NEW YORK Despite the chilly weather, the sun shined down on New York as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade came down the city's streets.
More than 3 million people -- and 50 million viewers -- watched the celebration, which includes such giant balloons as Elf on a Shelf and Papa Smurf, a new version of Hello Kitty, Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse and the Pillsbury Doughboy. Real-life stars were to include singer Carly Rae Jepsen and Rachel Crow of "The X Factor."
The young, and the young at heart, were delighted by the sight and sound of marching bands, performers and, of course, the giant balloons. Some parade-goers had camped out to get a good spot, staying snug in sleeping bags. Others came well-prepared with folding chairs.
Other cities planned to have showy marching bands, cartoon character balloons and musical extravaganzas, as well. Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit were among the big cities hosting parades.
Among the scheduled highlights were a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey spectacular in Chicago; Phillies star Ryan Howard and Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler in Philadelphia; and a group of 2012 U.S. Olympic champions in Detroit.
For those that wanted to enjoy America's outdoors this holiday, restaurants at eight state parks in Tennessee stayed open on Thanksgiving Day to serve hikers, backpackers and nature-lovers who want to spend their holiday enjoying nice weather and scenic views. The meals were complete with turkey and all the trimmings.
Overseas, about 66,000 U.S. troops are currently in Afghanistan, spending Thanksgiving away from their families, CBS News producer Erin Lyall reports. Troops at Camp Kaia, on the grounds of Kabul's airport, got to partake in the Thanksgiving celebrations by playing a game of Ultimate Football -- a combination of American football, soccer, and rugby -- against international teams. They also enjoyed a Thanksgiving spread for lunch. Decorations included ice sculptures of an eagle, carved flowers made out of dyed potatoes and a replica of an American homestead constructed from sardines.
The holiday came as portions of the Northeast still were reeling from Sandy's havoc, and volunteers planned to serve thousands of turkey dinners to people it left homeless or struggling.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his office would coordinate the distribution of 26,500 meals at 30 sites in neighborhoods affected by Sandy, and other organizations also were pitching in.
The Long Beach Surf Association and a charity called Surf for All were sponsoring a Thanksgiving dinner in the Long Island community of Long Beach.
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, whose New York district includes the heavily battered Rockaways neighborhoods, said he planned to stop by Thanksgiving dinners at three churches and a school.
"They are still giving thanks," Meeks said of his constituents. "They are thankful that they're alive and thankful to the people who are coming to help them."
Some used social media to coordinate Thanksgiving volunteering. Elle Aichele, of Toms River, N.J., started a Facebook page called Hurricane Sandy Thanksgiving Adopt a Family for Dinner.
"Please host a family that needs something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!" she wrote. "I have been thinking about what I can do to help and this is it!"
© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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