Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023: Where to Watch, What's New

Classics, like Tom Turkey, and newbies alike take flight in the 97th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023.
Classics, like Tom Turkey, and newbies alike take flight in the 97th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023.
11/2/23 - By Jody Mercier

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates its 97th anniversary this November, taking over the streets of Manhattan on Thursday, November 23, 2023, exhilarating the city with its boisterous marching bands, extravagant floats, and giant balloon characters. In 2023, the parade steps off at 8:30am—half an hour earlier than usual.

If you're planning to attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with kids (and millions of others!), read on for the most up-to-date information on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route, best viewing locations, and other highlights. Looking for where to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023 on TV instead? Read on for that, too. You'll find more holiday inspiration in our Thanksgiving Fun Guide for NYC Families.

Enthusiastic paradegoers know the family fun actually begins the day before as the trademark giant balloons receive their annual helium injections—in fact, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation is even included in our list of 100 things to do with your kids in NYC before they grow up. Check out our in-depth Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade inflation post for an overview of the Wednesday night festivities.


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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon inflation
Sinclair's Dino and the rest of the giant balloons start taking shape at midday on Thanksgiving eve.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation 2023

This popular—and crowded—Thanksgiving eve event has become a tradition of its own, See our in-depth post on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation for more info and pictures.

The viewing gallery is open from noon-6pm. In years past, tens of thousands have crowded the streets surrounding the American Museum of Natural History as annual favorites like Snoopy, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Spongebob, Ronald McDonald, and more come to life alongside the new additions.

Experienced balloon watchers know not to expect a leisurely stroll Wednesday night. All visitors must go through a security check, before being herded into a procession that favors older kids. Preschoolers might find it overwhelming. Be forewarned: It is very difficult to push a stroller through the galleries, so we recommend baby carriers or waiting until your little one can endure long periods of standing to visit.

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

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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Santa Claus
Santa always brings up the rear of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ushering in the start of the Christmas season in NYC.

97th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2023

Thursday, November 23, 2023, 8:30-noon

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is total holiday madness, but incredible fun for families and a 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!

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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Luffy Balloon
Monkey D. Luffy takes flight as one of the new giant Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons in 2023.

Each parade brings a mix of characters old and new, and the 2023 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade welcomes seven brand-new balloons, including Blue Cat and Chugs by Cool Cats; Leo, from the upcoming Netflix film of the same name; Monkey D. Luffy, by Toei Animation Inc.; and Uncle Dan from Illumination's Migration. You'll also see some familiar faces get a makeover when new versions of Snoopy, Kung Fu Panda's Po, and the beloved Pillsbury Doughboy take flight.

Old favorites returning to the parade route include Bluey, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Pikachu, and more.

In addition to the new balloons, keep your eyes peeled for four new floats designed and built at the magical Macy's Parade Studio. New floats include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, Palace of Sweets by Brach's candy company, Igniting Memories by Solo Stove, and The Deliciously Delectable World of Wonka from Warner Bros. Pictures.

All told, the lineup features 16 giant character balloons, 26 floats, six balloonicles, more than 700 clowns, 12 marching bands, and plenty of star-powered performers, including the Radio City Rockettes, Broadway stars from & Juliet, Back to the Future: The Musical, Shucked, and more. Cher has signed on to kick off the celebration with a brand-new holiday song, but the true star of the show, as always, is the one-and-only Santa Claus, who takes up residence at Macy's Santaland following his parade appearance.

The 2023 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade follows the traditional route, stepping off from 77th Street on Central Park West, traveling south to 59th Street, east on 59th to Sixth Avenue, where it heads south to Macy's flagship 34th Street store.

Wisdom says to arrive early if you want to secure the best parade-watching sight lines. 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

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: View from the street
An early morning arrival pays off with a front-row view of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and a magical childhood memory. Photo by Jody Mercier

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 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 that cold again.

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.

The parade route is as follows: The parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West, then travels downtown to Central Park South (59th Street). It then heads east to Sixth Avenue, and south along Sixth Avenue to 34th Street/Herald Square. The Macy's website has a detailed map of the route, as well as the full details on the parade rundown and characters. If you can’t handle the cold and crowds, stay home and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC along with 50 million other Americans. It airs from 8:30am to noon.

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

Photo courtesy of Macy's Inc.