5 Tips for Viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Since 2005 it has been a tradition for my mom and I to meet in New York City during the holidays. We’d shop and sip eggnog lattes at Starbucks in the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, see the Rockettes’ famous high kicks and admire the massive glittering tree in Rockefeller Center as skaters glided by on the rink below. But something we hadn’t ever done was to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a New York City Tradition since 1924. So when my mom suggested we make our annual trip to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I was thrilled! We’d be joining the other 3.5 million people that flock to the streets of Manhattan to see the more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, 1,000 clowns, and 30 parade floats entertain people of all ages. Most likely, visiting NYC to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a once in a lifetime experience, like it was for us. So here are my tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
1. See the balloons being blown up.

It is far less crowded and you have a much better chance of seeing the balloons up close by attending the free viewing of the famous big balloon inflation. It is available to the public on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue from 3 – 10pm the night before the Parade.

2. Get up very early and dress in layers. 

The Parade begins at 9am but approximately 3.5 million parade-goers take to the streets wanting the perfect view. Plan to arrive to claim your spot along the parade route by 6am and don’t plan moving from that spot. Pack a bag with snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate, and games or books to keep your kids entertained while waiting for the parade to begin. And remember that NYC wind can have quite the bite, so dress warmly in layers.

There are not any designated seating areas, handicapped areas, or seats sold. The bleachers and seats you may have seen on the telecasts of the Parade are designated for Macy’s employees and are never sold or open to the general public.

2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route

2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route

3. Know the Parade route.

The Parade route has changed in the last couple of years, so be sure to verify the current Parade route. The 2014 Parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West at 9am and marches south on Central Park West. At Columbus Circle, the Parade then turns East onto Central Park South instead of heading down Broadway as it has in past years. When the Parade reaches 6th Avenue, it turns south at the corner of Central Park South and marches south from 59th Street to 34th Street. From 6th (Avenue of the Americas), it heads west on 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square and ends there at around 12pm.

Tip: Download the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade app for your iPhone for route maps, subway maps, where to find wifi, and more.

Many agree that the best spot to watch the parade from is Columbus Circle and this is precisely where my mom and I watched the Parade from. Also note that there is no viewing access on 6th Avenue between 34th Street and 38th Street; this is the official telecast area.

4. Splurge

The most stress-free way to view the Parade is to splurge on a parade view hotel room along the Parade route. The Trump International Tower at Broadway and Columbus Circle was the perfect way for us to stay comfortable and warm while viewing the Parade. We knew which balloons were coming by having the Parade on tv and had a terrific view from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Trump International Tower also had a guest-only VIP viewing area on the street in front of the hotel where we would watch the action without fear of losing our spot or pushing through massive crowds. We alternated between the room and street throughout the 3-hour Parade.

It is also nearly impossible to see the performances by Broadway musicals and famous musicians since they take place in the over-crowded official viewing area. You’ll be able to catch the stars as they go by on floats and then watch the performances from the comfort of your room.

A room at the Trump International Tower for Parade viewing books up nearly one year in advance and you’ll need to be prepared to spend around $1000 per night for this prime location.

Other Parade view hotels include the Mandarin Oriental New York, which wasn’t yet opened when we watched the Parade from Trump International Tower. Mandarin Oriental offers the I Love a Parade package which includes exclusive access with a bird’s eye view to watch the Parade in the warmth and comfort of their Mandarin Ballroom. You can also splurge to watch from the comfort of your own Premier Central Park View room or suite with floor to ceiling windows on the 43rd to 54th floors of the hotel. And while you’re there, be sure to indulge in MO’s Afternoon Tea and a special holiday tea is offered throughout the season.

The New York Hilton Midtown also offers a number of Thanksgiving Packages from partial view to premium full view rooms. Unfortunately, I can’t endorse the New York Hilton Midtown with a glowing recommendation. I stayed here just a few months ago and the walls were so thin that I could hear every noise from the neighboring rooms. The elevators are incredibly slow, and wifi is supposed to be free for Hilton Honors members (it’s free to join) but the various codes I was given over the course of my stay never worked. These were all minor complaints, but that no care was given to my various complaints to management really shows their complete lack of customer service. It’s unfortunate as this the hotel is a prime Midtown location.

5. Find and book a reservation at NYC restaurant nearby for lunch.

Once the Parade ends, 3.5 million people are pushing their way to subways and out of the areas closed off to traffic to try to hail taxis. Instead of joining the stampede, find a nearby restaurant that is open on Thanksgiving and make a reservation for lunch. You can wait out the crowds while warming up over a hot meal.

