If you are like me, you probably grew up watching the Thanksgiving Day parade every single year and maybe even dreaming of being a Rockette! I always wanted to go, but figured I probably would never get there because my family would be so mad at me for missing Thanksgiving!
Well, Trey and I finally decided to go. Trey and I actually took our first trip as a couple to NYC in December a few years ago to soak up all the Christmas spirit we could get and we were so excited to go back this time. NYC is one of my favorite places to visit during the holidays (outside of the European Christmas Markets) because it is so magical. You can read about the holidays in NYC here (coming soon). The entire city is beautifully decorated and there is a holiday feeling vibrating through the city. I have been to NYC during the holidays several times, but I was so excited this time because I was finally going to see the parade!
If you would like to on attend the NYC Thanksgiving Day parade next year or any years moving forward, here are the tips, tricks, and must-knows for attending the parade!
This year’s 93rd annual parade is today, Thanksgiving (obviously) Thursday, November 28th and always starts at 9am! The parade is hosted by NBC’s Today Show with Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, and Hoda Kotb and it is broadcast on NBC and CBS.
First things first…
One of the favorite things to do before the parade is take a trip up to the Museum of Natural History area (between 77th and 81st Street) between 1-8 PM, to see the balloon inflations up and close. You can spend hours in the area, but it should only take you about 45 minutes to do the complete loop! A friend of mine who used to live near this area said this was her favorite part every year!
If you visit the Museum earlier in the day, you will exit the museum and have a different route from others!
As you know, this time of year the weather can be mild or extremely cold. When we were there, the temperature was around 26 degrees when we first arrived at our view spot and then it hovered around 30 degrees for the entire length of the parade. Needless to say, we were pretty cold even with all the gloves, hats, and scarves. Additionally, having hand warmers and foot warmers are key to your day in the cold. Make sure to check the weather so you know if you are going to need rain gear and umbrellas as well. A few of my favorite items for staying warm can be found here.
If you get to your spot early enough, you can bring chairs and blankets which makes the parade much more comfortable. People tend to come out very early though, some around 4am for the popular spots, so make sure to keep that in mind. We went out around 7am on 6th Avenue and had a great viewing spot even though it became very crowded over time. You will be in this location for several hours and it can get extremely crowded along the parade route so pick a good one. My suggestion is to pick a place along the route where there is an easy bathroom accessible such as at a hotel or restaurant. Lastly, try and keep a warm drink with you as well as it will help you stay warm. So, finding a spot near a coffee shop solves that problem and the bathroom problem as well. However, make sure to find spots that will allow you to run in and use their facilities. You will likely have to buy something (like coffee) but several restaurants will require you to sit down and eat, which you will not want to do, so make sure you know where you can go! The Macy’s Parade website has an interactive map of known places every year, so make sure to check that out. And most importantly… pack snacks! You will be out there for a LONG time.
Finding the Perfect Viewing Spot
The parade starts at 77th and Central Park West, but keep in mind that there is no viewing spots at the start of the parade. It is said that the best places to watch the parade are between 75th and 59th streets along Central Park West before the parade turns east at Columbus Circle. If you place on trying to find a spot on in this area, make sure you get to your spot by 6am as this area gets extremely crowded.
There is no viewing at Columbus Circle or along Central Park South unfortunately, unless you have a room at a hotel with an awesome view along this street. I think this is an excellent idea and have said for years I would like to do that at some point. If you do not want to get out to your spot by 6am, I suggest you find a spot along 6th Avenue between 59th and 38th Streets. Once you get to 38th Street, there is little space for viewing due to all the TV broadcasts, etc. and you will likely not be able to enter this area at all since the parade ends in front of Macy’s.
If you are wondering how you can get into the grandstand area for viewing… you can’t. These are not open to the public.
Other Things to Know
- The route is always the same, but you can find it here.
