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How to Attend Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route

Every year growing up, maybe you watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route with your family. It has special meaning, but you’ve never tried to attend the parade in person because of the logistical challenges involved. Of course, once you’ve got a family of your own, all that changed. You need to experience the parade with them.

A New York City tradition since 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on a lot of bucket lists. So in recent years our clients have joined the 3.5 million people flocking to the streets of Manhattan to see the more than 1,200 dancers and cheerleaders, 11 marching bands, 30 parade floats and 16 giant character balloons. Now we want to help your family experience this magical morning.

Where to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route?

On television, the broadcasters and the performances all take place at the end of the parade at Macy’s Herald Square. But in person, spectators are lined up and down the 2.5 miles of official parade route. Parade organizers do not sell bleacher tickets; those are distributed internally. So most attendees get bundled up and arrive to claim a standing spot before 6 a.m. Pack a bag with snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate, and something to keep your kids entertained while waiting for the parade to begin. And make sure to dress warmly in layers.

The Macy’s Day Parade route has changed in the last few years. It begins at 77th Street and Central Park West at 9 a.m. and proceeds south on Central Park West. At Columbus Circle, the Parade turns east onto Central Park South. When the Parade reaches 6th Avenue, it goes south and continues from 59th Street to 34th Street. It then heads west on 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square and ends around noon. There is no viewing access on 6th Avenue between 34th Street and 38th Street; this is the telecast area. There is also no public viewing access at Macy’s Herald Square. It is also impossible to see the performances by musicals and musicians since they take place in the official telecast area, which is closed off to the public. 

Popular parade viewing spots along the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route are Central Park West around 72nd street, Central Park South between Columbus Circle and 6th Avenue, and 6th Avenue from 59th Street to 38th Street.

But this is not the best way to see the parade. The parade lasts from approximately 9 a.m. to noon. And the weather is unpredictable and usually cold. An ideal parade solution includes an indoor option, like our viewing brunch. Sit at your table inside, enjoy breakfast and lunch items, and watch the parade out the window. And when you want to see it up close or take pictures, walk out to the outdoor viewing area whenever you want.

Can you see the giant balloons all together and from up close?

On Wednesday, you can see the balloon inflation in person outside the American Museum of Natural History. It is on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue from 1-8 p.m. the night before the Parade.

Where to stay in New York City? Can I get a room with a parade view?

Many hotels in New York City require a minimum stay during Thanksgiving. Availability and rates are at a premium in midtown Manhattan near Central Park and the parade route. If money is no object, there are a limited number of rooms in hotels with direct views of the parade. For our guests, we recommend several options. We have several four- and five-star hotels within walking distance of the parade route and the brunch. 

Where to eat in New York City?

There are so many great options in every neighborhood of the city, from pizza to steak to everything in between. Just take a look at some reviews of places near wherever you find yourself. When we are in the city, we go out of our way for a couple places. I always stop at Los Tacos No. 1, which has several locations. And the same goes for the cookies at Levain Bakery. Now you have to bring some home for your friends.

What to do in New York City?

Everyone should see Times Square once, but after that, you need to venture out and see the best of the city’s many neighborhoods. Make sure to catch a Broadway show, or two, and we include show credit and tickets to see the famous Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in our packages. Ground Zero and the 9/11 museum/memorial should also be at the top of your itinerary. During the holidays, Bryant Park is a great stop for shopping and ice skating. Take a stroll through Central Park, where you will also find a zoo and playgrounds for your kids. Pick a clear day and go up the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock for great views of the area. Have a drink at Battery Park pier and look out over the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson River.

What is the history of the Macy’s Parade?

In 1924, Macy’s launched a parade to celebrate their flagship store. An estimated 10,000 people turned out to cheer on Santa, and the Parade became a holiday tradition, initially using animals loaned by the Central Park Zoo. In 1927, the first helium character balloon was introduced — Felix the Cat. In the 1930s, the name was changed from the Macy’s Christmas Parade to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and attendance ballooned to over 1 million.

During World War II, the Parade was cancelled; it soon resumed and appeared in the movie Miracle on 34th Street in 1947. The first television broadcast came in 1948 by NBC. Stars like Ginger Rogers participated in the 1950s, and Mumford Bass, the famous children’s book illustrator, joined in 1963. The 1970s featured performances by Diana Ross and Evel Knievel.

The 1980s brought the first of the mega-sized character balloons, Superman, at almost 100 feet tall. The number of balloons doubled, and the floats were expanded. Pop stars and boy bands of the 1990s join the line-up.

The most consistent feature? Santa Claus arrives at the end of the parade at Macy’s Herald Square and begins the holiday season in NYC.

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