Preparations, rehearsals, and practices continued Wednesday night at Eakins Oval ahead of the city's annual Thanksgiving Day parade's scheduled 8:30 a.m. start Thursday with giant balloons of favorite children's characters, celebrities, and Santa.

The 1.4-mile parade route starts at 20th Street and JFK Boulevard, proceeds east to 16th Street, turns north to the Parkway, and ends at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The streets closures and rerouting of SEPTA service will be in effect along the route. There will be parking restrictions, but otherwise metered parking will be free for the day.

The best suggested viewing areas for the free parade are the steps of the Art Museum, the south side of Eakins Oval in front of the Art Museum, and locations along the Parkway, such as Logan Circle.

Portable toilets will be available along the Parkway between 20th and 23rd Streets.

The nation's oldest Thanksgiving Day parade, which is officially dubbed the 6ABC Dunkin' Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, will feature floats of Tweety Bird, Cat in the Hat, the Grinch, Curious George, Mr. Potato Head, the Tasmanian Devil, Olivia the pig, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Other performers and celebrities participating in the parade include Eddie Alvarez, the mixed-martial arts star from Kensington, oldies DJ Jerry Blavat, characters from upcoming productions at the Kimmel Center of The King and I, and Dirty Dancing, and Mamma Mia!

Also participating are characters from the current Walnut Street Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz.

The parade, which ends about noon, will be broadcast live on 6ABC.

bmoran@phillynews.com 215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215