The ultimate insider's guide to the Macy's Thanksgiving parade

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Planning to visit NYC for the big parade? We've got you covered with when/where/how tips to get the most out of this one-of-a-kind holiday experience.

Budget Travel is based in New York City, and we get just as swept up in the city’s holiday lights, music, and energy as any visitor. With the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade coming up, we decided to take a peek behind the scenes to provide you with some of the best advice for getting the most out of this annual extravaganza.

Be a New Yorker for a day

"Be part of the hustle and bustle and embrace the energy of the Big Apple at holiday time," says Wesley Whatley, creative director, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. "Plus, a hotel near the route could be a bathroom lifesaver on Thanksgiving morning." It's fun to be a “New Yorker for a day” and leave the car at home. Or, if you must drive, park on either the far west or east side of Manhattan and take public transportation to the parade route. Before the big day, get a Metro Card for boarding subways and buses to avoid lines. Walking is always an option (and will help burn off some of the calories that you’ll be consuming later in the day).

Don't make the out-of-towner's no. 1 parade mistake

"Do not stand below 38th Street, the parade's 'quiet zone,'" says Whatley. Parade participants and performers use the quiet zone to prepare for their "closeup" on TV in Herald Square, and you will completely miss out on exciting parade music and performances in this area. The parade will step-off at 9 a.m. at 77th Street and Central Park West. The procession will travel down to Columbus Circle, turn onto Central Park South, then march down 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) to Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street.Want to know more about viewing the parade? The complete route can be found at macys.com/parade.

The "best place" to watch the parade is...

"Ever since the classic film Miracle on 34th Street, the dream parade viewing location has been from a Central Park West apartment on the 6th floor overlooking the route with the park as a backdrop," says Whatley. "But, since most of us don't have that kind of access, a close alternative is to approach the route from the west along Central Park West or the south along Central Park South - it's still early in the march, energy is high and the view of Central Park with our large helium balloons passing by is an iconic Macy's Parade experience!" The parade should take about 90 minutes to pass you by from the opening band to Santa Claus’s sleigh.

Ensure safety & comfort for your whole crew

"Dress for the weather," says Whatley. "Pack extra hand and foot warmers and dress in layers. Also, wear rainproof coats and boots. NYC weather in late November can change quickly and you want to stay comfortable, warm and dry!" The NYPD has a large presence to ensure a safe and happy morning for all, but follow your usual common-sense travel practices: Keep your valuables to a minimum; avoid carrying around oversize backpacks and luggage; always pay attention to your surroundings. And, as we always say here in NYC, “if you see something, say something.”

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