I loved seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my family. Now I am sharing tips for families to see Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person!
I have always wanted to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in person and last year I took my family for an adventure we will never forget. Two questions answered first>> YES, I would definitely do it again and YES it was worth it. Was it easy? Not necessarily, but it was totally better than watching it on TV. They cut WAY too much out from the broadcast. There is so much more to experience than they show on TV.
There was such a fun atmosphere with all the clowns, balloon handlers and small floats in-between the big balloons and the celebrities. Everyone was yelling “Happy Thanksgiving” and the clowns were throwing confetti. It was worth the 3 hour wait, in the cold, sitting on the streets of New York. So here are a few tips for you if you want to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade for yourself.
Driving & Parking in New York is pretty easy on Thanksgiving
Except for the parade route, New York traffic is fairly dead during Thanksgiving. Lots of businesses and stores are closed the entire day, so traffic is about the best it can be. We elected to drive into New York from our Hotel in New Jersey just outside the Lincoln tunnel. We quickly found a spot to park at the Lincoln Center garage. It was $35 for the day and about 5-6 blocks from where we watched the parade. Plus it had a bathroom we could use. (public restrooms are notoriously hard to find in New York).
The parade begins promptly at 9am (and they are prompt) at 77th and Central Park West. The parade will run here from 9-10:30. We found a spot on the corner of W. 68th and Central Park West. We arrived at 6am at our spot and there was already one row of spectators in front of us. However, just 5 minutes later there were 3 rows of spectators behind us! Next time we will get there by 5:30
Bring Chairs and Blankets
I envisioned us getting to our spot and having to stand the whole time and that we couldn’t leave our spot. When we arrived, I found out that people bring camp chairs, stools, and blankets to be comfortable. Everyone kind of spreads out in their spots. Then about 10 minutes before 9am the chairs get folded up and the crowd PUSHES forward. Thats when it gets crowded. Be prepared for the big surge so you can keep your spot so faithfully held for so long. Some of my family eventually got to the front barriers once the parade and the rest of us were on the side walk above someone shorter so we had a great view. It allowed for interacting with the clowns and other parade characters.
You CAN use the bathroom
With a little effort you can find a bathroom to use. We had 6 in our family so a couple of us would go explore during our 3 hour wait. We found a cafe a block away that had a bathroom we could use if we bought some pastries. We were sold. It was a long line, but it was worth it. Just make sure you give enough time to get back to your spot. The rest of the family was able to hold our seats. Lots of people did this, so it is quite common.
Surprisingly New York runs on cash. If you are going to get around New York you must have Cash. Cash for food, cash for anything. Don’t leave home without cash!
You can see the Balloons up close the night before
Beginning at 3pm they start blowing up the balloons and then they tether them down for the night. They do this at the Natural Museum of History in the Upper West Side, 79th Street and Columbus Avenue. I had read that this was a low key, simple and easy way to see the balloons up close and personal. However, last year (2017) they amped up security and all the hundreds of people who wanted to see the balloons had to have their bags searched. It was about 1 1/2 hours of winding through the streets and to go through security before we got to see the balloons. Because of all that, and the great spot that we got for the parade, when we go again we will forgo this event. It is pretty cool to see how big the balloons really are though.
We felt totally safe
In this day and time safety is at the for front of everyone’s minds. In 2017 New York went to great lengths like never before to keep the 3.5 million spectators and 8,000 parade performers safe. The cross streets heading into central park west were barricaded with truck and garbage trucks full of sand. There were policemen all along the parade route. They were very watchful, courteous and professional. I was SO impressed by NYPD. Our family was so grateful that they were so diligent and protective during this great American tradition.
Enjoy New York Afterwards!
We enjoyed the day exploring New York City afterwards, since we had limited time. Be away though that lots and lots and lots of place are closed for Thanksgiving. I was very surprised since this is the city that never sleeps. Many iconic stores are closed and Macy’s doesn’t open until 5pm. It is still fun to wander through Central Park and down to Time Square.
I hope if seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is on your to do list that these tips will help.
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