How to See the Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation in NYC

Watch NYC's Giant Balloons Take Shape on Thanksgiving Eve 2016

90th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
••• WireImage / Getty Images

When: November 23, 2016, from 3pm till 10pm

Where: Upper West Side, runs along W. 77th and W. 81st streets, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue (on the grounds of the American Museum of Natural History)

Get a sneak peek at the stars of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade—those giant helium balloons, depicting a bevy of pop culture characters—as they spring to life on Manhattan's Upper West Side (the parade's starting point), on the eve of parade day.

With the enormous NYC balloons marking a beloved and unique part of the Thanksgiving Day Parade tradition since 1927, the crowds to witness their pre-Thanksgiving Day inflation can be as oversized as the balloons themselves. Accordingly, here are a few tips for making the most of a go at gawking at the balloon giants as they slowly take shape:  

Where Can I Watch the Balloons Inflate?

The action unfolds around the grounds of the American Museum of Natural History. The designated route for viewing the spectacle typically begins at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue, following Columbus Avenue south to 77th Street, and then 77th Street east toward Central Park West. (Note that viewing of the balloons on 77th Street has only been possible from the north side of the street in years past.) Swing a left on Central Park West, heading north to 81st Street, where you'll turn left yet again to see the last batch of balloons blown up (Tip: Last year, sticking to the south side of 81st Street allowed for optimized viewing).

When Should I Show Up?

Later in the event is better. While the balloon inflation begins around 3pm, most balloons don't start to really take shape till at least a couple of hours in; by about 9pm, mostly all of them should be fully inflated, if you prefer seeing the finished product.

What Balloons Can I Expect to See?

There are more than a dozen giant balloons set to take part in the parade in 2016.

Look for returning favorites like Hello Kitty, Thomas the Tank Engine, and SpongeBob SquarePants. Sandbags and nets are employed to hold them in place overnight, ahead of the big parade the next day.