITAGE FESTIVAL

When: April 27-May 6, 2018

The Basics: Jazz and much more—since 1970, the biggest names in music have performed at this festival, from Duke Ellington to Lady Gaga. Catch acts on multiple stages, and visit booths with fabulous local food and crafts at this American celebration.

Don’t Miss: Explore the celebrated French Quarter on a guided tour, and have a beignet.

The Tip: Come hungry. Vendors pull out all the stops to bring festivalgoers the freshest and finest Cajun and creole dishes.

Inset illustration: Carlos Aponte

Join in a celebration abroad this holiday season at European Christmas markets.

Get details about trips to these festivals and other vacations for AAA Members. Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor.

Get in Touch

Marco Ruiz, AAA Travel Counselor, Monterey, Calif.

I love to suggest Italy and Spain because of the culture and the flair of the people–their fashions, language and way of life. They take time to enjoy life's pleasures. When you're there, you feel it, too.

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