When you think of city parades, the huge ticker tape varieties come to mind, conjuring thoughts of marching bands, confetti and giant pop culture inflatables. (We’re looking at you, Snoopy.) Atlanta’s parade culture, however, takes a different route (pun intended) with a variety of eclectic and engaging romps that dig deep into the city’s art movement and values of inclusiveness, with the added attraction of a zombie or superhero here and there.
Here are nine awesome, uniquely Atlanta parades you should definitely add to your bucket list.
Experience Atlanta's vibrant, creative energy and parade culture with Chantelle Rytter, the architect behind one of Atlanta's most popular parades, the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade.
ATLANTA BELTLINE LANTERN PARADE
When you think about it, the Atlanta BeltLine is a parade in itself. On any given day you can take part in the deluge of people who walk, run, bike or dance their way down the former railroad corridors that connect Atlanta’s vibrant neighborhoods. We think that connection to the community and the wondrous art that fills the Atlanta BeltLine is what prompted Chantelle Rytter and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons to bring us the Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade. Since its debut in 2010, the parade of illumination has grown from its humble beginnings to bring more than 60,000 people with lanterns, lights and limitless creativity to kick off the annual Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibition, which is the largest temporary art exhibition in the South. Seeing the glowing Phoenix light the parade path and getting in on the fun with your own meticulously designed lantern should be on the calendar of every Atlantan.
Where: Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail
ATLANTA ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE
On the day when “everyone is Irish,” you expect the party to spill into the streets, and that’s exactly what makes the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade so grand. The family-friendly parade has been spreading the luck of the Irish throughout Atlanta since 1858 making it one of the oldest in the country and a storied tradition. And it’s not just an Irish thing. While you can expect to see plenty of shamrocks, bagpipes and Guinness being poured, the festival is open to all and welcomes groups of dancers, drill teams, St. Patrick’s Day-themed floats and even clowns.
Where: Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta
ATLANTA STREETS ALIVE
Wouldn't it be great just to walk or bike around Atlanta without any hustle or bustle? That’s exactly why we love Atlanta Streets Alive. Throughout the year, this fun and vibrant initiative by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition opens up the streets of our favorite neighborhoods for an engaging block party of vendors, live music and plenty of room to enjoy a ride on your bike without a single honking horn. It’s an energetic experience for the entire family and a way to explore ATL like never before.
When: Spring and Fall
Where: Peachtree Street (and other streets in various great Atlanta neighborhoods)
INMAN PARK FESTIVAL PARADE
One of Atlanta’s favorite street festivals is a master class in community pride and a spirited celebration of the community's inherent creativity. It’s also a full weekend of fun for the whole family. From a tour of homes, all historic and beautiful, to art vendors, live music and food galore, the Inman Park Festival Parade, in its 46 years of existence, has been the apex of the weekend festival, drawing in thousands. Lively and full of personality, the parade unites a unique array of characters like the Inman Park Butterfly, Trash Monarch and plenty of bands and groups marching as everything from gnomes and boxed superheroes to go-go dancers and Elvis impersonators.
Where: Inman Park
DRAGON CON PARADE
When the Downtown Atlanta landscape begins to see its fair share of individuals adorned in makeup and fabulously realistic costumes, you know it’s time for Dragon Con. Considered one of the largest pop culture conventions in the world, Dragon Con invites people to discover their inner geek and revel in good times with the actors and creators behind the shows, games and podcasts that fill the mind with wonder and excitement. The pinnacle of the convention is the unconventional parade that shuts down Peachtree Street with intergalactic freedom fighters, superheroes, zombies and so much more. It’s a must-see experience.
When: Labor Day Weekend
Where: Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta
EAST ATLANTA STRUT
Anyone who has explored the vibrant neighborhood of East Atlanta knows that it lives and breathes its irreverent truth in the colorful locales, funky shops and restaurants that call it home. A yearly celebration of the welcomed wackiness of East Atlanta Village comes in the form of the East Atlanta Strut. For 20 years, the Strut has showcased the East Atlanta neighborhood by providing fun and entertainment for all ages with a classic car show, kids' games, adult big wheel race, a beard and mustache contest, art installations, food and live music. The parade is an essential ATL undertaking and embraces EAV’s weirdness with larger-than-life displays, marching bands, dragons and, of course, the wonderful Queens of Strut who do just that.
Where: East Atlanta Village
ATLANTA PRIDE PARADE
Atlanta has always been a city to embrace the diversity and individual eccentricities that make our city one to be admired. We are the city “too busy to hate” after all, and for 47 years the Atlanta Pride Festival and Parade has been a shining beacon in supporting the LGBTQ community by increasing visibility, highlighting unity and bringing awareness to issues that affect the community. The parade is a fun, glitter and rainbow-filled ride from Downtown to Midtown with everything from social action groups and Atlanta attractions to sports teams and businesses showing their love by embracing the qualities that make us beautiful and different.
Where: Piedmont Park
LITTLE 5 POINTS HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL AND PARADE
When October rolls around, you can count on quite a few things – the briskness of fall, pumpkin spiced overload and a welcome reception for things that go bump in the night. The latter activity is what has made the Little 5 Points Halloween Festival and Parade one of the country’s most revered, garnering more than 35,000 spooky revelers every year. Think a creepy Day of the Dead celebration with all the offbeat fun of one of Atlanta’s hippest 'hoods, Little 5 Points. Live music, food and a full-on procession of ghosts, goblins and zombies make this parade one for the memory books.
Where: L5P, Euclid Avenue to Freedom Parkway
CHILDREN'S CHRISTMAS PARADE
The spirit of the holiday season comes alive in what’s become a true Atlanta tradition, the Children’s Christmas Parade. Like the Macy’s and Christmas Day parades we grew up watching, the Children's Christmas Parade is an Atlanta institution and stands as the largest holiday parade in the Southeast combining everything we love about the spectacle. You won’t want to miss seeing Peachtree Street become Southern Santa Claus Lane with lively marching bands, dancers, holiday-centric floats and plenty of good cheer.
Where: Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta
Chris Watkins is an Atlanta-based writer and photographer and also serves as the voice of Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau (@DiscoverAtlanta) on social media. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @christopherbw.
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