Have you been to NYC during Thanksgiving? What other tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade do you have?

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5 Tips for Viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


  1. Samy Mariappan says

    while Searching through google on thanksgiving day and travel, came across your blog. Pls comment on where is the best place to stay with family in NY during thanksgiving period. Appreciate your feedback

    • says

      Hi Samy! Thanks for stopping by our blog! I’m not sure how old your kiddos are, but the streets can get quite crowded during the parade and you do need to get there very early to get a decent viewing spot. I think it is worth the splurge to stay at Trump or another hotel that offers similar private viewing areas. It was really nice to be able to alternate between the room and street while watching the parade. I know my little cousins did not have the attention span to just spend the entire parade on the street. It was great for them to be able to go to the room and play with their toys.

  2. Liz says

    I’m an Aussie who fell in love with NYC when I visited back in 2006. Have been dying to visit again and next time I would love it to be around the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade time, so am seriously thinking about planning ahead for next year’s parade. Apart from Trump Tower, is there a hotel you would recommend for this purpose that is just a little cheaper? What is NYC like in general during this time period? Do the shops close down over the holidays, or is there a great buzz around (a special buzz as opposed to the normal awesome buzz that permeates NYC)? What is the weather usually like in November? Last time I visited was in September. Any ‘insider’ info is greatly appreciated.

    • says

      Hi Liz! Any of the hotels along the route with private viewing are going to be expensive. While this is an excellent splurge to ensure you have a great spot, you can stay just about anywhere and join the masses along the parade route. The parade route offers over 2 miles of viewing for the public.

      The stores and things do close on Thanksgiving Day, close early on Christmas Eve, and are closed Christmas Day. There is still plenty to do and restaurants are open. The weather can vary. We got lucky with relatively warm weather and sunshine on our visit, but we’ve had cold and rain on other visits around the same time. It can snow in NYC as well. You best bet is to check the forecast a few days before your trip and pack accordingly. You’ll also want layers no matter the weather as it will be cold early in the morning when you get your spot and can warm up as the morning proceeds.

  3. Gene says

    Check your parade route. The one you list was last used in 2011. 2013, like 2012, will come down CPW, make left onto CPS and then proceed to 6th ave. (bypassing 7th ave completely). Right onto 6th ave. Down 6th ave. until it makes a left onto 34th street.

    • says

      Hi Gene,

      Thanks for the reminder to update! The route was actually the 2012 one, which we got right from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade press room when we published this last year. The route has again changed and we’ve updated accordingly.

  4. says

    Good stuff! I’ve always wanted to visit NYC during the holiday season. May have to make it down this year to check out the parade in person. Sounds like a lot of fun.

  5. Melissa says

    Stumbled upon your blog and will definitely plan to read more. Thank you for publishing the parade route and your tips. We will be there this year and we were unsure of the correct route.

    • says

      It’s a huge deal in the US. A Thanksgiving tradition I grew up watching on tv every year, so it was a real treat to attend in person. Plus NYC just happens to be one of my very favorite cities.

  6. says

    we did the parade one year. We went to see the balloons the night before by Musuem of Natural history. Ironically enough, my baby got sick and we missed the actual parade. But at least I got to see the huge balloons.

  7. bob says

    sounds like you have to get to the parade route early and stay for a while…are there port-a-pots available throughout the parade route in case you need to use the restroom?

  8. says

    Thanks for the tips. Planning on taking my kids next year to see the parade. Good to know about the hotel and its private viewing area. Will for sure do this. And I love the idea of taking them to see the balloons being blown up. I think they’ll appreciate it so much more having seen it from start to finish.

  9. Chris says

    In 2009 my best friend and I noticed that the steel risers in the W 60’s along Central Park West can be accessed by the public. We arrived at CPW & W 68th around 645am and scored an ideal viewing spot. Around 830am, an assorted bunch of random people (including the couple that was sitting next to us), moved over to the risers. I think the risers are reserved earlier in the morning, but once the parade start time gets closer it seems like security is minimal (if not nonexistent) since around 200 people filled the empty spaces at these risers.

  10. dawn says

    My family and I are leaving this Friday! to drive out and camp in Jersey and then head over to Macy’s Parade. I was wondering what was and was not allowed….like chairs or?? Also what restaurant would you recommend for lunch to get a reservation on the parade route?

    • says

      Enjoy Dawn! You can bring chairs if you like though it may be difficult to maintain your spot as more people come.

      A lot of restaurants right along the parade route are going to be more expensive (think in the range of $90 per person). Most offer a pre-fixe menu on Thanksgiving Day.

