Insider Tips for Enjoying the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Kermit BalloonKermit the Frog balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York City
Courtesy Macy's

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. Here, the best insider intel from Bill Schermerhorn, vice president of creative for annual events at Macy’s.

Q: What's your advice for out-of-towners coming in for the parade?
A:
My best advice for out-of-towners is to become a true “New Yorker For A Day” and leave the car at home. Or at least park on either the far west or east side of Manhattan and take public transportation to the parade route. Get a Metro Card [for boarding subways and buses] before the big day, if possible, 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.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake parade-goers make?
A:
Many first-time Macy’s Parade visitors attempt to see the parade from the area around Macy’s Herald Square.  Not a good move. This area is blocked off for the NBC telecast and not accessible to the public. (The grandstand seating you see on television is for Macy’s employees, family members and parade partners.)  Furthermore, between 37th and 34th Streets is a “quiet zone” where parade participants prepare for their television moment.  There is no performance whatsoever in this three-block area. My advice is to stay away and head north to the Upper West Side. The Parade route can be found at macys.com/parade.

Q: Gotta ask: Is there a "best place" to watch the parade?
A:
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day 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. My advice is to avoid the area south of 38th Street for the best viewing. One of the great advantages of the fairly recent route change is that 6th Avenue (between 59th and 42nd streets) has wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and plazas. Another option is to head farther north toward the start of the parade route.  Many New Yorkers prefer viewing along Central Park West on the west side of the street. It’s a family neighborhood, and the parade tends to move at a faster pace with a special burst of joyful energy from the 8,000 participants. The parade should take about 90 minutes to pass you by from the opening band to Santa Claus’s sleigh.

Q: What are your overall safety/happiness tips?
A:
Thanks to the enthusiastic and communal joy of Thanksgiving morning, New York City can actually feel like a "big small town." (And I’m from a small town, so trust me!) Along the parade route, it’s families, friends, and citizens from around the world sharing in one of America’s greatest traditions. Also, our partners at the NYPD have a large presence to ensure a safe and happy morning for all. That said, my advice is to follow the common sense rules for any large gathering: Keep your valuables to a minimum; avoid carrying around oversize backpacks and luggage; always pay attention to your surroundings, especially while using the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade app on your smartphone. Finally, “if you see something, say something.” As for happiness, bring along your patience and a holiday spirit. Pack some hand warmers and a poncho, just in case. The marching bands, clowns, celebrity talent, performance groups and those giant helium balloons will provide the rest.

Q: Any specific "do-this-not-that" advice?
A: Go to macys.com/parade for all of the exciting details of the 89th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  And download the free Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade app for more parade-day tips and fun. The app is available from the iTunes App Store or from Google Play. Finally, it’s never too early to plan for 2016 and the 90th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, especially if you are in the mood for a hotel room that overlooks the parade route. We look forward to seeing you on Thanksgiving morning!  Let’s have a parade!

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