Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade

Thanksgiving is the ultimate US holiday, and the Macy’s parade is right at the heart of the Big Apple’s Thanksgiving celebrations. We’ve put together a guide so you can get the best out of your trip to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade extravaganza. Read on to find out a bit of history, the best places to view the floats, and a few insider tips.

History

The parade dates back to 1924, when it was designed as an alternative to Ragamuffin Day, an early version of trick or treating that was becoming increasingly unpopular. Macy’s Parade is a celebration of festive fun and features colourful costumes, marvellous marionettes, and fabulous floats.

In later years a host of enormous character balloons including various Disney stars, Hello Kitty, and even Paddington Bear, were developed to add a bit of a lift to the six-mile route. Spectators get to see marching bands, acrobats, and performances from Broadway shows, all building up to the typical New York welcome as Santa Claus makes his arrival. Around three and a half million people flock to join in this spectacular event that marks the beginning of Christmas and the festive season in New York.

Where is the best viewing spot?

If you can get up early enough, then there are some good spots along Central Park West, beginning at 75th Street. Public viewing is only on the west side, and you’ll have to get up at around 6am to secure a spot. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade passes this area between nine and ten in the morning, before continuing the route to Herald Square.

If six o’clock is too early to head out, then going to the area between 6th Avenue and 59th Street will still give you a chance to see the parade, and you don’t have to arrive until about seven o’clock. The closer you get to 34th Street and the end point of the parade, the more crowded it becomes. We don’t recommend going to Herald square itself, simply because television coverage means it’s pretty tricky to see any of the performances.

Several hotels along the route offer parade view rooms, so you can watch from the comfort of your room. These come at a hefty price though, and you may miss being in the thick of the action.

Top tips

  • There’s no public seating anywhere on the parade route. The grandstand seats (or bleachers) are for Macy’s employees only, and various charitable organisations who auction them to raise money.
  • November in New York is chilly. Wear layers, bring hot drinks, and remember something waterproof too.
  • Prepare for a long wait. Once you’ve got your spot you won’t want to lose it, so bring entertainment for little ones, wear your most comfortable shoes, and pack plenty of snacks.
  • Book a lovely brunch for after the parade. That way, while everyone else is scrambling for taxis you can enjoy a slap-up meal from the comfort of a cosy window seat.

Despite the chilly weather and long wait, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is a truly wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and a little careful planning will make it a memory to treasure.