      A few of my favorite NYC restaurants do have a Thanksgiving menu at a reasonable price:

      On Thanksgiving, Balthazar will serve the Saturday brunch menu in the morning and afternoon. Then for dinner, the restaurant will offer a turkey special for $39 that will include light and dark meat turkey, baked sweet potato puree, cranberry sauce, and Brussels sprouts. Call 212-965-1414 for reservations.

      The eclectic eatery Delicatessen will feature the chef’s fall favorites, including turkey tortellini soup, local roasted turkey with all the trimmings, and assorted pies for $42. Call 212-226-0211 for reservations.

      We did the Sea Grill for Christmas Dinner and it was fantastic. Thanksgiving dinner at Rockefeller Center with views of the iconic skating rink from your table at The Sea Grill. The $89 prix fixe menu is heavy on the seafood (including lobster, sashimi, and scallops), but you can get your Thanksgiving turkey too (complete with stuffing and cranberry-kumquat relish). Call 212-332-7610 for reservations.

      Hope these suggestions help!

  11. Deb says

    Thanks for the information! My cousin and I have this on our bucket list, and 2014 is ‘our year’ to make it happen. As newbies to this planning, when do they post the route for the 2014 parade, so you know if the Trump or any other hotel would be viable to have THE EXPERIENCE. ?

  12. Rebecca says

    I was planning on a trip to NYC to see the Macy’s parade in 2014, but, if there is no where to use a port a potty
    or any public restrooms, I think I might just have to pass. I can’t understand why they don’t supply these port a potties???????

    • says

      Hi Amy! Not really. With all the people standing, you wouldn’t be able to see during the parade. I suppose you could bring a collapsible camp chair to sit while you hold your place until parade time.

  13. Lillian says

    Hi, I have a 16 year old daughter that is handicapped she is in a wheel chair. Are there areas that are reserved for handicapped children? It will be our first time going to New York and her dream is to see and experience the Macy’s Parade. We live in Puerto Rico and every year she watches it on T.V. Any information will be greatly appreciated. Especially a hotel that is reasonable near or on the route.

    Thank you,

    • says

      Hi Lillian! No, there are no reserved areas. What I would recommend is booking a hotel on the parade route that offers private viewing access areas, as the Trump Tower does. These areas are only accessible to hotel guests so you won’t have to fight the crowds. I hate to say that hotels on the parade route are not by any means reasonably priced. It’s a once in a lifetime experience you’ll have to splurge for.

    • Susan Roth says

      I just found this which could help you with your handicapped daughter.
      Tip: Call the Healing Arts Initiative at 212-284-4100 for information on areas reserved for spectators with special needs.

  14. crystal says

    we would like to visit but I have a one year old. what are your suggestions as my daughter goes to school there and I must see her and the parade would be a added bonus for my middle daughter.

    • says

      That’s a really long day for a little one if you don’t stay at a hotel on the parade route where you can easily take a break away without losing your spot. It’s probably worth the splurge to book in a hotel like Trump Tower for the parade.

  15. terri says

    My daughter and her school will be one of the bands in the parade this year. can we buy tickets for a reserved area?
    we will be able to tour the city 3 days before the parade. we have a 4 yr old and want to take him to a some places that will make him say “WOW” any recommendations?

    • says

      Hi Terri! How awesome that your daughter will be IN the parade! No, there are no tickets for sale or reserved areas unless you are staying at a hotel on the parade route that has their own private reserved area for hotel guests. Your little one will love FAO Schwartz. You can play on the piano from the movie Big. Also don’t miss ice skating in Central Park.

  16. Carey says

    Thanks for this great info. I wish I saw this before I booked my trip. My family (kids ages: 4 and 5) and I will be staying at the Le Parker Meridien on 119W and 56th St. We have never done the parade and was wondering if we need to buy tickets? Also, besides seeing the balloons being blown up the day before would you recommend us doing or seeing anything else that is a must do? Lastly, I saw your restaurant recommendations do you think those are good for my kids ages or can you recommend any other ones that might be better with little ones!! Thanks in advance for all your help!!!


    • says

      Hi Carey! Unfortunately, you can’t buy tickets. It’s just a public event and you’ll have to be up and out on the parade route early to secure a spot. Luckily Le Parker Meridien isn’t too far of a walk. And while staying there, be sure to visit Burger Joint behind the velvet curtain in the lobby. It’s cash only and a burger is the only thing on the menu, but it’s fantastic!

      For your kiddos, take them to play on the piano from the movie Big in FAO Schwartz and ice skating on the pond in Central Park. They might also like one of the Disney shows on Broadway. The new Aladdin is fantastic!

