The holiday season kicks off Saturday in Fort Worth with the arrival of Santa and the lighting of the towering tree in Sundance Square Plaza.
But the big show is Sunday, when the XTO Energy Parade of Lights winds its way through downtown Fort Worth.
With more than 100,000 people expected to smother downtown Fort Worth for the parade, you may find yourself overwhelmed with questions on how to make the most of your parade watching experience. Where should I park? What time should I arrive? Is reserved seating really worth the price?
The parade route is new this year, starting at the intersection of Weatherford and Houston streets and heading east along Weatherford to Commerce Street, south to Ninth Street, west past the Fort Worth Convention Center to Houston, and north to Weatherford.
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The parade will feature more than 100 illuminated floats and last about 40 minutes, with Santa Claus following.
To help you better prepare for the holiday madness, we compiled, from the Parade of Lights website, a list of important information that you need to know before heading downtown this weekend.
How much does it cost?
The event is free, with the exception of reserved seating. All free seating — and standing — is available on a first- come, first-served basis. Reserved seats range between $16.50-$33.50 and can be purchased online at fortworthparadeoflights.org.
All Gold seat holders receive complementary nonalcoholic beverages, padded chairs and access to private portable restroom facilities.
What time should I arrive?
Although the parade doesn’t actually start until 6 p.m., attendees are encouraged to come early to avoid the traffic rush that begins around 3:30 p.m. Downtown streets will begin to close as early as 4 p.m.
Where should I park?
Downtown Fort Worth offers several no-cost parking options on the weekends, including free parking in all three Sundance Square parking garages (at 201 Commerce St., 400 Jones St. and 420 Throckmorton St.) and free street parking at all meters (except those that are bagged).
If you plan on shopping or dining downtown before the parade, make sure to take advantage of the free valet parking offered to Sundance Square patrons.
To view all available parking options in downtown Fort Worth, visit fortworthparking.com.
Are there other options?
For those who want to avoid having to park downtown, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority will be providing expanded bus services from Farrington Field to the Intermodal Transportation Center (two blocks from the southern end of the parade route).
Parking at Farrington Field is free, while the cost to ride the bus round trip is $4 per person. Service begins at 2 p.m. and the last bus departs at 10 p.m.
A third option for attendees is to ride into downtown on the Trinity Railway Express, which will be running on a special schedule the day of the parade. The last TRE train departs at 10 p.m. Regular TRE rates apply. For more info, visit trinityrailwayexpress.org.
Will there be food available for purchase?
While the event does not include food vendors, hungry paradegoers shouldn’t have trouble finding something to eat thanks to the more than 65 restaurants downtown. Cheesecake Factory, Reata, Black Rooster Cafe and Five Guys Burgers & Fries are just a few of the eateries near this year’s parade route.
To see a complete list of dining options in downtown Fort Worth, visit dfwi.org/explore/dining.
Christmas in downtown Fort Worth
Tree lighting: 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Sundance Square Plaza, 420 Main St., Fort Worth.
Santa Claus in Sundance Square: Santa will set up shop near the 65-foot tall Christmas tree in Sundance Square Plaza. He will be available for visits and photos from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For his schedule through Dec. 23, go to sundancesquare.com. Visits with Santa are $20 with proceeds going to the Fort Worth Sister Cities International Youth Program.
XTO Energy Parade of Lights: 6 p.m., downtown Fort Worth. Events are scheduled Sunday afternoon in advance of the parade, which features more than 100 colorful floats and creative entries. The parade lasts about 40 minutes and at 7:10 p.m. Santa will begin his trip around the parade route.