Tips for Seeing the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

  • 01 of 06

    Make the Most of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

    Sonic the Hedgehog at the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, 2013.
    ••• Anthony Quintano/Wikimedia Commons/cc 2.0

    More than 44 million people watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV each year, but not everyone is fortunate enough (or brave enough) to experience the parade in person. More than 3.5 million people line the parade route in New York City, but these tips and advice will give you a leg-up on finding a good spot and staying comfortable along the parade route.

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  • 02 of 06

    Get There Early

    Crowds line Broadway to watch the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City.
    ••• Thomas A. Kelly/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

    Although the parade starts at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, brave parade-going folks start lining up along the parade route by 6:30 a.m. You probably don't need to get to your parade spot before 7 a.m., but prime locations will be fully staked out early on. Many people bring stools, folding chairs or milk crates for sitting or standing on to make the long parade waiting/watching time more comfortable. Keep in mind that you can easily be outside for four or five hours if you arrive early and stay for the whole parade.

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  • 03 of 06

    Dress Appropriately

    Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
    ••• Google/cc

    Be sure to dress warmly if you're planning to watch the parade. You'll need layers, warm footwear, gloves, and a hat, depending on the weather forecast. The weather in New York City on Thanksgiving Day can range quite dramatically. It can be snowing or it can be warm enough to wear a just light sweater. That said, it's normally pretty cool or downright freezing in the early morning in late November, and you'll want to dress appropriately. The more appropriately dressed for the weather you are, the more pleasant it will be standing outside for several hours.

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  • 04 of 06

    Choose Your Parade-Watching Location Well

    Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as shot from in front of the Dakota Building.
    ••• Steven Greaves/Getty Images

    Lots of experienced parade-goers recommend choosing a spot to watch the parade on the Upper West Side since the parade starts up there; the parade "ends" earlier up there as well. The parade ends after about an hour and a half if you're near the beginning of the parade route, but it lasts closer to three hours at the end of the route. Columbus Circle is also a good choice for parade viewing. It's almost never a good idea to try and watch the parade near Macy's; unless you're among the fortunate few to have the much-coveted bandstand tickets, the area is hectic, crowded, and difficult to navigate. Check out the ​parade route to decide where you want to stake out your position.

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  • 05 of 06

    Think About Snacks and Bathroom Breaks

    Side view of boy with mouth full eating a hotdog outdoors.
    ••• Juanmonino/Getty Images

    Another thing to keep in mind is picking a spot with nearby restaurants and coffee shops where you can access the bathroom while you wait for the parade to begin or while you're watching it go by. These spots are also ideal for getting a warm beverage (bathrooms are for patrons only) and a snack to keep you sustained during the parade. This point is particularly important if you're traveling with young kids since they won't want to walk far or wait long when they need a potty break.

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  • 06 of 06

    Keep the Kids in Mind

    Spider-Man Balloon at Macy's Parade
    ••• Alan Schein Photography/Getty Images

    If you're going to take your kids to the parade, they're sure to be amazed by seeing all the fancy floats and their favorite TV friends in real life. Since crowds are pretty much guaranteed, you'll want to travel light. Lucky kids love a perch on Mom or Dad's shoulders for watching the bands and balloons as they move down the parade route. You might be happier wearing your baby rather than pushing him in a stroller since it can be difficult to navigate crowded sidewalks. It's a good idea to pack a good assortment of snacks and drinks for the children because you won't want to lose your chosen spot to venture off and look for something to eat. A thermos of hot chocolate is also a great way to help the little ones stay warm.

    Visitors with young kids might prefer taking them to see the Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation, which happens the day before and gives the kids a great up-close view of the balloons as they are filled up with helium.