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10 Tips for Taking Kids to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

As with most events in 2020, this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will look different. There will be no spectators in attendance, but The 94th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will air nationwide on NBC-TV, Thursday, November 26, 2020 from 9:00 a.m. to Noon, in all time zones.

Bookmark this article though, because the 2021 parade will be a must visit!


Ah, Thanksgiving morning … coffee, Black Friday ads, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. High flying balloons, celebrities riding floats, and high school marching bands. The most exciting part for my family, is that when Santa rides down 6th Avenue – Christmas season can begin! Watching the parade is a must do and somehow, while living in Central New Jersey I never went in person until I was almost 40!


Big Smurf floating down the street at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Big Smurf floating down the street!


A few years ago I decided it was time. How hard could it be? I researched online and asked friends and agonized over every detail – were my kids too young for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? What if the weather was bad? How early would we have to get there? Where among the 2.5 mile route could we get our best view?


It seemed no one could tell me! I was nervous about the crowds (the weather was set to be mild for late November) but I was still determined to go, so we crossed our fingers and off we went, our family of 4 and a friend. Here’s some tips I can pass on if you’re ready to experience it in person.


image of santa at the Macy's thankgiving day parade


10 Tips for Attending the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Before we share our tips, please know Jersey Family Fun participates in online affiliate marketing programs that allow businesses to earn referral fees by placing affiliate links to products for sale on their own websites. We may earn a small commission from your purchase that get invested back into Jersey Family Fun. This does not affect your price. Now back to those tips for attending the Macy’s parade.


  • What time to leave … we didn’t leave at the crack of dawn. We knew it meant we wouldn’t be in the front, but we decided it was more important that our kids were rested, since they were young. So if the thought of being there at 6 AM scares you, never fear! You will still see the parade (in some way) if you leave your house when it’s light out.


  • We lived in Union County, so our train line went direct into Penn Station. However, we went to Newark to take the PATH downtown, away from the crowds. Then, we took the subway direct to Columbus Circle. Check out all your transportation options – depending on where you live, driving into Manhattan might be the fastest way, but know you’ll need to walk through the city to get to your viewing point. If you drive, consider using a parking app like SpotHero to reserve a parking space.

Pillsbury Dough Boy at Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade


  • The parade starts at 9 AM at 77th and Central Park West, and at Columbus Circle turns to Central Park South to make its way to 6th Avenue. Lots of roads nearby will be closed that day so if you’re driving be sure to check the news or city websites. The NYPD will list closed streets on their website. The subways will run as usual, but some bus lines will experience a detour – information will be listed here.


  • Where to stand? We didn’t know until we got there! Coming out of the subway at Columbus Circle, where the parade passes by, we encountered a wall of people. After crushing through the people and almost going home, we found a clearing, mere steps from the subway exit but AWAY from Central Park West. We certainly weren’t in the front, but we were a part of the experience. We could see the balloons and some larger floats, and I even got a glimpse of my favorite – Santa! You can’t watch between 38th and 34th on 6th Avenue, because the grandstands are there. And no, you can’t buy tickets for the grandstands.


Melanie at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

Our viewing spot. My son couldn’t take his eyes off Buzz going down the street!


  • Try to keep the stroller at home. My son was under 2 so we brought the stroller and the crowds were so thick we surely weren’t pushing it, and ended up having to carry it most of the time. Thankfully, adults outnumbered children for us, so one could be in charge of the stroller while the other two kept the kids close. Consider a baby carrier that can hold a heavier child or bigger kid and still let you both see the parade. Amazon has these baby carriers for big kids and hip seat carriers.


  • Don’t overpack! Sure you may need diapers, snacks, drinks, cameras, wipes … all the essentials we always bring. But it’s New York City – there’s a Duane Reade and a Starbucks on every corner (and we were able to use the bathroom in a nearby Dunkin Donuts). We also ate lunch away from the crowds – it might be a holiday but many businesses are open throughout the city.


sketch of New York Life float for Macy's Thanksgiving day parade float


  • Keep your traveling light but do DRESS WARM.


  • Pack handwarmers for kids to help keep their hands warm while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I like this handwarmer for kids because it wraps around their waist with an adjustable strap and comes in 3 colors. Get yours on Amazon. I also recommend this multipack of handwarmers. With this set of 10 everyone will have their own pair.



New Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats



So give it a try! If you get close enough you’ll see some of yours and your kid’s favorite performers like Idina Menzel, Debbie Gibson and NCT 127! It’s a uniquely New York experience to see HUGE balloons floating down the street. Make lunch reservations and have your Thanksgiving meal in Manhattan, or if you’re close enough, you’ll even be home in time to eat with your family. And what a story you’ll have to tell them around the table!


Santa arrives at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade! It's truly Christmas time!

Santa arrives at the parade! It’s truly Christmas time!


Click over to see what new floats are coming the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Click over to see the rest of our Family Travel to New York City series.

Family Travel to New York City Series


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Wednesday 27th of November 2013

Thanks so much for posting! We are going tomorrow...and I've been searching and searching for this very kind of insight. Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday 15th of November 2013

We haven't taken the kids yet, but it is definitely on our bucket list. These are great tips for when we do!

Gina Badalaty

Friday 15th of November 2013

We went ONCE with Amelia, we used to go a lot with my sister's family. The float came DANGEROUSLY close to her stroller but we had fun. It's sad afterward, though, at least back there was nothing to do once the parade was over. Don't know why, but Ian Ziering was in the parade that year...weird!

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