Since 2005 it has been a tradition for my mom and I to meet in New York City during the holidays. We’d shop and sip eggnog lattes at Starbucks in the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, see the Rockettes’ famous high kicks and admire the massive glittering tree in Rockefeller Center as skaters glided by on the rink below. But something we hadn’t ever done was to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a New York City Tradition since 1924. So when my mom suggested we make our annual trip to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I was thrilled! We’d be joining the other 3.5 million people that flock to the streets of Manhattan to see the more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, 1,000 clowns, and 30 parade floats entertain people of all ages. Most likely, visiting NYC to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a once in a lifetime experience, like it was for us. So here are my tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
1. See the balloons being blown up.
It is far less crowded and you have a much better chance of seeing the balloons up close by attending the free viewing of the famous big balloon inflation. It is available to the public on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue from 3 – 10pm the night before the Parade.
The Parade begins at 9am but approximately 3.5 million parade-goers take to the streets wanting the perfect view. Plan to arrive to claim your spot along the parade route by 6am and don’t plan moving from that spot. Pack a bag with snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate, and games or books to keep your kids entertained while waiting for the parade to begin. And remember that NYC wind can have quite the bite, so dress warmly in layers.
3. Know the Parade route.
The Parade route has changed in the last couple of years, so be sure to verify the current Parade route. The 2014 Parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West at 9am and marches south on Central Park West. At Columbus Circle, the Parade then turns East onto Central Park South instead of heading down Broadway as it has in past years. When the Parade reaches 6th Avenue, it turns south at the corner of Central Park South and marches south from 59th Street to 34th Street. From 6th (Avenue of the Americas), it heads west on 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square and ends there at around 12pm.
Tip: Download the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade app for your iPhone for route maps, subway maps, where to find wifi, and more.
Many agree that the best spot to watch the parade from is Columbus Circle and this is precisely where my mom and I watched the Parade from. Also note that there is no viewing access on 6th Avenue between 34th Street and 38th Street; this is the official telecast area.
The most stress-free way to view the Parade is to splurge on a parade view hotel room along the Parade route. The Trump International Tower at Broadway and Columbus Circle was the perfect way for us to stay comfortable and warm while viewing the Parade. We knew which balloons were coming by having the Parade on tv and had a terrific view from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Trump International Tower also had a guest-only VIP viewing area on the street in front of the hotel where we would watch the action without fear of losing our spot of pushing through massive crowds. We alternated between the room and street throughout the 3-hour Parade.
It is also nearly impossible to see the performances by Broadway musicals and famous musicians since they take place in the over-crowded official viewing area. You’ll be able to catch the stars as they go by on floats and then watch the performances from the comfort of your room.
A room at the Trump International Tower for Parade viewing books up nearly one year in advance and you’ll need to be prepared to spend around $1000 per night for this prime location.
Once the Parade ends, 3.5 million people are pushing their way to subways and out of the areas closed off to traffic to try to hail taxis. Instead of joining the stampede, find a nearby restaurant that is open on Thanksgiving and make a reservation for lunch. You can wait out the crowds while warming up over a hot meal.
Have you been to NYC during Thanksgiving? What other tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade do you have?