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Tips for Best Viewing Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City isn’t just a parade – it’s the official start of the holiday season for families all across America. Did you know that New York City is the most popular travel destination for Thanksgiving? I remember my Thanksgivings as a child of traveling to my grandmother’s or relatives coming to our house. I would watch the parade on television while my mom and grandmother prepared a feast for our entire extended family who would gather together on the biggest travel time of the year. It’s one thing to watch the parade on television, but just think of getting to actually view the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the streets of New York City!

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade flickr image (c) mjpeacecorps

There are more than 3 million people who line the parade route and another 50 million who will be watching the excitement from home. The parade route changed in 2009 and we’ve updated our tips for viewing Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to reflect these changes, should you be lucky enough to be in or near NYC for Thanksgiving.

1. Get there super early (like before 6:30am early). This isn’t your hometown parade and people claim their spots earlier than you think. The actual Thanksgiving parade kicks off at 9am on 77th and Central Park West, so bring some clothing to keep you warm. You could take turns holding your place if you need to, but you may annoy your fellow spot holders by doing this and get the stink eye from a viewing neighbor.

2. Macy’s recommends the best viewing area as the area between 61st and 72nd Streets on Central Park West. While it will be crowded all along the parade route, we suggest between 66th and 77th Streets on Central Park West. It’s near to Central Park for a nice family stroll after the parade passes (one of many free things to do in NYC).

3. Use the bathroom before you get there. Restroom visits are a given for any family with small children, but keep in mind that if you leave your spot, you’ll lose it. There are no public restrooms along the parade route and the majority of restaurants will probably only allow the use of restrooms for customers.

4. Speaking of restaurants, you may be wondering where to eat and what’s open in New York City for Thanksgiving. Be sure to make reservations well in advanced through opentable.com. If you don’t drink too many warm drinks throughout the parade and time things right, you just might be able to utilize the restroom at the restaurant where you’ve reserved your Thanksgiving meal.

5. Keep your little ones close to you. Many parents opt to place their children on their shoulders for viewing. While the kids enjoy this, the viewers behind you may not like it so much. If you opt to get a spot at the front of the crowd, keep a tight hold on your loved ones so no one gets lost. It may even be a good idea to place your cell number on your child by writing it on their arm or using a SafetyTat.

Here’s the current Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route:

The parade starts at 77th Street and Central Park West
Heads South down Central Park West until it reaches Columbus Circle at 59th Street
Turns East at Columbus Circle along Central Park South
Turns South at 7th Avenue, continues along 7th Avenue through Times Square until 42nd Street
At 42nd Street the route turns East on 42nd street for 1 block until 6th Ave.
Turns South onto 6th Avenue
Continues south on 6th Avenue to finish in front of Macy’s in Herald Square at 34th Street.

There is a parade hotline: (212)494-4495

Secret Tip: Don’t want to brave the crowds for the actual Thanksgiving parade but still give the kids a thrill? Macy’s balloon inflation takes place the day before the parade on 77th and 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Public viewing takes place from 3pm-10pm.

No matter how you choose to spend your Thanksgiving, we hope you enjoy making memories with your loved ones on this American holiday. Stay safe and have fun watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

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  1. I HIGHLY recommend the balloon viewing the night before. I used to live only 3 blocks from where they did it and it was always one of my favorite nights in nyc.

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