Holidazzle Parade: Minneapolis' MN Holiday Lighted Parade
“Holidazzle lights,” shouts a vendor walking up and down the street just before the start of the Holidazzle Parade in Minneapolis, MN who carries dozens of green, pink, yellow and purple glow-in-the-dark necklaces. “They won’t keep you warm, but they’ll make you happy.”
Despite the cold – really cold – air, children line the streets, snuggling close to their parents and eagerly awaiting the familiar song “it’s a Holidazzle season…” Hundreds of parade goers crowd onto curbs or peer from store windows or down from skyways over the parade route.
Suddenly, the streetlights dim and the crowd cheers. It’s time for the parade to begin. Down the street, the first floats blink and glow as they make their way up the street – stopping for traffic lights along the way.
For more than 20 seasons, the lighted Holidazzle Parade has delighted more than 300,000 people each season in downtown Minneapolis. Each year, local bands, holiday choirs, more than a dozen storybook-inspired floats like the Wizard of Oz and the Princess and the Pea, and 250 lighted and costumed characters march down Nicollet Mall for the annual lighted parade.
Each night features a local news anchor, radio host or other notable personality as Grand Marshal. Along the route, volunteers collect canned goods or cash for the Emergency Food Shelf Network. About 4,000 pounds of food is collected for those in need each parade season, according to parade officials.
The Holidazzle season begins each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs Thursday through Sunday evenings until the week before Christmas at 6:30 p.m. each night. While many traditional floats remain, over the years a number of new floats and features have been added, like the Howie Dazzle fiber optic snowman, and eight-foot-tall inflatable light bulb characters that bob up and down as they make their way down the street. In 2010, the parade opened with a fireworks display.
The idea for the parade was conceived in 1992, the same year the Mall of America opened, as a means to encourage local residents and visitors to continue to shop and dine downtown. It’s run nearly without interruption for 20 seasons. The Holidazzle seems to have borrowed its creed from the U.S. Postal Service, “neither rain, nor snow, nor temps nearing 25 below…” The parade has only been cancelled 10 times in its history and it remains on schedule unless the wind chill drops below -25 degrees or if snows are heavy enough to hinder the floats.
No matter how many times you’ve seen those familiar lighted characters – Dorothy and the Tin Man, Peter Pan, Pinocchio and the Three Men in a Tub (rub a dub dub), Holidazzle is the magical tradition that marks the start of the holiday season in Minnesota, and it can’t be missed.
If You Go:
The Holidazzle Parade begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs Friday and Saturday nights at 6:30 p.m. along Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Each parade is free and open to the public.
Plan ahead to purchase “hot” seats. While they may only keep you slightly warmer than the street corner, you’ll enjoy a break from the wind and a glass of hot chocolate or cider as you watch the parade. Tickets can be reserved in advance.
The parade runs through the heart of downtown Minneapolis along Nicollet Mall, from 12th Street South to 4th Street South.
While You’re There:
Warm up after the parade with another downtown tradition – the Macy's 8th Floor Auditorium's Santaland holiday display. The "A Day in the Life of an Elf" theme features animated displays, decorated trees and a chance to visit with Santa. After the tour, watch the Macy's Moose Crossing puppet show.
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