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The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – 5 tips

Watching The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade curbside has been on my bucket list since college. You’d think since I grew up on Long Island that I’d know a lot of people that went into the city to see the parade every year. Not the case. I think it’s true though, about so many things we live close too. Those are the things we seem to leave off our bucket list more often than not. We seem to say we can do it anytime and before you know it, you move and the ease of doing those activities has passed. Well, I think that is probably true for me when it comes to going to see the parade live.

As a kid, we always went to my cousin’s house for Thanksgiving. The parade was always on in the background but you didn’t sit and watch it from start to finish. Of course, everyone gathered around for Santa. The other stuff, however, was more like catching it as you went through the living room on your way to the dining room to grab more food. As a young adult, no one wanted to go into the city with me. Then I moved off Long Island. Typical. So two years ago I “talked my family into going” to NYC to see the parade. And we loved it!! In fact, we loved it so much we went again in 2018. Honestly, I don’t think they would say no if I asked to go again. We had a great time each year and learned a few things along the way.


#1 Location, Location, Location!

Location #1

If you want to be at the beginning of the parade, go to Central Park West between Columbus Circle and 75th St. Note: you can only be on the west side of Central Park West. The east side is for grandstand seats. You’ll need to get out there early but the upside is the parade will be over by 10:30 am.

Location #2

The Columbus Circle area looks like an ideal spot. However, there are more grandstand seats there and you can only stand on the outside of the traffic circle. You feel far away from the parade. However, you can go into the Shops at Columbus Circle if you think being outside will be too cold for you. If you go on the 2nd or 3rd floor you can have a pretty decent view and be warm. Whole Foods within the mall opens at 7 am so you can get up there and get your spot. A bonus is you can take in the Holiday Under the Stars display.

Location #3

Then there’s 6th Ave. Avenue of the Americas. The parade comes down 6th Ave at 59th St. and goes all the way to 34th St. where it makes a right and finishes up in front of Macy’s in Herald Square. Along 34th street is difficult because of all the press and grandstands. So it’s 6th Ave! You get the longest view of the parade here as well. I’d advise walking the route on Wednesday to see if you ‘like’ a certain spot better than another. We’ve watched from Radio City Music Hall the first year which was great.

Location #4

Last year, however, if you can remember was the coldest on record since the parade started. Plus, it was windy. 6th Ave became a wind tunnel. We went a bit closer to the park. We stood next to a construction trailer along the street. This really worked to our advantage for blocking some of the wind. These are the kinds of things you want to find the day before. The morning of, can be crazy, so plan ahead.

Gobble, Gobble
Elf on the Shelf!

#2 Dress for the weather

This may sound silly to say but honestly, something as simple as wearing snow boots vs sneakers will make a huge difference to being warmer. We brought the gear! Everything from fleece thermal underwear and snow pants to hand warmers to these wool socks. Bombas socks are great. Think about being outside, standing still for a few hours and tell me it isn’t worth it to bring the gear. And let’s be honest, you can’t enjoy yourself if your kids are whining because they’re cold.

Bombas Socks are the best!
Ready for the Parade

#3 Mom tip for watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Waiting is tiring. Not just for kids but adults as well. The only difference, in most cases, adults can (or should be able to) control their emotional outbursts. For most kids, I’d say 12 and under, barricades make is difficult to see things. Luckily, the barricades on the parade route do not have banners on them so they can see through. Still, I recommend this little, collapsible step stool. It’s a lifesaver. I love this because it’s easy to carry and durable. When the kids get tired, and they will, they can sit down. This alone will save you from ‘the whine’.

Charlie Brown!

#4 Bring entertainment and food

If you plan to be there early to get a spot so the kids can see the acrobats and clowns dancing along the street, you will be there awhile. I definitely had a conversation with my kids before we went to the parade that first year. I wanted to make sure they ‘understood’ we would be waiting – a while, a long while before we even saw the start of the parade. Well, I must have said something right in that conversation because they were great. Even the adults around us commented on how pleasant they were. Playing hand games and playing with little dolls.

Eventually, even those things wear out and you will need to bring out the entertainment. We brought an IPad with games and videos they could watch while we waited. Check out my blog post here on tips for entertainment while traveling. As for food, we brought granola bars and popcorn. Nothing that will fall apart or get crushed works well. We also stopped on our way to the parade for coffee and hot chocolate.

Big Bird and Sesame Street
Shimmer and Shine!

#5 Know your escape route after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

After the parade is over, people disperse quickly or try to. The barricades stay up making it difficult to get anywhere in a hurry. The problem is you will be in need of food. Real food! Best bet is to walk away from 6th Ave. Walk to 5th or 7th, then go north or south. It will be less crowded and easier to get where you want to go.

Food. We were very hungry after the parade both years. I’m sure you will be too so scout out a restaurant to go to afterward. Preferably a block or two from 6th Ave. Go to the restaurant on Wednesday and make sure they will be open after the parade. It is Thanksgiving after all. Since Evelyn has celiac disease our choices are limited. We chose Applebee’s on 50th St. It has 3 floors so they can handle the crowds and it has bathrooms.

