Nov 012015
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5 Insider Tips For Viewing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 1

Did you know that over 3 million people head to New York City to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person each year.  Like every one else, I love watching it on television every year, but actually going to NYC to see it live had been on my bucket list for many years.  Since we’re only a few hours from NYC, last year my hubby, Chris and I headed down to Manhattan to see the parade.  Before we went down, I did my research and wanted to pass on my best tips for surviving the experience to you guys.


1. Know the parade route!

This is going to help you in a few ways.  First of all, I highly suggest you plan where you want to view the parade from ahead of time, so obviously you will need to know which way the parade goes. Plus, that way you can tell your cab driver exactly where to drop you off at when you get there.  Secondly, if you are watching the parade from near the beginning of the route, you will not walk into the crowds still watching it when you leave.


The parade kicks off at 77th Street and Central Park West. It travels downtown to Central Park South (59th Street) and from there it heads east to Sixth Avenue, where it continues south to 34th Street (Herald Square). The Macy’s website has map of the parade route.


Chris and I parked ourselves over on Central Park West, on the corner of 72nd street. I had read beforehand that anywhere in the 70’s and 60’s were the best places to sit because they would be a tad less crowded. I am not sure I believe that after experiencing it for myself, but we wanted to be near the beginning of the parade and were very happy with where we sat.


2. Get there early!

If you’re not a morning person, you need to make an exception if you’re going to the parade. We arrived at our spot on the corner of 72nd street at 5:30 am and there were already a bunch of people there.  I’m not kidding.  By 7 am, it was three people deep behind us and when the parade started at 9 am, it was at least 12 to 15 people deep on the sidewalk behind us.  If you want a front row seat, you should plan on arriving by 6 am at the very latest.


3. Wear lots and lots of layers!

I mean lots!  It gets cold out there and since you’ll be sitting outside in it for a good 5-6 hours, be sure to bundle up.  Wear layers, bring blankets and don’t forget the hat & gloves.


4. Limit your liquids!

Since you are going to be sitting (or standing) outside for hours, don’t drink too much that morning. Believe me when I tell you that if you move, you will lose your spot. Restrooms aren’t as easy to find along the parade route as you’d think and when you do find one – they are crowded.  Chris left for a bathroom run around 7:30 am.  He found a Starbucks a few blocks away and stood in line for 30 minutes to use the restroom.


Not to mention, you will have to have to fight the crowd to get out and back in to your spot.

5. Go prepared!

Bring chairs, your portable phone charger, blankets, a good book, snacks and whatever else you need to be comfortable outside for 5-6 hours that morning.  It was sprinkling the day we went, so we had ponchos and umbrellas with us.


I had read conflicting information before I headed down about whether or not chairs were not allowed on the sidewalks, so we left ours at home – just in case. Some articles I read said you could bring your own chairs and some said they were banned. We brought blankets to sit on, but didn’t want to drag the chairs on the off chance we couldn’t use them and then be stuck carrying them around.


Once we got there, not only did we find out that they are allowed, but there were tons of guys walking around selling them.  Brilliant, right?  Yes, I broke down and bought two of them – and paid a pretty penny, but you know what?  It was totally worth it.


Plus once the parade starts,  everyone crams forward and if you have a chair, you will have a little more personal space than if you don’t.  Trust me, people pack it in tight.


One last thing that I want to mention is when the parade ends, everyone will make a mad dash to the subway and you can pretty much forget about finding yourself a cab. Chris and I just walked the three or so miles back to our hotel when the parade was over, but if you don’t want to do that, I would recommend finding a restaurant close to where you plan to watch the parade and make a lunch reservation. That way you can kill some time while you wait for the crowd to thin out.

Bonus Tip: You can go see the balloons the night before!

The inflation starts at 3 pm and you can go see the balloons in all their glory until about 9 pm on Wednesday night.  About 432,353 police officers and barricades will herd people (literally) into a procession that starts at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue, and circles around the Museum of Natural History.  It’s extremely crowded, but I have to say it that is very well organized.


The balloons are inflated one at a time, so if you get there at 3 pm, hardly any will be blown up.  We arrived around 7 pm and all the balloons were done being inflated. The line increases as the night wears on, so I am not sure if there is a perfect time to go, but again, it’s really well organized so you will get a chance to see them all no matter what time you arrive.


It was pouring the night we went, so all the umbrellas didn’t help with the crowds, but everyone made it work.


It’s actually pretty cool to see all those balloons you are used to seeing on tv in real life. Even if they are on the ground held down by giant nets – it’s really just as cool to see the balloons like that as it is to see them float by in the parade.


