Chicago's Thanksgiving Parade 2012 [PHOTOS]

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Friday, November 23, 2012 - 9:10am

Who doesn't love a parade? I love a parade! SmallGirl, age 10, loves a parade! Settled! Our November Girls' Day would be the McDonald's Thanksgiving Parade in Chicago.  We drifted off to sleep with visions of floats hovering lazily and marching bands high-stepping thorough our dreams. It was less idyllic come 5:45 AM Thanksgiving morning when we had to give up our dreams in order to make our way downtown by 8 AM to partake in the real -life festivities.

We live in, what I often refer to as The Great White North. Okay, Lake County, but is seems like The Great White North. Since we live in the suburbs our transportation options include my 2004 Honda Pilot or riding the rails. I love the Metra. I love sitting back and enjoying the ride. I checked the Holiday schedule last night on my phone, using a great Android app called Metra Minder, and there was no sign of any deal, but lo and behold, once on board, the conductor informed us they were offering the normal $7 weekend pass Thanksgiving Day and Friday! SmallGirl was free, too! Jackpot! Seven bucks versus using four of the punches on my card.

The train was surprisingly empty! There were several train-loving toddlers on board. SmallGirl is my youngest and this Mama is no longer used to the very obvious oohs and ahhs that adults make at every breath a toddler inhales. Beyond that small detail, we had a serene ride: SmallGirl playing Minecraft and me happily IMing and Instagraming.

We arrived at Union Station with much less of a crowd than I'd expected. There wasn't even a line for the bathroom! Obligatory bathroom pitstop complete, we headed out along Jackson to State. The streets were so devoid of human life that I started to panic that I read the date or time of the parade incorrectly! As we approached State I saw several Chicago Police and a small police barricade. Sure enough we had arrived!
Since the parade runs from Congress to Randolph, I opted for a place closer to the starting point. I'm not sure if that's why we were able to get such a good spot or if most Chicagoans were ensconced in the warm dining rooms of their friends and family. Whatever the case, SmallGirl had an amazing view! I don't think I've seen her enjoy a trip downtown so much. She is a homebody by nature and being hauled downtown is on equal footing with being dragged across the ocean. She is happiest in the confines of The Great White North. This time she said she wanted to go to the parade, and she actually enjoyed it! She says "the people were really nice and enjoyed the balloons the most."  Her favorite by far was the float with the live sheep riding on it!

I, too, found the crowds to be rather cordial, which was nice! The weather was even excessively cooperative!  Partly sunny, with a breeze. Not too shabby for November in Chicago. Unlike, my small daughter, the standout for me wasn't the sheep, which were pretty nifty, or the floats, but the Illinois chapter of the The 501st Legion,   a Star Wars Imperial costuming club. Nothing warms my heart more than Rebel Forces marching down State Street accompanied by Storm Troopers and Darth Vader! My friend, Ryan Kolak, thought it was pretty cool, too, but was heard muttering, "Darth Vader really doesn't strike me as the parade type." I concurred. He should be driven or carried on a litter or something.

As parades go, the Thanksgiving Day Parade is much more low-key and accessible than the Festival of Lights Parade, held last week on Michigan Avenue. I love this parade and while the lights are stunning, it requires driving, then making several attempts to park, fighting angry crowds, and jockeying for the tiniest view of the parade. We did manage amazingly cheap parking at Wells and Hubbard: $12 evening rate at Mart Parc  401 N Wells St. Who knew?

If you're pondering bringing the family, or just yourself, down to one of the two November parades in Chicago, I highly recommend the Thanksgiving Parade . . . and so does SmallGirl. 

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