This post explains the essentials of attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, whether you need tickets, where to stand, when to go and what to expect. This year on November 23, 2017, Macy’s Department Store will host their 90th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first parade was in 1924 so they’ve been blowing up balloons and delighting hundreds of thousands of people for nearly a century (see the video below for a brief history of the parade) You don’t have to be a kid to get excited about attending this parade! But you should definitely plan ahead like an adult. The parade marks for many the start of the Christmas season, so be sure to read our Guide to NYC for X-mas and check out our guide to things to see in Midtown Manhattan.
So, the bad news is that Macy’s doesn’t sell Grandstand tickets to the public. They are reserved for the friends and family of those participating in the parade, Macy’s employees and volunteers. You can certainly ask any New Yorkers you know, or quickly befriend a Macy’s employee. Sometimes those with tickets decide to sell them – for a ridiculous amount of money. You can check sites like Craigslist – but beware of counterfeit tickets.
Now for the GOOD news! You don’t need a ticket to have a fantastic time! Anyone can watch the parade along the parade route and there are 2.5 miles of public viewing! And since so much of the action is floating in the air, you’ll see plenty!
WHEN DOES THE PARADE START AND END?
The parade starts at 9 am and ends at approximately 12 pm. It takes about 3 hours from when the first marchers depart the starting point until the last marchers reach Herald Square. GOOD TO KNOW: Dress warmly and in layers. Temps can range from mild to downright chilly in November. Check out our post on Weather in NYC in November. Wear comfortable shoes!
The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West just south of the American Museum of Natural History. The parade marches down Central Park West to 59th Street then heads east to 6th Avenue. At 6th Avenue, the parade turns south and continues along 6th Avenue all the way down to Herald Square at 34th Street (where Macy’s Department Store happens to be…save some time for great sales at Macy’s after the parade!)
NOTE: If you are taking any subway that day, note that it is a holiday and trains run less frequently as it were a weekend schedule. You may want to use a subway app to plan your trip given the diversions that day.
Zoom in and out on this interactive Google map
The video above does some good explaining. Here are more ideas:
The line-up of live performers is quite impressive this year: Tony Bennett, Sarah McLachlan, De La Soul and the cast and Muppets of “Sesame Street” will be among the stars celebrating at the parade. Also from the cast of the Broadway hit “Hamilton” singers Kelsea Ballerini and Aloe Blacc, Christopher Jackson will appear. Performers participating include Regina Spektor, Chloe x Halle, Brett Eldredge, Fitz & the Tantrums, Maddie & Tae, Daya and Jacob Whitesides.
Olympic gold medalists Laurie Hernandez, Claressa Shields and Michelle Carter will also participate. Former NHL players Adam Graves and Eric Lindros and U.S. Paralympic gold medalists Mikey Brannigan and Gianfranco Iannotta are also part of the lineup.
The list of the “special guests”– the lovable floating creatures…can be found online already.
The Wednesday night before the parade, all of the balloons are inflated at 79th Street around the Natural History Museum at Columbus Avenue. What began as a mostly local celebration has become almost as popular as the parade itself! It is a fun way to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at this famous event. Balloons are inflated from 3 pm to 10 pm. Here’s a fun time-lapse of “inflation night’ from 2015. Watch Hello Kitty and more come to life!
The Macy’s Parade, originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, acts as the city’s official kickoff of the holiday season. The first parade was put on by Macy’s employees, who were largely immigrants to this country. They wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving and take part in their new country’s traditions but also add a little taste of home. Many of these workers had seen fantastic street festivals and celebrations in their native countries, and they wanted to bring some of that to their new home. Here’s a very brief history of the parade with some great old footage from decades ago!
The first parade consisted of the workers dressing in costumes and marching towards Macy’s (all the way from 145th Street!) while being followed by bands, floats and animals that were borrowed from the Central Park Zoo! Certainly not as slick as what is presented today, but it was festive, fun and over a quarter of a million people attended. A New York tradition was born! The iconic balloons were added just a few years later in 1927, and the parade was well on its way to becoming the spectacular celebration that it is today.
The first balloon used in the parade was Felix the Cat. It was designed by Anthony Frederick Sarg, who came up with the idea based on his experience with marionette puppets. Here are some Fun Facts:
WE HOPE YOU HAVE A BLAST AT ONE OF THE HAPPIEST EVENTS OF THE YEAR!
Written by Katherine Weatherford
And a reminder: once Thanksgiving is over, get ready for Christmas! Be sure to read our posts on: