Hey there all you people! How’s it going? How are we feeling?
I’m taking a break from my usual blogging style to answer a question that my family and I had trouble finding anything about the night before Thanksgiving 2022:
How/when/where/why/how do you get the best possible spot on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? My sister was marching in it this year, and so we couldn’t afford to miss it.
After talking to both fellow newbies and seasoned parade-goers, we did our best and were able to get pretty great spots in the second row behind the barricades. However, there are many more factors than I anticipated that go into attending the parade, so I’m gonna walk you through the step-by-step process of how to get the best parade viewing spot for you on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route in NYC.
Author’s note: if you want to read about my experience at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade 2022 (the opinion piece) click here!
1. Plan where you’re going to be on the parade route
This depends on what you want out of your Macy’s parade experience.
If you want to be in the least crowded section like I did, you’re going to want to be somewhere in the middle of the parade route- so not at Central Park and not right by Macy’s (on 34th street). Those spots have very limited capacity for public viewing and what is available will fill up first.
However, there are perks to picking the more crowded areas.
The parade always has an opening act by an up-and-coming musical or pop star, and the only place to see this debut live performance is right in front of the Macy’s entrance on 34th street. This year it was Lea Michelle debuting ‘Rain on My Parade’ from Funny Girl. These performers don’t march with the parade though, so you’ve actually gotta be at Central Park West to see it.
If you’re like me and don’t really care about Leah Michelle, you’ll be perfectly happy somewhere in the middle of the route. I loved our spot on 6th Avenue, right in front of the Radio City Music Hall. Not a ton of people (comparatively) and really great views of all of the floats lined up and down the street.
The Macy’s website itself has a great tool for picking a spot on the parade route, linked here.
2. Decide how early you’re willing to get up
It’s unavoidable. If you want to actually be able to see the parade, you’re gonna have to wake up horrendously early. Even though the parade starts at a very reasonable 9am.
We were told by the band we were traveling with that if we arrive on the route at 6am, that would be enough time to get a great viewing spot along the middle of the route. That ended up being mostly true.
My parents arrived at 5:50am and all of the front-row spots along the gates were taken already. After talking to a couple who’ve attended the parade for years, you actually need to arrive around 4:30am to get a front row spot.
Luckily, a majority of the people in the front seem to put down camping chairs, which means if you get a second-row spot, you can see perfectly fine above the first row.
3. Know how you’re going to get there
Make sure you have your foot route planned out too, since a lot of the subway exits and streets are blocked off for the parade, which can make traveling to the parade route more complicated than anticipated.
I don’t have any experience with this since we had a 20 minute walk to the parade route, and we hoofed it. But just keep the commute in mind when deciding how early you want to be there.
The MTA website should be up to date on which trains, buses, and entrances will be closed for the parade, and I’ve never been steered wrong using Google Maps on my phone to navigate NYC.
3. Don’t pee, hold down the fort
Once you get your coveted spot on the route, superglue your feet to the sidewalk because you’ve gotta defend it with your life.
I’m mostly kidding.
Most people are respectful and will file in behind you, but there will inevitably be a few who show up later and try and worm their way to the front. It’s perfectly acceptable to be polite but assertive here- you earned your spot.
At about 7:30 or 8am, lots of people begin to show up, so it gets especially crowded and people begin to push forward (it’s very hard to move, you’re really packed like sardines). If you have to leave to pee or get food, it’s gonna be pretty much impossible to get back to your spot, so what I did was get a good breakfast, drink plenty of water the night before, and then none the morning of, and then tons after the parade.
Is that the healthiest option? Of course not. But it’s just one morning of purposeful dehydration, and I think it’s worth it to be able to watch the parade comfortably. I’ve heard that some people choose to wear diapers, and power to them, but that’s just not for me.
4. Bring a blanket or a folding chair and breakfast
If you’re getting to the parade 4 hours early, you’re probably not going to want to stand the whole time. Having a chair or a blanket helps mark your spot and gives you somewhere to rest before the parade starts.
Unlike some big events, there is no one checking bags, so you can bring pretty much whatever you want to the parade route (within reason of course). We brought breakfast and snacks along with coffee for the long wait.
5. You made it! Enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC
Attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade is quite the experience.
During its ~2 hour run time, you’ll see the iconic floats that most people only see on TV, you’ll high-five many, many clowns (why are there so many clowns?), you’ll be covered in confetti, you’ll make eye contact with C and D list celebrities, you’ll see some of the most talented marching bands in the USA (totally not biased because my sister is one of those band members), and you’ll get to ring in the holiday season with Santa and Mariah Carey.
Take it all in. Remember it for the rest of your life.