By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
A television audience of 50 million viewers is impressive, but can you imagine being there in person on Thanksgiving Day? Marching bands and twirling majorettes, Broadway show performers belting it out from colorful 50-foot floats, giant character balloons and finally…Santa Claus himself. Grab the opportunity to see the 8,000-strong spectacle in real life.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade officially kicks off America’s holiday season, as it has done for 91 years. If you’re planning to join the crowd of 3.5 million spectators along the 2.5-mile route on November 23, 2017, make a few strategic plans.
Know the Parade Route
Staking out a good viewing place is the most important thing you can do, so know the timing and the layout of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route for 2017.
Along Central Park West: Be there as early as 6 a.m. to stake out a good spot for the 9 a.m. parade kick off from West 77th Street. Public viewing begins at West 75th Street across from Central Park with invitation-only grandstand seats lining the park side of this stretch. You’ll have prime viewing along Central Park West until 10:30 a.m.
Columbus Circle: Locals know about The Shops at Columbus Circle inside the Time Warner Center, the best place you can be in case of inclement weather. Windows on the second and third floors overlook the parade route along Central Park West. The doors open at 9 a.m.
Sixth Avenue: After passing Columbus Circle, the parade continues along Avenue of the Americas (also known as Sixth Avenue) where it arrives at around 9:30 a.m. Arrive by 7 a.m. to get a view along a 21-block stretch from 59th Street southward to 38th Street. Note that crowds get thicker at the tail end of the route, with Santa, Rudolph and friends bringing up the rear.
Below 38th Street: Beginning at 38th Street, before the parade turns west to reach Macy’s at Herald Square and 34th Street, you’ll encounter a restricted telecast area closed to the public. While there is limited viewing along the south side of 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, it’s not recommended because cameras, lights, and scaffolding block the views.
Get An Early Start
There are no tickets. The event is one of New York City’s biggest and it’s completely free. So if you’re traveling into Manhattan, use public transportation and set out early. If you’re visiting, book your accommodations now. A few hotels that have rooms overlooking the parade route sell out as much as a year in advance. The whole parade lasts about three hours and typically winds up at about noon.
Travel Light and Charge Ahead
The NYPD are out in full force to provide security. Spectators and 4,000 volunteers are advised to travel as light as possible, use bum bags and fanny packs to carry personal belongings, and leave backpacks, rucksacks, and large handbags at home. Charge your smartphone camera in advance, as the photo opportunities are irresistible and those Instagram moments will eat up your battery life quickly.
Be Weather Wise
Double check the weather forecast and dress in layers. While the daytime average temperature is in the upper 40s Fahrenheit, New York City’s weather can range from sunny and mild to bracingly brisk in late November. There’s little chance of snow, but a one-in-three chance of rain…so look on the bright side, which means there’s a two-in-three change of good weather. No matter what, wear comfortable shoes!