Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2021
- Macy's Parade in a Normal Year
- 1. Go the Night Before
- 2. What to Wear to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
- 3. There Really Are No Bathrooms
- 4. Splurge on a Hotel Room Overlooking the Parade Route
- 5. Tag Along With a Friend Who Splurged
- 6. Go to the Parade with a Talented Kid
- 7. Go for the Middle: Public Viewing Locations
- 8. Above all DON’T DRIVE
- 9. Leave Fido at Home
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day 2021 Parade Route
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is *mostly) back, baby! While most of us will gather around the TV to watch the parade, the lucky ones will see it live. If you’re one of those lucky people, a native New Yorker (and parade fan) shares her tips on what you need to know to watch the famous parade in person in 2021, including Covid-19 requirements, how to stay warm and the lowdown on the bathroom situation.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2021
Many New Yorkers brag that they have never seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person, and have never been to the top of the Empire State Building. I get it. But the annual holiday parade is one of the best free things to do in New York City.
Thanks to the pandemic, the 2020 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was shortened from two miles to one block and no in-person viewers were allowed. But this year’s parade, the traditional kick off of the Christmas holiday season, will be back to its old self. Expect to see musical performances, marching bands, giant balloons, floats, celebrities and Santa. In short, it’s the show we’re used to seeing.
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The big Covid-19 rule for the 2021 parade is that all volunteers and staff must be fully vaccinated and wear face coverings (except for some performers). So far, it’s not clear whether that will apply to in-person parade observers, but chances are you’ll need to bring your proof of vaccination if you want to see the giant balloon characters in person.
Of course, if we have learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that things can change quickly. Get the latest rules and requirements here.
Macy’s Parade in a Normal Year
If you go to the parade in a normal year, the streets of Manhattan are lined with New Yorkers and tourists. Look, we New Yorkers like to pretend we are jaded, but we are all little kids when it comes to giant helium balloons and sleigh bells.
The first year of the Macy’s Parade was 1924, with a hiatus during World War II due to a helium and rubber shortage. It’s been enchanting NYers and tourists ever since, and is ideal for a Thanksgiving family getaway.
When it’s not a pandemic, the best way to see the parade, in my opinion, is from your friend’s living room window. But real estate on Central Park West is among the city’s priciest – and it’s only on one side of the parade. The other side is Central Park, where hardy people line up hours ahead of time. (For the secret New Yorkers know, see Tip No. 1.)
So how can you see the parade live (and not just on NBC) on November 25, 2021, if you don’t have a friend with a $3 million-dollar view?
1. Go the Night Before
New Year’s Eve outranks New Year’s Day, and some people prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, so make Thanksgiving Eve your thing when it comes to the Thanksgiving Day parade. Your reward: You’ll be able to see those giant helium balloons without all the crowds.
The balloons are inflated from 74th to 81st streets then tied down on the Upper West Side. You can go see flat balloons, spend an hour at the Central Park Zoo, or something else from our 3 day itinerary for NYC, then return and see the first few inflated. Go to dinner, and come back. Even more parade balloons will be filled and ready to parade.
TravelingMom Tip: Although balloon inflation is from 74th to 81st streets, the only access point is 74th Street and Columbus Avenue.
2. What to Wear to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Yes you are in NYC, but bundle up the kids, layer on the moisture-wicking fabrics and Smartwool. However warmly you dress, bring an extra layer. The first parade we took our kids to ended early for us when they got cold.
Bring a dry breakfast to the parade route. There should be no liquids consumed while you await the parade. Why? Because there are no bathroom breaks at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. That sweet old woman who smiled at your kids when they toddled on the empty Manhattan streets at 7 a.m. will assert her claim to your tiny bit of real estate if you even think of vacating for a restroom.
You may bring an emergency bottle of water, which might well freeze while you wait.
3. There Really Are No Bathrooms
4. Splurge on a Hotel Room Overlooking the Parade Route
It’s likely too late to do it for this year — the precious rooms sell out quickly. But plan now for 2022 and beyond. If you splurge enough (and book really, really early), you might snag a room with a view of the parade route and you can look down upon the festivities from the warmth of your room.
If that price is a little too steep, you can bundle up and head down to street level. There, you’ll get an unobstructed parade view, courtesy of the hotel’s doormen, who keep the section in front of the hotel open for guests and free of the general parade-watching riffraff.
5. Tag Along With a Friend Who Splurged
Just make sure your friend vouches for you — the doormen will only let you in if you can prove you have a good (paying) reason to be in the hotel on parade day.
Lucky for us, my kids have a deep-pocketed out-of-town uncle who loves the Thanksgiving Day parade and springs for a hotel room along the parade route.
TravelingMom Tip: Before you book, be sure the hotel is along the route (see below). My brother-in-law has to switch hotels one year when when the route changed.
6. Go to the Parade with a Talented Kid
All those marching bands and cheerleaders from across the country get to perform in the parade while their adult guardians and other hangers-on get to watch from a special viewing area. If your kid is super talented and in a Broadway show, Broadway performers also have floats.
TravelingMom Tip: Macy’s employees get access to closed areas along the route, which might make this a good time to take a part-time job in retail.
7. Go for the Middle: Public Viewing Locations
The beginning (Central Park West) and end of the parade route (Macy’s Herald Square) are the most crowded spots. Head for somewhere midtown Manhattan, where you have the best chance of finding a viewing spot.
In 2021, amid pandemic and social distancing concerns, the least crowded spots will be especially coveted.
8. Above all DON’T DRIVE
Even the day before the Macy’s parade (November 24, 2021), traffic will be epic. The parade floats are built in New Jersey, then towed to the Big Apple for the big event. Take the subway so you can stand on the street and watch, not curse the time you spend sitting in traffic.
9. Leave Fido at Home
This is not the place to bring pets. The giant balloons can freak them out, the crowds are big, and if your dog poops, do you really want to hold a bag of waste until you can get to a garbage can?
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day 2021 Parade Route
The 2021 parade route is still being developed. We will update this section as information is released.
To give you an idea of what the route could look like, this is how the 2019 parade was laid out:
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade started at West 77th Street & Central Park West at 9 a.m. People had to line up by 6 a.m on the west side of Central Park West from West 75th to West 59th streets to get a great spot. Then they had to stand around for hours before the parade even started.
The parade turned on Central Park South at Columbus Circle, (which had no viewing spots) then headed south onto 6th Avenue. People lined up on both sides of 6th Avenue from West 59th Street to West 38th Street.
The Grandstand was located at Macy’s Herald Square, but only people with tickets were admitted to sit in the viewing area. If you’ve watched the parade on television, this is where the performances are filmed. Santa Claus brings up the rear, signaling the official start of the holiday season and time to shop at Macy’s department store.