If you’re wondering if it’s worth it to go over and see the balloons inflated on Wednesday night, it is.  It really is.  If you are in the city anyways for the parade, make some time to go see the balloons the night before.  It’s truly awesome to see them all there on display like that.

I loved seeing the parade in person and if you ever get a chance to go see it for yourself, do it.  It’s something that everyone should experience at least once in their life.

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  127 Responses to “5 Insider Tips For Viewing The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”

  1. I actually saw the balloons the night before as my aunt used to live on West 77th street when I was younger and totally agree with you about that being an experience in itself. Great advice and tips, too 😉

  2. Great tips. We lived in New York for many years and this makes me miss taking our kids to see the balloons being blown up the night before Thanksgiving.

  3. Great tips especially for the night before if and I mean when I go I will follow all of your tips.

  4. wow what an experience!! I’m not sure if we can survive 5-6 hours for a parade but if we could, I’d definitely love to see it live for 2-3hrs too!

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  5. I’ve only seen the parades on TV. Watching it in person is also on my bucket list.

  6. Awesome tips!! I especially like the bonus tip! One day this will come in handy!

  7. I bet that’s a fun parade to watch. Much better than any parade here. You have some great tips!

  8. It’s been on my bucket list to see also. I know my girls though, and they’d be complaining about cold, pee, standing, etc all day, so I’m going to wait until they move out and just go with Jason.

  9. This is #1 on my bucket list right here! Thanks for the great tips 🙂

  10. I love watching this parade on TV. I will bookmark this for when I get the chance to see this parade in person.

  11. We watch the Macy’s parade on TV every Thanksgiving. I’d love to see it in person one day.

  12. This must have been an amazing experience! I always imagined you have to get there really early.

  13. Your tips are super impressive since you’ve actually done this and can speak from legit experience. Well done!

  14. Great tips! I am hoping one day to visit and watch this parade!!

  15. I have never been, and I’m from the tri-state area. Perhaps someday.
    Limiting liquids is a great plan!

  16. One of these Thanksgivings, we’re going to have to take the kids to see the Macy’s parade. We watch it every year, and I think it would be an amazing experience to see it in person.

  17. The parade is tradition here while we cook. I hope to one day see it in person.

  18. We always watch the parade on TV. I would love to be able to see it in person some day.

  19. I have not been to this Parade before. I have been to New York a lot, but is one of the few things I have not seen! Looks like fun, but a little crowded.

  20. I had no idea you could also watch the balloon blowing the night before the parade. I hope I get the chance to experience this and watch the parade in person.

  21. I have always wanted to see the parade in person! These are fantastic tips, Thank you! Any tips on what Hotels are on the route?

  22. we have never been to mace’s parade but one day and these will be very helpful tips

  23. This sounds like a great parade, brilliant tips too, thank you x

  24. These are very helpful tips. I cannot wait to watch the Macy’s Parade but only on TV.

  25. wow! how fun. we love watching the parade on television I never even thought of trying to go see it live! Great tips!

  26. I love watching a parade , they have all time favorite cartoon character Spongebob 🙂

  27. it’s on my bucket list too! i live in California so i’m not sure when it will happen but i appreciate the tips. these will come in handy when i make it there

  28. We almost went the same year you did, but my little one ended up sick. I’d love to go, it’s been on my bucket list for a long time.

  29. WOW what an amazing looking parade – I would love to come and see one over there as no one seems to do them quite like you! x

  30. Great tips! It must be nice to cross this off of your bucket list. The floats are amazing and must be spectacular in person.

  31. We always watch this on TV. To see it live would be awesome.

  32. I can’t imagine being there in person. On TV it always seems like a crazy amount of people!

  33. Oh wow. Looks like fun. I would love to go one year and see it. I am sure hte kids will love it.

  34. I hope to one day be able to take my family to NY to watch this live! Until then, we will continue to watch it on tv, which is still fun, but I can only imagine actually being there.

  35. I love watching on tv no beating the crowds, no line ups etc, but I bet in person must be so much fun

  36. Oh my god I want to go to the Thanksgiving parade it looks awesome like at Spiderman!

  37. I’ve only ever seen the parade at TV! I don’t know if I’ll ever get to go but I hope so!

  38. It sounds like you and the hubby had an amazing time. I myself would have to watch from home because 5-6 hrs without a potty break is a deal breaker for me. LOL

  39. This would be fun fior the kids to watch. Unfortunately, the Macy’s here doesn’t do that.

  40. It is definitely worth the effort and the money. I would go there every year if I could. It’s really awesome!

  41. I had no idea over 3 million people go to New York for the Parade each year. I like the ti about getting there early. With all those people its great to arrive early and secure a great spot where you can see all the action

  42. That must have been a great experience to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I can’t believe how early people go to get a good spot.

