A tradition for 90 years, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the most famous holiday events in the world. Over three million spectators line the 2.5-mile parade route to catch a glimpse of celebrities, Broadway performers, marching bands, elaborate floats and the famous floating balloons—Snoopy, Spiderman, SpongeBob and friends—flying high above the streets of midtown Manhattan. Another 50 million people are expected to watch on TV as part of their annual Thanksgiving ritual.
Besides watching the parade, families can attend a pre-parade event the day before Thanksgiving to watch the colossal balloons get inflated.
Pre-Parade Balloon Inflation
When: November 23, 2016, begins at 3pm
Where: For many kids, watching the enormous balloons get inflated on the afternoon before Thanksgiving is even more fun than watching the parade itself. An Thanksgiving Eve tradition on the Upper West Side, the balloon inflation takes place along the perimeter of the Museum of Natural History, on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.
90th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
When: November 24, 2016, begins at 9am
Where: On Thanksgiving Day, the parade route begins heading south down Central Park West from 77th Street, east along Central Park South to Sixth Avenue and then south along Sixth Avenue to West 34th Street, ending in front of Macy's in Herald Square.
Tips for Viewing NYC's Thanksgiving Day Parade with Kids
Arrive early. While the parade won't kick off until 9am, crowds start gathering along the route as early as 6am. You'll definitely want to stake out a spot before 7am if you want your kids to be close enough to be able to see. Tip: Bring folding stools or chairs to make the wait a bit more comfortable.
Dress for the weather. From the time when you pick out your viewing spot until the end of the parade, you could be standing outside for five hours or more. Be sure to dress warmly and make sure kids have hats and mittens.
Pack essentials. Don't forget your camera, snacks, perhaps an extra sweater, and a healthy dose of patience. It'll be crowded, so prepare to roll with it.
Pick a spot wisely. Choose a viewing location as far north as possible. Once the parade starts, it takes roughly 90 minutes for the whole procession to pass by. If you're situated near the beginning of the route, you could be finished before 11 am. If you pick a spot at the end of the route near Macy's at Herald Square, you'll be waiting considerably longer and you'll also likely have to fight bigger crowds.
You'll find public viewing spots along Central Park West, on the both sides of the street from 70th Street to Columbus Circle to 65th Street and continuing on the west side of the street down to Columbus Circle. The next-best option is further south along Sixth Avenue between 58th Street and 34th Street—again, trying to stay as far north as possible.
It's also a good idea to position yourself near a coffee shop or department store, where you can nip in for a bathroom break if needed.
For younger kids, this can be crucial.
Know when to bail. Seeing part of the parade is better than nothing. If it's very cold or the kids are getting cranky, there's no shame in ditching out before the last float passes by.
Find a Thanksgiving feast. After the parade, you will definitely want to head to one of the many New York City restaurants offering Thanksgiving dinner.
Soak up the holiday spirit. If you're in town for Thanksgiving weekend you'll be able to take advantage of many of the other events happening during New York's famously festive Christmas season, arguably the most exciting time to be in the Big Apple.