Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Route (2018)

This post explains the essentials of attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday, November 22nd, 2018, whether you need tickets, where to stand, when to go and what to expect. 

 

 

On Thursday, November 22, 2018, Macy’s Department Store will host their Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. For many, the parade marks the start of the Christmas season.

In fact, just 6 days after the parade, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is 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 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 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.

Free New York 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. 

 


Back to top


 

WHAT IS THE PARADE ROUTE? 

The parade begins at 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). 

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.

 


Back to top


 

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.

New York Tourist Discount Passes

Columbus Circle:

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 6th Avenue and 59th Street at about 9:30 am, so arrive anywhere along this at this 21-block portion as late as 7:00 am and you should still find a good spot. But be warned: the closer you get to 34th Street/Herald Square, the more crowded it will be.

 


Back to top


 

WHO WILL BE PERFORMING THIS YEAR?

This year’s gigantic cartoon character balloons are soon to be announced on Macy’s website.  

The line-up of live performers for 2018 has not been announced yet. But we will post them as soon as Macy’s does (you can also check here for updates).

In past years performers have included Tony Bennett, Sarah McLachlan, De La Soul, Wyclef Jean, Patti LaBelle, Goo Goo Dolls, Smokey Robinson, and the cast members of the Broadway hit Hamilton.

Last year, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots performed. Don’t feel bad if you missed him because you can see a live taping of  The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon during your trip! See our post for all the information you need. 

 


Back to top


 

SEE THE BALLOONS INFLATE THE NIGHT BEFORE

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 American Museum of Natural History to see the dinosaur bones and more, see our post about finding Discounts on tickets to the American Museum of Natural History.

 


Back to top


 

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 with some great old footage from decades ago!

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 just a few years later in 1927, and the parade was well on its way to becoming the spectacular celebration 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!
  • First parade crown to hit 1 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.
  • Aside from guest performers, all people marching in the Macy’s Parade are Macy’s employees and their friends and family (or otherwise affiliated with the store).  Always an all-Macy’s crowd, ever since the first parade!
  • If wind speeds are forecasted to be over 34 miles per hour all of the balloons are pulled out of the parade.
  • One of the newest parade characters is Toothless the Dragon (from “How To Train Your Dragon”), introduced in 2013.  Toothless is as tall as a 4-story building and has 90 handlers.
  • 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!

 


Back to top


 

Tags: