Skip to Content

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is Back On This Year, Here’s the Scoop

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is Back On This Year, Here’s the Scoop

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade starts off the holiday season for many people. No doubt you’ve wondered what it’s like to attend. 

Well, we’ve got tons of info about the best places to watch the parade plus other sights to see when it’s over.

Let’s dive in!

About Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a tradition dating back to 1924. In fact, it’s the second oldest parade in the US. Initially, the Thanksgiving Day parade was just for Macy’s employees, but (clearly) it just kept growing. 

For those of you who just asked… Bristol, Rhode Island’s Fourth of July parade, which began in 1785, is the oldest in the US.

Character balloons are a popular highlight of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and they’ve been part of it since 1928. In the 1930s, the parade started introducing beloved characters such as Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse. The current lineup includes “falloons” (a combination of “float” and “balloons”) and even “ballonicles” ( a combination of “balloon” and “vehicles.”)

Music is a big part of the parade too. From pop stars to marching bands, music lovers will get their fill. Macy’s has had a large variety of famous performers from Milton Berle and Shirley Temple to Sesame Street and KISS. 

In addition, Broadway show casts perform from floats, and around a dozen marching bands from across the country show off their moves.

Turkey float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
The Thanksgiving Day Parade is a Thanksgiving tradition that cannot be missed!

Where Is Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade goes from Central Park West to the Macy’s in Herald Square. The beginning and ending portions get exceptionally crowded. In addition, the media platform areas get the most crowded, so it’s best to avoid those as well.

Your best bet to watch in person is the middle part of the route, so anywhere in midtown Manhattan should be good.

You can also get a hotel that overlooks the parade route. These rooms can get expensive, so consider going in on a room with a friend.

NBC will also be broadcasting the whole parade live. It airs from 9 AM to noon in all time zones, and there is a replay at 2 pm. You can also stream it on the NBC website or app from the comfort of your own RV.

Pro Tip: With Thanksgiving comes cold weather which means You Need to Winterize Your Camper. Here’s how!

How Long Does Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Last?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade lasts for three hours and covers 2.65 miles. The producers time the event very precisely, so don’t expect it to deviate from the schedule.

How Many People Go To Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade usually draws a whopping 2-3 million spectators! In 2019, the parade drew 3.5 million spectators. In 2020, Macy’s broadcast the parade, and no spectators were allowed on the streets. 

Radio City Music Hall exterior.
Make sure to catch The Rockettes during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Things To Do Near Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a considerably more somber stop on your tour. However, it will deepen your understanding of a day we all remember. Perhaps it’s a good way to honor those who died while giving thanks for those who survived.

There is no visitor pass required to visit the memorial. However, you do need a ticket for the museum, which tells the story of 9/11 through artifacts, audio, personal statements, and more. 

The memorial is at the site of the former World Trade Center. It encompasses eight acres and includes two waterfalls and reflecting pools. The victims’ names are inscribed into bronze casts surrounding the reflecting pools. There’s also a glade devoted to remembering those who lost their lives in service that day.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is as much a New York icon as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Its distinctive art deco style certainly leaves an impression. However, people mostly visit for all the entertainment options. The Rock has an incredible number of options for eating, drinking, and shopping.

You can also take a 4.5-hour guided tour of the TV and movie sites in and around Rockefeller Center. For example, you can tour NBC studios and even film your own five-minute show on the Tonight Show’s stage. 

Of course, many people associate Rockefeller Center with Christmas. The Rockettes perform in the Christmas Spectacular, and the ice skating rink opens. Usually, the week after Thanksgiving, they light the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. And, don’t forget all the Christmas shopping!

Don’t miss Top of the Rock for all your breathtaking views, photo ops, and marriage proposals! The top of the Rockefeller Center offers 360-degree views of Manhattan. There aren’t any dining or drinking options up there, and you can’t bring your own. But do bring your smartphone. Not only will you want photos, but there’s an app to help explain what you see.

Pro Tip: Central Park is a NYC staple, but Is Camping in Central Park Okay? Find out!

Best Places to Stay Near Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

New York Hilton Midtown

This four-star hotel in Midtown is on the parade route. It’d be easy to step outside and watch, plus you’d have a bathroom to go back to. You can enjoy the room’s amenities while watching the parade in private. The Hilton has a restaurant and business lounge on-site. However, around parade time, rooms average $500/night. 

Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square

Located in Times Square, this Manhattan hotel also has four stars and is on the parade route as well. There’s no restaurant here, but you do get complimentary breakfast and can order food for delivery. The hotel also has a convenience store.

Residence Inn is an extended stay property, so if you were hoping for a getaway in the heart of the city, this could be your place. Rooms for this hotel are around $500/night as well.

Is a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Road Trip Worth It? 

Absolutely. If you’d like to experience this holiday tradition and don’t mind crowds. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime event for your family. However, three million or more spectators is an awful lot of people. If you’d rather take your RV to a campsite and watch the parade there in your pajamas, we wouldn’t blame you.

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: