Comprehensive Guide to Watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with Your Kids

Tom the Turkey at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo Courtesy: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®

​​If you’re planning to enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with your little ones, remember a few essential tips for a successful and memorable experience. This highly anticipated event draws thousands of spectators each year, and if you’re attending with kids, it’s essential to be well-prepared and make the most of this incredible experience. This guide includes tips for watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with kids. From securing the prime viewing spots to ensuring your little ones stay warm and comfortable throughout the hours-long event, we have covered you for planning your next family vacation to NYC. So grab your hot cocoa, bundle up in cozy scarves and hats, and get ready to create lasting memories as colorful floats, giant balloons, and marching bands captivate both young and old alike! 

Plan Your Visit to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

A Bluey float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo Courtesy: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®

Planning your visit to see Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with kids can be a delightfully festive experience for the whole family! Arriving early is essential if you want to secure a prime viewing spot. Although the parade starts at 9 a.m., consider reaching the parade route at least two hours before the scheduled start time. Thousands of spectators gather along the streets of Manhattan, eagerly awaiting the event. Some start lining up as early as 6 a.m. to get the best position! 

The parade starts at W 77th Street & Central Park West and ends at Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street. When selecting a viewing spot, keep in mind that certain sections tend to attract larger crowds than others. To avoid feeling cramped while accommodating little ones comfortably, consider opting for less crowded zones. Spots further away from major intersections or closer to Central Park West rather than Herald Square may be a good fit!

READ NEXT: 15 Best New York City Outdoor Activities For Kids

Select the Perfect Viewing Spot for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

A crowd of spectators at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo Courtesy: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®

Choosing the right viewing spot is crucial to enjoy the parade fully. Herald Square or 34th Street tends to be more crowded but provides a fantastic view of the floats, giant balloons, performers, and celebrity appearances at close range. To steer clear of heavy crowds and limited visibility, avoid Columbus Circle and 6th Avenue between West 34th & West 38th Streets. Additionally, choosing a spot near subway stations can facilitate quick exits after the parade ends.

For an excellent viewing experience, consider these prime locations:

  • Central Park West from 75th to 61st Street: This area offers a spacious viewing experience with a picturesque background of Central Park.
  • 6th Avenue from 59th to 38th Street: The wide streets along 6th Avenue provide ample space for viewing the parade.

Watch the Pre-Parade Festivities

Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira

One of the most exciting and memorable experiences for families attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with kids is to witness the pre-parade festivities. In particular, the inflation of parade floats on the evening before. This enchanting event lets children get a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes process of bringing those iconic floats to life.

As darkness falls over Manhattan, Central Park West becomes a vibrant spectacle as gigantic balloons begin inflating right before your eyes. From Snoopy soaring high above spectators to Hello Kitty gracefully floating through the air, witnessing these larger-than-life creations come alive is nothing short of breathtaking for little ones who have grown up watching them on TV year after year.

Finally, remember that this event can get crowded. Arrive early in the afternoon (around 2–3 p.m.) to avoid the biggest crowds.

Reserve your tickets for the American Museum of Natural History here with GetYourGuide!

Think About Timing and Logistics

The Peanuts float, showcasing several of the characters, at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo Courtesy: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®

When planning your family outing to witness the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with kids, it’s essential to think about timing and logistics. Arriving early at the parade route allows you to secure a prime viewing spot for your little ones. Once you find your spot, be prepared to stay there throughout the parade, since you can’t cross the parade path.

Additionally, choose a location near restrooms or facilities that offer easy access to them. Remembering essentials such as wipes and hand sanitizer can prove invaluable during an event. Plus, prepare for the crowd rush at Penn Station after the parade to navigate through congested areas with children in tow. We recommend planning alternative routes depending on where you’re headed. 

RELATED: Best Things To Do In New York City With Young Kids

Take the Weather into Account and Dress Warmly

People dressed warmly, while walking in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo Courtesy: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®

One of the most important tips for watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with kids is to take the weather into account, especially since November can be quite chilly in the city. However, the weather can vary, so check the forecast and prepare accordingly.

Bundling up in multiple layers not only provides insulation but also allows for greater flexibility in adjusting body temperature as needed. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer. Then, add an insulating middle layer such as fleece or wool. Finish with a wind-resistant outer shell. Don’t forget about hats, scarves, and gloves that will further protect against the cold. 

Hand and toe warmers are also a lifesaver in the cold weather, especially for kids. These small packets generate heat and can be placed in gloves and shoes. This will help keep fingers and toes warm throughout the parade. You can also bring along blankets and portable seating options like camping chairs or lightweight foldable stools. This way, you can create a cozy and comfortable seating area for your family while waiting for the parade to begin. You can find more of our favorite cold weather/winter gear here: Ultimate Guide To Ski Gear For Kids.

