A Guide to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

Kick Off the 2015 Holiday Season with NYC-Style Tradition and Spectacle

••• Photo credit: Macy's, Inc.

When: Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2015, from 9am till 12pm

Where: Parade route runs from Central Park West & W. 77th St. to Macy's at Herald Square on 34th St.

Everybody loves a parade, and few are as memorable as Manhattan's massive Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, now in its 89th year. A time-honored tradition dating back to 1924, the 2015 pageant of 8,000-plus participants will usher in the start of NYC's storied holiday season with a frenzy of floats, marching bands, dance troupes, special celebrity guests, and, of course, the giant helium balloons for which the parade is so famous.

And who can forget the parade's signature finale—a float featuring jolly old St. Nick himself!

The 2.5-mile parade route kicks off at 9am from Central Park West and West 77th Street on the Upper West Side, passing through Columbus Circle, before tracing the south side of Central Park on 59th Street to 6th Avenue. The parade turns right on 6th Avenue, following the avenue along until it empties out in front of Macy's on 34th Street. Note that all curbside viewing is first-come, first-served; there is some limited grandstand seating, but it's invitation-only and not on sale to the general public.

The 2015 parade lineup includes an over-the-top checklist of featured participants: 17 giant character balloons (including four brand-new ones); 24 novelty balloons in the form of "balloonicles" (a cold-air balloon and vehicle hybrid) and "trycaloons" (part tricycle, part balloon); 27 floats (including six debuts); 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers; 1,000-plus clowns; 12 marching bands (mostly from American high schools and colleges); and a host of celebrity performers (including Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Mariah Carey, Daughtry, Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell, Panic At the Disco, the cast of Broadway’s School of Rock, and more).

Among the four new character balloons for 2015: a 45-foot-tall Angry Birds’ Red, the 72-foot-long DINO, Scrat and his Acorn (from the Ice Age films), and a brand-new Ronald McDonald. They'll be joining returning favorites like Hello Kitty, Snoopy and Woodstock, Thomas the Tank Engine, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Among the six new floats, look for Big City Cheer! (by Spirit of America Productions), The
Colonel’s Road Trip to NYC
(by Kentucky Fried Chicken), The Cranberry Cooperative (by Ocean Spray), Discover Adventure! (by Build-A-Bear), Heartwarming Holiday Countdown (by Hallmark
Channel), and a 50th anniversary-float for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Snoopy’s
Doghouse
(by Peanuts Worldwide). Returning floats include favorites like 1-2-3 Sesame Street (with a performance by the Sesame Street cast) and Dreamseeker by Cirque du Soleil.

The parade route is notoriously crowded—apart from the 50 million home viewers nationwide (the parade will be televised live on NBC with TODAY show anchors Matt Lauer, Al Roker, and Savannah Guthrie), some 3.5 million show up in the flesh to soak up the spectacle firsthand. If you'll be joining them, take mass transit, dress warmly, and arrive early: the early turkey-bird catches the worm, with many revelers snagging the best spots on the parade route by 6am. (Tip: You can sneak a peek at the parade's balloons being inflated on the Upper West Side, on Thanksgiving eve, too.)