My husband thankfully was willing to carry a backpack for the IPad and the food we brought to the parade. This also helps afterward when you strip off those layers. If your kids are anything like mine, they can not sit inside with layers on. After we got seated we went to the bathroom and took off the snow pants, the thermal underwear, the extra fleeces and such. All to be stuffed in that backpack. It was our lifesaver.

Santa Claus!!

I hope you too go and see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade curbside. It’s well worth the effort. Post a picture if you have or leave a comment.

This Post Has 42 Comments

  1. Gina Haraguchi

    Great tips! We usually watch it on tv. I always think it might be fun to go! Maybe one day we will!!! Thanks for the suggestions

    1. Leeanne

      It’s an experience of a lifetime to go to the parade. I highly recommend it.

  2. Lee Anne

    These are really great tips. Also love the photos. You are right…we lived so close to DC for a year and only went 1 single time! Silly how that works out.

    1. Leeanne

      I have found we don’t always experience the activities right in our backyards – crazy how that happens.

  3. Pam

    I went with my parents the year we lived in NY – my poor husband missed it as he had to go pick up my brother from the airport. It was an amazing experience and definitely something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime! I do want to go again with my kids (and husband!).

    1. Leeanne

      Your husband was awfully accommodating to pick up your brother from the airport. You should take your kids and husband.

  4. Candy K

    We really want to go one day and see it in person. These tips are awesome as we have wondered the best way to experience it. Thank you.

    1. Leeanne

      It can be really great or it can be very tiring and difficult. That’s why it’s important to plan it out. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have when you do go.

  5. Sheila

    As kids I remember being glued to the TV on Thanksgiving Day. Now as an adult, it’s on in the background every year but I don’t really have time to watch it as I am spending time with family, or cooking/eating/cleaning up.

    Your pictures are awesome!

    1. Leeanne

      Oh, so true. Our family was the same.

  6. Missy

    Love the tip of a collapsible step stool. That is such a great idea!

    1. Leeanne

      It was funny how both years we stood on it during the parade but the girls used them as seats while we were waiting for the parade to start.

  7. Tricia Snow

    I still watch it. I want to go someday. I grew up in Philly and I loved going downtown to watch our parade.

    1. Leeanne

      Then I’m sure you will like this one too.

  8. Lisa Manderino

    My friend goes to this every year! I want to go one day with her it would be something to cross of the bucket list for sure!

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure you would love it.

  9. jen

    ahhhhhh so much fun!!!!!! Once in a lifetime experience for sure

  10. Lori Nielsen

    I like parades, but not the cold weather. These tips are great for a very cold parade! It’s always helpful to know the best viewing spots!

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, knowing a good viewing spot does help when you are new at it.

  11. Heather

    Great tips! I always wanted to go, but then I thought of the crowds and the cold. Snowboots are a great idea.

    1. Leeanne

      Snowboots, wool socks, long johns, hand warmers, and hot chocolate will get you through so you can enjoy the parade.

  12. kmf

    Great tips to ensure a great time watching the iconic Macy’s Day Parade. Such a fun Thanksgiving tradition.

  13. Jay Hall

    I have to take my mom one day. Great tips.

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure she will love it.

  14. LaurenGlobe

    Excellent tips! You should consider doing one for New Year’s there, too! 🙂

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, except my kids still can’t stay up that late. lol.

  15. Lisa

    These are great tips! I cant wait to when I get to plan my trip to see this parade. Its been a dream of mine!

    1. Leeanne

      I’m sure you will have a great time.

  16. Hera

    I might be over my crowd trauma from spending New Year’s Eve in Time Square over a decade ago to seeing this Parade in the future. It always looks great on tv

    1. Leeanne

      Crowds can be tricky but I have to admit, we did it with 2 kids in tow and didn’t have any issues. I’m sure you would love it.

  17. Trisha

    We watch this on tv every year! Would love to see it in person someday. Thank you so much for such great tips!

    1. Leeanne

      It’s definitely worth the trip.

  18. Glory

    I have always wanted to see the Macy’s Day Parade but I don’t think its going to happen anytime soon. The good news is we live in walking distance to the Rose Parade and I can use a lot of these great tips – like a step stool for the kids, that is brilliant!

    1. Leeanne

      The Rose Parade is also awesome. Yes, these tips can be transferred to other parades as well. We love our stools. They work in many different places.

  19. Shirley

    I love watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on tv but I’ve never considered attending until I read your tips. Now I need to add it to my travel wishlist!

  20. Wendy Robinson

    I loved the part about adults should be able to control their emotional outbursts. Waiting with kids can be just exhausting for everyone. It is so true about not visiting the places you’ve live near you entire life.

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, I think kids can make experiences great but challenging at times.

  21. Clara Reck

    Great Tips. I have never been but seems like bringing food is a great idea that is often over looked.

    1. Leeanne

      Yes, and eating helps to keep you warm as well.

  22. Kristen W Allred

    These are great tips for visiting the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love all the locations you give to watch the parade from!

    1. Leeanne

      Having options for viewing the parade is really key that way you can check them out ahead of time and see what suits you best.

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