- What you need to know is that there are several route entrances and countless road closures. You can find these closures on the New York Department of Transportation site. I highly suggest, actually I insist, that you take the subway to navigate around the city on this day if you are not within walking distance. The city is an absolute gridlock on this day, so it is your best bet to take subway or to stay in the area. The MTA usually follows a Sunday schedule, but check their website to make sure and to plan your route.
- Bring a portable phone charger and any phone accessories you will need. You will be taking lots of photos and videos, so you want to make sure to keep your phone charged.
- Avoid the 34th Street Herald Square and Penn Station subways.
- Make sure to have a plan with your group. It is extremely crowded, so make sure you have a plan if you get separated. It is possible to get separated even with just two people. As most of you know, when you are in an area that is extremely crowded, cell phone service can be nonexistent, so it is important to have a meet up spot just in case.
- There will be tons and tons of security out and about to make sure everyone has a fun and safe experience. Volunteers are around as well to help if you need to find one. Be nice to them, they are just doing their jobs!
As I mentioned above, the parade starts at 77th and Central Park West. The parade is about 2.5 miles long ending at 34th Street and 7th Avenue in front of the Macy’s flagship store. After taking off from 77th, the parade continues down Central Park West until it reaches Columbus Circle. It then turns east and heads over to 6th Avenue where it will continue down until 34th Street. The parade turns west once it reaches 34th and ends one avenue over. You can find a map of the parade route here.
The Floats, Balloons, and Celebrities
Every year there are so many things to see! You have your traditional balloons and floats that you see every year and there is always a list of new ones to watch out for as well. Most of the big floats will have some sort of celebrity guests riding along. Several singers ride along and “sing” along the route as well. I say “sing” because these are usually the pre-recorded versions that they are lip syncing to throughout the parade.
Snoopy got a makeover for 2019 and will be an Astronaut! I also read that Smokey Bear will reappear this year to celebrate his 75th Anniversary. It will be the first time he has been in the parade since 1993.
You can find the entire list of floats, balloons, and celebrities every year on the main webpage here.
Pro-tip: Make sure to tag all your photos with #macysparade and other big accounts. My picture of the Grinch above was reposted to a big NYC Instagram page!
Other Things to Do
If you are in NYC for the parade, you are likely going to be there for more than just that day. There are so many things to do in the city and NYC is especially magical during the holiday season. I wrote a blog post about it and will post next week. Below are a few other things to do in the city around the Midtown and Central Park area.
- Visit Rockefeller Center – This is one of the most popular places in the city during the holidays due to the gorgeous Christmas tree and the ice skating rink. There are places around the rink to watch the ice skaters, or you can go down and do it yourself. I know it seems very touristy, but I HIGHLY suggest taking time to ice skate here. It is so much fun and just fills you with holiday spirit. You can also head to the top of Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock Observation Deck, for some killer views of the city.
- Central Park – Central Park is festive this time of year as well and also has a very large ice skating rink. The leaves should be a little vibrant so it makes for great views of the city.
- Radio City Rockettes: If you have time, get tickets to see the Christmas Spectacular with the Radio City Rockettes. It’s such a great show! Even if you do not go see a show, you can visit the hall for a quick little tour.
- Empire State Building: This goes without saying, you get great views from the top of the Empire State Building. But, bundle up as it gets very cold up there this time of year.
- Broadway: There are so many amazing shows that I would have a hard time suggesting my favorites. If you have time, pick one and go see it! There are so many ways to get cheap tickets now (unless it’s something like Hamilton, and yes it is worth every penny). Just do a quick google search and you will see there are so many ways to get these tickets at affordable prices.
- Christmas Windows: Take a tour of all the holiday window exhibits. All of the major department stores along with some smaller ones at well have the most exquisite holiday windows. Saks, Bergdorfs, Macys, etc all have incredible window displays!
I sincerely hope that you all will get to experience the parade in person one day! It is so much fun and a great family trip if you are up for celebrating Thanksgiving away from home!