The key is to NOT hang with the other spectators. What you want to do is find the holding area where the marchers and floats spend hours crammed together in a big block party. It’s an efficient way to see things because you can walk over to whatever/whoever interests you and take your time with them, rather than being limited to their quick fly-by during the parade. And there are always exhibitors giving away free stuff. This year at St. Pat’s, we obtained (among other things) free cans of Red Bull as soon as we got there, which helped get us through those chilly hours of standing around waiting for the parade to begin. As a matter of fact, when I put my hand into the pocket of my overcoat, I found something I’d been handed at last year’s Gay Pride parade – a colorful, decorative condom with a FREE washable tattoo included in the pack!
A few examples of the advantages of hanging in that area may be seen in the photos of my earlier post – that line of DeLoreans was sitting parked, so I could take my time lining up the photo. And that picture of the 3 girls in their Irish dancing outfits – they were just standing in the area so I asked them if they’d pose for me. You generally don’t have that kind of time or luxury when the parade is in motion.
For the two parades I’m familiar with, here’s where the holding areas have been, and presumably where they will continue to be: The starting point of the St. Patrick’s Day parade is the intersection of Balbo and Columbus Drive, proceeding north. The holding area appears to be in two main branches: going west of Columbus Drive on Balbo (which is where the TnT gang always seems to be sent), and going south of Balbo on Columbus Drive. The holding area for Gay Pride is much larger because the parade is much larger. The starting point is Halsted at about Wrightwood and the main holding area appears to be on Halsted going south of there for MANY blocks.
To complete the mental picture for you, these holding areas typically have the floats/exhibitors in perhaps three lines running across the street, which is closed to regular traffic for the duration. So for my money, the real fun and photo ops are to be found there!