Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City is watched by around 50 million people on television, but “only” 3.5 million or so people get to see it live. It’s been years since I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving Day in NYC, but I remember it like yesterday; the crisp air, the crush of the crowd, being awed by the huge balloons and highly detailed floats…Seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is something I think everyone should try to do at least once. It’s as iconic to the day as is that turkey and stuffing. But it’s so crowded — those 3.5 million people are all lining the parade route in an excited, noisy mass — that there’s a lot more to viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade than simply getting to the city early and hoping for the best.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route in New York City
This is the Thanksgiving Day Parade route (I originally wrote this a couple years ago, you can see the original tips for best viewing Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC here)
- The parade starts at 77th Street and Central Park West
- Heads south down Central Park West until it reaches Columbus Circle at 59th Street
- Turns east at Columbus Circle along Central Park South
- Turns south at 7th Avenue, continues along 7th Avenue through Times Square until 42nd Street
- At 42nd Street the route turns east on 42nd street for 1 block until 6th Ave.
- Turns south onto 6th Avenue
- Continues south on 6th Avenue to finish in front of Macy’s in Herald Square at 34th Street.
Pre-Parade Balloon Fun
It’s no secret that the Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons get blown up the day before Thanksgiving; in fact, viewing the balloons is a very popular activity for families in and traveling to NYC for the holiday. Several of my friends skip viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade altogether (being New Yorkers, they’ve got the “been there, done that” attitude down to a T), instead taking their children to watch the balloons inflate. The Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons get inflated right where the parade route starts, right by the American Museum of Natural History between 77th and 81st St and Central Park West. The crowds are a lot calmer, with more young children; get there before 4:00 PM for the best views. This pre-parade prep is usually done by 8:00 PM.
The Best Views of the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City
- Needless to say, the best views are along the Thanksgiving Day Parade route. If you want a shot at being in the first one or two rows, get to New York City bright and early. Even when I lived there, I would be at the parade route at 7:00 AM, and I was never the first person there. If front row views are important to you, I’d suggest getting there at 6:30 AM. There WILL be massive crowds all along the parade route (with some people in better spirits about it than others, if you know what I mean).
- My favorite views are early along the parade route, between 77th and Central Park West, south to Columbus Circle. Being there right when the parade starts is amazing. The marching bands and performers are so pumped initially; it’s quite contagious. The parade starts at 9:00 AM, ending at around noon.
- The energy is intense. The good news is, with Central Park right there, you and your family can escape from the crowds and take a stroll in “New York City’s Backyard.” It’s a little colder in the park than on the city streets, but it’s usually refreshing. There’s a playground appropriate for young children right off Central Park West and 67th St, across from where Tavern on the Green used to be. But be warned: You’ll lose your spot if you leave before the parade passes by.
- Where not to go: the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is chaotic. Terminating at Macy’s Herald Square means an even more intense crowd, along with exhausted performers and balloon wranglers. There is a media platform area here that takes up even more space normally accessible to the public. This part of NYC is also a major shopping district, plus Penn Station and the New Jersey Transit (PATH) hub in NYC. It takes the fun out of a joyous day to be surrounded by shoving, irritated New Yorkers and bewildered tourists spending Thanksgiving in New York. To quote my original Tips for Best Viewing the Parade, “anchovies have more personal space.”
Hotels with Views of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route in NYC
For crowd-averse people who still want some of the best views of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, consider booking a room at one of the hotels along the parade route. Yes, this will be a pricey option, but the luxury of looking out of your hotel window, possible even eye-level with the giant floating balloons, is an experience many NYC travelers cannot resist. These hotel rooms with views of the Thanksgiving Day Parade route fill up quickly: Plan accordingly! Some best NYC hotels with views of the parade route are the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Central Park West, the Mandarin Oriental on Columbus Circle and 60th St., and the W Hotel Times Square, at Broadway and W 47th Street. Other NYC hotels with views of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade include the Marriott Marquis, Millennium Broadway, and Westin New York; all three are right around Times Square and have great views of the parade.
One of my best friends got stuck simply trying to walk her dog on the Upper West Side during the Thanksgiving Day Parade a couple of years ago — she ended up holding her toddler and putting the dog in the stroller, then basically barreling through the crowds. A NYC experience, to be sure! Happily, a family-filled Thanksgiving dinner awaited her, as it does most of us. Even if you aren’t traveling to NYC for Thanksgiving, may you have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones.