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.
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Another cool thing about catching the balloons blowing up — in recent years they have given out free polaroids with dressed up characters, clown noses, paper princess crowns. In the past year or two, companies have used the balloon blow up as an opportunity to also give out free samples of new products, too!
Great article and wanted to see if you would include the Park Central hotel as a choice for hotels on the parade. In fact we have 3 sleeping room types with various viewing options.
We had a blog recently posted http://bit.ly/9X3Yvx.
The link to the view rooms that we are offering is below.
Thank you in advance.
We have watched the Thanksgiving parade every year that I can remember, and I almost always wonder what its like to be on the route and see it in person. This made me feel like I was right there, great tips!
What a wonderful article full of great tips. I’ve not been lucky enough to see the parade in person, but if I ever do, now I know the best way to do it. Thanks Jen.
Thanks for all the great information! Could you recommend a fun restaurant to celebrate Thanksgiving? We are also celebrating a Birthday that day and I’d like to go somewhere good and fun!
Hi Kimberly! I love Serendipity. It’s got a huge menu, so everyone in your group is sure to find something they like, plus it’s the home of the famous Frozen Hot Chocolate. It is a really fun place. It’s also on the Upper East Side, far enough from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route that most of the tourists will probably go somewhere else. Have a great time!
Thank you! I will call and try to get a reservation!
This is a great article and I am so excited for this years parade….but I need to be in Herald Square because my daughter is in the opening number….right in Herald Square…so I gotta tough that out so I can actually see her…she has a 5am breakfast so I guess I will be heading to the square early!!
When we first watched them blowing the balloons up, only 5 years ago mind you, it was crowded but very walkable.
When we went 2 years ago, the crowds were 10 deep the whole way around. Body to body. At 9 pm!
The worst ones in the crowd were the idiots that had babies in strollers surrounded by this mob, babies who, if they have ANY memory of this nightmare, it will be ones that will keep them in therapy for all their adult lives. These same moronic “parents” had the gall to complain whenever someone bumped the stroller.
If you like being surrounded by stupid people, by all means do this.
Personally, I will be sitting with my lovely family in front of the telly.
With the scent of turkey and pumpkin pie wafting around us, instead of dirty diapers and dog poop.
Thank you very helpful article. I’m doing the parade for the first time. My kids are 15 and 7 and I think I’m more excited they are. I booked a hotel in time square and will view near Macy’s. I wish I had read your article first.
I am staying in Time Sq but the Parade hot line phone recording said this was not a good area to watch the parade. Is this true? I will habe my 8 and 14 yr old with me and concerned about viewing location – I take it Columbus Circle area is best? Also I heard many restaurants are closed Thanksgiving night – any suggestions.
Hey, I remembered reading this a few days ago and now that I went to the parade let me jsut say that it was AMAZING to be there! So cool! I’ll never forget it.
The only off note was Joan Rivers on a float. We all laughed.
I just read your article, I know who reads a Thanksgiving article in April?! HAHA! I googled Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade route and your article popped up! I am wanting to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade because that is whem my birthday falls on Thanksgiving again! (11-26-2015) . I told my husband that I have always wanted to go and see the parade in person, have Breakfast at Tiffany’s, (lol) see the Rockettes live at the Radio City Theater, and see the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree! So just to kind of prove a point I am starting to google hotels and such!
Thanks for the article!!!
Great Review! We live so close (Connecticut) and I’ve never been to see the parade in person. Now that the grandkids are getting older, definitely going to put this on our bucket list of things to do with them!
does anyone know how to reach the office that takes the entrees?
Hi! Great tips! Call me crazy, but I’ll be visting NYC to see the Macy’s Parade with my family (2 kids and husband) and I was wondering what the bathroom situation is like on the parade route?
We’re hoping we can score a restaurant reservation for breakfast and watch the parade from the restaurant window while eating. Know of any places we can do this?
Thanks for all the info!
@Bobbie – better make your reservations for breakfast soon.
Great info! The parade is one of my favorite NYC traditions and you’ve given a great overview for non-native New Yorkers to experience it firsthand.
Very helpful! Growing up in Connecticut, I’d never had the chance to experience the parade. Heading in this year for the first time with my boyfriend who lives on Long Island & I couldn’t be more excited!!! Being a planner, I’ve booked a room. Your input was great, thanks for the heads up! 🙂
Great tips here!
Do you know what subway we would take from Grand central to get to a really good viewing spot, say between 77th and CPWest?? Will have an older slower gent with us.
Yes, Jay, and first I’d like to stress the importance of getting there early. Take the shuttle (marked “S” in grey) from Grand Central to Times Square, then transfer to a B or C (marked in blue) to the American Museum of Natural History stop. Unless it reopened, the last time I was in NYC the 77th St stop was closed for renovations, so you’ll have to get out on 81st and walk south a few blocks. This borders Central Park and will put you and your gent right where you want to be. Have fun!
Which streets can I watch the performances on? I’ve never been to the parade and I’m not sure were to go to see the performances?
Great article! You’re right, everyone should experience Thanksgiving in NYC at least once! A great addition to a Thanksgiving spent in NYC is a Family In New York tour! A tour with then would be a great addition to your holiday in New York!
I was wondering if you could recommend a restuarant along the parade route that sells viewing tickets where we could watch the parade and enjoy food and warmth at the same time? Great tips in this article!
Heading into the city on Tuesday night and staying at my daughters in midtown west. Any advice for parking for the few days that we will be there?? SO excited!!
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