Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in Downtown Indy: A Must-See

500 Festival Parade: Winners drink milk float

The 2023 AES 500 Festival Parade is one of the biggest and best parades in the United States, and it’s right here in Indianapolis. A big part of the celebrated Indianapolis 500 month of May in Indy, the parade is tops on the “can’t miss” list for local families and visitors. If you’re taking your kids to the Indy 500, this is another can’t-miss event.

Bands, floats, giant helium-filled floats, celebrities, mascots, and of course, race cars and drivers take to the street and wave and smile at fans. Music will fill the air and over 200,000 spectators will cheer and applaud the parade participants as the parade winds its way past some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.


500 Festival Parade: pace car with Indiana Pacers mascot

500 Festival Parade in Indianapolis

Date: Saturday, May 27, 2023
Time: Parade festivities start at 11:45 am; Parade begins at Noon
Location: Downtown Indianapolis
Price: Free, or reserved Tickets start at $25

500 Festival Parade: Milk float

One of the highlights of the parade is the appearance of the 33 drivers that will be competing in the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Each driver is introduced and driven in one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway fleet cars. Fans cheer as they recognize their favorite driver or car, and many use the opportunity to take photos and send them off with good luck wishes in the race.

The parade is more than just a celebration of racing. It’s also a celebration of the city itself, with local businesses, organizations, and cultural groups participating in the event. Many of the floats and performances showcase the city’s rich history and diverse culture, from its famous museums and universities to its vibrant arts and music scenes.

Free Seats at the 500 Festival Parade

There are several ways to watch the 500 Festival parade, but getting a reserved seating ticket is certainly the best. Tickets start at $25 per person for family groups and large groups.

500 Festival Parade: Indiana University cheerleaders

My children love seeing the colorful floats, pointing out familiar characters, and watching the princesses and race car drivers. If you are watching with children, bring snacks, water, sunblock, hats, and sunglasses for the whole family.

While tickets guarantee that you get a seat and don’t have to arrive super early to stake your claim, some families find free seating to work out for them.

Public address announcements will be made in both Spanish and English in sections 23 – 26.


500 Festival Parade: Row 10 race car driver parade

Where to Sit for Free at the Indy 500 Parade

The best place we have found for free seating at the 500 Festival Parade, is on Monument Circle. There are ticketed seats but there are also areas without seating risers. Bring a blanket to sit on, and get there early! Bring along snacks, water, sunblock, and small games to keep your kiddos entertained until the parade starts.

How early do I have to get to the parade to get free seats? You can most likely find somewhere to sit all morning, but with over 200,000 people expected to attend, it will get more and more difficult the later it gets. Sometimes we send an adult downtown about three hours early to save a spot and then we all join about an hour before the parade begins.

500 Festival Parade: silks parade participants

Indy 500 Themed Parade in Indianapolis

One of the original events produced by the 500 Festival, the AES 500 Festival Parade has grown to be one of the signature events held in the United States each year. The Parade is the only 500 Festival event that has taken place every year since the organization’s founding in 1957.

200,000 spectators are expected to line the streets of Indianapolis, joined by another one million watching from their televisions around the country, to view one of the nation’s premier parades, alongside the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

500 Festival Parade: Giant race car driver balloon float

The IPL 500 Festival Parade allows all spectators to witness the pageantry and larger-than-life floats light up the streets of downtown Indianapolis. Well-known celebrities, marching bands, patriotic units, specialty units, spectacular floats, and giant helium balloons will fill the streets to celebrate the world’s largest single-day sporting event, the Indianapolis 500.

The tradition continues with the 33 starting drivers of the Indianapolis 500 serving as honorary grand marshals the day before the race, riding in the traditional rows of three, with the winner of the pole position bringing up the rear.


Parking at the 500 Festival Parade

Gate Ten offers $15 parking and a shuttle to the parade. Gate 10 is located across from Lucas Oil Stadium. Shuttles will be available for parade day drop-off and pick-up at designated locations.

There are a lot of garages and lots that offer parking downtown for a fee, however, many streets and routes will be blocked off for the parade.

4 thoughts on “Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in Downtown Indy: A Must-See”

  1. Pingback: Should I Take My Kids to the Indianapolis 500 | In Indy 500 Family Guide

  2. Barton Griesenauer

    What time would you suggest being downtown for the parade by? I will be with my seven year old so i don’t want to be there super early due to his boredom but don’t want to get there super late either. Do you have any suggestions? Also any suggestions for best free viewing areas. Thank you and have a great memorial day weekend!

    1. In the past, the best spot has been on Monument Circle. I would get there at least two hours early but probably even earlier if you want the best spot. Let me know how it goes, I think we’re staying home this year, my three year old is a little bit of a wildcard!

  3. Pingback: 101 Days of Summer in Indy | 101 Things to do with your kids

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