  43. Wow! Such a great parade. Looking forward to watch this parade. It looks so much fun.

  44. We ALWAYS watch this parade on tv. My kids are always sitting there in awe, jaws on the floor. They just love it! How fun to go see it in person!

  45. We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade every year. I would love to actually see it in person some year.

  46. What a delightful to-do list of hints to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in person. I really enjoy parades. Your pictures are a delightful way to get a great view of the excitement in New York.

  47. I don’t usually watch the parade on TV. I would love to attend the parade live, that would be awesome!

  48. The Macy day parade is one of those things on my bucket list! Living in Canada we don’t get to see it, but Thanks to the internet it looks amazing!

  49. We used to go there yearly when I lived in Brooklyn but after a fews years we decided it was best to just watch from home on TV and forget about the crowds. Great tips. I actually have a post scheduled for next week with my own tips. 🙂

  50. These are great tips! I have never seen it live, but it looks amazing.

  51. Wow, 3 million people. I have so many fond memories of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from when I was a kid. I would love to see it in person some time.

  52. I’ve always wanted to bring my family to New York for Thanksgiving. I bet it’s so much fun upclose and seeing those floats.

  53. I watch this every year on T.V. I hope that one day I’ll be able to see it live. I think it would be an amazing experience and my girls would love it. I can’t wait to see it this year.

  54. I havent watched the parade in years but I totally want to this year! It used to be tradition when I was a kid!

  55. I never wake up early enough to watch the parade. I love sleeping in, haha!

  56. Loved your tips!! I would love to take my kids one day! Maybe when they get older bc at 4 years old I’d die if I lost my youngest out there!

  57. Are you going? I always want to visit NYC and check out the parade. Sounds fun.

  58. I would actually love to go there and see it live.

  59. As usual, great comments and information! As much as I would love to go see the parade in person, I have to say that unless I win some sort of VIP package to take in the festivities, I am probably going to be pj-clad with a cup of cocoa and watching with the puppy in my lap. You are so adventurous to brave that throng!

  60. I have not been to a parade in NY since the Dominican Day parade 9 years ago. The crowds there are so tremendous.

  61. Believe it or not, we have never gone Downtown to see the parade live. I enjoy watching it from the comfort of our own home.

  62. We watch the parade on tv every year. I would love to be able to see it in person one day.

  63. One day, I will get a chance to watch this parade live. Great tips!

  64. This looks like so much fun. In Philly we have our own parade that is pretty big so I never paid much attention to the Macy’s parade. Maybe I’ll go see it one day.

  65. I bet this was a lot of fun to see. This one is on my bucket list – I doubt I will take the kids:)

  66. Robin this is a fantastic guide! I too have watched it yearly on the TV and wondered about going. You’ve answered all the little questions I had about it and give everything needed to plan. Awesome.

  67. Waaa SpongeBob Squarepants looks so cute as well as the other character balloons. This parade is great to watch not only for kids but also adult fans.

  68. I think it would be so cool to see the parade in person! I may have to make it a family trip one year.

  69. Never been to this parade not sure if I will ever get to it but who knows. Love your tips.

  70. That was a fun Experience and i would love watch this parade and its a lot of fun

  71. I live in New York, so getting to the city for the parade is a piece of cake for me! I’ve done both and I have to admit, while it’s fun to do one or two times, it is much more enjoyable from home! Great tips!
    xo Adriana – Daily Dose of Design

  72. you’re right. I think everyone should experience at least once in their life. I need to start planning my trip to NYC

  73. This looks like a great time other than the traffic of course. I love the Thomas one, so cute!

  74. I love watching this every year – never gets old. But my seat is a very comfy one by the fire and my TV. maybe one day I will make it down from Canada and see it live.

  75. How much fun. I would love to go to the Macy’s Day Parade in person one year.

  76. Great tips and guides. I would love to bring my boys to see witness the parade this would give us some time to prepare and plan our trip. Love the bonus tip too!

  77. What a fun experience!! I love the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade always a great sign Christmas is coming.

  78. Pretty cool, it all looks kind of funny, with all of those characters being imprisoned the night before. I think I’ve only seen this in Christmas films.

