Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade :: New York


It’s late autumn, early winter and the air is crisp and filled with excitement. Yes, part of it is the upcoming gift extravaganza, but many more are anxiously awaiting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A magical experience, this three hour march down the streets of Manhattan has been a uniquely New York institution since 1924. This first parade (then called the Macy’s Christmas Parade) featured 400 Macy’s employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and other fanciful characters and was a huge hit, drawing in a crowd of over 250,000 people. Three years later four balloons (Felix the Cat, a dragon, an elephant, and a toy soldier) were added to the floats, bands, characters, and animals dancing down the streets. Gargantuan balloons have been a part of the tradition ever since. In fact, for several years the balloons were actually released at the end of the march and those who found them once they floated back to earth could claim a prize from Macy’s!

With the good old days of free stuff gone by, we now look forward to a bigger and better parade each year. As technology has grown, so have the creative and delightful ways organizers have found to entertain us. Some of the more conventional ways the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade delights audiences are the big name stars and Broadway production troupes that perform at the event. A few of the early celebrities to make appearances were Harpo Marx, Danny Kaye, and Sid Caesar. Recent years have seen the likes of more modern personalities including Diana Ross, Shania Twain, Christina Aguilera, and Andrea Bocelli. A huge treat every year are the Rockettes with their skillfully choreographed routines and their vibrant costumes. Not to be outdone, the floats that glide down the Manhattan streets each year have become one of the biggest show stoppers. With all sorts of fantastic new lighting and animatronic effects, they thrill children and adults alike.

If you are planning on going, prepare ahead of time and expect to wake up early. Although the parade starts at 9:00 am, many spectators begin showing up before 6:30 am in order to get a good spot. There are no tickets, so the “seating” is first come, first served. Speaking of seating, there really isn’t any, so bring strollers for the kids and strong legs for the adults as chairs are not permitted due to the large crowds. Another helpful tip, New York City tends to be cold in the winter (usually in the 40s) so dress warmly in layers and bring something hot to drink to keep your insides toasty too. Those with small kids or who can’t stand for three hour stretches may want to post themselves closer to the beginning of the route, as the performers pass through this area more quickly shortening your time there. Other alternatives include booking a hotel suite on the parade’s path to watch all the action live from the comfort of your room. In addition, since 1947 the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been nationally broadcast in its entirety for spectators around the country to enjoy. Truthfully though, the one and only way to really experience the parade as it was meant to be is by camping out and watching it all live in person. The grandiosity, showmanship, and excitement of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is like nothing else on earth.

New York City (Lonely Planet City Guide)
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