The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition dating back to 1924, making it the second oldest Thanksgiving parade in the U.S. It was first televised in 1952 which allowed the event to be shared with the entire nation. Seeing the parade live is one of those lifetime checklist kind of events; the info below will help you get the most out of it.
This spectacle has become almost as popular as the parade itself. The night before the parade, on the roads surrounding the American Museum of Natural History, the balloons are inflated ahead of time. This is your chance to get up close to all of your favorite characters and to see them at your own pace. Inflation begins at 3 pm, but it takes a little while for the characters to take shape, therefore this is one of those events you want to show up late to. You have until 10 pm, but showing up at 6:30 or 7 should put you in a good position. This event is crowded and the police keep things running, so don’t expect to just wander in and out wherever. Just stick with the crowds and follow the instructions from the on scene officers and you should have no issues.
This step demands prep, you need to review the parade route and start strategically planning your spot. The parade kicks off at 9 so arrival time can be staggered a little depending on how far down the route you are. For example I would say just before 6 if you are lining up at the beginning and as late as 7 if you are shooting for the 6th Ave stretch. You want to make sure your vantage point is unobstructed by obstacles, because unlike other parades with just floats and bands this one also has balloons over 100 feet in the air. Next you are probably going to be thinking about coffee because it is early and most likely a little chilly. While not everyplace is going to be open, remember it is Thanksgiving, pick a place with a restroom because inevitable; well you know. Build a rapport with your new friend and life line to services, because pickings will be slim and it’s better to know where to go ahead of time; especially before the police start restricting movement. Last thing to contemplate before you finalize your spot from a photography stand point, if it is possible try to pick a side of the street that won’t put the balloons between you and the sun. For some stretches of the parade route this won’t even come into play as the buildings will be too tall for this to be a factor; but it’s good to have in the back of your head anyways. Dress appropriately for the weather because you are just going to be standing for at least 2 hours and do yourself a favor and use the subway to get around.
Things of note: If you want to see the parade from the beginning you will have to lineup street side as Central Park is reserved seating. The shops at Columbus Circle in Time Warner Center open at 9am and there are views of the parade on the second and third floors.
You have secured yourself a good spot, you know where the nearest restrooms are and your camera is ready. All that remains is to enjoy the parade!
Recommendable: YES! It takes a little planning and it might be a little on the chilly side, but it is an experience you will remember forever.