      As far as the restaurants, most will have menus available online. Just check out the menu to see if they offer something for kids or have things your kids will like.

  17. Ruwena says

    Love reading your blog. Thanks! We r going to NY for first time with our 8 year old twin boys. We have been but the kids haven’t. First time for all of us to see the parade. I’m so excited . We are staying at New York Hikton on 57th and 6th Ave. if I understand correctly from your image, we r on the parade route, correct? Any other guidance?

    • says

      Thanks Ruwena! Yes, Hilton Midtown is on the parade route and itt is offering a number of Thanksgiving Packages with viewing options ranging from partial view to premium view. A Premium View room will cost over $1,000 a night, and rooms with no view start at $299 (but parade proximity means guests can try to snag a spot in front of the building). Hilton doesn’t offer any private viewing areas for guests like Trump does.

      • Linda tenPas says

        My husband and I are staying at the Hilton Midtown and we did buy a package which includes breakfast and a private, guarded viewing area. We have bracelets to wear showing we can be in the private, outside area. Although, I may have stayed at Trump, I think this will be just fine!

    • says

      Hi Lisa! No, unfortunately there is no reserved seating for anyone or reason. Bleachers and seating that you might have seen on TV broadcasts of the parade are held exclusively for Macy’s employees and are never sold or provided to other guests.

  18. says

    Can you believe that I lived in Manhattan for five years and never once made it out to watch this parade? The thought of standing out in the cold (and often rain) along with all those other people was enough to make me hide under the covers! Now, though, I kind of wish I’d gone. Such a unique experience!

  19. says

    I’ve always wanted to visit the Macys Thanksgiving day parade. I’ll definitely save these types and share them with a few people I know who are going this year. Pinned!

  20. says

    I haven’t been to view the parade, let alone New York. But going during Thanksgiving and watching the parade is on my (bucket/life/to do) list. Thanks for the info about the hotels. I think I would like staying there and watching from my room.

  21. says

    What an amazing experience it would be to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC firsthand! And I am with you- I would be ALL about splurging a little to book a room with a parade view! I am not one for crowds… or the cold, lol! 😉 Pinned just in case we ever decide to cross this one off our travel bucket list.

  22. says

    I have the BEST childhood memories of watching the parade on TV! My parents would always get Dunkin Donuts as a treat and we would watch the parade all together! Think I would still rather watch on TV than face the crowds!

  23. Kim says


    Thanks for all the information! I love your idea of booking a thanksgiving lunch for after te parade. Do you have any idea which restaurants around Central Park West would serve a thanksgiving lunch (and really around 12pm at the latest, because we have to catch a plain than evening)? Never been to New York before! Thanks for your input. :-)

    • says

      Hi Kim! Enjoy your visit to NYC! Tavern of the Green (Central Park West) has been recently renovated and re-opened. They are serving a traditional Thanksgiving menu. Café Causette at Mandarin Oriental begins serving their special Thanksgiving lunch at 11:30 and that is located right at Central Park West and Columbus Circle. It’s not at Central Park, but I also really like the Rock Center Cafe at 50th and 5th Ave.

  24. Linda tenPas says

    nyctrip.com is the agency I used. I hope the information below helps! :)

    The travel agent is very responsive and helpful. We have Hilton insiders VIP parade view for two adults which includes brunch and a private viewing area outside. We added a Christmas light sightseeing tour and Thanksgiving dinner. We chose the nicer dinner at Pigalle’s over a buffett dinner (I don’t remember if that was at the hotel or not). She booked tickets for a Broadway show Friday night. She would have booked other dinners, but we wanted to make our own choices, so we booked the rest of the trip on our own. We have friends and family there.

    Here is a copy of other items included (we have already rec’d our packet with all of these items below, wristbands for the parade and coupons for the dinner we already paid for):

    Includes All Taxes, Choice of the Empire St. Bldg., Museum of the City of New York or NY Water Taxi Statue of Liberty Flex Pass ; and a choice of Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Metropolitan Museum of Art or Museum of Nat’l History Admission; Shopping discounts; Gift with purchase at Bloomingdale’s; Insider Tips; Future travel discount; Map; Emergency Travel Assistance

    Sightseeing: Hilton Insider’s VIP Parade View for 2 Adult(s) on 11/27/2014 at 7:00 am

    Sightseeing: Thursday Insiders Window Displays Sightseeing Tour for 2 Adult(s) on 11/27/2014 at 5:30:00 PM

  25. Kim says

    When googeling for Café Causette at Mandarin Oriental I always end up with websites on their Hong Kong location. Can you give me a link to information on the Café Causette in New York, or a link where I can make reservations?

