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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route

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This post explains the essentials of how to attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, November 25, 2021, including where to stand for a good view, the best time to arrive, and whether or not you need tickets.

On Thursday, November 25, 2021, Macy’s Department Store will hold its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade begins at 9 am.

The parade will have 29 giant balloons with favorites like Astronaut Snoopy, Pikachu and Evie, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spongebob Squarepants and Gary, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Paw Patrol, Smokey the Bear and more.

This year are some exciting debuts like Grogu (from The Mandalorian) and Ada the tiny scientist, from Netflix's series Ada Twist.

Additionally, there will be 7 ballonicles, 31 floats, 10 marching bands, five performing troupes and plenty of clowns!

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!

Just days after the Parade, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lights are turned on.

To fully enjoy NYC during the holidays, be sure to read our Guide to Christmas in New York.


HOW DO I GET A TICKET?

No tickets are required!

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

And since so much of the action is floating in the air, you'll see plenty!

WHEN DOES THE PARADE START AND END?

The parade starts at 9:00 am and ends at approximately 12:00 pm.

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

And 12:00 pm is a great time to end because our afternoon walking tours start at 1:00 pm (13:00) and continue till the evening.

Be sure to take a look at our full schedule of pay-what-you-wish walking tours.

TIP: Dress warmly and in layers. Temperatures can range from mild to cold in November.

Check out our post on the weather in NYC in November for advice on how to pack to be prepared.


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).

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

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Much of this tour runs through Midtown Manhattan and there is so much to do in the area.

Our post Things to see in Midtown Manhattan has dozens of suggestions, as well as a map of 22 kid-friendly activities.

The post also includes a self-guided walking tour of Midtown.

You can also try our GPS-enabled audio tour of Midtown Manhattan.

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.


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 am to 10:30 am, so early birds who don't mind turning up at 6 am to snag a prime spot should flock here.

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Columbus Circle:

Though there is no public viewing allowed at street level around Columbus Cirlce, there is a semi-secret vantage point is 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 an added bonus you'll also get to see the Holiday Under the Stars light display. The doors open at 9 am. 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 am. 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 by no later than 7 am.

Along 6th Avenue between West 38th and West 34th Streets have exteremely 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?

In 2021, performers will include Aespa, the all girl K-pop band, Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, Kim Petras, Andy Grammer, Nelly, Kelly Rowland, Jimmy Allen, Chris Lane,the 1980s hit band Foreigner, Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty and the cast of the comedy series Girls5eva.

There will also be performances from the casts of three Broadway musicals, SIX, Wicked, Moulin Rouge! .

Find out more here.


SEE THE BALLOONS INFLATE THE NIGHT BEFORE

Historically, the Wednesday night before the parade, from around 3 pm until 10 pm, all of the balloons are inflated at 79th Street by the American Museum of Natural History.

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 home.
Here's a very brief history of the parade:

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

Certainly not as slick as what is presented today, but it was festive, fun and 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:

  • The balloons were released into the sky at the end of the 1928 parade 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 crown 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 90thth 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.
  • 1947 was the first parade broadcast on national television.
  • Snoopy has had the most balloons in parade history.  Macy’s is currently on its 9th Snoopy balloon.
  • 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.
  • The parade has always ended with Santa Claus.  Welcoming Santa to New York is the official start of the holiday season in the city!

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About The Author

Courtney

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 2nd, 2021
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