The 91st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade offers 2.5 miles of family-friendly viewing spots. Here’s a NYC insider’s complete guide to the route and best spots to enjoy the balloons, floats and bands:
The 2017 parade kicks off at 77th St. and Central Park West at 9am. The balloons, floats and marching bands head south on CPW to 59th St., and make a dogleg turn east onto Central Park South to Sixth Avenue, marching south until the grandstands and TV cameras around Macy’s, at 34th St. and Herald Square, where the parade ends.
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Be in place by 7am for best viewing spots.
Central Park West: Viewing starts at 75th Street, just below the official start of the parade, on the west, or street side, of the avenue, to 59th St. There is no public viewing on the Central Park side of the avenue, which is closed other than for invitation-only grandstand seating. The parade passes along this stretch from 9 to 10:30am, and early birds are often in line by dawn to snag a front row spot.
I always took my kids somewhere along Central Park West, which is less crowded than further downtown A bonus is that if you are close to the start of the parade, you can leave when the parade passes you buy, hop on the subway before it gets crowded, and perhaps be able to get home or back to your hotel in time to see the last part on TV.
Sixth Avenue: The floats and balloons reach Sixth Avenue around 9:30am, so you can arrive at this 21-block portion as late as 7am and still find a good spot. You can get a great view anywhere from 59th to 38th Sts. However, 34th St, and proximity to Macy’s should be avoided because your view will be blocked by cameras, lights, scaffolding, and TV crews scurrying about.
NYC Insider Secret Tip:
The Shops at Columbus Circle, inside the Time Warner Center open at 9am on Thanksgiving Day. Be there at the opening to snag a spot on the second and third floors balconies overlooking the action through the building’s glass wall. And after the parade passes you buy, you can enjoy the Holiday Under the Stars light display before heading back to grandma’s house for turkey.
If a member of your family or group has special needs, there is special access. Call Healing Arts Initiative (formerly known as Hospital Audiences, Inc.) at 212-284-4100 or email them at [email protected] for details.
Getting Around on Parade Day
Please use NYC subways. Driving anywhere in Manhattan is a total nightmare on parade day.
Macy’s has a comprehensive parade website with information about each ballooon, performer, float, and some animated video for the kids to get them ready for the excitement. It’s content-rich and takes forever to load. You might not have the patience to wait.
Here’s a partial list of Macy’s world-famous balloons —
- Buzz Lightyear
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid
- Horton (“From Horton Hears a Who”)
- Kermit the Frog
- Pillsbury the Doughboy
- Kung Fu Panda
- Ronald McDonald
- Sailor Mickey
- Spongebob Squarepants
- Hello Kitty
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Best Viewing Spots was posted originally in 2013 and is updated annually.
Photos courtesy Macy’s