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!
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.
Tips for Attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day 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 might be the fastest way, but know you’ll need to walk through the city to get to your viewing point.
- 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 City of New York 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 it, and 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.
- Try to keep the stroller at home. My son was under 2 so we brought the stroller and the crowds were so thick we couldn’t push it for sure, and ended up having to carry it most of the time. Thankfully, we had one more adult than children, so one could be in charge of the stroller while the other two kept the kids close.
- 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 there’s a lot open throughout the city.
- Keep your traveling light but do DRESS WARM.
- Do your research. Macy’s has a great interactive website with the parade route, and The City of New York will have details as well.
So give it a try! If you get close enough you’ll see Sabrina Carpenter, Miss America, Jojo Siwa, and 98 Degrees! 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!
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