    Thanks again!

  26. Catherine says

    We are visiting my daughter during Thanksgiving who just moved to Manhatten. We would love to see the parade inside a location where we can have brunch or breakfast along the route of the parade. There are so many restruants in nyc, can locals please recommend somewhere I can call to make a reservation? Thanks

  27. Tommie says

    We are staying at the new Hyatt Time Square (on 45th between 6th and Broadway). The front door to our hotel is about 400ft. from the parade route. We can’t wait. Being this far down on the route would we still need to get there around 6ish?

    Also anyone planning to watch the parade near 58th st. go to the Green Cafe. Its inexpensive and pretty good.


  28. Chris says

    When searching I am seeing seats that say VIP Heralds Square for around $1100 a piece. Are these reserved seats or still general admission seats?

      • Chris says

        We have an opportunity to stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square or Marriott in Heralds Square. Which would you choose?

  29. Mari says

    This will be my family’s first year attending the parade!! so excited 😉 are backpacks allowed? like to carry drinks, snacks for the kiddos..would you suggest bringing chairs for the wait? i am brining my 4 kids ages 10 to 16 and one of my son’s has autism so I am trying to make him as comfortable as possible while we wait for the parade to start..any tips would be helpful! ! thanks :-)

    • says

      Hi Mari! Yes, you can bring a backpack with drinks and snacks. Maybe bring those collapsible camp style chairs that you can stuff back in their bag and sling over your shoulder once the parade starts. You won’t be able to stay seated once the parade gets going with people pushing to try and see.

  30. Chuck says

    Very helpful blog! My wife and daughter will be handling one of the balloons this year, and I would like to be on the curb to get some photos. Will be staying at a hotel near 6th Avenue and 40th Street. How early would you suggest getting to that intersection to have a shot at a front row spot? Thanks!

    • says

      How awesome Chuck! That would be my next Macy’s Thanksgiving Day experience wish – to man a balloon or ride on a float! I would still be out there by 6am – 6:30am. We went out walking early in the morning and people were out in droves by then.

  31. principia says

    I was thinking about taking my children. They are 4 and 7. But now that I just read that there are no bathrooms I’m a little nervous. I may just mske sure they do not drink a lot.

    • says

      No, there are not bathrooms. You’d have to go in to a nearby coffee shop or restaurant to use the bathroom. If you have others attending the parade with you, like a partner or friends, you could take turns going to the bathroom while the others try to hold your spot.

  32. Dan Scott-Drysdale says

    Am in NYC now having arrived yesterday. Been to see the inflation of the balloons and got soaked in the rain, will be hoping to grab a view somewhere en route but as staying with my partner and my mother, won’t be able to get there at 6am!

  33. Srbsrb says

    Is it possible the 3.5 million people is an exaggeration? That is about 1000 people a meter, whereas it seems more like 60 people per meter (both sides of the street).

  34. Kim says

    According to the tips above, I watched the parade in the recommended spot, arrived early and booked a thanksgiving lunch nearby. But afterwards I met someone who watched the parade from Rockefeller center. He arrived only 15 minutes in advance and had a perfect view of everything (only 3 people in front of him, he also saw the marching bands etc.), so I guess that is a better spot then. We only saw the balloons from afar.

    The lunch was very rush rush and too expensive for what it was!

    • says

      I’m sorry to hear that your experience wasn’t the best. It sounds as though the gentleman you met got very, very lucky with arriving that late. I would suspect the poor weather this year played a role in keeping crowds at bay. As far as lunch, the restaurants around Rockefeller Center would have been very close in price.

  35. Steve says

    Watching the parade with my family is high on my “bucket list”. We have several family members who are uncomfortable in crowds, so the hotel packages are interesting. However, with about 8-10 adults and several kids, hotels could get quite pricey. Any advice on renting an apartment/condo along the parade route ? We’d love to do our own cooking and spend Thanksgiving week in NYC.

  36. Jane says

    Hi, we saw the Macys parade 2014 from the corner of 34th street,we had breakfast in The Harold restaurant & walked a few hundred yards up road, wasn’t too busy at first & we managed to bag our spot around 9am just up from the pandora shop quite easily but an hour later we could not move it was rammed.
    But what an experience it was & we will be def going back next year.
    We also had dinner the night before in a restaurant opposite the hotel where all the clowns go night before it was brilliant watching all these people going into the hotel so excited & a great atmosphere all around.
    Can’t wait to return in 2015

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