Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation

Get up close to the famous balloons as they are inflated on Thanksgiving Eve

Spiderman balloon
••• Bo Zaunders/Getty Images

Map: Balloon Inflation Viewing Area Map
More: Thanksgiving in NYC

It takes a lot of helium to keep the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloons afloat. Visitors who want a preview of the parade balloons won't want to miss the opportunity to see the balloons grow at the Macy's Parade Balloon Inflation that takes place on Thanksgiving-eve on the Upper West Side. The balloons are inflated at the American Museum of Natural History and there is a designated viewing path for observers.

When is the Macy's Parade Balloon Inflation?

The balloon inflation takes place the afternoon/evening before Thanksgiving Day. For 2016, the balloon inflation will be Wednesday, November 23 from 3-10 p.m.

Where is the Macy's Parade Balloon Inflation?

Tips for Going to the Macy's Parade Balloon Inflation:

  • The earlier you arrive, the less crowded it will be (but the less impressive it will be).
  • Balloons begin taking shape around 4:30-5 p.m., making that a great time to try to visit.
  • Last admission to the balloon inflation area is at 9:15 p.m.
  • The path for the balloon inflation winds around the American Museum of Natural History, beginning at 79th and Columbus and travels along Columbus Avenue, 77th Street, Central Park South and 81st Streets.
  • Taking public transit to the balloon inflation is highly recommended -- crowds will make parking nearby nearly impossible and access to the area difficult for taxis.
  • If you're visiting with young children, please keep a close eye on them. When we've attended the balloon inflation there have been numerous announcements for missing children. It gets crowded and once it's dark, it can be hard to keep track of small children.

Macy's Balloon Trivia

  • Giant helium balloons first appeared in the Parade in 1927, replacing the live animals that once participated in the Parade.
  • The balloons were the original creation of Tony Sarg, a Macy's designer and famous puppeteer.
  • Felix the Cat, The Dragon, The Elephant and Toy Soldier were among the first balloons in the Parade.
  • In 1927, the balloons were filled with air and held up with sticks.
  • In 1928, helium was used to fill the balloons and hold them in the air.
  • From 1928-1933, the giant balloons were released at the end of the Parade.
  • Beginning in 1929, the balloons featured a return address label and prizes were awarded for the return of the balloons.
  • In 1958, a helium shortage meant that the balloons were inflated with air and hoisted up with cranes for the Parade.
  • Some of the signature Macy's balloons featured in the Parade:
    • "Falloons" - introduced in the 1980s - cold air balloon + float
    • "Balloonicle" - introduced in 2004 - cold air balloon + self-propelled vehicle
    • "Tricyloons" - introduced in 2011 - cold air balloon + tricycle
  • It takes between 30 and 100 balloon handlers to escort the Parade's giant helium balloons along the Parade route.