The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a unique, only-in-NY spectacle you must see IRL at least once!
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a unique, only-in-NY spectacle you must see IRL at least once!

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2021: Where to Watch, What's New

Editor's note: Final details for the 2021 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are still yet to be announced, including whether the popular public balloon inflation will be held, but we'll update this post as soon as the information is available.

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates its 95th anniversary this November, taking over the streets of Manhattan on Thursday, November 25, 2021, exhilarating the city with its boisterous marching bands, extravagant floats, and giant balloon characters. This year's parade will be particularly celebratory following a scaled-down, crowd-free event in 2020. Every year brings a mix of old and new characters to the parade, and 2021 is no exception, with new faces like Ada Twist, Scientist, and Grogu, aka Baby Yoda joining the field as giant balloons.

If you're planning to attend the parade with the kids (and millions of others!), read on for the most up-to-date information on the route, best viewing locations, and other highlights. Looking for what time and where to see the Macy's Parade on TV instead? Read on for that, too. You'll find more holiday inspiration in our Thanksgiving Fun Guide.

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Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation 2021

This popular—and crowded—Thanksgiving eve event has become a tradition of its own, yet because of the nature of the experience, Macy's has yet to announce whether it will happen in 2021.

In years past, tens of thousands crowd the streets surrounding the American Museum of Natural History as annual favorites like Olaf, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Grinch, the Elf on the Shelf, and more come to life along with new additions.

Experienced balloon watchers know not to expect a leisurely stroll Wednesday night. Instead, you'll be herded into a procession that favors older kids who can better deal with crowds. Preschoolers might find it overwhelming. Beware: It is hard to push a stroller through the gallery.

If you want to attend with friends, travel to the site together or meet a few blocks away. It can be impossible to connect once you're in the fray.

If this sounds too challenging, consider watching the post-parade balloon deflation on the side streets around 34th Street and Sixth Avenue.

RELATED: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to March Again in 2021

The Rockettes are a mainstay in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Rockettes are always a fabulous sight!

95th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thursday, November 25, 2021, 9am-noon

The parade is total holiday madness, but incredible fun for families and an NYC holiday bucket-list must. Where else can you see clowns, floats, giant balloons, and Santa Claus all at once? You'll see everything from Sesame Street characters to cheerleaders, and (my favorite!) Santa's sleigh!

The route for the 2021 parade has yet to be announced—we're told it will be released in early November. The traditional route steps off from 77th Street on the Central Park West, travels south to 59th Street, east on 59th to Sixth Avenue, where it heads south to Macy's flagship 34th Street store.

No matter the route, wisdom says arrive early if you want to secure the best parade-watching sightlines. However, some experienced paradegoers prefer a leisurely stroll across town to a comfortable vantage point closer to the parade's kick-off, knowing the giant inflated balloons are visible from a block away.

RELATED: NYC Hotels With Views of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Boisterous marching bands are just as awe-inspiring as the gigantic floats.

While my family and I have been lucky enough to watch from some indoor vantage points over the years, nothing compares to the magic of being at street level. The energy is electric, from the clowns and confetti to the the marching bands booming along the route. It truly is worth the early morning stakeout at least once. I even braved 2018's coldest-since-1901 parade and didn't regret it—neither did my daughter, who has requested a return visit this year, even if it's cold.

If the traditional route is used, there is no secret, uncrowded place from which to watch. It's best to avoid Sixth Avenue between 34th and 38th streets and the grandstand area (usually near Columbus Circle); both are closed to the public. Be prepared for other street closings, and make sure to comply with any NYPD directions.

For an unobstructed view, stake out your spot around 6am, perhaps earlier. In that case, consider the west side of Central Park West in the 60s or 70s. The east side of Central Park West is not open for viewing. However, if you enter Central Park north of 86th Street and meander south you can catch a peek from a hill or playground.

A few final tips: The farther you are from Herald Square, the lighter the crowds tend to be. Also, Macy's doesn't distribute grandstand tickets to the public.

If you can’t handle the cold and crowds, stay home and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC along with the 50 million other Americans. It airs from 9am to noon.

This article, originally published in November 2009, is updated annually.

Unless noted, photo courtesy of Macy's

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