On Thanksgiving Day at 9am the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin. The 3-hour parade has been an annual tradition and each year it gets bigger and better.
It’s total holiday madness but also incredible family fun and a NYC holiday bucket list must. Over 3.5 million people line the parade route in New York City.
Visiting New York City to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a once in a lifetime experience. Where else can you expect to see clowns, floats, giant balloons and Santa Claus all at once?
You’ll see everything from Sesame Street characters to cheerleaders to Santa’s sleigh!
Our Top Tips for Viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Get up very early
The Parade begins at 9 a.m. Plan to arrive to claim your spot along the parade route by 6 a.m. and don’t plan on moving from that spot. Approximately 3.5 million parade-goers take to the streets wanting the perfect view. Pack a bag with snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate, and games or books to keep your kids entertained while waiting for the parade to begin.
Bring folding stools or chairs to make the wait a bit more comfortable. There are not any designated seating areas, handicapped areas, or seats sold. The bleachers and seats you may have seen on the telecasts of the Parade are designated for Macy’s employees and are never sold or open to the general public.
Dress in layers
From the time when you pick out your viewing spot until the end of the parade, you could be standing outside for five hours or more. Stay Warm and Comfortable: November in New York City can be chilly, so dressing in layers is key. Start with thermal underwear, add a fleece or wool sweater, and top it off with a waterproof and wind-resistant jacket. Hats, gloves, and scarves are essential to keep warm. For footwear, choose insulated, waterproof boots for warmth and dryness.
Don’t forget your camera, snacks, perhaps an extra sweater, and a healthy dose of patience. It’ll be crowded, so prepare to roll with it.
It’s also a good idea to position yourself near a coffee shop or department store, where you can run in for a bathroom break if needed. For younger kids, this can be crucial. No one wants to have to deal with potty emergencies during the parade.
Pack a bag with snacks, water, and perhaps a thermos of hot chocolate to keep everyone energized and warm. Don’t forget a portable phone charger, a small first aid kit, and activities or games to keep children entertained. Consider bringing binoculars for a closer view of the parade floats and balloons.
Know the Parade route.
There is no secret, uncrowded place from which to watch. There are 2.5 miles of parade route for public viewing. Many people agree that the best spot to watch the parade from is Columbus Circle. For an unobstructed view, stake out your spot around 6 am, perhaps earlier. The best thing is to know the parade route.
Familiarize yourself with the parade route in advance. While there’s no secret, uncrowded spot, some areas might offer a more comfortable viewing experience. Download the parade’s official app for real-time updates, maps, and restroom locations. Identify nearby coffee shops or department stores for quick bathroom breaks, especially important for families with young children.
The Parade route has changed in the last couple of years, so be sure to verify the current Parade route.
The Macy’s website has a detailed map of the route.
Find and book a reservation at NYC restaurant Thanksgiving Dinner
Dine in Style After the Parade: After enjoying the parade, extend your Thanksgiving experience at one of NYC’s finest restaurants. Near the parade route, you have a variety of options:
- The Smith: With multiple locations, including East Village and Midtown, The Smith offers a three-course prix-fixe Thanksgiving meal, featuring choices like Roasted Turkey Breast and Sticky Apple Toffee Pudding, for $78 per person.
- Mandarin Oriental, Columbus Circle: For a luxurious Thanksgiving buffet with stunning views, the Mandarin Oriental serves a lavish spread including Slow Roasted Heritage Turkey and Pumpkin Spice Crème brûlée. Priced at $195 per person, this experience offers a view of Central Park and the NYC skyline.
- Delmonico’s, Financial District: Dive into a classic three-course menu at the historic Delmonico’s, featuring Maine Crab Cake, Norbest Family Turkey, and Bourbon Pecan Baked Alaska for $145 per person.
- BLACKBARN Restaurant, NoMad: Offering both in-person dining and Thanksgiving catering, BLACKBARN presents a menu with Roast Turkey, Sausage & Apple stuffing, and Pumpkin Cheesecake, with prices starting at $110 per person for dining in.
- Sereneco, Greenpoint: Known for its mix of Thanksgiving classics and signature cocktails, Sereneco’s three-course menu includes dishes like Roasted Turkey Breast and unique cocktails, priced at $75 per person.
- Jack & Charlie’s no.118, Greenwich Village: Enjoy a three-course prix-fixe Thanksgiving menu including Roasted Heritage Turkey and Pear & Ginger Rice Pudding, priced at $115 per person.
These restaurants offer a perfect blend of traditional and innovative Thanksgiving fare, making for a memorable post-parade dining experience. Remember to book in advance to secure your spot!
6. Safety Tips for a Stress-Free Parade Experience: Stay Together, Stay Safe: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade attracts huge crowds, making safety a top priority. If you’re attending with family or friends, wear bright or easily identifiable clothing to spot each other in the crowd. Agree on a distinct meeting spot in case you get separated. Keep your belongings close and stay aware of your surroundings. Also, make note of emergency contact numbers and the locations of first aid stations along the parade route. These precautions will ensure a fun, worry-free experience for everyone at the parade.
Accessibility at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: A Parade Experience for Everyone: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is committed to being an accessible event for all. In partnership with the non-profit organization YAI, the NYPD sets up public ADA viewing areas along the parade route. These areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The location of these viewing areas is decided 10 days before the parade and can be accessed by contacting YAI directly. Additionally, accessible portable restrooms are available for convenience. Remember to dress warmly in layers, as it’s better to remove extra clothing than to be cold. For more information, visit YAI’s website.
*Please note that the experience in the grandstand area, which is reserved for Macy’s Friends & Family and press contacts, might differ from the public ADA viewing areas
If you can’t handle the cold and crowds, stay home and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC along with the 50 million other Americans who do so each year. Or even better, check out our post Hotel Rooms with a View of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
What are your best tips for viewing the parade?