Clown walks by in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the streets of NYC

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade – How to Fully Experience the Iconic Tradition

If you find your travel plans bring you into the city in late November you’ll have a chance to personally witness a 94-year old American tradition. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade has been dazzling the packed Manhattan streets each year since 1924 (excluding two years during WWII).

With giant balloons, detailed floats, talented marching bands, and Broadway show performances it’s no surprise this event brings in over 3.5 million spectators each year.

Visitors can pick a spot along the parade’s 2.5-mile long route to marvel at this helium-infused show.

Where is the parade route?

The parade kicks off at 9 am on Thursday, November 22, 2018. The starting point is 77th Street and Central Park West but that’s actually not the best place to watch the parade as there’s no (or limited) public viewing in this area.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

To get the best viewing spots you’ll need to set your alarm and be among the host of early birds who set up camp at 6 am. You’ll want to select a spot on the West Side of Central Park from West 75th to West 59th Street as the parade heads down Central Park West

Next, the parade turns onto Central Park South as it enters Columbus Circle. Please be advised there is no public viewing in this area.

The parade then heads South onto 6th Avenue. Spectators will want to avoid watching on 6th Avenue between West 34th Streets between 6th and 7th Avenue. This area is designated for the national television broadcasters and provides a limited viewing area for parade goers.

The procession makes its final turn with stops in front of Herald Square to complete the event but this is not a public viewing area.

Among the balloons, visitors can expect in the 2018 parade are Hello Kitty, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Pikachu, Spongebob Squarepants, Elf on the Shelf, and the fan favourite of Ronald McDonald. Each year the parade ends with a visit from Ol’ Saint Nick as he’s welcomed into Herald Square signifying the beginning of the Christmas season.

For those looking to get a jump start on these Turkey Day events, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade festivities technically begin the night before during the annual Pre-Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation.

Visitors can experience the parade excitement as the preparations begin on Wednesday, November 21 in the streets near the American Museum of Natural History located on Central Park West & 79th Street. These 

Thanksgiving Eve festivities take place 3pm to 10pm. Tens of thousands of spectators will crowd the streets for a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes preparation for such an elaboration event.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

It’s best to arrive around 4:30 or 5 pm as that’s when the balloons really start to take shape.

Many visitors enjoy taking part in the procession that begins at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue. It then circles the museum between 77th Avenue and 81 Street, and Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.

The public entrance to the balloon inflation festivities is at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue.

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