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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route

Updated: November 21, 2023

Planning to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Here is everything you need to know to have a blast!

Below are a route map, tips on where to stand for a good view, the best time to arrive, as well as a list of balloons and performances.

Here are the most important things to know:

On Thursday, November 23, 2023, Macy’s Department Store will hold its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The parade starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at approximately 12:00 p.m.

It takes about 3 hours or so from when the first marchers depart the starting point in the Upper West Side until the last marchers reach Herald Square.

No tickets are required!

Anyone can watch the parade along the parade route and there are 2.5 miles of public viewing!

The new balloon friends you'll see this year are Beagle Scout Snoopy, and Blue Cat and Chugs.

Your favorites will be there for yet another year like Pikachu and Eevee, Bluey, Grogu, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spongebob Squarepants and Gary, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Paw Patrol, Smokey the Bear, Red Titan from Ryan’s World, and more.

Additionally, there will be 6 balloonicles, 26 floats, 29 clown crews, and lots of marching bands and performance groups!

Find out more from Macy's website.

The parade always ends with Santa Claus. Welcoming Santa to New York is the official start of the holiday season in the city!


WHAT IS THE PARADE ROUTE? 

The parade starts at West 77th Street and Central Park West just south of the American Museum of Natural History (map).

NYC Sightseeing Pass

The parade marches down Central Park West to 59th Street then heads east to 6th Avenue and then south along 6th Avenue to 34th Street and Herald Square (where Macy's Department Store is located).

Click here for a larger, interactive map.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Route

NOTE: If you are taking any subway that day, be sure to look at our post about Navigating the NYC Subway to know how to look for subway changes that day.


WHERE ARE GOOD SPOTS TO WATCH THE PARADE?

The video at the top of this post does some good explaining. Here are more ideas.

Along Central Park West:

Viewing starts at 75th Street (two blocks down from the official start of the parade) and is only open to the public on the west side of the street.

The east side of the street along Central Park is closed off for the grandstand seats.

The parade runs along this stretch from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., so early birds who don't mind turning up at 6 a.m. to snag a prime spot should flock here.


Columbus Circle:

Though there is no public viewing allowed at street level around Columbus Circle, there is a semi-secret vantage point from inside the Shops at Columbus Circle.

From the second and third floors of the mall, you'll enjoy an elevated view of the parade streaming down Central Park West.

As a bonus, you'll also get to see the Holiday Under the Stars light display. The doors open at 9 a.m.

It will be crowded but you can go early, snag a spot, and stay warm!


Sixth Avenue: 

The floats and balloons reach West 59th Street and 6th Avenue at about 9:30 a.m.

The stretch along 6th Avenue between West 59th Street and West 38th Street is a great viewing location!

But if you want a prime spot, try to arrive no later than 7 a.m.

Along 6th Avenue between West 38th and West 34th Streets have extremely limited viewing and should be avoided, as should W. 34th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues.

The Parade stops in front of Macy’s Herald Square - however, there is no viewing at this location.


WHO WILL BE PERFORMING THIS YEAR?

2023 has a fantastic roster of performers including Cher, Bell Biv DeVoe, En Vogue, Brandy, Chicago, and Jon Batiste.

Also performing are Alex Smith, Amanda Shaw, Ashley Park, David Foster & Katharine McPhee, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, ENHYPEN, Jessie James Decker, Manuel Turizo, and Miss America Grace.

There will be a fun lineup of performing groups like the Big Apple Circus, Cornell Bhangra, MVSA Studios, Phantom Limb Company, Spirit of America and The Tap Dancing Christmas Trees.

Find out more here.


SEE THE BALLOONS INFLATE THE NIGHT BEFORE

You can see the balloons being inflated the Wednesday before the parade from 12 pm until 6 pm in a designated area by the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.

To see this amazing process, you have to enter a line to follow the viewing route below.

See the Macy's website for more information.

TIP: If you are planning on going to the museum, see our post about finding discounts on tickets to the American Museum of Natural History.


HISTORY AND FUN FACTS

The Macy’s Parade, originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, acts as the city’s official kickoff of the holiday season.

The first parade was put on by Macy’s employees, who were largely immigrants to this country.

They wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving and take part in their new country’s traditions but also add a little taste of home.

Many of these workers had seen fantastic street festivals and celebrations in their native countries, and they wanted to bring some of that to their new homes.

Here's a very brief history of the parade:

The first parade consisted of the workers dressing in costumes and marching towards Macy’s from 145th Street!) while being followed by bands, floats, and animals that were borrowed from the Central Park Zoo!

Although not as polished as what is presented today, the parade was festive and fun. Over a quarter of a million people attended. A New York tradition was born!

The iconic balloons were added a few years later in 1927, and the parade was well on its way to becoming the spectacle that it is today.

The first balloon used in the parade was Felix the Cat. It was designed by Anthony Frederick Sarg, who came up with the idea based on his experience with marionette puppets.


Here are some Fun Facts:

  • At the end of the 1928 parade, the balloons were released into the sky and they burst.
  • After that incident, balloons were fitted with slow-release valves and floated over the city for a few days after the parade until they eventually came down. They had return address labels on them to be mailed back to Macy’s. If you mailed one back, you got a gift!
  • The first parade crowd to hit one million people was in 1933.
  • 1934 was the first year Mickey Mouse appeared in the parade.
  • Even though the parades began in 1924, this year’s parade will only be the 90th parade. That is because the parades were suspended for 1942-44 due to the rubber shortage caused by WWII.
  • The parade gained national prominence when the film “Miracle on 34th Street” was released in 1947. The film used footage of the actual parade from 1946.
  • The 1947 parade was the first to be broadcast on national television.
  • Snoopy has had the most balloons in parade history.
  • Macy’s Parade Studio designs and builds the parade floats, which are 40 feet tall and 28 feet wide. All the floats can be folded into a 12’ x 8’ box to be taken through the Lincoln Tunnel on Thanksgiving Eve.
  • More than 8,000 volunteers march in the parade.
  • If wind speeds are forecasted to be over 34 miles per hour all of the balloons are pulled out of the parade.
  • Casts of Broadway shows perform in front of Macy’s at the end of the parade route. The shows are typically new musicals from the current season.

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About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: November 21st, 2023
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