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Guide to the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

My mother-in-law worked at Macy’s when my husband was young and I love hearing the stories about how he and his sister got to walk in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My sister-in-law’s favorite was the Holly Hobby balloon! (Yes, now you know how old we are!)

The iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been putting smiles on the faces of the young and young at heart for 88 years now, and for many, it just isn’t Thanksgiving without it. From the extravagant floats to the humongous balloons to the intricate performances and beyond, the parade has something for everyone. For families who plan on attending it in person in New York City this year, there are important details to know before you go. Here’s your guide to the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.Family Guide to the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

2015 Parade Route

The parade begins promptly at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, at the corner of 77th Street and Central Park West. It will travel south to Columbus Circle, where it will turn onto Central Park South before turning onto 6th Avenue. After traveling down 6th from 59th Street to 34th Street, the parade will turn right and end at Macy’s in Herald Square. It takes approximately 90 minutes for the parade to walk the 2.5-mile stretch.

(Hint: There’s an app! Download the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade app for your phone to see route maps, subway maps, where to find wifi, and more.)

A map of the 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route in New York City.

General Admission Seating

There is no fee to attend and view the parade, but all seating along the route is first-come, first-served. Grandstand seating is not open to the public, so spectators must bring their own chairs and blankets for their spots along the parade route. Many families camp out early in the morning (4 or 5 a.m.) in order to get a good spot for the parade, so plan accordingly.

The best places to sit for families who plan to arrive early (around 6 a.m.) are between 75th and 59th Streets on Central Park West, before the parade turns at Columbus Circle. For families looking to arrive a little later (between 7 and 8 a.m.) grab a spot on 6th Avenue between 59th and 38th Streets. Seating is very limited between 38th Street and Herald Square, due to the various TV broadcasts.

Tip: Call the Healing Arts Initiative at 212-284-4100 for information on areas reserved for spectators with special needs.

Hello Kitty balloon floating high at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Parade Floats, Balloons & Performers

For an extra special experience, head to New York City the day before Thanksgiving in order to see the large balloons being inflated for the parade. On Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, families can go to the area on Central Park West, between 81st and 77th Streets, in front of the American Museum of Natural History, and see the balloons before they march in the parade. Inflation takes place between 3 and 10 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

This year’s balloons will include brand new ones like Angry Birds, Mario (or Mario Bros. fame), the Transformers’ Optimus Prime and Star Wars’ R2-D2, as well as classics that kids (and parents!) love, like Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Spiderman and more. Some balloons stand up to four stories tall! New floats will showcase Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary and the Minions, and classics return such as a Christmas float with Santa and Mrs. Claus, of course.

(Hint: Check out the balloons as they’re inflated! Join parade organizers for the Macy’s Giant Balloon Inflation from 3pm to 10pm on the day before Thanksgiving. You can enter the special balloon inflation areas surrounding the Museum of Natural History beginning at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue. This piece of the parade is a lot less crowded and you have a much better chance of seeing the balloons up close when you attend the free viewing of the famous big balloon inflation.)

Twelve marching bands will join the parade, too, including ones from Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, California, and the New York Police Department’s Marching Band. Cheer and dance teams from around the country will also march in the parade, as will the Radio City Rockettes, as they do every year.

Hotels

The best way to see the parade is to get to New York City early, but that can be difficult if your family has to travel far. Instead, check out this great list of seven hotel parade packages on FamilyVacationCritic.com, which offer prime parade views and comfortable accommodations right on the parade route. If you can’t snag a parade package, try one of these other hotels that are either on or near the parade route:

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
Located on Central Park South, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Rates starting from $1,395 per night; free breakfast and hotel credit packages available.

JW Marriott Essex House New York
Located on Central Park South, between 6th and 7th Avenues. Standard rates not available during Thanksgiving week, but package rates include breakfast, parking and other amenities, with rates from $884 per night.

Hotel St. James
Located on West 45th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues. Rates start from about $162 per night.

6 Columbus
Located at 54 Thomas Street, near Columbus Circle. Rates start from $3,900 per night; free breakfast packages available.

Holiday Inn Express NYC-Herald Square 36th St.
Located on West 36th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Rates start from $365 per night with breakfast included; free parking and airport transportation packages available.

An aerial shot of Central Park in New York City.

Attractions

Whether you have time to spare before or after the parade, be sure to see these top attractions in New York City, all of which are on or near the parade route.

Central Park
Walk, bike, feed the birds or lets the kids be kids on the various playgrounds in Central Park. It’s a free attraction that can easily eat up spare time. Tip:Weather permitting, enjoy ice skating in the park for a memorable experience.

Radio City Music Hall
Snag tickets to the famous Christmas Spectacular show if you can for the night before the parade, or just enjoy walking around the iconic hall while sipping hot chocolate from Magnolia Bakery.

Rockefeller Center
Watch the ice skaters or give it a whirl yourself in Rockefeller Center. Walk the plaza while window-shopping or head to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck for spectacular views of the city.

Empire State Building
Whether you snap a photo of the famous skyscraper from the ground or are brave enough to travel to the top, the Empire State Building is a must-see whenever your family visits the Big Apple.

Restaurants

Stop in for a bite at one of these restaurants along the parade route during your trip to New York City.

Dallas BBQ
Southern cooking in the big city? It’s comfort food that comes in large portions at budget-friendly prices. Dallas BBQ is a chain, but the 72nd Street location is close to Central Park West and the parade route.

Astro
This Greek-American diner serves up breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night favorites and is located close to the parade route on 6th Avenue, between 55th and 56th Streets.

Tony’s Di Napoli – Midtown
Enjoy family-style Italian favorites at Tony’s Di Napoli’s Midtown location on 43rd Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues.

Magnolia Bakery
Enjoy cupcakes, cookies, hot chocolate and other treats from Magnolia Bakery. The location on 6th Avenue, between 49th and 50th Streets is convenient (and near Radio City Music Hall).


 

Finally, stay up-to-date on all parade things by connecting with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade website.