Guide to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation

  • 01 of 06

    Up Close and Personal With Balloons

    The 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
    Anthony Quintano/Flickr/cc 2.0

    Do you want to get up close with some of the balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade but don't want to brave the crowds on Thanksgiving Day? On Thanksgiving Eve you can watch as the balloons come to life while they're inflated outside of the American Museum of Natural History.


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  • 02 of 06

    Plan Your Timing Well

    Bart Simpson Balloon
    Joseph Sohm/Getty Images

    Thanksgiving Parade staffers actually start inflating balloons around 1 p.m. on the day before Thanksgiving, so by 3 p.m. when the viewing area opens, there are some balloons that are already in the process of being inflated. If you show up later in the evening, there will be many more balloons to see, but the crowds will be much bigger, too. The real magic of the balloon inflation is watching a balloon come to life, which you can really do at any time during the inflation period.

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  • 03 of 06

    Pick the Right Subway to Take

    Historic Tile Mosaic New York City Subway Signs Uptown/Downtown Trains
    ElementalImaging/Getty Images

    The B/C trains at 81st Street exit underneath the American Museum of Natural History, which has both advantages and disadvantages for balloon viewing. One of the pros is that you can exit from the subway directly into the balloon inflation path. The disadvantage is that you basically miss the first half of the path, so if you want to see the whole thing, you'll need to contend with a crowd at the entrance anyway.

    If you want to see all the balloons being inflated, take the 1 train to 79th Street and walk to the viewing area entrance at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue. If you just want a taste of the balloon inflation, watch the balloons on the north side of the museum and head back into the subway to avoid the crowds.


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  • 04 of 06

    Take Public Transportation

    Man waiting for a subway train

    The balloon inflation itself requires several streets in the area to be blocked off, so parking and driving in the area are difficult at best. After attending the balloon inflation, getting a cab could be challenging, so if you like to avoid frustration, bag that idea and opt for the subway. 

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  • 05 of 06

    Keep Track of Your Kids

    Macy's Balloon Inflation Area Map
    Used with permission of Macy's Inc.

    Kids really love watching the amazing sight of seeing the balloons being blown up, and they enjoy trying to figure out which balloon is coming up next. Keep in mind if you're visiting with young kids that this scene is very crowded and by 5 p.m. it's fairly dark. It will be hard for kids to see much from within the confines of a stroller but a shoulder-ride is ideal. You must keep them within arm's reach. If you do get separated from your child, there is a large police presence, and the folks staffing the balloon inflation are friendly and helpful, so let someone know as soon as possible. It's super helpful if you know exactly what they're wearing, so it might be a good idea to take a picture before you get there. 

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  • 06 of 06

    Bring a Snack or Drink

    Cereal bars
    Maximilian Stock Ltd./Getty Images

    It will probably take between one and two hours to make your way through the entire viewing area, depending on how much you like to examine the balloons and how dense the crowds are. There isn't really anything for sale within the viewing area, and you don't want to have to leave mid-viewing (which isn't terribly easy to do anyway), so do yourself a favor and bring a drink or snack if you think you or your kids will be hungry or thirsty.