The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates its 92nd anniversary this November, taking over the streets of Manhattan on Thursday, November 22, 2018, and decorating the city with its boisterous marching bands, extravagant floats, and giant balloon characters. Every year brings a mix of old and new characters to the parade, and 2018 is no exception, with a mix of new balloons, floats, and balloonicles set to make their NYC debuts.
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. Check out our in-depth inflation post for an overview of the Wednesday-night festivities. You'll find more holiday inspiration in our Thanksgiving Fun Guide.
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Enthusiastic paradegoers know the family fun actually begins the day before as the trademark giant balloons receive their annual helium injections. It’s no wonder it's included in our list of 100 Things to Do With Your Kids in NYC. Looking for what time and where to see the Macy's Parade on TV instead? Read on for that, too.
Watch the balloons come to life at the balloon inflation held on Thanksgiving eve. Photo by kowarski/CC BY 2.0
Wednesday, November 21, 1-8pm
The Macy's balloon inflation has become a holiday tradition of its own. Tens of thousands crowd the streets surrounding the American Museum of Natural History as annual favorites like Charlie Brown, 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. See our in-depth post on the Macy's balloon inflation for more info and pictures.
If this sounds too challenging, consider watching the post-parade balloon deflation on the side streets around 34th Street and Sixth Avenue.
GOKU from “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” swoops into the parade for the first time this year. Photo courtesy of Macy's
Thursday, November 22, 9am-noon
Starts at 77th Street and Central Park West, ends at Herald Square
The 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!
Joining old favorites in 2018 is one new giant balloon, Goku, from the forthcoming Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie. Little Cloud, a partnership between the artists at FriendsWithYou and Macy's Blue Sky Gallery, also takes flight, plus small-scale balloons from the upcoming Netflix Christmas special The Christmas Chronicles. This year also sees the NYC debut of a nutcracker balloon that first flew at a 2017 Macy's parade at Universal Studios, plus Sunny the Snowpal, a Macy's-created character who will headline the store's holiday campaign. Four new floats also join the mix, plus two new sets of ballonicles, and a revamped Tom Turkey.
Wisdom says 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, knowing the giant inflated balloons are visible from a block away.
The parade again travels its traditional Sixth Avenue route. 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.
RELATED: November GoList: Best Family Events in NYC All Month
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, continuing south 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 the 50 million other Americans. It airs from 9am to noon.
This article, originally published in November 2009, is updated annually.