  79. How fun that you did this!! I love watching it on TV, and Thanksgiving definitely wouldn’t be the same without it!

  80. I didn’t know that you can see the balloons the night before! This is totally on my bucket list of things to do!

  81. That was fun parade, I wish I was there to see cute characters. My kids would love to see or to attend an parade like this.

  82. What an amazing family event to be able to witness live! I bet the scale of it is impressive in a way that’s difficult to convey on tv!

  83. I have always wanted to take the kids to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. It would be amazing to see the kids reaction to the huge balloon floats.

  84. Parades are always so much fun. I would love to see all the set up that goes into the huge floats.

  85. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade never dissapoints. I love to see the kids faces as the floats pass by.

  86. I can’t imagine actually seeing the parade in person! How awesome!

  87. These are great tips for seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I have to admit I have never see it ever in my life but it would be something I would love to see at least once.

  88. that would be fun to witness up close….really cool production!

  89. We watch the parade every year and my kids really look forward to seeing all of the characters. How cool it would be to watch in person! These are great tips!

  90. now this looks totally epic. what a great parade. wow! thanks for sharing this awesome experience. i love it.

  91. Robin I literally squealed when I saw this post! I would love to go to the Macy’s parade!

  92. I would love to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in person. It would be such a memorable experience.

  93. Great tips, thank you! The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is my favorite part about Thanksgiving morning. Although I’m usually making monkey bread and I miss part of it on TV. I can’t imagine how fun it would be to be in person!

  94. I would love to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. What a fun way to start the holiday season. Good tips for parade watching.

  95. We love watching the parade. Wonderful family tradition.

  96. That must have been a really great experience to do that in person! Thanks for sharing these tips!

  97. Hahaha yes!!! I don’t care who you are , you will freeze to death watching this parade. If it wasn’t so awesome I totally would of been over it in like 10 minutes lol… Definitely bundle up!

  98. I watch this on tv every year and love it. Thanks for the awesome tips!!!!!

  99. I have heard a lot about this parade over the the years! But alas, I’ve never been to New York. However, it would be fun to visit!

  100. Such fond memories of going to see this parade with my Daddy when I was a little girl, though today this event is much bigger than it used to be. These are fantastic tips as this parade can be overwhelming since it’s so big if you don’t have a strategy ahead of time. Makes me wish I lived on the East Coast again…

  101. I would love to go some day! We watch it every year on the television and it is such a sight!

  102. I love watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV. I really hope I get to see it up close and personal someday. Thanks for the tips!

  103. This is on my bucket list! I’m a sucker for a good parade and this is one of the most nostalgic for me.

  104. I would LOVE to see this parade in person. I have watched it every single year of my life on TV since I was 3 years old. It is definitely a holiday tradition for me and my family to watch. These are some wonderful tips!

  105. Every year we watch the Macys’ Thanksgiving on TV. I really hope oneday I can sit in the crowd and watch it go by!

  106. I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV every year. I think I’d love to go at least once to the actual parade. I’m not too keen on huge crowds though.

  107. I hope to do this one day with the family! I didn’t know about the inflation the night before

  108. These are some great looking pictures & the parade looks absolutely fun & exciting. I am sure you had a great experience altogether. I would love experiencing one such parade soon.

  109. Even as a native New Yorker, I’ve never watched the parade in person. Always on TV. Your tips are on point though and your photos show that you got a great spot.
    But now I think the next Thanksgiving that we’re home visiting family, we can take our son to watch the inflated balloons the night before.

  110. These are great tips! I would love to see the parade in person some day.

  111. I’ve never been to events that are ths crowded and it doesn’t really personally appeal to me. That being said, for those who love to see the parade, these tips are truly great.

  112. You know these are awesome tips. Going to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has been something I’ve always wanted to do but I will admit, I’ve always wondered if fighting the crowds was worth it. I think having a strategy would definitely help!

  113. I am from New York and my husband has done the camera for this parade for year. We have been many times – your tips are spot on! Fantastic parade. We are lucky, usually get a hotel nearby and hubs finishes early and we get to see family for Thanksgiving dinner!

  114. Oh, a thanksgiving parade from Macy’s! I wasn’t even aware there was one. Do they do it yearly? Love the Spongebob balloon!

  115. I would LOVE to see the parade in real life! Alas, it’s TV viewing for us but it’s our favorite!

  116. These are all great tips. I’ve never been in person, but would love to one day.

  117. #4 is your stand out tip IMO. Smart thinking comes from experience…

  118. Fantastic! It’s really inspiring reading blogs like this! All together we can do it,

  119. greta tips…I missed it this year as I have to travel for business to Geneve. But will surely watch it next year..