Lights fantastic

14 things to know before you go to Parade of Lights 2021 in Fort Worth

14 things to know before you go to 2021 Fort Worth Parade of Lights

GM Financial Parade of Lights Fort Worth
It's making spirits bright again. Photo courtesy of Parade of Lights

Downtown Fort Worth will light up with holiday spirit once again, as the GM Financial Parade of Lights returns, in-person, on Sunday, November 21.

Themed "Making Spirits Bright," this marks its 39th year as the city’s official kick-off to the holiday season (last year it was done virtually), and attendees can expect more than 100 festive floats adorned with holiday decor and over half a million sparkling lights, plus marching bands and carolers, sparkling antique cars, precision equestrian units, festive horse-drawn carriages, and the big arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus.

But first you've got to get there. Here's what to know about road closures, parking, COVID considerations, and more before you head downtown. All information is provided by the parade organizers, and more can be found on their website.

COVID considerations: We're listing this first because it could be a deal-breaker for some still concerned about community spread of COVID-19. There will be no pandemic precautions in place — no crowd limits, social distancing, mask requirements, or proof of negative test/vaccination. "Masks are optional," a spokesperson confirms.

Time and place: The parade begins at 6 pm Sunday, November 21 near the intersection of Weatherford and Throckmorton streets. The whole parade takes about 40 minutes.

When to arrive: Traffic starts getting congested by 3 or 4 pm. Organizers urge parade-goers, especially those with reserved seats, to arrive no later than 4:30 pm. Refunds will not be given if parade-goers are unable to make it to their reserved seats due to traffic or congestion.

Street closures: They begin as early as 6 am Sunday. Closures include portions of Weatherford Street, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd streets, Taylor, Lamar, Burnett, Cherry, and Florence streets. Spur 280 from Interstate 35 will close at 4 pm. For a full list of street and intersection closures and times, check this very detailed chart.

Parking: Downtown garages offer free parking, and there are many lots available. Hint: Visit this Fort Worth parking site for many nearby options. Do not, under any circumstances, park at bagged meters.

Navigating there: Organizers say to turn off your GPS unit and use this map. "Determine where you would like to sit along the route, and then approach from that direction into downtown," they say. "Try to stay on the side of your viewing area and do not attempt to drive all the way through downtown to get to your seats. Come in from that side. There are plenty of streets accessing downtown, and you do not have to come in Spur 280."

Public transportation: If you've never tried it, this normally would be an excellent night to start (see traffic congestion, above). But, some alerts and advice:

  • The Trinity Railway Express (“TRE”) will not operate at all on Sunday.
  • TEXRail will offer park-and-ride opportunities at both the North Side Station (2829 Decatur Ave.) and the Fort Worth T&P Station (221 W. Lancaster Ave.). The North Side Station has an overflow lot at 3001 Decatur Ave. Frequency on Sunday will be increased to a train every 30 minutes to help move riders in and out of downtown more quickly, they say.
  • Bus service isn't the best idea. "Bus service will not be an optimal alternative due to traffic congestion leading up to the start time of the Parade," organizers say. "Additionally, many routes stop running on early on Sunday with the exception of routes 1, 2, 46 and 89. These routes will operate on 15-minute frequency and run until around 11 pm on Sunday." Check the Trinity Metro website for specific route times.

Parade route: It snakes through downtown, beginning at Throckmorton and Weatherford streets; then moves south on Commerce Street to 9th Street; yonder to Houston Street; and north to 2nd Street. Then it goes west on 2nd to Throckmorton; then south to 3rd for its final destination. "Please note the staging area is located in all areas west of Throckmorton Street. The parade will NOT be moving in these areas," organizers say on the website. There's a helpful map here.

Paid viewing: There is paid, reserved seating along the route, and as of press time, there was plenty still available. Tickets are $15-$37.95, with discounts available for seniors and children. Choose your seat and reserve tickets here

Free viewing: Almost all sidewalks along the parade route will be open for free viewing. 

Restrooms: Portable restrooms will be set up around the parade route.

Live broadcast: The parade will be broadcast live from 6-8 pm on KTXA-TV (TXA-21), online at www.fortworthparadeoflights.org, and via the Parade of Lights’ Facebook event page: www.facebook.com/ParadeofLightsFW. The parade will also re-air on KTXA-TV (TXA-21) on Christmas Eve, December 24, from 7-9 pm. You can follow along on Facebook or Instagram using the official hashtag, #ParadeOfLights2021.

Grand marshal: This year's grand marshal is Opal Lee, the 95-year-old retired educator, social impact leader, author, humanitarian, and “grandmother of Juneteenth.” Read more about her most recent victory in bringing a National Juneteenth Museum to Fort Worth here.

Tree lighting: There's not the usual tree-lighting ceremony to coincide with Parade of Lights this year. The Sundance Square Christmas tree will be up, and lit, but due to health and safety concerns, they say, they are not holding a ceremony and Santa will not be appearing there. Read more about that here.