Marching bands, celebrity-filled floats, clowns, and the official arrival in town of Santa are all important parts of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But for many of us, it is the giant balloons, some as much as six stories high, that define the tradition and popularity of the annual event.
Simply, it’s one of the best things about NYC at the holidays.
According to Macy’s, the 2018 parade will feature 16 giant character balloons; nearly 30 legacy balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 16 floats; more than 1,000 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; 12 marching bands and three performance groups.
So here is your complete guide to the parade, including the giant balloons, with several brand new ones this year.
The new balloons for this year include Netflix’s charming elves Fleck, Bjorn, Jojo and Hugg of The Christmas Chronicles, Goku of the Dragon Ball anime series, and Macy’s Sunny the Snowpal
Also new are something called Macy’s Americana Spheres, which Macy’s describes as “balloonicles”. These are floating ball-shaped balloons that rotate, like balls. They are painted in patriotic designs – one is stars, another is stripes.
Returning favorite balloons
Favorite pop culture characters including the Pillsbury Doughboy, Pikachu, Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Ronald McDonald, Charlie Brown, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Flying Fish, the Universal Nutcracker, Sinclair’s Dino, Paw Patrol’s Chase, The Grinch, Super Wings’ Jett, Olaf from Frozen, Spongebob Squarepants, Toothless of How to Train Your Dragon, Dreamworks Animation and Universal Pictures Trolls and several Macy’s star balloons in different colors.
Olaf hasn’t been seen for a couple of years, but he’s back from semi-retirement in part to promote the new Disney film Frozen 2.
Continuing the tradition of spotlighting Broadway productions, the 2018 parade year’s parade will feature performances from the casts of Mean Girls, My Fair Lady, The Prom, and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, as well as the Radio City Rockettes, who will bring their signature high-kicks to Herald Square.
Performers set to appear on the 26 floats include –
- Tony winner Anika Noni Rose and
- The Muppets of Sesame Street,
- Cats alum Leona Lewis,
- vocal group Pentatonix,
- rock group Barenaked Ladies,
- superstar performer John Legend,
- Country music legend Martina McBride,
- Diana Ross with her children and extended family, including Rhonda Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross, Chudney Ross, Ross Naess, and Evan Ross with wife Ashlee Simpson-Ross),
- Ashley Tisdale,
- Mackenzie Ziegler,
- Johnny Orlando,
- And, of course, Santa Claus.
Marching bands are a central piece of the parade and deliver a hefty dose of hometown pride as well as a holiday beat. Twelve performance ensembles from throughout the USA will march this year, including:
- CNS H.S. Northstars March Band (Cicero, NY);
- Grants Pass H.S. Marching Band & Color Guard (Grants Pass, OR);
- Homewood Patriot Band (Homewood, AL);
- JMU Marching Royal Dukes (Harrisonburg, VA);
- Keller High School Marching Band (Keller, TX);
- Lafayette H.S. Mighty Lion Marching Band (Lafayette, LA); Macy’s Great American Marching Band;
- NYPD Marching Band (New York, NY);
- Park Vista High School Marching Band Performers (Lake Worth, FL);
- Riverside City College Marching Tigers (Riverside, CA);
- The Ohio State U. Marching Band (Columbus, OH);
- Woodland High School Wildcat Marching Band (Cartersville, GA).
Watch the balloons get inflated
For many of us, the night before the big parade is even more fun. Balloonfest is around the around the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St) starting Wednesday, November 21 from 3–10pm. The best public viewing area is at 77th Street and Columbus Avenue.
The 92nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will begin at 9 AM from 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will march to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South, and march down 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas. At 34th Street, the Parade will make its final turn west and end at 7th Avenue in front of Macy’s Herald Square.
The DOT has not yet released the exact streets that will be closed off for 2018, but since the route is the same as 2017, last year’s list is a pretty good indicator:
- 6th Avenue between 59th Street and 34th Street
- 7th Avenue between 33rd Street and 40th Street
- Columbus Avenue between 81st Street and 77th Street
- Central Park West between 86th Street and east side of Columbus Circle/59th Street
- 81st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 76th Street and 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 71st Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 68th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 62nd Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
- 59th Street between Columbus Circle and 6th Avenue
- Broadway between 59th Street and 58th Street
- 40th Street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue
- 36th Street to 39th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue
- 35th Street between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue
- 34th Street between 5th Avenue and 8th Avenue
- 33rd Street between 6th Avenue and 10th Avenue
Also, Wednesday evening, expect many of the streets around the AMNH, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue, between 77th and 81st streets, will be closed for Balloonfest.