Thanksgiving. The time for food, family, football (RIP Giants), and turkey. Here in New York, Thanksgiving is also time for one of the city's most celebrated events: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
First held in 1924, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the world's largest parade, and the second-oldest (right behind Philly's annual parade) Thanksgiving parade in the country. An estimated 3.5 million spectators line the parade route, which goes from 77th Street down to Macy's in Herald Square. 44 million people typically watch at home. There are floats, performances, marching bands (from high schools around the country!), and of course, the huge character balloons.
The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924, with floats, bands, and live animals on loan from the Central Park Zoo. Animals were replaced by the big balloons in 1927. It's really cool to look back and see just how much things have changed.
Throughout the years, the parade has become more popular than ever. You've probably seen shots from the 1946 parade in Miracle on 34th Street.
Despite growing up on Long Island (just an hour train ride from the city), I had never gone to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Thanksgiving was a day to sleep in, and then gorge myself on mom's amazing turkey and 40 side dishes. I remember watching it on television a few times, but never being that into it. This year, I decided to go.
The night before the parade, spectators can go watch the balloon inflation. I wasn't that interested (and I just wanted to get on the train and go home after work), so I skipped it.
The parade starts at 9:00 AM over on Central Park West. When they say to get there early for a good spot, they mean it. My original plan was to get there around 7:00, but I was way too cold when I woke up for that. I ended up getting to 72nd Street at around 8:15. Fortunately, I found a good spot. I overheard people in front of me saying they planned to leave after the SpongeBob balloon came through, so I was ready to jump into place. Attending a parade is kind of like looking for parking in a crowded lot. When someone leaves, grab a spot while you can.
After a nice chilly wait, it was time for the parade!
I've gone to a few parades this year and I feel like the Macy's Parade was pretty similar to them. It's really cool to see the balloons up close, and everyone on the parade route is so excited to be taking part in the whole thing. This is another big New York City event that everyone should experience least once, but I think it's one of those things that is better in groups. I had a great time (and would have stayed longer if my toes weren't frozen), but I would have liked to experience it with a few other people.
If you're thinking about attending the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade next year, I definitely recommend it! It's one of those quintessential New York City events, and it's a great way to start the holiday season. My suggestions are to bundle up (with more layers than you think you need), and get there early! Also, try not to load up on coffee before you get there. There are millions of people on the street, so finding a restroom might be tricky, and you don't want to give up your spot to go bathroom hunting!