I grew up watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year. It is just part of our Thanksgiving. I have never missed a year. As a kid I dreamed of spending one year in NYC just so that I could see the parade live. I’ve now had the chance to see it a few times, so here are my tips for watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person.
1. Start the night before!
Most don’t know this, but Wednesday night before the parade, the balloons are lined up along 77th and 81st street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue (around the American Museum of Natural History) as they begin to fill them up with helium. They refer to this as the "balloon glow." People are invited to come out and see the balloons as they are blown up between 3:00pm and 10:00pm. You get to get a close up and personal view of all the balloons. This event is really crowded but worth it. If you are taking your children, make sure that you keep track of them the whole time as it is very easy to get separated.
The parade kicks off at 9:00am ET from 77th and Central Park West. The parade will head south along Central Park West until Columbus Circle when it will turn east along 59th street until it reaches 6th Ave where it will again head south until it reaches 34th street and makes its final right turn on to 34th street directly in front of Macy's.
There are great viewing spots all along the route, but I would warn not to go of south of 37th street as TV crews will be all along through there and access is restricted to those holding special passes. Nothing worse than trying to get there only to be turned away. One of my favorite spots to stand is at the corner of 6th Ave. and 42nd street at Bryant Park.
One year, I watched from 66th and Central Park West and was able to see the whole parade come by and make it back to my apartment, a few blocks away, by the time the parade actually arrived in Herald Square.
If you are lucky enough to have a friend that lives or works along the route that will let you watch the parade from their office or apartment then you are highly blessed and favored and envied by many
3. Get your spot early.
If you want a prime viewing spot, be prepared to get to the parade route around 6:00am. This will allow you to be right near the barricades as the parade comes through so you get a great view of all the balloons, floats, bands and performers.
If you don’t feel like getting there that early don’t worry, since the balloons fly high, baring windy conditions, you will be able to see the balloons further back, but you may not be able to see the other parts of the parade very well.
4. Be prepared.
NYC in November is cold, so make sure that you are prepared. I highly recommend wearing layers. Bringing extra blankets is always smart too. Make sure to pack food and snacks especially if you will be there early. If you are bringing kids, make sure to pack things for them to do. If you are going with multiple people, designate one person as the coffee runner and be prepared to wait awhile for your hot drinks since everyone else will be doing the same thing. People waiting around with you typically are nice and easy to chat with to pass the time. That is of course until it comes time for the parade to come through and they want “their” spot.
5. HAVE FUN!
Once that parade kicks off, it’s always worth everything you went through to prep for it. There is nothing like watching the parade live. There is so much joy and laughter throughout. Just watch all of the kids' faces around you, and you will be smiling along in a heartbeat!
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