5 things to know about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

  • Sierra Hubbard
  • For the AJC
3:27 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 Atlanta Events

There are a number of things associated with Thanksgiving− turkey, pilgrims, big dinners and family. One of them is the tradition of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Since 1924, Macy's has helped thousands of families celebrate the holidays with its annual parade. 

Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Spider-Man at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York.

The parade steps off at 9 a.m. sharp from 77th Street and Central Park West and travels south. Once the procession hits Columbus Circle, it turns east onto Central Park South and marches until turning south again onto 6th Avenue. The parade continues south until reaching 34th Street, where it turns west and ends at 7th Avenue. The last of the balloons and performers touch 7th Avenue around noon.

Macy’s

While there is no seating available for the public, anyone is welcome to bring blankets or chairs and find a spot along the parade route at no charge. Since these spots are first-come, first-serve, some families camp out several hours before the parade begins. Plan to arrive early to snag good seats.

Many regular parade-goers recommend avoiding Macy's official parade viewing area on 34th Street, since it's the most crowded. One balloon handler on Reddit suggested that Columbus Circle also might not be a good viewing area, since the winds are more unpredictable and the procession moves more quickly through that spot. He added that the first few blocks south of 77th Street tend to attract smaller crowds because that street is farther from the train stations.

In addition to more than two dozen inflated balloons, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade features floats, clowns, performers and marching bands from across the country. The Peanuts gang appear on their float, Snoopy's Doghouse, alongside McDonald's Big Red Shoe, Mount Rushmore, Winter Wonderland by Delta Airlines and more, including Macy's many floats.

Macy's website also lists the participating clown troupes with themes like Breakfast Clowns, Arrsome Pirates and Viking Clowns. Marching bands in the procession include several high schools and colleges, the U.S. Air Force, New York Police Department, and, of course, Macy's Great American Marching Band.

In addition to the parade procession, the event features performances that are held in the official Macy's viewing area on 34th Street. Check the Macy's website for updates to the lineup and more information on these performances.

Jim Galloway / AJC
The Harrison High School Marching Band from Kennesaw performed Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016 in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Among Macy's novelty balloons is a special tribute that deserves recognition. As a nod to the 70th anniversary of "Miracle on 34th Street," Macy's is recreating "Harold the Baseball Player," a balloon that was featured in the classic black-and-white film set in New York.

Though the original balloon appeared in full color during the 1946 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, the recreation is black, white and gray as a throwback to the movie, which was shot on location and featured the parade. 

All of the balloons are inflated on Wednesday, November 22, and the event is open to the public. Head to Central Park West between 77th Street and 81st Street, near the American Museum of Natural History.

The balloons are inflated between 3 and 10 p.m., but the bulk of them are done in the evening, so it's best to be late to this event.

If you can't get to the Empire State for Thanksgiving, there are still plenty of ways to experience the parade in your pajamas. Watch the procession at 9 a.m. EST on NBC to see the balloons, floats and performers without fighting any crowds.

For a behind-the-scenes experience, Macy's has created a series of 360° videos that take the viewer on a tour of its parade studio. See the magic behind the Thanksgiving tradition and learn about how the balloons are made, from sketch to inflation.

View full experience