Visit the Empire State Building! Reserve your tickets here with GetYourGuide!

Bring Entertainment for Your Kids

A star balloon reading "Believe" at the Macy's Day Parade.

Another challenge while attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC with kids is keeping them entertained before the parade starts. To tackle this, we suggest bringing along a variety of games, activities, and snacks. Or, pack small board games or card decks suitable for young children that can easily be played on the go.

Additionally, consider printable activity sheets with coloring pages themed around the holiday season or even characters seen at the parade. Don’t forget an assortment of delicious snacks – granola bars, fresh fruit slices, or homemade trail mix. Packing hot chocolate in a thermos can also be a great way to keep the kids warm during the wait.

Click here to discover ​​23+ Thanksgiving Destinations In And Around The United States For Families

Learn Parade Etiquette for Dealing with the Crowds

Santa and his Elves on their float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo Courtesy: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®

As you bring your little ones to experience the magic of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it’s important to keep some parade etiquette in mind. While the parade route is long and crowds tend to disperse, some areas can get congested. Stay patient, be polite to fellow spectators, and keep a close eye on your kids in the crowd. Respect those around you by avoiding blocking their view or invading their personal space. Also, encourage children to stay behind safety barriers and never wander off into the crowd. 

If you plan to watch the parade from a location near local residents, be mindful of their property. It’s an excellent opportunity to teach your kids about being considerate and responsible tourists.

Enjoy the Parade Floats and Performances

The Sesame Street parade float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Photo Courtesy: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade®

Whether you are a local or visiting New York City with your kids, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an iconic event you shouldn’t miss. One of the highlights of this grand spectacle is the elaborate parade floats and mesmerizing performances that grace the streets of Manhattan. Although the parade starts at 9:00 a.m., the floats and balloons don’t reach Macy’s Herald Square until around 10:30 a.m.

While waiting for the main event, there are performances in front of Macy’s to entertain the early spectators. The grandstands along the parade route are usually reserved for Macy’s guests, but you can still find excellent viewing spots elsewhere. If you’re fine with just seeing the tops of floats and balloons, you can catch them from the northwest corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue after they leave the main stage.

Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Reserve your tickets here with GetYourGuide!

Consider Indoor Viewing Options for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira

When planning to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City with your little ones, it’s important to consider indoor viewing options that can enhance their experience while keeping them comfortable. One excellent choice is booking a hotel room along the parade route, which offers a bird’s eye view of all the spectacular floats and performances from the warmth and coziness of your own space.

Another fantastic choice is securing tickets for one of the many restaurants overlooking the parade route, such as Monarch Rooftop, which hosts a Thanksgiving Day Parade viewing party every year. Additionally, if you prefer being closer to ground level but still staying indoors, numerous shops and stores located near Herald Square provide prime spots for watching. 

READ NEXT: Best New York City Christmas Activities With Kids

Explore NYC After Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Fall leaves litter a large path within Central Park as fall-colored trees line the path.
Photo Courtesy: Ashton McKenney

After the parade, take advantage of the quiet streets and explore some of New York City’s iconic landmarks and holiday decorations. Families can continue their adventure by taking a stroll through Central Park. Afterward, head downtown towards Times Square, where dazzling lights and massive screens will amaze every member of your family. Or, take a short subway ride to Bryant Park, where you can ice skate surrounded by skyscrapers, or simply enjoy hot chocolate as you watch others glide across the rink. Lastly, don’t forget about Rockefeller Center! 

If you’re spending Thanksgiving in NYC, many restaurants offer special Thanksgiving menus, like Carmine’s Italian Restaurant near Times Square or Bubby’s High Line. Do your research and make a reservation in advance to enjoy a delicious meal with your family. 

Consider the Whitney Museum, the Intrepid, or the Museum of Modern Art during your stay in NYC!

Where to Stay in New York City with Kids

A view of the indoor pool at the The Greenwich Hotel, with nearby loungers and well-designed space featuring wood beams.
Photo Courtesy: The Greenwich Hotel

Need somewhere to stay in New York City with kids? In Lower Manhattan, we recommend the Millennium Downtown New York Hotel in the Financial District or the trendy Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca. In Midtown Manhattan, try the Loews Regency New York or Omni Berkshire Place, which also has a Kids’ Club. Or, for a true luxury experience, visit the nearby St. Regis New York. Remember to check out other NYC hotels with pools and spacious suites. Finally, there are many affordable Airbnbs and Vrbos in the outer boroughs and beyond.

RELATED: Best Museums In NYC By Age For Families

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Photo Courtesy: Diane Oliveira

We hope you found this Comprehensive Guide To Watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC With Kids helpful in planning your own experience! Whether you decide to watch from the streets or opt for an indoor viewing party, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade promises to be a magical event for the whole family. Happy Thanksgiving!

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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