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.
2. Get up very early and dress in layers.
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.
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 or pushing through massive crowds. We alternated between the room and street throughout the 3-hour Parade.
5. Find and book a reservation at NYC restaurant nearby for lunch.
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.